Notes on the cars at Monte Carlo

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THE TEMPORARY nature of the Monte Carlo circuit means that there are no proper paddock or pit facilities and if the situation was anywhere but in Monaco them would be lots of grumbles and threats of boycotts and noon. Because the whole affair is only once a year and around the glamour of the Monte Carlo Casino and Harbour everyone suffers in silence, but for the team members, and in particular the mechanics, the whole thing is a bit chaotic. The pits are on the island formed by the starting straight and the wiggly bit around the swimming pool, while the paddock is along the western side of the harbour and the only connection between the two is across the track. This means that everything needed for practice and the race has to be dragged from the paddock, across the track and set-up temporarily. When the action is over it all has to be dragged back again, and with so many supporting races the amount of time available for crossing the track with a Formula 1 car or a tool box is very limited. If you get behind on time you could be stranded in the pits when you are needed in the paddock and vice-versa.

The team transporters are packed check-by-jowl along the edge of the harbour together with motorhomes, hospitality units, trade vans and private cars in an assembly that would do credit to a “container” terminal. The tents are erected on the sides of the transporters, barriers are put up all round and this has to suffice for workshop areas. Hand-trolleys, powered trolleys and small Honda pick-up trucks are at a premium at the Monaco GP, while feet come in for some fairly heavy use as well.

The Williams team fielded a full team of FW08 cars, Rosberg’s Belgian GP car needing a new monocoque due to the Finn’s over-exuberant kerb-bashing. With the likelihood of more shunts in the tight confines of the Monegasque circuit each driver had two cars at his disposal. Rosbcrg had FW08/3 rebuilt and FW08/1 as his spare, and Daly had FW08/4 with FW08/2 (the test-car) as his spare. There was no need to make alterations to the specifications as they had performed remarkably well in their first race, no it was merely a matter of gear ratios and suspension and aerodynamic settings being adjusted to suit the circuit.

Bernard Ecclestone’s Brahham team looked to be stretched to its limit with BMW-powered cars and Cosworth-powered cars and all the tools and spares necessary for both. Nelson Piquet had been given the task of driving the BMW-powered cars and Riccardo Patrese was blessed with the Cosworth-powered machines. Just why the World Champion was being sacrificed to do the experimental work was difficult to see and there was no point in asking Ecclestone as it would only have invoked one of his oblique answers that tells you nothing. When Piquet has been testing the BMW-powered car he has always expressed enthusiasm for it. Patrese is Italian and Parmalat who sponsor the team are Italian, so they would like to see “their” man win and BMW no doubt feel that with the World Champion in their car the Formula One world will take them seriously. Make of it what you will, but don’t waste time asking Ecclestone. There were two cars for Piquet to use, BT50/2 and BT50/3, both with turbocharged BMW 1 ½-litre power and as alike as two peas. Patrese had BT49D/17 and BT49D/16 both with the sort of Cosworth V8 engines that make Dick Scammell of Cosworth Engineering linger around the pit to see that all is well. These cars had new one-piece body tops that ran from the small pointed nose right through the cockpit surround and engine cover, to the rear suspension. A nice piece of fibreglass fabrication but it needed two people to manhandle it, as does the top of the Williams FW08. On the BMW-powered cars the Munich colours were carried on a front fin and on the side-plates of the rear aerofoil, while along the cockpit sides it reads BMW-M-Power.

The John Player Team Lotus were out in force with their black and gold Type 91 cars, both Elio de Angelis and Nigel Mansell having two cars apiece. Basically the drivers were down to use the same cars they had raced in the Belgian GP, which was 91/6 for de Angelis and 91/7 for Mansell, with the new car at Zolder (91/8) as spare for the Italian and a brand new car (91/9) as spare for the Brit. Unlike most of the “special builders” who instinctively “play their cards close to their chest” Team Lotus and John Player are doing all they can do to help, publishing notes on the cars and the happenings within a few minutes of the end of a practice session, or after the race, all of which is an enormous help to those of on who “like to know”.

The best news surrounding Ron Dennis and his McLaren International team was that the final agreement has been signed and sealed with the Porsche firm for the design, construction and supply of a turbocharged 1 ½-litre engine for John Barnard to design into his next Formula One car. It will not be for this year, but could well appear by the middle of next near. Meanwhile the smart and efficient MP4 cars continue to serve Niki Lauda and John Watson, the Austrian having MP4/6 the Ulsterman MP4/2 and they shared MP4/5 as a spare. Although it sits at the ready with Lauda, number eight on it, it is a simple matter to change it to Watson’s number seven if need be.

Of theother Cosworth-powered special builders there was nothing very new or startling, apart from John McDonald’s March 821 team having all the available Avon tyres and the singleton Ensign and Theodore having none. This came about because Avon were singularly disenchanted by the “blockade’ tactics of FOCA at Imola and they decided to withdraw from World Championship Formula One activity, though they are continuing in other branches of the sport, including British national Formula One racing. Ecelestone’s IRTS firm already had a good stock of F1 tyres so McDonald bought the lot, no doubt using Rothman’s money and set up his own team and the private one of Villota, on Avon tyres. This left Ensign and Theodore out in the cold, though Ecclestone had indicated to them that Goodyear would look after them, which was not true. One has every sympathy with Avon and the mischief makers in the F1 “circus” should read this as the “gipsy’s warning.” Theodore were left with no tyres until Teddy Yip used his influence with Goodyear, but Ensign were left to run on Avons left over from a previous race.

The Candy-backed Tyrrell team were quietly getting on with their Goodyears, with three 011 cars for Alboreto and Henton and Arrows and ATS were unchanged, though Osella had one car of their trio with an improved monocoque. One could almost be excused for not noticing that the Fittipaldi team were actually at the race, their future surely being a big question mark.

Renault came along with three cars to start with, the same three they had in Belgium, but the engines were now fitted with an electronic fuel injection system of their own design and manufacture and this was being used in conjunction with slide throttles in place of butterfly throttles on the intakes to the compressors. The breakage on Arnoux’s car in Belgium was the right-hand butterfly spindle, which sheared on the edge of the butterfly inside the casing so that from outside all the linkages seemed to be in order and opening correctly, but that bank of cylinders would not produce any power. The new slide throttle arrangement, already in being, was not designed to obviate a spindle breakage, for they had never experienced such trouble before. It was to afford better slow rutting adjustment and better control of small throttle openings, and as the slides move up and down vertically they are aptly described as “guillotines”. On the first day of practice only RE38B (Prost) and RE37B (Arnoux) had the new electronic fuel injection, and a third system was added to the T-car (RE35B) for the second day of practice. A fourth car was added to the quota for the second day of practice, this being the test-car RE34B.

The Scuderia Ferrari made no attempt to find a replacement for the much-missed Gilles Villeneuve, and only decided to enter when Pironi expressed the wish to continue. They brought two identical 126C2 cars for him, both with obvious fibre-glass-with-carbon strengthening all around the inside of the cockpit. The cars were 059 that Pironi had in Belgium and the rebuilt 056.

Alfa Romeo had three Tipo 182 cars, one to the B-specification with narrow side pods, though neither Giacomelli nor de Cesaris seemed particularly interested in using it. On race day it was put back to wide-body normal specification in case it was needed by either driver.

Toleman-Hart had the usual two cars for Warwick and Fabi and when Fabi failed to pre-qualify, his car was used as a spare for Warwick.

The Guy Ligier team arrived with two brand new Talbot cars, JS19/1 for Cheever and JS19/2 for Laffite and apart from the Matra V12 engine and Hewland gearbox everything was new. The monocoque, the suspension and the bodywork were a new design with a lot of attention having been paid to aerodynamics. The sidepods were narrow and inside the tyre width so that they extended right to the back of the car, with end plates to support the rear aerofoil, while the fixed rubbing skirt ran right to the back of the car. It all looked very sleek and purposeful, though rather large in overall conception, and the exhausts from the Matra V12 pointed out sideways behind the rear wheels, which made for an interesting sound if nothing else. The whole car was very reminiscent of the Lotus 80, but somewhere along the line someone misread the rules concerning the fixed skirts, for the limits were “between the wheels” so the team had to cut about two foot off the skirt. As a spare the team had one of the old JS17 cars and it should be remembered that JS stands for Jo Schlesser who was killed at Rouen, and only odd numbers are used for racing cars, even numbers being reserved for sports cars or production designs. — D.S. J.