Formula One – Teams for 1978

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Ferrari:

The Grand Prix scene would be very dull without Enzo Ferrari; not only for his red and white cars, or their exhaust noises, or engineering, but also for his political manoeuvrings in the world of Formula One and the Constructors Association, of which he is a member only under protest. In a recent Press conference he made it very clear that he thought the CSI should allocate his racing number for next year, not Mr. Ecclestone and the F1CA. He also expressed the view that the strength of the FICA was an illusion encouraged by the weakness of the CSI. However, there were two very important announcements, both of which could have far-reaching effects on Formula One. The first was that Ferrari’s contract with the Goodyear tyre company was terminated, and for 1978 Ferrari cars would be racing on Michelin tyre. “Ho hum!” as they say, now that is an interesting, if not unexpected, move. The second thing that came from Ferrari was the likelihood of him running a turbo-charged 1½ -litre engine in place of the long-established 3-litre flat-12-cylinder normally-aspirated engine. He went so far as to say that they had done a lot of test-bed running with a turbo-charged 1½-litre with encouraging results and the opening races of the 1978 season would see the Scuderia Ferrari making a decision one way or the other. A new car was shown, and subsequently went on test, which was a modified version of the 1977 car and though it has been called a 312/T3 it is more in the nature of a T2½. A turbo-charged 1½-litre really would be a T3, but not a 312 – a 156 or a 158? On the driver front we all know how Lauda walked out of the team in a huff and missed the Canadian and Japanese races at the end of 1977, which left Carlos Reutemann in charge, a situation the swarthy Argentinean did not object to. He had the small French-Canadian Gilles Villeneuve as his number two, and that is the situation for 1978. During last season Reutemann was very unhappy with the unrest that surrounded Lauda in the Ferrari team, and in Sweden when Lauda was saying the 312/T2 was useless and finished, and they must have a new car, Reutemann was very philosophical about the situation, pointing out that they could not hope to have a new car before the end of the season, so they should do their best with what they had. “Anyway,” he said, “we have a good engine, a good gearbox and good brakes, which is much more than some teems have. We just can’t get them all balanced together as a complete car; but it is not useless, Niki shouldn’t talk like that.” As far as Villeneuve is concerned he has gone on record as saying how much he is looking forward to learning about Formula One with the Ferrari team, and he hopes 1978 will see him score his first victory with a Ferrari car, before the end of the season. Refreshing to hear such things from a new driver; so much more reasonable than saying he hopes to amass plenty of points or even be World Champion.

McLaren:

McLaren Racing seem so adept at avoiding aggravation and complication that it cannot be luck, it must be good judgement. After a hesitant start the M26 soon got sorted out and 1978 should see it well to the fore. No matter what scandal, heroics, brashness, ill-manners, or whatever that the media have dug up about James Hunt over the past two years, there has never been a suggestion that his driving ability was insufficient, and rightly so, for he always drives hard and fast and any lapse is so rare that it is quickly forgotten. Half-way through last season he stopped the rumour-mongers in their tracks by warning them to leave him out of their 1978 predictions when they were stirring up “who drives what”. He said loud and clear he was staying with McLaren for 1978 and that was that. And it was. A certain amount of sponsor politicking involved the dismissal of “Herman the German”, alias Jochen Mass, and into the number two spot at McLaren Racing was inserted the very personable Frenchman Patrick Tambay. As a personality Tambay presents no problems, being very presentable, very articulate in English as well as his native tongue, and as reserved as Hunt is extrovert. They make a good matched pair of opposites. But what about Tambay’s driving ability, you ask, for he is supposed to be the number two driver in the team. The International Results lists elsewhere in this issue speak for themselves. In half a season with a privately-run Ensign he achieved German GP 6th, Dutch GP 5th and Canadian GP 5th. A lot of much-fancied names never even appeared in the results list, so Tambay must be quite pleased with his first go at Formula One. He also cleaned up Can-Am racing, but that’s a different league.

Lotus:

Colin Chapman, Mario Andretti and the Lotus 78 were a strong combination during the past season, and when all three worked in unison, which was most time, the combination was hard to beat. The only thing that kept getting out of step was the Cosworth DFV engine, and there were some pretty expensive explosions behind Andretti’s head at times. This season will see the continuing of the Chapman/Andretti alliance, working with the Lotus 79, which just has to be one better than the 78. It is hoped the car will use the Lotus-designed automatic transmission which is in effect a clutchless-change gearbox, which has been on test for some time now in the original Lotus 78 chassis, 78/1. The 1978 Lotus is a logical development of the 1977 car, rather than a complete re-design, for there was no doubt that the Lotus 78 was developing along the right lines. A small cloud on the Lotus horizon exists in the shape of the Ronnie Peterson, who has replaced Gunnar Nilsson in the team. The young Nilsson was developing well and learning a lot from Andretti, but decided he needed a pay rise, and this Team Lotus were not prepared to do. They had the offer of Peterson, along with some sponsorship money from his backers, and decided to take the older Swede back into the team at the expense of the younger Swede. When you recall the disenchantment that existed between Team Lotus and Peterson when he left them two years ago, it’s amazing that they should come together again. When Peterson left, to join March, he had lost confidence in Colin Chapman and Team Lotus and drove really badly as a result. It’s difficult to see what has caused him to regain his confidence, if he really has. Andretti makes no bones about the fact that he doesn’t welcome anyone as fast as Peterson in the team with him, feeling that the Swede cannot be considered a number two, and not prepared to share number one spot with him. The tough little Italian-born American has made it clear that he is number one and he has specified what that means, in terms of engineers and material and Chapman’s personal attention.

Tyrrell:

The 1977 season must surely be one that ELF Team Tyrrell will want to forget. The six-wheeled Project P34 lost its way after a promising start, not entirely through its own fault. The little ten inch front tyres did not enjoy the development progress of the more regular thirteen inch ones used by other teams, or the standard large size rear ones used by the P34. Consequently the front end controllability of the six-wheeler suffered and the whole thing was confused by a continual increase in all-up weight. The design got onto a spiral from which there was no easy escape. Derek Gardner, who designed the six-wheeler, and all the previous Tyrrells for that matter, decided to leave the world of motor racing at the end of the 1977 season and his place was taken by Maurice Phillippe. ELF Team Tyrrell have returned to the orthodox, with Tyrrell 008, a very low and light, almost flimsy-looking, conventional 4-wheeler. Conventional in the general concept, but containing numerous “differences” such as the inboard front spring units being operated by the lower suspension wishbone instead of by the upper one in the more usual way; angled spokes on the front wheels to promote air-flow across the brake discs; fabricated rear hub carriers and various aerodynamic tweaks, like the swept-forward “canard” fins on the McLaren-like chisel nose, to load the inner wheel more heavily in a “yaw” situation. While having a very low and wide monocoque chassis, the cockpit surround is very high and extends rearwards to cover the engine, with sunken ducts on each side of the cockpit to collect air for the Cosworth DFV engine.

This new Tyrrell 008 is fitted with recording apparatus that traces the suspension movement at all times, so that the handling characteristics can be analysed in the pits, without having to rely on the drivers’ observations. This equipment will be on the cars during official practice to help the Tyrrell technicians to adjust the springs, anti-roll bar, suspension geometry and wheel movements for the conditions actually prevailing at the time. Patrick Depailler has been promoted to number on driver, the unstable Ronnie Peterson having left the team. Joining the faithful Frenchman Depailler is another Frenchman, Didier Pironi, a protégé of the ELF racing programme from Formula Three and Formula Two. It is now ten years since the national French industry of “Essence, Lubrifacant, Francaise” (ELF) joined Tyrrell and they are one of the oldest backers of the sport, if you ignore Castrol, Shell, BP, Esso, Dunlop, Goodyear, Lucas, Ferodo, Girling, Lockheed, Champion to name but a few, without whose support motor racing would be struggling. Nonetheless, ELF have done a power of good for motor racing, and for themselves and have always conducted themselves in a pretty reasonable manner considering their involvement.  The new Tyrrell 008 has “elf” loud and clear on the nose, and four times down each side! I think they have made their point.

Brabham:

We still say Brabham, but is should really be Alfa Romeo. The biggest factor in the Ecclestone team for 1978 is the addition of World Champion Niki Lauda, who left the Ferrari team under a cloud of dissatisfaction and joined “the other flat-12-cylinder-powered team”, the Brabham-Alfa Romeo combine based in Surrey and Milan. This has meant that the previous team leader, Ulsterman John Watson, has been demoted to number two, not due to any lack of ability or usefulness, but when the reigning World Champion joins the team, what else can you do? Watson was originally number two in the team to Carlo Pace, and when the Brazilian lost his life in an aeroplane accident, Watson automatically took over leadership. Hans Joachim Stuck joined him last year, but had to go when Lauda arrived, as a three-driver team was more than Ecclestone was prepared to cope with. It was a difficult decision to make as the fiery Stuck was very popular with the team personnel, but Lauda is noted for winning races and that is what Ecclestone wants.

During last season the BT46 was announced, which was a new car utilising the Alfa Romeo engine and 6-speed gearbox, but nobody actually saw the car. Among many novel features was a “dart” shape to the monocoque and surface radiators for oil and water, as well as a lot of electrical “gizmoes” is the cockpit to confuse the driver. A certain amount of testing was done with the BT46, in private, and it is still going on, but all is not well with the design and Lauda and Watson will start the season with revised versions of the BT45, now in C-form. All eyes will be on the Brabham-Alfa Romeo team to see if Lauda can do for it what he claims he did for the Ferrari team. We may find that it was actually a case of what the Ferrari team did for Lauda, and it will be interesting to see if the Alfa Romeo team can do the same.

Wolf:

As explained last month the Walter Wolf Racing team have no problems and are set fair to continue the way they were going last season; which was very well, so well in fact, that their efforts won them the coveted Ferodo gold trophy. Jody Scheckter will have the strong backing of an enthusiastic team and at least three complete cars always at the ready. He could hardly wish for more.

Ligier:

For a time the future for Guy Ligier’s team looked a little unsettled, for a lot of his financial support comes from the French Gitanes cigarette company – “the other French cigarette”, as they say – and the tobacco industry in France was being leant on by the Government to cut down advertising among the young, sporting fraternity. All would appear to be under control for a while, so support for the amiable Guy Ligier continues and Matra continue their good work with the screaming V12 engine. It would be difficult to visualise a Ligier-Matra V12 without Jacques Lafitte in the cockpit, but he may well be supported by a second entry for Jean-Pierre Jarier, as happened briefly at the end of last season. A two-car Ligier team would be good thing, for we have been very conscious of the lonely battle that Laffite has been waging against all the Cosworth-powered cars and the Italians cars.

Renault:

The appearance of the Michelin-shod Renault RS/01, with turbo-charged V6 Renault-Gordini engine, on the Formula One scene last year made a lot of people sit up and pay attention. While it did nothing spectacular and suffered a lot of engine and turbo-charger failures, its potential was not to be ignored and Gerard Larrousse and the Renault-Sport team were reasonably satisfied with their first attempt at Formula One. It will continue in 78 as and when they feel their problem are being beaten, and may blossom out into a two-car team one day; there is no shortage of up-and-coming drivers in France at the moment, all waiting to join Jean-Pierre Jabouille in Regie-Renault’s works team.

Shadow:

This should really be written as Shadow ÷ 2for there has been a major rift in the lute, blamed on various pipers not paying for the tunes. The whole affair is very muddled at the moment, but it seems that Jack Oliver has taken the main ingredients of the AVS-Shadow team away from the Northampton base and installed them in a factory down the road at Milton Keynes. With him have gone team manager Alan Rees designers Southgate and Wass, chief mechanic Pete Kerr and most of the other workers, and the financial support of Franco Ambrosio, the Italian financier, even though he is supposed to be in discussion with the men form the Inland Revenue. Gunnar Nilsson has joined this group, through at the moment there is not car for him to drive, but Southgate and his men hope to have a new car ready by the South African GP in March.

Meanwhile, back at the Northampton camp Don Nichols is left with a large collection of cars, including the 1977 DN8 models and a half-finished DN9, the financial support of Tabatip the cigar firm of Heinrich Villager and Hans Joachim Stuck ready to drive for him. In November Tabatip, on behalf of the Shadow Racing Team put out a Press release to say that Stuck was joining team, saying that the young German was “glad to join a professional team within which politics and problems don’t exist”. (This, after leaving the Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo set-up.) Perhaps they don’t exist at Northampton, relatively speaking.

Ensign:

Quietly getting on with it at Chaseside, in the West Midlands, Morris Nunn and his happy family were thinking of running a two-car team, if extra financial support could be found. It wasn’t forthcoming so team Ensign will remain a one driver affair. At the time of writing Regazzoni was happy to say with the team.  Will remain a one driver affair.  At the time of writing Regazzoni was happy to stay with the team. The cars are being improved in the light of last season’s experience and a lot of Ensign supporters are looking forward to the day that Regazzoni notches up the team’s first Grand Prix victory.

Surtees:

Factual news from Team Surtees is a bit thin on the ground at the time of writing, though all sorts of likely and unlikely people have been thrashing round Brands Hatch in one of the TS19 cars. It appears that Rupert Keegan will be driving a Surtees this year, presumably with money from his father’s air-line supporting him. The rugged Brambilla and his Beta Tools sponsorship will continue to liven the scene, and who knows, he many win another Grand Prix this year, which will please everyone.

Fittipaldi:

Emerson and Wilson Fittipaldi have taken a long hard look at themselves and their Coper sucar-financed team, and have done a major reshuffle. The designer of the original cars was Richard Divila, but he quietly faded away; then David Baldwin joined the team form Ensign, but did not say very long, and as a temporary measure Shahab Amed, from Surtees and Tyrrell, helped them out with the Baldwin-designed car. Now Ralph Bellamy has joined the team, direct from Lotus and brought with him a lot of the Lotus 78 thinking (but not necessarily all of it). Peter Mackintosh has forsaken the Formula One Constructors Association, of which he was a very efficient and effective secretary, to join the Fittipaldi brothers as team-manager and the faithful E.F. is still the number one driver. Already Bellamy has made the Fittipaldi look like a Lotus 78, and a lot of people would be pleased to see the Brazilian driver up at the front, where he rightfully belongs.

Williams:

After running a March 761 last year, Frank Williams lost not time in setting in motion the designs for a new Williams car, the pencilwork being done by Patrick Head. The first one is finished and ready to go, and a second is on its way. With Alan Jones begin left out of all the wheeling and dealing up Northampton way, where the Shadows were darkening, Frank Williams quickly signed him up. Jones may not be among the inspired few who are automatically looked upon as race winners, like Andretti, Hunt or Lauda, but he is a good hard driver who keeps getting results. Williams is financed by Saudi-Arabian Airlines, along with numerous other sources like Goodyear, and Jones should be able to look forward to a full season of uncomplicated competition, compared with some drivers in his category. Not unnaturally the new Williams FW06 has been designed around the Cosworth/Hewland package.

Hesketh:

The Hesketh Motor Company, manufacturers of Formula One cars, still goes strong, with their engine department doing a lot of contract work on Cosworth DFV units. Team manager Anthony Horsley struggled to run cars last year on a Rent-a-Car deal, and Frank Diurnie produced a new design. Rupert Keegan and British Air Ferries were the mainstay of the Hesketh entries, which fluctuated from one to three. This year a single car is being run for Britain’s most publicised lady racing driver, Divina Galica, with financial backing from her various supporters.

ATS-March

Last year the German alloy road-wheel manufacturers ATS, ran a neat and efficient team of the two Penske PC4 cars, bought from Roger Penske’s defunct Formula One effort. With the cars were some of the original Penske personnel and the ATS team, with Jarier driving for them, impressed by the way they got on with the job as a private-owner team. They scored points in the World Championship table, but not being bona-fide Constructors could not qualify to join the Ecclestone/Mosley clan. For 1978 the ATS team has made a contract with March Engineering (who, incidentally, scored no points at all in the Constructors Championship), for a Robin Herd designed ATS Formula One car, backed by March Engineering’s facilities. In this way ATS become Constructors and March Engineering keep their head above water in Formula One. Jochen Mass has been signed on as number one driver, and this Anglo-German set-up could prove quite effective.

B&S Fabrications:

The engineering firm of Bob Sparshot and John Woodington that does contract work for a grat number of Formula One teams, supplying anything from an oil tank to a complete monocoque, also prepare cars for racing. Last season they looked after Brett Lunger’s pair of McLaren M23 cars, which are sponsored by the Chesterfield cigarette company, and Lunger was among the better of the private-owners taking part in Formula One. This set-up will continue into 1978, te preparation and activity at the circuits by Sparshot and his men being a nice change from the business of basic manufacturing and fabricating work, which is the mainstay of the firm. It is not as easy or straightforward, especially if the driver crashes the car in practice, or an engine blows up on race morning, but the challenge is satisfying to overcome.

Theodore Racing:

This is the private racing team of Hong Kong businessman Teddy Yip, who is one of those people who is happiest among racing cars and racing people, and is prepared to spend his money on his hobby. Last year Yip, with Irishman Sid Taylor, ran an Ensign for Patrick Tambay to drive.  This year Theodore Racing has had Ron Tauranac provide the basic design work for a Formula One car around a Cosworth/Hewland package. Len Bailey is now responsible for the completed car, which has been built in the old Ralt works in Woking; Ron Tauranac has moved his Ralt firm to the old Brabham factory at New Haw. Until the Renault is ready to race, Jean-Pierre Jabouille will drive for Theodore Racing.

Martini:

This is not the Italian drinks firm, but the racing car firm of Tico Martini, from Jersey. From a 650 c.c. Triumph-powered go-kart, Martini Magny-Cours, supplying racing cars principally for French National Formula Three and then Formula Two, with great success and is about to take the big step into Formula One, with a Cosworth DFV powered car, to be driven by Formula Two ace Rene Arnoux.

Stanley-BRM:

Whatever happened to Stanley-BRM?

From the foregoing it can be seen that there is no shortage of activity on the Formula One front, much of it dependent on the continuance of Cosworth Engineering and Hewland Engineering, apart from all the accessory firms who provide bits. If those two major engineering concerns folded up Formula One would look a bit thin, with Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Ligier and Renault left in control. Hopefully this will not happen as racing engines and gearboxes are still in great demand.

Anyone who ways Formula One is dull has not been paying attention. – D.S.J.

 

 

 

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