Weslake V12 trials....

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Sir,

Regarding your recent Ford-Weslake V12 article, I take exception to Mike Daniel’s assertion that, “The Daytona fiasco was entirely due to a JWA cock-up over gear ratios”. As briefly as possible, here is the record of the Ford-Weslake WRP-190 V12 engine in Gulf Research Racing’s Mirage M6, chassis 603, during 1972-73.

Before we became involved with Weslake, John Wyer asked Dan Gurney about the earlier V12. Dan said, “They cannot build two engines the same”. Being optimistic, we went ahead with the project since we needed a smoother engine than the inherently vibrating, but otherwise excellent, DFV to finish and win 12- and 24-hour races.

In all, nine test sessions were conducted — a total of 1627 miles — using three V12 engines between August 1972 and April ’73. Four of the tests were at Goodwood, two at Silverstone and one each at Daytona, Vallelunga and Le Mans.

During the first three Goodwood tests, engine 003 was used. Same-day back-to-back tests versus the DFV, with Derek Bell driving, showed the V12 to be 2.5sec a lap slower. At the third of these tests, only eight laps were covered due to an incurable misfiring, despite all electrical components relative to the ignition system being replaced.

For the fourth Goodwood test, engine 001 was supplied, but the track never fully dried out. However, the V12 was within 0.5sec of the V8. Drivers’ (Bell and John Watson) comments were: “Engine performance satisfactory, no misfire, good pick-up, good high-speed power, but low-end torque not impressive”.

Harry Weslake came to all four Goodwood tests, but no-one from the Weslake factory attended our tests thereafter.

We then ran two tests at Silverstone, back-to-back, V12 versus V8. For the first test we were given engine 003, which was 2.3sec slower than the DFV — and then it failed after 93.7 miles.

For the second Silverstone test we had the 001 engine again; this time the V12 was within 0.1sec of the Cosworth!

Now to Daytona, for a major test before the 24-hour race. We took two DFV cars and the one V12 car, with engine 002. (We never intended to enter the V12 for the 24 Hours unless the test performance was exceptional.) The V12 was 2.4sec slower, but produced 5mph higher maximum speed, both cars driven by Watson.

All three cars had failures of the pinion bearing in the Hewland DG300 transmission; the V12 using up two ‘boxes, probably due to the higher pinion shaft rotational speed with the higher-revving engine. On return to Slough, Hewland improved the bearing lubrication. I guess this is Mike Daniel’s “gear ratio cock-up”.

Also, engine 002 wouldn’t start with the on-board starter, despite replacing starter and battery more than once. It always had to be push-started or towed — not allowed in an FIA sportscar race!

At Vallelunga, we had engine 003. Again it had to be towed to get it to fire up. It was 1.6sec slower than the V8 before a plug came out of the crankshaft, losing oil pressure.

Len Bailey had designed a low-drag coupé body (as tested in MIRA’s tunnel) for us especially for Le Mans. We went to the Trials in April with this body on the ‘Weslake’ car, with engine 003, as supplied from Rye.

Again the engine refused to start without extensive towing around a crowded paddock. When finally on the track, it was down on power in all gears, at all road speeds. It was not an ‘aero’ problem. Howden Ganley ran the DFV around without fuss in 3min 40.3sec, second-quickest to Beltoise’s Matra; the V12 managed 3min 56sec. But even being down on power, it was as fast down Mulsanne as the V8 — proving Len’s body.

Weighing the two M6 versions without bodywork, showed the V12 car to be 70lbs heavier.

On the plane back, Walter Hayes asked me what I was going to do for Le Mans; I had to say, “Two DFV cars with open bodywork” — at least they were known factors. He did not seem too disappointed.

Weslake gave us no on-track ‘product support’ and only produced one good engine, 001. Dan was right. I believe we gave the engine a fair chance.

I am, Yours etc,

John Horsman, MD Gulf Research, 1972-75