Tow good to be true

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‘The flying pig’ was still pig ugly, but at least now it was flying. Its Hart turbo had gobbled up the `atmos’ of Alboreto, Daly, de Angelis and Watson along Zandvoort’s long pit straight and, on lap seven, its snout was large in Giacomelli’s mirrors.

“Suddenly, I got a surge of speed,” remembers Derek Warwick, its nevergive-up handler. “I thought, Wow, what a tow!’ I breezed past the Alfa Romeo. ‘So this is what it’s like to be a Formula One driver’.”

Normally, when a rear wing parts company from an F1 car at 180mph, all hell breaks loose. Rudely ripped from its envelope, its not-known-at-the-address passage is franked by black lines of tortured rubber and acrid smoke from stamped brakes.

Warwick noticed only a slight blip in revs. It was only when he glanced in his mirrors that he realised his Toleman TG181C-Hart was minus its wing. The car was an improvement on its ‘General Belgrano’ predecessor of 1981. But not by much.

“We all knew the concept was wrong,” says Warwick, “but we were committed and kept plugging away.” Its engine had been deemed insufficiently strong to act as a stressed part of the chassis, and so sat in a cradle. Strictly old hat.

Hats off to Mr Warwick, though. Budget restraints caused reliability problems caused minimal testing. In an age of 900bhp and one-lap quallies, this was a giant leap for an F1 new boy. And in Holland, he took the first of his (noticeable) small steps in the right direction.

Pirelli, who were also learning the game, had produced a better, softer, tyre, and Toleman had managed to test it at the seaside course. Warwick qualified 13th of 31, in a car that had registered three DNQs, one DNS and two RTDs in the previous six races. Things were looking up. Until the revs blipped slightly.

He coasted into the pits, the team fitted another wing, bolted softer Pirellis on, and Derek went out again. And set fastest lap, a tenth quicker than Piquet’s second-placed Brabham.

“It wasn’t a cheat, but we did take the main chance. We’d had a good race until then, and now we needed to prove, especially to our sponsors, that we had some speed.”

Which Warwick did in the short time the car’s unreliability (a broken oil union after 15 laps) allowed him.

Another DNF, then. But the future was what mattered, he told himself Brands was next. And he felt confident of putting on a good show…

Paul Fearnley

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