Editorial, December 2001

Usually the themes within these pages are planned. Some evolve, however. And others, just occasionally, appear right out of the blue.

Ostensibly, as you might have already guessed, this is our Can-Am Issue. Planned. But it would also appear to be our Colin Issue (see Chapman and Crabbe features, pages 59 and 92). That’s not all, it’s our Vic Elford Issue, too (see Crabbe, Tony Dean article, page 42, and Parting Shot, page 106). Neither planned.

There is yet another theme. This month’s offering is, clearly, our Unfettered Ingenuity Issue.Allow me to explain.

Can-Am (see pages 25-47) was light on rules. My God, there was no stipulated maximum engine limit or minimum weight limit! Lateral thinkers ran amok. From high, hub-mounted, movable wings and ground effect to a two-stroke engine at each corner, you never knew what was around the next corner. True, it was usually a yellow-orange McLaren, but that never stopped the opposition roaring in from left field armed with the latest gizmo ‘guaranteed’ to end the ‘Bruce and Denny Show’.

It’s also true that the series collapsed in on itself, but not before it had spawned some of the most powerful and spectacular racing cars we have ever seen.

Williams ruled the 1992-3 Formula One roost with cars crammed full of gadgets: active suspension (see Technofile, page 68), anti-lock brakes, automatic gearshift, traction control. The FWs 14B and 15C were the most high-tech Formula One cars we have ever seen.

Chapman was the greatest Fomula One designer we have ever seen. He would have revelled in the electronic wizardry Patrick Head and Adrian Newey were able to harness so effectively in the late ’80 s and early ’90 s. One of the last great projects he commissioned was active suspension. He did so after a passenger ride at Snetterton in a so-endowed Esprit He loved it — from a technical standpoint, but also from the competitive advantage he believed it could give his driven. He knew what drove driven, because it was his own desire for speed that had sowed the seed of his invention (see page 59).

Like most things that fired his imagination, though, they banned it And the increasingly rigorous rules and regulations of our sport is what drives his Chief Designer of 1981-89 to distraction. In The Car Wish I’d Designed (see page 82), Martin Ogilvie bemoans the lack of invention and variety in today’s paddocks. The car he selects was designed and built at home — in someone’s spare time. The car he selects was the creation of the man who went on to give us the Mini.

The theme of technology versus sport is a long-running one, and it’s a debate that needs chairing. It does not, however, need word-for-word scripting. For the world would be a dull place if everything were planned.

Bruce McLaren’s M8A on its way to victory in the 1968 LA Times GP