BEARING in mind the catastrophes that overtook the Ferrari team during the 1982 season it is truly remarkable that they came out on top of the Manufacturers’ Championship. They recovered from blows that would have destroyed many teams and in spite of ending the season on a very low note they were worthy winners of the Championship.
As is well known the Ferrari Formula One Grand Prix cars are designed and manufactured wholly by the Ferrari factory at Maranello, chassis, suspension, body, engine and gearbox are all made “in house”. At Maranello there is no question of buying a proprietary engine or gearbox, everything is Ferrari, made in Maranello, and for this purpose there are something like 50 engineers working on Formula One design, 30 of these being in the engine department, five on gearbox design, and the remainder on chassis, suspension, bodywork, aerodynamics, brakes and general design work, all under the direction of the Chief Engineer Mauro Forghieri. Opposite the factory is the Fiorano test-track and research facilities, while the factory itself houses the engine test-beds, test-rigs, research and experimental departments, systems test-equipment and so on, as well as all the manufacturing facilities.
We first saw the turbo-charged 1 1/2-litre V6 cylindered Ferrari at Imola at the end of 1980, when Villeneuve drove the test-car 126C/049 during practice. By the start of the 1981 season the Ferrari factory was sufficiently confident of their new engine that they committed themselves wholeheartedly to the turbo-charged engine programme and we never again saw a 3-litre flat-12-cylinder engine. By the end of May 1981 they had won their first race with the new turbo-charged car, only nine months after the new design had first appeared on test. A praiseworthy effort by any standards and the more so for an entirely new engine concept for the factory. By the end of the 1981 season there was no doubting the power being produced by the Ferrari 1 1/2-litre engine, and its reliability was becoming impressive, but the car was very deficient in the chassis department; as all the effort had gone into the new engine and suspension, road-holding and handling had suffered in consequence. During the season the English designer Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite was enticed to Italy and joined the engineering staff under Mauro Forghieri, the Englishman’s knowledge of lightweight aircraft materials and construction processes being what Maranello needed, together with his knowledge of monocoque chassis design. Aluminium was obviously going to be out for 1982, to be replaced by Nomex honeycomb sheet, carbon-fibre composite, glass-fibre, GRP and all the other chemically-made materials that Postlethwaite had worked with for a long time. The “tin-bashing” department was replaced by heat-treatment ovens, and “glue” departments replaced the pop-rivet specialists.
Designated the 126C2 the 1982 Ferrari had a monocoque folded up from honeycomb sheet, with carbon-fibre composite bulkheads, with all the joints bonded together, to give a light and strong construction. The V6 engine still used twin KKK turbo-chargers and was bolted directly to the rear of the monocoque and drove through the transverse-shafted gearbox and final drive unit. Suspension followed the 1981 layout, with upper rocker-arms compressing coil-spring / damper units mounted inside the monocoque at the front, with lower wishbones, and at the rear the spring units were behind the final drive unit and compressed by rocking levers. The bodywork was very smooth and unbroken by ducts or louvres and was devoid of nose fins or front aerofoil but had a rear aerofoil mounted on a central pillar. After being dissatisfied with Michelin tyres in 1981, Enzo Ferrari switched back to Goodyear for the 1982 season, staying faithful to Champion sparking plugs, AP-Lockheed, Borg and Beck and Ferodo, but using Brembo brake components. Fiat and Agip were still the main supporters of the Maranello team, the Italian fuel company working closely with the Ferrari engineers on some interesting engine developments.
The new cars started with number 055, continuing the overall numbering system from the flat-12 cars and the previous 1 1/2-litre V6 cars, though the preface was changed from 126CK to I26C2. In 1981 Ferrari had tried two types of forced induction, the KKK exhaust driven turbo-compressor and the Brown Boveri pressure-wave supercharger. The turbo-charged car was the 126CK and the supercharged 126CX, in each case the 126C standing for 120-degree 6-cylinder Corsa. Thc Comprex pressure-wave supercharging system did not find favour and was soon dropped, and all the 1982 cars used twin KKK turbine / compressor units.
At the first race, in South Africa, two new cars appeared, 055 for Villeneuve and 056 for Pironi, while one of the old aluminium monocoque cars (049) was there for emergencies. It was not used, but made a useful comparison to the sleek new cars, their aluminium-sheathed honeycomb monocoques showing no joins anywhere and there was not a rivet to be seen. The 1981 car looked unbelievably crude and agricultural alongside the new generation cars. In pre-race testing the old car, with a 1982 engine, was run with the aerodynamic aids to down-force trimmed out to see just how fast it would go and it clocked well over 200 m.p.h. In the race 055 retired when a turbo-charger bearing broke up and 056 finished a lowly 18th after a stop for new tyres and electrical trouble affecting the fuel-injection system near the end of the race; it was actually in the pits when the race finished. It was not an auspicious debut for the new cars, but they showed good promise.
Before the next race, which was in Brazil, some testing was done at the Paul Ricard circuit in the South of France, and Pironi had an enormous accident in 055, which destroyed the car completely and he was lucky to escape unharmed. At the time he told various news sources that the throttles had stuck open, but it later transpired that this was not true; he had gone too fast, too soon on cold tyres. A driver error. In Brazil there was a new car for Villeneuve, 057, while Pironi had his South African car 056, and there was a fourth car, brand new, as the team spare which was 058. At the race there were signs that the Ferrari engine development team were on a new path to that pursued in 1981. When the throttles are shut on a turbo-charged engine the turbines and compressors slow down and until they are speeded up again there is no boost pressure, and this is described loosely as “turbo-lag or poor throttle-response”. In 1981 Ferrari overcame this by causing combustion to take place in the turbine, thus turning it into a gas-turbine that was not dependent on exhaust gas pressure, when that pressure was low. As the exhaust gases did their work again the combustion in the turbine stopped. This system worked very well but was very hard on the turbine unit, and turbine blades and bearings suffered badly. They abandoned this system and went the more laborious but safer route of altering the turbine size to compressor size ratio in conjunction with larger boost control valve and detail work on porting, valve lift, size and spring control of the boost controlling unit. They retained the transfer barrel valve that let compressor air into the exhaust system when the throttle slides were shut, but did away with the butterfly throttle valves at the entrance to the compressors, using only the slide valve throttles at the cylinder heads. They perfected this new system very quickly and virtually completely eliminated trouble with overheated turbine blades and melted or seized turbo unit bearings.
In the Brazilian race Villeneuve led impressively until he overdid things and spun off into retirement, but Pironi was delayed by having a spin and finished a poor eighth, one lap behind the winner, after a pit stop to change tyres. At Long Beach the roles were reversed, Pironi had a mild accident in 056 and Villeneuve finished the race, in a good third place. At this race Ferrari let his hair down and allowed his engineers to “take-the-mickey” out of the current regulations. Certain English teams in Formula One were openly cheating by taking advantage of loosely-worded detail regulations, so Ferrari went through the rule book and came up with a rear aerofoil that blatantly transgressed the rules, as they were intended, but not as they were written. The rule in question limits the width of the rear aerofoil to 110 centimetres, but omits to say that it assumes you only have one rear aerofoil. Ferrari produced two rear “wings” each 110 cm. wide and mounted them side-by-side across the back of the car, one slightly ahead of the other. According to the rule book the rear “wing” was 110 cm. wide and at the limit of distance behind the rear axle centre line, but of course it was offset violently to the left-hand side, the rule book saying nothing about it having to be placed centrally. The second “wing”, also 110 cm. wide, was over to the right and mounted further forwards. The rule book did not say the aerofoil had to be as far back as the limits allowed. To the letter of the law you could not fault this double rear aerofoil, but it certainly transgressed the spirit of the regulations, which is what the English teams were doing over the question of minimum weight, and the smiles on the faces of Mauro Forghieri and his team as they fitted this contraption to the back of 058 indicated that they were “taking the ——- ” out of their rivals who were cheating. Not surprisingly Villeneuve’s third place using this “trick” aerofoil was eventually disallowed, as far as Championship points were concerned.
The races in Brazil and California had been done without returning to base, but once back at Maranello the team rebuilt Pironi’s car 056 using a new monocoque, and the damaged one was unglued and repaired. Meanwhile a new car was being built, this being 126C2 / 059. The San Marino GP at the Imola Autodrome, where the turbo Ferrari had first appeared in September 1980, saw domination of the event by the two Ferrari drivers, but not without some drama. In practice Pironi was driving the rebuilt 056 when a rear tyre deflated and he had a huge crash into the barriers, virtually destroying the car but escaping unscathed. Overnight the original monocoque from 056, which was being repaired, was finished off by an enthusiastic army of twelve mechanics and at 4 a.m. it was rushed down to Imola, with various components off the partly finished 059, and 056 was resurrected in the paddock workshops. Pironi won the race in this rebuilt car, from Villeneuve in 058, even though team orders had decreed that the order should be the other way round. In consequence there was a certain air of coolness between the two drivers, which did not help team morale.
After starting the season without any form of aerofoil on the nose of the car, relying on under-car air effects, and, more particularly, air-flow over the top of the smooth body to provide “down-force”, the full-width aluminium aerofoil was re-introduced, to be used according to the driver’s wishes, and at Imola some experimental “canard” fins for the nose in carbon-fibre composite were tried. In the race Villeneuve ran 058 without nose fins or “wing” and Pironi used the full-width aluminium “wing,” the decision being that of the driver and relative to how much front-end adhesion he enjoyed.
Before the Belgian GP at Zolder 059 was completed and 056 underwent its third rebuild, so for the Zolder race Villeneuve retained 058 and Pironi had the brand new 059, with 057 once again the spare car, as it had been at Imola. We still recall the disaster in the final hour of qualifying that took the life of Gilles Villeneuve, and took from Formula One that indefinable “something” that we had not experienced since the days of Jimmy Clark. In the crash 126C2/058 was totally destroyed and some “know-alls” in other teams, whose cars have yet to have a terminal accident, criticised the strength of the Ferrari monocoque, overlooking the fact that it dived into the soft run-off area from a considerable height and at an angle of about 70-degrees from the horizontal, while travelling forwards at something like 120 m.p.h. After the accident the monocoque damage was analysed back at Maranello and a test-rig arranged to deform a new monocoque in the same way, and to measure the loads and forces. The resultant figures were astronomical and beyond normal engineering belief.
Not surprisingly, after the tragedy the team packed up and went home, stricken with grief at their irreplaceable loss of the mercurial French / Canadian driver who had set new standards of ability in Formula One in his brief career. There were no immediate plans to replace the driver of Ferrari No. 27 and the team were more than prepared to give the next Grand Prix a miss, but left the final decision to Didier Pironi. If he wanted to race at Monaco there would be a car for him, otherwise the Ferrari team were prepared to withdraw from the event. Pironi decided to race at Monte Carlo and the team arrived with 056 and 059 and the Frenchman raced 059, finishing second after a dramatic ending to the race when the Ferrari died in the tunnel virtually within sight of the finish, due to a failed battery.
Two weeks later the team were in the United States for the new race round the streets of down-town Detroit, again with only one entry taking two cars for Pironi. They were basically the same two cars that had been in Monaco, with 056 as the race-car and 059 as the spare. Since Monaco 059 had undergone a major change at the front end, having the wishbone and rocker-arm suspension layout changed for one using wishbones top and bottom with the inboard-mounted coil-spring / damper unit operated by a rod running from the outer end of the top wishbone to a link system below the coil-spring. This system has always been used by Gordon Murray on his current system of Brabham cars, and by Patrick Head on the 1982 Williams cars, while many other designers copied the system, though whether they really knew why is open to question. Forghieri said it was to reduce weight, the current trend of small suspension travel and hard springing not needing the big, strong and heavy rocker-arm. Patrick Head said it was to avoid the rocker-arm flexing against the strong suspension springs and acting as an undamped leaf-spring and to give a lighter and freer method of compressing the suspension spring. Gordon Murray just smiled and said he had always used this “pull-rod” system to achieve rising-rate spring characteristics. Neither the Detroit street circuit, nor the Montreal circuit that was used the following week, were really ideal to evaluate this new suspension and though Pironi drove it briefly in practice at Detroit he raced the conventional 126C2/056. In Canada he did not use the experimental car at all in practice and, as he claimed pole-position on the grid with 056, there was no incentive to drive 059.
From practice and race-morning form it looked as though Pironi would run away with the race in 126C2/056 from his position at the front of the grid, but before the green light came on the Ferrari clutch started to bite and in trying to hold the car back he stalled the engine. In the melee that followed, one of the back-markers ran slap into the back of the stationary Ferrari and he died in the crash. Pironi was unhurt and when the race was eventually restarted he elected to take part using the experimental 059, even though it had not been run during the previous two days of practice. The fuel injection and ignition, which are controlled electronically, were all out of adjustment for the awful Canadian weather conditions of rain and freezing winds and Pironi was in and out of the pits throughout the race having adjustments made. The race was nearly over before the Ferrari and Marelli engineers got it all sorted out and four laps before the end Pironi recorded the fastest race lap, which was some small consolation for what was a disastrous event for the team.
After the rather poor organisation of the Detroit GP and the disaster of the Canadian race, everyone was glad to get back to Maranello and prepare for the Dutch GP at Zandvoort. Somewhat reluctantly Enzo Ferrari agreed to fill the vacant seat in his team and asked FISA whether No. 27 could be left vacant in memory of Gilles Villeneuve, and whether his replacement driver could have No. 37, the next one available. FISA showed a remarkable lack of human feeling and said no. Nobody was more upset than the replacement driver Patrick Tambay, who had to make his debut at Zandvoort with 27 on his car.
The wreckage of 056, damaged in the Montreal start line accident, was rebuilt and fitted with the new pull-rod front suspension system and Pironi took it out on test on the full Paul Ricard circuit. After the pits there is a long shallow ess-bend which 1982 cars take flat-out, on the right side of 150 m.p.h. Going into the first part of the ess a wishbone broke on the front suspension and Pironi had his second monumental accident while testing at Paul Ricard. Once again he escaped unhurt but 126C2/056 was destroyed. While this had been going on the experimental car that appeared in North America underwent major surgery at the rear end and was fitted with a new gearbox / final drive unit and near new suspension. This new gearbox had the shafts parallel with the axis of the car, instead of transverse and it stuck out behind the axle line. This allowed the coil-spring units to be mounted forward of the axle line and tucked away on each side of the clutch housing and the whole underside of the car at the rear was much narrower, providing more cross-sectional area for the out-flow of under-car air, all in the interests of “ground effect”. While 059 was being completed to this new B-specification of new front and rear suspension, a new car was finished to normal specification and taken to Brands Hatch for a Goodyear tyre-testing session. This new car was 060 and Pironi used it to good effect at Zandvoort to win the Dutch GP while his new team-mate ran well in the early stages until a misfire in the engine caused him to drop to eighth place, where he finished. He was driving 057, and like 059 and 060 it had the new pull-rod front suspension, which was proving very effective and giving much better front-wheel adhesion as well as a better feel to the steering. All three cars were using strengthened wishbones, following the Paul Ricard testing failure, and this was done by welding a channel-section stiffener on top of the original elliptical-section tubing used for these front wishbones.
For some races now there had been rumours about the Ferrari turbo-charged engine using some form of water-injection to reduce internal temperatures, and it was certainly noticeable that the 1982 engines were not only remarkably reliable, they were also very powerful and did not consume turbo-charger units like they had done in 1981. While some of this was due to giving up the “fire-in-the-turbine” system used last year, there was more to it than that, for they were clearly running a higher boost-pressure than before. Naturally any talk of the water-injection system was non-existent, but the misfiring on Tambay’s engine was thought to be caused by some malfunctioning in the water-injection system, though no-one in the team was releasing any details.
The next event on the calendar was the British GP at Brands Hatch for which Tambay had a brand new car with the new front end, which was now standard, this being 126C2/061. Pironi had his Zandvoort winning car, 060, and 059 in full B-spec form was the spare. It was tried by Pironi but not raced, the value of the new gearbox having yet to be proved. A second place (Pironi in 060) and third place (Tambay in 061) saw the team return home well contented, even though they had been beaten by that old Ferrari worker Niki Lauda. The same trio of cars were taken to Paul Ricard for the French GP and during practice Tambay’s car had a lot of trouble with too much water and not enough petrol in the injection system. The object of this water-injection was to cool down the ingoing charge to reduce the chances of detonation and pre-ignition, without going to bigger and heavier inter-coolers between the air compressors and inlet ports. All this indicates that the engine was using higher and higher boost pressures, especially during qualifying and horsepower estimates (guesstimates!) ranged from 570 to 720 b.h.p. The lower figure was certainly correct but the upper limit was fanciful, based on some erroneous speed-trap figures being passed to the popular Press by a well-meaning timing group. The Ferrari engineers were not too worried, for they knew the true horsepower figures they could get from their engines and if people wanted to talk about 720 b.h.p it was good “gamesmanship” and demoralising for any unthinking rivals. Serious rivals, like Renault and BMW, who know what power their turbo-charged engines could give, had no difficulty in evaluating the Ferrari engines when all the cars were on the track. The factor they really envied was the reliability of the 120 degree V6 engine from Maranello, in its second season of racing. Ferrari has been building racing engines for a long time and they have always been know for their reliability. The 126C2 was no exception.
In the French GP the turbo-charged Renaults not only out-speeded the cars from Maranello, but showed a touch of Ferrari reliability so the result was Ferrari third (Pironi in 060) and forth (Tambay in 061). There was no change in the team for the next race on the very busy calendar and 061, 060 and 059B were taken to Hockenheim for the German GP, the experimental car being driven briefly by Pironi in practice. Saturday morning practice was held in appalling weather conditions and disaster struck the team again. In poor visibility Pironi ran into the back of a slower car while travelling at maximum speed. The resultant crash was horrific and the Frenchman was lucky to be extracted from the wreckage alive.
It ended his racing for the season and 126C2/060 was totally destroyed, the fourth car written off in this tumultuous season. At the time of the accident Pironi held pole-position on the starting-grid and the race took place with the number one position on the grid empty. A grim-faced Patrick Tambay said philosophically “Now it’s all down to me.” He rose to the occasion magnificently, driving an immaculate and well-judged race showing a degree of self-control and precision that many other top-line drivers of today would do well to emulate. His victory raised the Ferrari team from the depths of despair and it is no exaggeration to say that had Tambay failed the team could have gone to pieces. They started the season with one of the strongest pair of drivers we have seen since the days of Fangio and Moss, and now with the season barely halfway through one driver was dead and the other critically ill in hospital, in both cases driver-error being the reason for the accidents. Many teams would have given up at this point, but all his life Enzo Ferrari has suffered the cruel blows that motor racing can deliver and he has never succumbed. Even at 83 years of age this remarkable man faced adversity and his team carried on.
Once again they were down to a single entry and Tambay drove 061 in Austria, having 059B as a stand-by. At the start there was an accident among the mid-field runners and on the second lap Tambay got a puncture in a rear tyre when he ran over some of the debris. With intelligent feeling he limped round for the rest of the lap, pulling into the pits without causing any damage to the car. A new wheel and tyre were fitted and he then drove a superb race, demonstrating high speed precision and accuracy, to finish a magnificent fourth. His comments on this drive and his win at Hockenheim were about the fantastic confidence that the Ferrari gave him. He knew it would not fail him mechanically and that the end result was entirely his responsibility. There are not many drivers in Formula One who can truthfully say that, and even fewer who would.
A race at Dijon-Prenois called the Swiss GP followed and more trouble struck the team. Not mechanical or judgement but physical this time. In the quest to exploit “ground-effect” the Grand Prix chassis designers were following a route of very stiff springing to maintain constant clearance under the cars, relying on the flexing of the tyres to provide suspension movement, and Ferrari were no exception. This stiff ride imparted abnormal vibration and shock loads to the driver and to his backbone particularly. Tambay experienced dreadful pains in his back and the Ioss of the use of his right arm in consequence and had no alternative but to withdraw from the race on Sunday morning. This singleton entry had seen him in a new car which was 126C2/062 and this was the first monocoque to be built fully modified to take the pull-rod front suspension, so it was a true B-specification car. The revised rear end and new gearbox were not dependent on the monocoque, as they were all bolted to the rear of the engine. Quite often 059 was changed from its B-spec rear end to the older type of rear end during a lunch hour, it all being done with nuts and bolts.
The thought of a single Ferrari entry for the Italian GP at Monza was out of the question and Mario Andretti was invited to join the team. He was committed to the American racing scene with Pat Patrick’s team, but that gentleman graciously released Andretti from his contract so that he could drive at Monza. His return to Italy and Maranello was indeed the “return of the prodigal son”.
Before the Italian GP some details of the mysterious water-injection were released by the Agip fuel company engineers, and they were intriguing. Working closely with Ferrari engineers the Agip people had developed a system whereby a globule of water could be encapsulated within a globule of petrol. This was done inside the petrol tank and the petrol globules containing water were passed through the fuel-injection pump to the injectors and into the high-pressure air stream going into the cylinders. This process lowered the temperature of the petrol going into the combustion chambers. Upon combustion the globule of water turned to steam and “exploded” the surrounding petrol to give increased atomisation and improve mixture control actually within the combustion chamber. This is explaining the Agip / Ferrari water-injection in its simplest terms, it is actually much more complex as is the science of combustion in the internal combustion engine. Not surprisingly neither Agip nor Ferrari would divulge any details about how the water was put into the petrol, nor how it was kept there. However, it undoubtedly is a big factor in the Ferrari power output and in the engine’s reliability.
Monza was not quite the success the team would have liked on their home ground but it was enough to clinch the Manufacturers’ Championship, which was truly remarkable bearing in mind that they were forced to miss ten starts during the season. After putting 061 on pole position Andretti drove it into third place behind Tambay in 062. In first place wore Renault driven by Rene Arnoux who had announced that he was Joining the Ferrari team in 1983. The spare car for Monza was a brand new B-spec car, number 063, complete with the longitudinal gearbox and new rear suspension. During the Saturday lunch hour it was converted back to 1/2B-spec. with a transverse gearbox and the old rear suspension, as neither Tambay nor Andretti had done sufficient running in it to warrant its retention in full B-spec. form. All the engines were using new cylinder heads in which the water passages had been drastically altered to improve the flow of cooling water through them.
The long and troublesome season ended in the car park of a hotel in Las Vegas in far away Nevada and Pat Patrick again gave his blessing for Andretti to drive for the team. The same three cars as used at Monza were prepared for the final race and looking at the troublesome season the team had suffered it was only fitting that they should suffer complete decimation. Once again Tambay was afflicted by his back trouble and had to withdraw on race morning and Andretti was forced to retire when a rear suspension member broke, an unheard of thing on a Ferrari, and possibly encouraged by a minor banging-match with another car on the first corner.
It had taken nine cars and four drivers to get the team through the 1982 season, and countless engines, for these days few serious teams race with the engines they use in practice. At any race you could see six or seven complete engines in the Ferrari transporter, while the KKK turbo-charger units are expendable and replaceable like sparking plugs or brake pads. The important thing is that such components should be reliable for the duration of the race. The reliability factor of the 126C2 Ferrari in 1982 can be judged from the fact that they suffered only four retirements from 22 starts. Two of these were driver error putting the cars off the track, one was a turbo-charger bearing failure and the other was a broken suspension member. At no time did an engine actually break a vital component. The two mechanical failures which retired Ferraris from a race occurred in the first race, in South Africa, and the last race, in Las Vegas. Between times every time a Ferrari started a race it finished, apart from Villeneuve spinning off in Brazil and Pironi crashing at Long Beach, for which you can hardly blame the Ferrari engineers.
As the season finished a tenth car was completed, this being 126C2/064 and 065 was already in existence as a monocoque. From something like six months to make the first monocoque of the new Postlethwaite regime of aluminium-coated Nomex honeycomb and carbon-fibre composite, the time has been reduced to a day and a half, everything being done in the Maranello factory.
At the time of writing the future for Didier Pironi is not accurately known but Enzo Ferrari has said that when he is ready to return to racing there will be a car for him. Meanwhile Rene Arnoux and Patrick Tambay will form the 1983 Ferrari driver team and already Arnoux has been testing a car with a flat underside, conforming to the revised Formula One rules for 1983 in which “ground-effects” by venturis under the car are outlawed. If Ferrari run three cars next year it will mean that one of the tail-enders will have to drop off the back of the starting grid, for one thing that the Ferrari-turbo cars do well is to qualify for the start. This year they have been truly remarkable in the way they have also qualified for the finish as well. — D. S. J.