The British team with an Italian touch that conquered Europe
As with the majority of enthusiasts reading this article, the writer had never met Ted Toleman, or any of a family that has supported British motor and watersports extremely effectively for many years. This year has been a particularly good one for the company that makes much of its living transporting many of the brand new cars we see on our roads — not in the main business, where the recession must have its affect as elsewhere — but in their sporting support. In power boat racing there has been an international Championship success for Toleman personally. In rallying the Toleman sponsored SMT Vauxhall Chevette for Terry Kaby won the British national Championship after two years of finishing second in Jimmy McRae’s hands. However, it has been in international Formula 2 that the most glory has accrued.
For a reported £500,000 the Toleman team have brought Britain its first victory in the series since Mike Hailwood beat Emerson Fittipaldi in 1972. It also marks a break in the run of overseas victories for engine manufacturers in the series, as from 1973-1979 either BMW or Renault motors powered the victorious machines. In 1980 it was the modest Brian Hart operation at Harlow that provided the four cylinders encased in alloy that bought Brian Henton the title — one he so nearly won for Ralt last year — with his younger team-mate Derek Warwick as splendid runner-up. They scored four victories in the 12 Championship rounds, but with private Toleman-Hart scores added, the combination was victorious in seven championship rounds.
In this wave of patriotism let’s not overlook the enormous contribution made by Italy. From the Pirelli competition department came steel-braced radials fit to win that 1980 European Championship against the best that Goodyear could field for the traditionally dominant F2 combination of March, Goodyear and Munich-made BMW racing engines.
March had to be content with three victories during the year, while Toleman’s B team based at Silverstone, the Matt Spitzely/Alan Docking operation, netted three further victories for the TG280-HartiPirelli combination, confirming that this was the chassis to have this year, even without Toleman’s later rear suspension layout.
How did this Anglo-Italian combination arrive in our midst?
The oldest and best-proven part of the combination was the Hart alloy engine. It’s fair to say that this grew from Brian Hart’s long-standing association with Cosworth racing four cylinder motors, particularly the 2-litre versions of the Belt Drive A-series (BDA) which was equipped with an aluminium block at the close of Hailwood’s Championship season, subsequently succeeding in both racing and rallying.
Hart developed a purpose-built racing motor of his own original design and manufacture to debut in 1973. It shared many principles that the BDA — and the 1600 c.c. FVA — had established, particularly in the use of a four valve per cylinder layout. The unit has been successful in sports car racing as well as Formula 2, but should not be confused with the Hart-built BDA 2-litre aluminium engines that Ford always insisted upon for their works Escorts: put the BDA and the Hart side by side and the differences are apparent.
From Tolemen’s viewpoint the Hart 420R engine has two prime advantages over the BMW. It’s 235 lb weight is a good 45 lb less than the M12/7 series in its latest Munich form (BMW still use the iron production cylinder block: and the reliability has been exemplary since Lucas and Rare produced a revised transistorised ignition layout that has been employed since 1979. Toleman team engineer Rory Byrne told us, “we have run the Hart two years in a two car team and had one race failure. This season Henton has finished every race, though he had to pit twice. Warwick’s only non-finishes were due to accidents. We find that a very impressive record.” So would their rivals!
Former Royale designer Byrne, who has been with the Toleman effort in Formula 2 since its inception (with March 782-BMWs) in 1978 has been perhaps the central figure in the team alliances that the Toleman effort created. Together with draughtsman-designer John Gentry, South African Byrne guided us through the story of how the Toleman came to be the standard by which other Formula 2 teams judged their success. Ironically those rivals, such as Project 4 with their Marches and the March factory itself, are certain candidates for Formula 1 next year, while Toleman has still not made the decision to join the premier league when we called, particularly awaiting Pirelli’s decision on GP racing before committing themselves.
Byrne and a couple of mechanics were the Toleman F2 effort when I first encountered them, buried within Tom Walkinshaw’s premises at Kidlington early in 1978. Tolman was to support some of Walkinshaw’s saloon car racing efforts with BMWs that year, but the Byrne equipe were entirely separate, intent on running two chassis for Byrne’s fellow countryman Rad Dougall. Byrne commented, “we had a third that year at Thruxton with Rad, but we lost our way after that”.
For the winter Temporada series in South America the experienced Brian Henton was hired to drive the Toleman Marches. The new link worked well, but Byrne felt, “to win the Championship in Europe you must create a car, it’s no use having a customer car, you’re always one step behind”. That may sound as if they went straight out and built the Toleman, but they didn’t. March was abandoned for Ralt. In Byrne’s opinion, “the Ralt RT2 was the best chassis of the season, but it was delivered just two weeks before the first race (Byrne had been assisting Ron Tauranac on the project, so saw the problems) and it was a struggle to catch up. Then we got a month break in the season, got some weight off the car and Brian took three wins, one of them disallowed at Enna, which cost as the championship.”
They failed to win the 1979 European F2 title by two points. However both Toleman and Byrne were impressed with the basic principle that more control of their destiny was needed. Since the end of 1978 they had employed former March team manager Roger Silman and the decision was taken to go the whole hog: own premises, design and a Pirelli tyre contract, which Byrne had negotiated before the close of 1979… “We did some testing around August-September ’79 with the Ralt on Goodyears, Japanese Dunlops and Pirellis. Actually the Jap Dunlops were quicker than Goodyears, as well as the Pirellis, but the race durability was suspect.”
All the testing was done in Britain, but Pirelli already had F2 form with Piero Necchi in 1978 (some promising times) and had supplied tyres for Eddie Cheever’s Osella in 1979, when the combination finished third in the European series. As Byrne said, “the potential was obviously there”.
Having established that the radial was the way to go was extremely important, for it laid one of the main design factors in the chassis. Though March were testing with Pirelli and going quicker than on the Goodyears they used in 1980 at the time of our Witney visit, Byrne held to the view that the full benefit of the Pirelli’s extraordinary abilities cannot be realised without designing a Chassis specifically for use with radials, improved by subsequent running experience. Byrne was also disenchanted with the BMW engine, but that dated back to 1978 when he found “the rebuilds were 50% more expensive, it was 40-45 lb heavier and not as reliable as the Hart. The Hart was transformed when the ignition system was changed for 1979, much more tractable and just as powerful”. Today the Hart is rated at a conservative 300 b.h.p. on 9,500 r.p.m. with 180 lb ft. torque peak at 7,500 r.p.m. A useable power band between 7,500 and 10,000 r.p.m. is reported.
It was in the closing months of 1979 that Brian Hart and Toleman became working partners in the bid to win the Championship, Hart changing the oil pump layout and the metering unit to suit the Toleman installation and clean up the air stream for maximum ground effect: the engine is run unstressed.
It was in August 1979 that Gentry joined the outfit, best known for his Shadow GP work. Drawing of the 99 in. wheelbase, alloy monocoque machine could get underway in earnest. The prototype was built at B & S Fabrications, an arrangement that existed for monocoque construction until very recently when it was announced that Toleman would link with Lola for the construction and after-sales service of their chassis. “They made a better job of it than we could”, says Byrne bluntly, “leaving us free to get on with the design and running of our own works cars. Having seen the equipment they have up their for chassis manufacture. I must say I’m delighted we’ve done the deal . . . I think it will be good for both parties”.
The first TG 280 (a separate list of chassis constructed is attached, together with a working specification) ran on the 22nd January 1980. Though only able to use Pirelli’s hardest compound tyres, which were not within their normal operating temperature on the cold Goodwood tarmac, Stephen South pressed the Toleman round in a very competitive 1m 8.8s. It was the third run of their first ever test session…
Stephen South tragically did not stay linked with the Toleman team owing to F1 contractual bargaining with McLaren that came to nought, and it was thus Brian Henton who re-appeared in the Toleman line up alongside Derek Warwick, who brought with him much improved BP VF7 sponsorship after a disappointing season with the British oil company’s backing in a private March during 1979. Warwick was British Formula 3 Champion the previous year, a category in which BP have always been traditionally strong in their support for British drivers.
Observers at the time were all struck by the incredible quality of the Toleman’s construction, which was supervised at Bob Sparshott’s BS Fabrications by Byrne, but owed something to the standard of workmanship they had exhibited on the Chaparral 2K USA Championship winner and their work on various Formula 1 projects. Compared to March there had to be a difference, for March build cars on a commercial scale, and some of those realities must affect the Tolemans built for the customer market too, but for 1980 a Championship victory and nothing less was the objective.
The main ingredients in the recipe — British oil company money and smart promotion; British car and engine engineering; Italian tyres and two able British drivers are well known, but did Byrne think there had been those whose contribution had perhaps passed unnoticed amongst these previously mentioned “heavyweights?”
We had time to absorb yet more of the well fit and spacious 1979 factory unit that houses Toleman Group Motorsport as Byrne considered his answer with typical care. “Max Boxstrom and the boys at Dymag wheels have had to work pretty hard. Perhaps harder than we knew because they had to keep up with the F1 teams experimenting with 13″ and 15” diameter fronts this season. We run three different front and rears, so I guess you would have to say he did a real good job to keep up with as all this year!
“Bruce Rolston, up at Bicester, had his work cut out too. He did all our glassfibre body stuff and was brought in suddenly at a pretty crucial stage. We’ve run various sidepod arrangements (no skirts in Formula 2 this year, no the pod became ever more important). I remember him having four days to make the buck and a run of four new airboxes (a smaller side-design) which he did very efficiently.”
From the design aspect Rory Byrne felt the most crucial aspect had been to get the best out of those tyres. “I’m not going to tell you how we did it, but I can say the important suspension point was the amount of camber we ran. The camber change affects these tyres — which are steel-braced in a unique may that includes fabrics in the construction, but which are not the same methods as Michelin use at all. Camber change affects them differently to a crossply racer like those from Goodyear. You need more negative camber on bump and less under roll. At all costs there must be no positive camber because the breakaway is very sudden with these tyres. There’s still a lot to learn about these kind of tyres. March showed they would give an improvement just bolted on, but that’s not the answer.”
Although Pirellis had proved particularly good in the wet in earlier seasons, on the Toleman in 1980 wet races they were pretty disastrous — a plan for me to drive the car in the wet had to be scrapped as too dangerous! If Derek Warwick found it snaked on wet straights, who am I to argue? Thus a full wet weather programme is a priority development for the team’s 1981 TG 281 programme, along with various Hart engine parts that have already proved effective in 1980 assessments.
In fact there’s a lot more to come from the team in F2 because development was stopped pretty early in the 1980 season. They started the year with a 1,2 at Thruxton on Easter Monday, despite tyres that they knew were incorrect in lateral stiffness. By the third race of the season Pirelli managers Mario Meantime and Giani Turchetti had inspired their compatriots to new heights, and the stiffness problems were history. From then on Pirelli did not stop working supplying new compounds despite an obvious superiority.
Toleman kept up the development pace too. A lack of straight line speed at Hockenheim prompted a new front wing and airbox that allowed an instant 300 r.p.m. at the German circuit “or an instant 200 r.p.m. anywhere else”, in Byrne’s words. Byrne’s achievement, acknowledged by Brian Henton at the close of the year was in resisting the pressure on him in that early stage of the season to reduce the understeer in the car by altering the chassis, when the problem was in fact the tyres. They could have spent an awful long time up the creek…
By this stage — in fact just before the Vallelunga third Championship round — AP Formula 1 standard front discs and calipers were introduced. These of 11″ diameter instead of the previous 10.5”, bringing a general improvement in friction area and heat dissipation, for twin calipers were also introduced with the bigger discs.
Silverstone was the fifth Championship round and it had become obvious already that Tolemans were going to take the title. The works had a £5,000 “tweak of the week”, which turned into a season-long feature that was sensibly, in Byrne’s view, not adopted by the Docking team. This was a fundamental change from conventional rear suspension to a top-mounted vee of two coil spring and damper units connected down to the main suspension arms.
Byrne was naturally proud that the later B-specification had shown improvement “straight out of the box”. It also necessitated fitment of oil-water heat exchanger into the side panels as twin Serck oil coolers were within the rear bodywork horizontally, occupying some of the space needed for the B-specification coil spring damper assembly. Byrne pointed out that the Docking/Spitzely team had not needed to follow the works lead in the cars that they ran for Siegfried Stohr and Huub Rothengatter because it was not worth it in a cost/lap time improvement basis. The improvement?, “a couple of tenths”, said Byrne, but then that’s what motor racing is frequently all about…
The season was not just a straight run of triumphs, and that was the refreshing thing about Byrne’s conversation. He recorded what had happened, warts and all. From this emerged a picture of a genuinely close-knit team who regarded their drivers with awe for their wet weather achievements at Nurburgring even when not winning and, from a relaxed interview in our contemporary Motoring News from both Warwick and Henton, a pair of drivers who could not have dreamed of having better support from all concerned. There were setbacks and tempting Red Herrings to pursue, but with their feet firmly to the boards this team came through to convincingly dominate the European season in a manner rarely seen in this competitive category.
When this was written it still wasn’t known if Toleman would be out in Formula 1. For sure they were not going to make the beginning of the season, but running tests with Brian Hart’s turbo version of the 420R were due days after we called, and it seemed likely that the team would join “League Division 1” on the return of the circus to Europe. Even without Pirelli’s radial flair they could be competitive, and it seems unlikely that Toleman will stop short of the premier division. Meanwhile, congratulations on all that has been achieved! A detailed look at what has been constructed so far follows. — J.W.
Chassis produced All TG280-Hart
C1: Original prototype and separately maintained test car. Sold to Alberto Columbo.
C2: Derek Warwick’s race chassis, scheduled for sale end of 1980.
C3: Docking/Spitzely team, driven mainly by Huub Rothengatter of Holland.
C4: Most successful chassis for European Champion Brian Henton.
C5: Team spare chassis, fully race-prepared at each event.
C6: Docking/Spitzely for Italian Siegfrid Stohr, winner two championship races.
C7: Black, sold to Japanese private customer complete.
C8: Constructed for Ford Germany and Zakspeed to test suitability of 1.4 Zakspeed turbo BDA (developed from Capri German championship engine) and delivered to Harold Ertl.
C9: Turbo development chassis for works to accommodate Hart turbo motor.
Toleman TG280-Hart specification
Chassis: Monocoque constructed in riveted L89 and L72 aluminium alloy sheets with detachable box section pontoons. Designed so that Hart engine is unstressed, some specialised parts in SAE 4130 standard heat-treated steels. Monocoque weight, 72 lb.; total car weight, 1,136 lb. (515 kg.). Wheelbase, 99.1”; length, 163.0” height, 35.5″; body width, 51.5″; ground clearance, 2.5″; front track. 59.25″; rear track, 56.5″ (track measurement according to circuit and weather, 1″ narrower wheels for high speed circuits. etc.)
Front suspension: Top rocker arms operate inboard coil spring/dam per unit, damping by Root. Unequal length, wide base lower arm in aerofoil section SAE 4130 steel. Cast magnesium upright Dymag 9-10” width by 13″ diameter four-spoke alloy wheel.
Rear suspension: Top rocker arm and lower unequal length wide base wishbone linked to inclined coil spring/Koni shocker-absorber units mounted in vee out of airflow. Rockers and wishbones in 4130 steel, magnesium uprights and, as at front, cockpit-adjustable (via cable) anti-roll bar. Dymag 14-15″ wide by 13″ diameter rear wheels.
Steering: Jack Knight rack and pinion: magnesium housing.
Brakes: Lockheed twin caliper fronts with 11.0.” diameter fronts and Lockheed four piston calipers on 10.25″ diameter rear discs. Girling master cylinders and Mintex M171 pads or Ferodo DS11. All discs ventilated and adjustable balance bar, to control front-rear bias.
Body: Glass reinforced plastic reinforced strategically with honeycomb lay-up for nose, cockpit, engine cover, rear deck and sidepod panels. Front wings in L72 alloy and rear wing, with adjustable flap, same material. Central pillar has ABS front and rear mouldings.
Tyres: Pirelli P7 235/35 VR 13 or 215/50 VR 13 fronts. Rears, P7 335/40 VR 13 or 315/45 VR 13. All radial ply, steel braced construction. Fuel, oil and water systems: 22 gallon Marston petrol safety tank, 130 p.s.i. delivery to Lucas injection, electric and mechanical pumps. Alumium oil tank of 3 gallons mounted between monocoque and engine, oil and water heat exchanger. Twin side water radiators mounted in side pods and made from aluminium.
Electrics: 12v Varley dry cell battery under driver; Lucas ignition and Rita r.p.m.-Iimiter; electrical activation for Dreadnought fire extinguisher system.
Engine: Hart 420R; height 16.25″; length 27”; width, 17.5″; weight 235 lb.; m.p.g. 7.5 (through seasonal average); peak power, 300 (a 9,500 r.p.m; maximum torque. 180 lb, ft. (a 7,800 r.p.m.
Transmission: Dry sumped, integral oil pump, Hewland FT 200, 5-speed. Borg & Beck twin plate clutch, 7¼” plate diameter.