Williams and McLaren: It's not what you've got, it's what you do with it

While the Brabham-BMW combo made its debut in the opening round of the 1982 season, it wasn’t until the second half of ’83 that McLaren and Williams raced turbos. And they, like Brabham,discovered how a huge leap in power immediately highlighted — or indeed, created — chassis deficiencies.

“There were three fundamental problems with the FVV09 in 1983/84:’ says Frank Dernie,then Williams’ aerodynamicist”One was throttle response — the Honda RA163-E didn’t have any. As a result you had two choices with the set-up of the car.You could set it up with a nice balance, but when the driver picked up the throttle there was a good chance he would spin; or you could set it up with a massive amount of understeer, which drivers hate, of course, especially Keke.The latter route was the one we had to choose.We didn’t realise for a long time it was throttle response causing the handling problems. “There was also a structural problem in that the engine hadn’t been designed with proper engine mounts in mind, so there was flexing which Keke thought was in the chassis.

The lower engine mount was on the oil pump, which was only held to the block by four 6mm studs,and the top engine mount was in the cylinder head, which was “The other problem was power.When Nigel Mansell jumped in the car for the first time at Donington after leaving Lotus, he did a reasonable time, came in and said, The car’s not bad, a bit of understeer, but there’s a big problem with the engine — I’ve got no boost: The data showed it was normal It turned out that Renault had been running something like 0.3-0.4 bar more boost in the races than we qualified with. If you reckon there’s about 30 horsepower for every 0.1 bar, our engine was around 200 horsepower down in the races. Everybody assumed the Honda was the most powerful engine.They didn’t realise that it lit up the wheels because it had very sudden throttle response. It was actually down on power:’

Over in the McLaren camp,going the turbo route was proving similarly complicated, but for different reasons. John Barnard had always intended that the TAG turbo engine which McLaren had commissioned from Porsche — and which he had meticulously specified — should begin racing at the start of the 1984 season. Niki Lauda had different ideas, though, and used sponsor Philip Morris as a lever to prise the engine out of Barnard’s hands and into the MP4/ I for the last four races of ‘83.0n paper, it was clearly a mistake.The engine’s seven sorties saw six DNFs (although one secured Lauda 1 I th place) and one disqualification, adding zero to the 34 points gained using the Cosworth that season. But does John Barnard reckon in retrospect that anything good came from it?

“Yes, I suppose there were a number of things that it showed up. I’d been trying to run carbon brakes throughout the season.We were running solid discs and, with the Cosworth, just getting away with itWith the turbo engine our top speed increased alarmingly and suddenly we had brake problems. So it uncovered stuff like that which we hadn’t really thought about. “In terms of the engine itself, it also put some pressure on Porsche.We had to persuade them that this wasn’t like going to Le Mans. For instance, they had loads of room in their sportscars and were used to enormous oil tanks. We put the engine in the car and took it to Silverstone to same rate it was fuel!

“So putting the engine in the car made them realise they were dealing with a very different animal. After that first day’s testing they had to go away and reinvent the whole piston ring package. “From our point of view, dropping in the new engine involved a hell of a lot of extra work in the middle of a season — the pressure was huge. 1984 was a good year so we didn’t actually suffer, but at the time I felt we would:’