Exiting times ahead
When the new Formula One due to start in 1989 was announced it sounded deadly dull and I thought about taking up model-car collecting. That was two years ago and I am happy to say that since then things have changed for the better.
At the time when we were told that turbocharged 11/2-litre engines would be outlawed at the end of 1988 we were at a fantastically high peak of engine technology, with Porsche, BMW, Honda, Ferrari and Renault all straining their resources to retain 850 bhp in their 1500cc engines. There were “flash” readings of over 1000 bhp for some of the engines, specially tweaked up for a single qualifying lap. This accompanied “one lap” qualifying tyres, cars visibly under the regulation weight, and aerodynamics and drag trimmed to the minimum. It was no wonder that some of the top drivers had a glazed look in their eyes during Saturday afternoon qualifying, and had to be kept on ice in a darkened garage. They were exciting times.
By comparison, the thought of un-supercharged 31/2-litre engines, even if they could give 600 bhp, seemed very dull, and when Team Tyrrell went down to the Ark and dug out a 31/2-litre version of the age-old Cosworth V8 engine the future looked very gloomy. In 1987 the turbocharged engines were restricted as to boost pressure, and were still pretty exciting, but the sight of Jonathan Palmer winning the non-turbo category with the Tyrrell-Cosworth V8 didn’t exactly cause the adrenalin to flow.
In 1988 the turbocharged engines were restricted even more by limiting boost pressure and fuel tank capacity, and the Grand disappeared from the Grand Prix car. Racing returned to being Formula One with the accent more on Driver Racing than Motorcar Racing.
The non-turbo category looked a little better in comparison, for Cosworth produced a rehashed version of its V8 (the DFR), while John Judd introduced a 31/2-litre version of Honda’s F3000 V8 engine, although the Cosworth DFZ which Ken Tyrrell had found in the Ark was virtually useless, other than for making up the numbers. The apparent performance of the Tyrrell in 1987 had deluded a lot of people into thinking it was the recipe for the new Formula and the back of the grid was clogged up with “vintage” Formula One designs. These hampered the progress of McLaren International and Ferrari who were still trying to race seriously with turbocharged 11/2-litre cars. The only opposition to the turbocharged cars came from the Cosworth DFR-powered Benettons and the Judd-powered Williams and March cars, and their progress during the season provided some interesting moments, but they didn’t actually win anything.
The turbocharged 11/2-litre scene opened in 1977 with the appearance at Silverstone of the Renault factory team, at which many people scoffed, and it disappeared at the end of 1988 on a comparatively quiet note with the total domination by Honda from Japan, using the racing expertise of the McLaren team.
During this period we saw the complete demise of the normally-aspirated 3-litre category of Formula One, which had ruled the scene since the Formula started in 1966. The demise was so complete that we reached the point where the rule-makers removed the unblown 3-litre category and everyone had to use turbocharged 11/2-litre engines. From the mechanical viewpoint, and my personal viewpoint, we went through the best period of Grand Prix racing of all time, with engines from Ferrari, Renault, Porsche, BMW, Honda, Zakspeed, Alfa Romeo, Motori-Moderni, Ford-Cosworth and Hart.
The power-battle was intense and far outstripped the chassis competition, the aerodynamics competition and the tyre technology. It reached its peak around 1984-85 and the weak or under-powered engines fell by the wayside, under-powered being a relative term, for some of those which couldn’t keep up were developing 700 bhp, and all were limited to 11/2-litres, or 1500cc, and running on more-or-less straight petrol 102 octane. But all that is past history. We now embark on a new world of Formula One with engines limited to 31/2 litres (3500cc) maximum, and any form of forced induction barred.
As I have already said, the 1987 Tyrrell-Cosworth gave us all the wrong impression about the way the new Formula was going to go. During 1988.new trends began to appear, and I put my model cars away and paid attention to what was happening, and what was going to happen, for the future looks promising on all manner of fronts.
First we had the news that Ferrari preparing a 31/2-litre V12 for the Formula, and that had to be good news by any standards, especially for those people who can attend Formula One races listen to the sounds in the raw, and not as “muted hum” as background to Murray Walker’s television commentary. I have suggested to Murray that once in a while he should open the window of his commentary box and let the people at home hear the sheer volume of a Grand Prix start, during which he needn’t waste his time trying to commentate. He looked at me sadly and said “Jenks, the windows don’t open in our sound-proof TV cabins.” A screaming V12 Ferrari engine personifies Italian motor racing for anyone with Italian red racing blood in his veins.
Then Renault re-appeared on the scene, announcing a 31/2-litre V10 engine incorporating all the high-tech it had developed into its last 11/2-litre Formula One engine, including pneumatic valve springs, the use of ceramic materials and much more. Although Renault withdrew from Formula One before the end of the turbo era it did not abandon high-performance racing engine research. An exclusive contract with the Frank Williams team for the use of the Renault V10 engine ensures a serious future for the whole project.
While Honda and McLaren were dominating the end of the turbocharged scene the Japanese firm announced its new 31/2-litre V10 engine, for exclusive use by McLaren, and that has to be serious. This new engine was installed in a modified MP4/4 chassis for test purposes, and the first time it ran in public it equalled the parameters set by the 1988 non-turbo front-runners!
Before the Italian Grand Prix Alfa Romeo demonstrated a prototype “ProCar” that outwardly looked like a front-engined, frontwheel-drive Tipo 164 saloon; but when the carbon-fibre-kevlar body was lifted off, a pure Formula One Brabham chassis was revealed with an interesting Alfa Romeo V10 Grand Prix engine in the rear. It sounded beautiful and went very quickly down the Monza straights. There is no (official) intention of using this V10 engine for Formula One: the whole project, built by Brabham and paid for by Alfa Romeo, is a research project for a proposed FIA new form of Production Car racing, which has already been abandoned. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Two more Italian engines were shown publicly during the 1988 season, but not heard running. One was a V12 Lamborghini engine, designed by Mauro Forghieri since he left the Ferrari factory, and the other was a flat-12cylinder designed by Carlo Chiti and his Motori Moderni concern, for the Japanese Subaru company. Both these engines are 31/2-litre F1 units, the Lamborghini V12 to be used by the Larrousse-Calmels Lola team, and the Subaru by the Italian Minardi team.
In England John Judd is continuing development on his V8 engine and Ford-Cosworth has produced an improved version of its V8, the 1988 DFR version now going into production for numerous small teams to replace their obsolete DFZ versions, while the 1989 unit will be exclusively for Benetton.
Appearing quietly on the Formula One scene is a Yamaha V8 engine from Japan, derived from a 3-litre version used in Japanese F3000 racing. This new 31/2-litre engine, using five valves per cylinder, a technical point well established in Yamaha engineering, will be used by the Zakspeed team.
To anyone with short memories who asks “Why Zakspeed?” I would say, “Look back. When Honda first appeared in Formula One back in 1964 people asked why the Japanese firm used an unknown Californian driver named Ronnie Bucknum. When Honda first came into the turbocharged Formula One racing scene it used an unknown team called Spirit Racing, and a little-known Swedish driver named Stefan Johansson.” I shall watch the progress of Yamaha with keen interest, not merely because I ride an RD350LC Yamaha motorcycle, but because its motorcycle racing activities have commanded respect.
There are a number of other 31/2-litre Formula One engine projects underway, some only on the drawing board, others in mock-up form, and one or two actually starting test-bed running. Whether any of these reach as far as a test-chassis, time will tell. If they do it is still a long way to an entry in a Grand Prix., and even further to the back of a starting grid, let alone the front.
Whatever happens in the first season of this new Formula it is going to be interesting, for apart from all the interest on the engine front, there is a bit of potential for some good Formula One racing from the top half-dozen teams.
To anyone who thinks that McLaren International won’t be setting the pace in 1989, all I can say is “you haven’t been paying attention”. Its greatest strength lies in the fact that nothing will be changed in the overall set-up, apart from the engine being a 31/2-litre normally-aspirated V10 unit, instead of a 11/2-litre turbocharged V6, but that is Honda’s problem. I don’t think we need have any worries about the Japanese firm’s ability to design and develop an engine.
In passing, it is interesting to reflect that a V10 engine has two banks of five cylinders, and a long while ago Honda built a racing motorcycle engine that was an in-line four cylinder, using four valves per cylinder, and as it was of 125cc capacity it ran to astronomical rpm. I don’t see how anyone can under-estimate the ability of the Honda company. The ability of McLaren International under the leadership of Ron Dennis needs no questioning as their racing record shows, and if there are two better drivers in Formula One today than Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, l am sure that Ron Dennis would like to hear from them. At the time of writing the Formula One line-up for 1989 is as follows — not complete. but complete enough to speculate on who will be racing at the front:
MP4/5 —new chassis design to accept the V10 Honda engine RA 108E. Proven concepts of construction, suspension and aerodynamics as perfected in the MP4/4 are obviously carried through to the new car, with continuous development on all fronts. No change in the design team of Gordon Murray, Steve Nichols, Neil Oatley and Bob Bell and no change of drivers: World Champion Ayrton Senna, and runner-up Alain Prost. Test-cars already undergoing development running in Europe and Japan, and engine development on top priority at Honda’s R&D centre in Japan. At the time of the announcement of the RA 108E in August 1988 ten engines had already been built, the first one having been built in 1987. From that we can assume that this design will see Honda into the first stages of the new Formula, but rest assured its “think tank” will already be at work on the next design for Formula One.
After a season of having to buy engines from a specialist supplier the Williams team return to full support from a big manufacturer. The Regie Renault is supplying its new V10 Formula One engine to the team for 1989 and 1990 for a start. Already an FW12B test-car powered by the new engine is undergoing track-work and there is no reason to doubt that the Williams-Renault V10 will provide serious opposition to the McLaren-Honda V10, the team’s weak point being its driver line-up. Nigel Mansell has driven his last race for the Didcot team and has left, his place being taken by the Belgian Thierry Boutsen. Partnering him is the Italian Riccardo Patrese having his second season with the team. Patrese may be the most experienced driver in Formula One if the number of races is the criterion, but he doesn’t win races and that should be a racing driver’s main objective. Admittedly Boutsen has not won any races, but the potential is clearly there so maybe the new combination of Williams and Renault will give him the opportunity he needs. The long-established aerodynamicist Frank Dernie has left the team.
Never to under-estimate the Scuderia Ferrari has long been a well-established thought. Even if the name is changed to Scuderia Fiat, or Fiat-Ferrari, the red cars from Italy can never be overlooked . They may have lost their leader, but the Ferrari people still believe in Italy and motor racing and during 1988 were the only ones to provide any serious challenge to McLaren-Honda. A large section of the motor racing world is awaiting the immediate future of the new Ferrari V12, to be driven by the enthusiastic press-on Austrian driver Gerhard Berger, his partner in 1989 being none other than the “Brummie” himself. Whatever one might think about Nigel Mansell he always gives everything he has got as soon as begets in a racing car, and a V12 Ferrari engine behind his back is going to be all the incentive he will need. The combination of Berger and Mansell in the same team could cause them to surpass their natural level of ability, but whatever happens they will be worth watching. The only question mark over the team is whether the new chassis designed by Englishman John Barnard will work. So far his Ferrari design has not raced, and while he undoubtedly set Ron Dennis and McLaren International on the road to success with his Cosworth-powered design, and followed it up with the Porsche car, his absence from the Woking team has not been noticeable. While Enzo Ferrari was prepared to let Barnard work in England and design from afar, the new Fiat management of Ferrari want him on their doorstep in Italy, a situation that Barnard has said is of no interest to him. The new car uses a Barnard-designed gearbox with “finger-tip” gearchange operated by small levers behind the steering-wheel spokes, one for changing up and the other for changing down.
The Witney-based team, backed by the Italian clothing family and supported strongly by Ford and Cosworth, earned a well deserved third place in the 1988 Manufacturers’ Championship and was the most successful of the non-turbocharged teams. Unfortunately it has lost Thierry Boutsen to the Williams team and has taken a long-term gamble in replacing him with Johnny Herbert, an apprentice from F3 and F3000 who has yet to make his debut in Formula One. The 1988 number two driver Alessandro Nannini has been promoted to number one, justifiably so, as he showed excellent promise in his first season with a front-rank team. He didn’t win any races (but who did, with Senna and Prost about the place?) but he showed commendable forcefulness in his driving, even though he flew off the road on a number of occasions. With a new Cosworth V8 powering the 1989 Benetton, Nannini should have a fair chance of mixing it with the front-runners.
The rejuvenated March team that came back on the scene with sponsorship from the Japanese Leyton House industrial group has shown a remarkable “progress curve”. Starting with a single-car team in 1987, it expanded to a two-car team in 1988 and used John Judd’s V8 engine with impressive effect. Their first driver was the Italian Ivan Capelli and in 1988 he was joined by the Brazilian Mauricio Gugelmin and if ever two drivers looked likely to succeed it is these two. Like the McLaren team the March team has the advantage of stability, nothing being changed within the team. Retaining full support from the Judd engine firm and with Adrian Newey remaining in charge of design and engineering, with Robin Herd keeping an overall eye on the March side of things, the team has a clear run into 1989. It is not so much a case of carrying on where it left off, more a continuous progress from when it came in and if it can continue along the same “progress curve” the turquoise-coloured team is going to be up with the best. Ivan Capelli was the only driver in 1988 to lead a race in a non-turbocharged car, and even though it was only for a matter of a few hundred yards, it is a fact that cannot be denied him or the March team.
The 1988 season of Team Lotus is one that is best forgotten. Every team has its low-point and Lotus undoubtedly reached theirs. Nelson Piquet drove in a most uninspired manner most of the time, and the Lotus 100T was simply no match for the McLaren MP4/4, even though both teams were given identical engines by Honda. Lotus has now been dropped by Honda and had little choice but to buy engines off John Judd, as the Williams team had to do in 1988, when it was dropped by Honda. In a hope to gain an advantage over other Judd engine-users Lotus has contracted with Tickford Engineering of Milton Keynes for the supply of special cylinder heads with five valves per cylinder, which it has been developing over the past 18 months. The Tickford cylinder head design is intended to raise the rpm levels, improve combustion and gain horsepower, but won’t be ready before mid-season. Nelson Piquet remains as number one driver and the Japanese Satoru Nakajima is having another season with Team Lotus. Before the 1988 season finished Gerard Ducarouge gave up his post as chief engineer and returned to France, and his place has been taken by Frank Dernie from the Williams team. Somehow one can’t help feeling that the loss of Colin Chapman is beginning to have its effect on Team Lotus. He was the energy that got the team flywheel wound up tight and one wonders if the flywheel is slowing down and nobody is able to infuse any new impetus into it. It has happened to other teams in the past when they lost their pace-setter.
This small German team struggled through the turbocharged era with its own 4-cylinder engine with a depressing lack of success, but now it has been given a new lease of life by the appearance on its doorstep of the Japanese Yamaha concern, bearing a 31/2-litre V8 engine, and offering to use the German facilities to make an entry into Formula One. Gustav Brunner has joined the team to design the new car, and while he has penned some neat and practical Formula One cars they have not been race-winners. Perhaps Yamaha is not expecting to win anything in its first season in Formula One. The appearance of the Japanese driver Aguri Suzuki in the team should be no cause for surprise.
After struggling with Carlo Chiti’s turbocharged V6 Motori Moderni engine, which rarely lasted a race, this Italian team switched to Cosworth DFZ engines in 1988 and actually enjoyed some racing and some finishing, the Cosworth inherent reliability coming as an agreeable surprise after the unreliable MM engine. Now it plans to return to Motori Moderni and give Chiti’s flat 12-cylinder 31/2-litre engine called Subaru a try. We will probably see Pierluigi Martini and Luis Perez Sala racing with Cosworth power for a while yet.
The 1989 rule that only two-car teams will be accepted for Formula One means that this little team of Frenchman Henri Julien has had to expand. The second car will probably be driven by Joachim Winkelhock, younger brother of Manfred who died in a sports-car race. Like the Minardi team, AGS is pinning its hopes on a new engine, an inverted broad-arrow 12-cylinder (erroneously called a W12) designed by Guy Negro, but will continue to use Cosworth power until the 12-cylinder is race-worthy.
This French team, formed by ex-Renault man Gerard Larrousse and Didier Calmels, successfully expanded to a two-car team in 1988, with Yannick Dalmas joining Philippe Alliot on the driver strength. Now it has abandoned Cosworth V8 engines and has made a contract for the exclusive use of the Lamborghini V12 engine designed by Forghieri. At the time of writing it has yet to appear in a chassis. The fact that the General Motors Chrysler Corporation owns Automobili Lamborghini is one of those strange facets of big business that has yet to manifest its purpose.
At times it is difficult to recall that Team Tyrrell was once at the top of the Formula One tree, in the great days of JY Stewart. During 1988 Team Tyrrell was not even the best non-turbocharged team, and was barely “the best of the rest”. One can only watch its activities with a sad and tolerant eye. The use of 1988 Cosworth DFR engines in Harvey Postlethwaite’s new Tyrrell 018 should at least give it a good chance of getting on the starting grids. Jonathan Palmer continues as number one driver, with Michele Alboreto as his team-mate.
All one really knows is that whatever Jack Oliver and Ross Brawn come up with for 1989, Eddie Cheever and Derek Warwick will be driving them, and financial support will still come from Megatron.
Very little known at the moment. Difficult to imagine it running a two-car team, but Enzo Osella is a born motor racing enthusiast and will be at the first race if it is humanly possible.
After its 1988 season the Ligier people can only improve, but they have lost the services of Stefan Johansson. To many drivers’ chagrin Rene Arnoux is staying with the team.
Another small team that is going to be stretched to run two cars, but if it can’t it will have to accept demotion to F3000. It has the reigning F3000 Champion Roberto Moreno on its driver strength and it would be a pity if he was wasted. His team-mate will be Pierre-Henri Raphanel.
A 1988 single-car team using Cosworth power whose driver Alessandro Caffi made the car look better than it really was. The young Italian is deserving of a stronger team. Another team which was told to double its size if it wanted to stay in Formula One.
After struggling to maintain a two-car team during 1988, Walter Brun showed signs of withdrawing before the end of the season but surprised everyone by buying the Brabham team of BC Ecclestone. It seems that the EuroBrun team will continue but so far only Gregor Foitek has been named as driver.
Exactly what the contents of the Brabham team which Walter Brun has acquired has not yet been made clear, but the name is due to reappear in Formula One and Stefano Modena has been named as one of the drivers, with Martin Brundle returning to Formula One in the other car after a year’s absence.
The team is taking a brave new step up into the big time from many years in lesser formulae. Masterminded by Mick Earle, it has signed up Stefan Johansson to lead things off.
Gunther Schmid’s small team should have a better time this year with fewer accidents to its cars, as Christian Danner has replaced de Cesaris.
Lamberto Leoni’s F3000 team is spreading its wings and heading for F1 with Gabriele Tarquini in the leading driving seat . DSJ