The 1979 Dome Zero RL Le Mans Cars

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Brainchild of Dome chief designer Masao Ono. the Zero RL (Racing Le Mans) was designed with the Sarthe and the Mulsanne Straight in mind. Apart from its weird body-shape, the car was notable for its extremely narrow front track of 52.7in (some 7in narrower than more conventional Group 6 machines), giving a very small frontal aspect and drag co-efficient. The car was also massively long at 16.4ft. The bubble canopy, somewhat reminiscent elite Renault-Alpine A442, was designed to maximise aerodynamic effect and, with the strategically-placed slot, afford the driver an undiworted view of the track; in practice, however, the pilots tended to be roasted due to the large amount of glass surrounding them, and the slot proved large enough to set up uncomfortable turbulence in the cabin, so the canopy had to be “chopped”. Steering also proved to be rather vague at high speeds, which naturally rather worried the drivers going down the narrow chute of the Mulsanne Straight! In other design respects the cars were entirely conventional, with aluminium twin-tube monocoque hulls, and Cosworth DFVs (by Shinji Kondo) as fully-stressed members delivering the power through a Hewland T12-200 close-ratio drive-train. Despite the powerplants being nominally the same (2983cc), the one fitted to No 6 delivered 450 bhp while its sister in No 7 was detuned to give 415 bhp. The former chassis weighed in at 785kg, as opposed to 791kg for the latter.

Team personnel (including mechanics) were almost entirely renuited in England. Keith Greene was Team Manager and the driver line-up comprised Chris Craft and Gordon Spice in No 6 and Tony Trimmer and Bob Evans in No 7. Despite its advantages of power and weight, the Craft/Spice entry managed to qualify only two seconds faster than its sister-car at 3min 49.26sec (Craft). with Evans recording a best of 3min 51.24sec. These times placed the team 15th and 18th on the grid. The race was rather a sad story. After a good start, which found the Trimmer/Evans machine in fifth place at the end of the first hour, it was the engine which surprisingly proved the weakness with fuel injection and ignition problems. These had it pitting four times in one hour, finally forcing retirement with a blown head-gasket after 3hr 8min racing. No 6 faired no better — Chris Craft stopped at Arnage after only seven minutes with the coil having fallen off and a fire started in the engine bay, requiring a pit-stop for repairs. After this the car was plagued with fuel-feed bothers which obliged the gallant Craft to try to effect roadside repairs again — this time he was stuck at Mulsanne. His efforts were all for nought. retirement being officially announced at 7pm.

The Zero RL returned to Le Mans with a new chassis in both 1980 and 1981, with Craft and Evans as the drivers. but only managed to collect a complete set of retirements. Dome returned for the first two years of the Group C regulations with the DFL-powered RC82 chassis, similarly without managing to record a finish. Since then the company has thrown its lot in with Toyota, and has effectively disappeared from the scene as a separate racing entity, concentrating on the production of monocoques for other teams.

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