Matters of moment, February 1982
Formula One technicalities
As the highly-respected mooring writer Karl Ludvigsen, Vice-President of Ford-of-Europe Inc., reminded us last month, the engine-capacity regulations, the formulae, governing what is technically permissible “under the bonnet” in Formula One racing, is to be reviewed before the 1985 season, after having remained static since 1966, and agreement most be reached over any change by next October. It is then that the FISA will consider the best alternative, if any, to the prevailing rules that permit supercharged cars of up to 1½-litres and non-supercharged cars of up to 3-litres, all consuming commercial-grade petrol.
We would not presume to discuss this very important matter in the restricted space of this editorial. Isis in any case something our contributors D.S.J. and A.H. will no doubt deal with in due course. All we intend to do here is to defend an aspect of Grand Prix (and other, racing which was dealt with adversely by the celebrated racing engine designer and constructor, Keith Duckworth, in the speech he delivered on the occasion of the presentation to him of the prestigious Ferodo Gold Trophy last year. Duckworth deservedly won this coveted award for his contribution lathe development of the Cosworth engines that won right out of last year’s 15 Grands Prix and the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, these engines of the famous 3-litre atmospherically-charged ore-eight formation being instrumental in gaining Williams the Constructors’ Championship and Piquet the Drivers’ Championship with the Brabham team. All credit to Ford for financing the original deal…
The comment of Duckworth’s we want to comment on concerns the fuel-thirst of turbocharged racing power units. Duckworth pointed to the 1½-litre blown GP cars as being permitted to run against non-blown 3-litre cars in the mid-1960s because it was thought that mechanically-driven superchargers would rob such engines of much of their power, in spite of the forced-induction bonus, whereas future turbocharged 1½-litre racing engines, he suggested, would give power outputs which no normally-aspirated engine even of twice the swept volume could hope to match. That may be true, even if Duckworth’s statement that “the turbocharger gets its power free” should surely be tempered by the thought that there must be some back-pressure and added weight losses. What really troubles us is that he sees future racing with turbocharged engines (which he himself is developing) as likely to be plagued with essential stops for refuelling and tyres, turning, in his opinion, Grand Prix races into “virtually two-part sprint events with a Fred Karno pit-stop in the middle”.
The question to be answered is, do pit-stops ruin races? We suggest that in the past they have not! Furthermore, it seems that it could be these very pit-stops which could level-out racing between supercharged and non-supercharged cars in an interesting manner, as has certainly been the case previously. As we cannot foresee the future, it is logical to learn from the past. In that context, we can remember the spectator-interest caused by pit-stops for fuel and new tyres in many races, the lead inevitably changing be of such pauses. Today’s F1 races are intended to appeal to the watching supporters (whether at the event or before a TV set) but all too often they soon become dull. if high speed, “processions”. If pit-stops had to be made by the more powerful (turbocharged) cats, such processions would be broken up, and the race would have a satisfactory anticipatory outcome. Of this has not yet happened between today’s cars, it must be because the very high-powered, excessively fuel-thirsty turbocharged engines visualised by Mr. Duckworth have not yet appeared).
Pit-stops were a stimulating aspect of racing for many years. Not only did they introduce the aforesaid factor of uncertain, into the outcome until the chequered-flag was unfurled, but they brought into play the racing mechanics, that splendid race of men absolutely vital to motor-racing, but seen these days mostly behind the scenes. It may be argued that longer races are more applicable to pit-stops and in this context and, thinking of how much it now costs spectators to see a GP race, reversion to longer races might be no bad thing. Today’s paying public gets very little, sometimes, from an under-200 mile, two-hour F1 contest, especially if it is curtailed for rain or other reasons.
In the olden times GP races were of enormous duration, even two-day affairs, to show the true worth of the victorious cars and drivers. When the first really big crowds attended GP racing in this country, at Donington, they saw Rosemeyer in action for more than three hours in 1937 before he won in an Auto-Union, and Nuvolari at work for rather longer when he won the GP for the same stable in 1938. Pit-stops altered frequently the order of these races and contributed to the speculation enjoyed by the big crowds who attended these Donington Grand Prix contests. We can see nothing “Fred Karno” about them! (Sometimes compulsory pit-pauses, not actually required by car or driver, have been used in minor events, to provide entertainment for the onlookers and training for the participants. These are quite distinct from pit-stops essential to the conduct of a big race.)
Even present-length races need not be spoiled by such stops, especially if they contain cars of widely