Formula One scene

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Notes on the cars and teams in North America

For another trip across the Atlantic for two races, this time on consecutive weekends, all the teams packed their big steel boxes with every imaginable piece of equipment and spare part that they could muster, with spare engines, spare gearboxes, spare turbo-chargers, spare radiators, wheels, jacks, refuelling equipment, starters, air bottles and so on, as well as a full complement of mechanics, engines and team personnel, so it is no wonder that the cost of air-freighting all this lot across the Atlantic is becoming prohibitive. Detroit saw very little in the way of accident damage, or mechanical mayhem, so the whole lot was packed onto huge articulated container lorries and driven up to Montreal, and the team scene was the same for both races, apart from a little moving around of cars amongst the team members.

Williams: The usual three FWO8C models, number 7 for Rosberg, number 8 for Laffite and number 9 as the spare, though principally the spare car is for Rosberg. Laffite bent one corner of FWO8C/08 in the wet practice at Detroit but the damage was quickly repaired. The team are still not using the latest DFY Cosworth engines, retaining faith and confidence in their own development of the normal DFV.

Tyrrell: Three green and black cars, 011/4 for Alboreto, 011/5 for Sullivan and 011/6 as the spare. As the best and most faithful customer of Cosworth Engineering, Ken Tyrrell had first option on the Mk.2 version of the DFY, which had elektron cylinder heads, improved valve gear and an improved power curve over the first DFY. Alboreto found it definitely advantageous out of the slow corners at Detroit and the wider spread of torque made it easier to select a good set of gear ratios for the short straights between some of the corners. This latest version of the Cosworth V8 is easily distinguishable by its ribbed valve covers, the normal covers being plain, and Alboreto used a Mk.2 DFY in his Detroit-winning car. In Canada their two DFYs blew up in practice.

Brabham: The team started off with Piquet in BT52/3 which he normally races, Patrese in BT52/4 and BT52/1 as the spare and it was noticed that they were not using their carbon-fibre brakes. In order to prevent the heat from the turbo-charger and the boost-control valve soaking into surrounding parts of the car, much of the mechanism is covered with heat-resistant aluminium foil. This is wrapped round the left hand rear suspension members and the left-side drive shaft among other things. During Detroit practice one astute marshal out on the course noticed this, but not knowing what it was all about reported to race control that Patrese’s car had some paper caught up in the back end, which had wrapped itself round the left-side drive shaft! You can’t be too careful when you are observing. During Saturday practice Patrese decided he preferred the spare car BT52/1, so his original car was made the spare and Piquet vacillated between 52/3 and 52/4 right up to Sunday morning, finally deciding to use his normal car 52/3. Before the race, while Gordon Murray was still bluffing people that Piquet was going to stop for tyres and fuel, BT52/3 was standing behind him with petrol vapour and neat petrol venting from its pressure release valve, a sure sign that the tank was full to the brim! In Canada Patrese stuck to BT52/1 and BT52/3 and BT52/4 were available for Piquet and he vacillated from one to the other using BT52/3 for the race. While Gordon Murray is busy protesting against the Renault under-car exhaust system it is noticeable that all three Brabham cars are blatantly disregarding the rule that requires the driver’s name to be “on” the car, not “in” or “under” but on the car.

McLaren: Nothing unusual about the McLaren cars, number 8 for Watson, number 7 for Lauda and number 6 as the spare, normally set up for Lauda, but available at short notice for Watson, a change of pedal pads being necessary for the British driver. The kindest thing that can be said of the McLaren International team is that it is “treading water” until the V6 Porsche turbo-engine and new chassis is ready. With money from Switzerland and Saudi Arabia, technology from Germany (engine) and America (carbon-fibre composite monocoque), drivers from Ulster and Austria, tyres from France and design and management from England, the name McLaren International is very apt.

ATS: The number one car D6/01 had a new turbo-charger layout for its BMW engine, schemed up in conjunction with the Munich engine men. In this the turbo unit is tucked in close to the side of the engine, the four exhaust pipes curl rearwards before gathering to enter the turbine and the compressor entry faces forwards. Over the entry is a cylindrical cover with a tube running to the outside of the bodywork, where air is drawn in from just in front of the left rear wheel. The exhaust pipe and the boost control valve tail pipe both run underneath the lower suspension member on the left rear of the car. In conjunction with this layout the radiators and inter-coolers have been moved rearwards, resulting in shorter side pods. Winkelhock used the later car D6/02 for the Detroit race as insufficient testing had been done on the revised car. In the Detroit race he came across Lauda’s McLaren going slowly from the exit of the Atwater tunnel, and in taking avoiding action he clobbered the barriers and damaged front and rear suspensions on the right-hand side, but no serious structural damage was occasioned. In Canada the experimental car D6/01 was tried in practice but D6/02 was used for the race.

Lotus: The team took their usual four cars across the water, two Renault-powered cars for Elio de Angelis (93T/1 and 93T/2) and two Cosworth-powered cars for Nigel Mansell (92/10 and 92/5). After complaining about the Pirelli tyres and their effect on the handling someone decided that perhaps the rear end of the cars was not rigid enough and the lower wishbones were beefed up, but that was not the real answer. In Detroit enormous rear aerofoils were used to try and press the rear of the car down onto the road and to get some adhesion from the tyres but the result was a car that seemed to have the frontal area of a double-decker bus, and it was about as effective. The Frenchman Gerard Ducourage, ex-Matra, ex-Ligier, ex-Alfa Romeo, has joined the team and while the floundering went on in North America he was back at the Norfolk base casting an eye over the proposed 1983 design to use the Renault V6 turbocharged engine. Meanwhile the real trouble with Team Lotus continues in that they do not have a Piquet, Arnoux, Rosberg or Prost in the cockpit. Their two number two drivers really ought to take a leaf from the Surer, Watson, Warwick, Boutsen book of simply getting on with the job of driving what they have got instead of searching all the time for perfection; a quality they probably would not recognise if they had it.

Renault: Apart from the electronic gizmoes and wiring of the complex V6 Renault-Gordini engine, the team Renault-Sport is fairly uncomplicated. Alain Prost is very much on the same wavelength as the Regie-Renault engineers and the combination of Prost and the RE40 never looks or sounds as if it is going fast, but the time-keepers invariably prove otherwise. Inherent engine reliability has been good this year, but small details have been found wanting, and in Detroit Cheever’s engine sheared the driving pin on the ignition control flywheel, something that has never happened before. In practice in Canada Prost had an engine break internally, the first for a very long time, and he took over the spare car (RE40/01) in place of RE40/03. He found this handled and felt much more to his liking and retained it for the rest of the practice and for the race. Cheever was more than content with his regular car RE40/02 and continues to uphold the honour bestowed on him by being selected for the number two car. In fact, he has surprised everyone by his application to the job and has more than justified the choice.

March: John McDonald’s small-budget team of two cars built by his RAM-Racing organisation, and using the March name, had to give Detroit a miss as Eliseo Salazar’s sponsorship money from Chile was dependent on results, and there haven’t been any. For Canada sufficient money was raised from local business to allow Jacques Villeneuve to try and qualify for his home Grand Prix. Jacques is doubtless a competent driver, but not in the same class as his late, and sorely-missed brother Gilles, and he failed to qualify with the cars that Salazar has been failing to qualify with.

Alfa Romeo: The team are still experimenting with turbocharger pressure versus reliability and being so far from home they erred on the cautious side so that though they had only one really spectacular engine blow-up in Canada during the first qualifying hour when de Cesaris arrived with so much smoke and confusion that it nearly obliterated the pit lane, neither he nor Baldi ever looked like serious competitors. While de Cesaris was on the tail-end of the turbos, little Baldi was down among the also-runs at both events. They had their usual three cars with them, 183T/02 for de Cesaris, 183T/04 (carrying the identification plate and paperwork for 183T/03) for Baldi and 183T/01 as the spare.

Ligier: Nothing very sensational about the Vichy-based team who have a good supply of obsolete Cosworth DFV engines. They experimented with their Citroen-based oleo-pneumatic suspension system and with conventional coil springs but it seems to make little noticeable difference to the positions of Jarier and Boesel in the overall scene. Ambitious plans have been announced for next year involving the use of Renault turbo engines. After building a mock-up test-vehicle last winter, the three JS21 cars, 02,03 and 04, are still serving the team well.

Ferrari: The Scuderia took cars number 063, 064 and 065 to North America and utilised nine engines during the two races, producing their ninth complete power unit on the morning of the race in Canada when Arnoux blew up engine number 54 during the morning warm-up session. Engine number 74 was produced out of a box, complete and ready to go and after installation it fired up and ran perfectly and Arnoux was never challenged in the race. From being taken off its transportation cradle and installed in chassis 064 it ran one lap before lining up pole position, and ran the 70-lap race to perfection. Ferrari engineers certainly know about engines. Throughout the two meetings the T-car had very little use, not being run at all in Detroit and only being used very briefly on Saturday afternoon in Canada by Tambay, when his own car (126C2/065) suffered a turbocharger failure.

Arrows: The well-prepared and uncomplicated A6 cars had only one obvious change between Detroit and Montreal and that was a change of advertising support for the Surer car. The Barclay Cigarettes and Madrilena sponsorship ending after Detroit, so local advertising was sought for Montreal. Boutsen’s car retained the support from the Belgian carpet manufacturer Louis de Poortere. The cars themselves present few problems and designer Dave Wass is very appreciative of his two drivers who take the simple and nicely balanced cars and drive them to the limits without whining and wingeing and trying to produce theoretical perfection. A shining example of not attempting to be too clever and getting on with the job and making the most of what you have got.

Osella: Enzo Osella’s little team struggle along with technical help from Tony Southgate but trying to compete with one Cosworth-powered car for Corrado Fabi and one V12 Alfa Romeo-engined car for Piercerlo Ghinzani must strain their resources, but the Alfa Romeo project is part of a long-term programme which should result in a supply of turbocharged 11/2-litre Alfa Romeo V8 engines for 1984.

Theodore: With limited resources and ability the N183 cars derived from Morris Nunn’s carbonfibre composite monocoque car engineered by Nigel Bennett cannot hope for more than a supporting role to the big manufacturers and heavily financed “special builders”, but Columbian driver Roberto Guerrero continues to give a good account of himself with MN16, while his near-neighbour Alberto “Johnny” Cecotto from Venezuela driving MN18 is not disgracing himself in his first Formula One season. The team carry MN17 with them as a spare, but it is seldom in full running order, being carried more for emergencies than anything else.

Toleman-Hart: After starting from scratch in Formula One this small all-British team, financed with foreign money, has made progress even if it is not startling, for both Warwick and Giacomelli can be sure of qualifying in mid-field under any circumstances nowadays. The Brian Hart four-cylinder engines of mono-block construction, and in the case of Warwick’s car, using a Hart-inspired twin plug ignition system, are not too far back in the horsepower stakes, though the Garrett AiResearch turbochargers do seem to be the limiting factor at the moment, failing in a variety of ways, from disintegrating turbine wheels, through split casings to collapsed bearings. In Detroit Warwick’s engine suffered an internal water leak and the subsequent local overheating destroyed the combustion chamber. In Canada the team consumed more turbochargers using 30 psi boost, than was healthy, and in the race Warwick’s unit had the turbine wheel and what was left of its shaft burst its way out through the side of the exhaust pipe where it joins the turbine casing. The smoke and flame and confusion caused the marshals to cover eveything with fire fighting powder. A nasty mess. — DSJ.

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