Notes on the cars in Spain

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Although the instant reaction in the paddock at Jarama was that there was little that was near to the Grand Prix scene, closer inspection revealed that far more work has been done since last season than just painting the cars in new-sponsors colours. BRM and March had newly designed 1972 cars, while Lotus, McLaren and Brabham had newly built cars developed from last year’s designs and most of the others had improved or modified their 1971 cars.

The BRM team, running under the gaudy and brash colour scheme of the Marlboro cigarette firm, had four 1971 cars of the P160 model, with Beltoise in PI60/01, Soler-Roig in P160/03, Ganley in P160/04 and WiseII in P160/05. In addition there were two brand new 1972 designs which were P180/01 and P180/02, the first of these being driven by Gethin and to be raced come what may, and the second as a training or T-car for Beltoise, the decision to race it depending on the outcome of practice. The engine/gearbox unit of these new cars is the same as on the 1971 cars, but the chassis is entirely new, the monocoque having a completely flat under-side with the body curving down to it so that the lowest point of the car is the widest in section. There is no water radiator at the front so that the body has a very low “chisel-shaped” nose and forward of the front bulkhead is only the steering rack and pinion and the Dinoplex Marelli ignition unit, with a light tubular frame to support the nose cowling and nose fins. The 60-degree vee 12-cylinder engine is cooled by twin radiators mounted at the rear on each side of the gearbox with a wide aerofoil above, and the whole of the rear of the car is enshrouded in bodywork that either ducts air to the radiators or over the aerofoil. So complete is the ducting and cowling at the rear that side-panels have to be detached before sparking plugs can be removed. This total enclosure is a move that can only do good for the image of Grand Prix cars and gives the P180 an air of completeness. The cockpit on these BRMs breaks new ground in that the detachable fibreglass top panel almost totally encloses the driver and in front of him is a slot through which protudes the top of the steering wheel rim. Just ahead of the wheel is an inverted horseshoe-shaped tubular strut which moves in a fore-and-aft plane and is coupled to the petrol pump switch and ignition switch so that a flick of the hand turns everything “on” or “off” with no need to fumble for an individual switch or button. The sides of the cockpit cover bulge out to form covers over the rear-view mirrors in direct contrast to other Formula One Cars, such as the Tyrrells, which have the mirrors stuck up in the air on thin tubular structures nearly eighteen inches long. The front brakes on these new BRMs have very large air scoops protruding out in the air stream, while the inboard rear brakes have scoops taking air from the radiator ducting, and above the driver’s head is a vast air intake feeding the twelve inlet trumpets. Four megaphone exhaust pipes are hidden away amongst the gearbox and radiators at the rear in a nightmare of pipe-bending.

March Engineering had three new designs on hand, the 721, the 721X and the 721G, though only the STP-sponsored works team of Peterson and Lauda had the 721X, the latter driver having the first of these new models, already raced by Peterson, and the Swede having a brand new one, so new in fact that its official chassis plate was a piece of green sticky tape on the instrument panel with 721X/2 inked on it. The 721 is a development of last year’s 711, with its inboard front suspension units operated by tubular rocking-arms, but the bodywork has been changed completely, the “unicorn” front aerofoil giving way to a more orthodox nose cowling, though not a pronounced “chisel shape” even though side-mounted radiators are used. The Frank Williams team had 721/3 for Pescarolo to drive and the Eifelland team had 21/1, with a completely new bodyshape for Stommelen, this reworking of the fibreglass being the team’s only reason for renaming the car the Eiffelland 21/1. The Williams team also had their March 711/3 from last year, up-dated to 721 specification to be driven by Carlos Pace. The two works March cars are a new design altogether, the monocoque cockpit section having a built-in crash-cage of tubes rather like a “dragster” and the rear end is all new as well with inboard-mounted suspension units and triangulated wishbones. Using Alfa Romeo internals and basic gearbox casing the March 721X has the entire gearbox mechanism ahead of the rear-wheel centre-line, thus moving the Cosworth V8 engine forward which in turn moves the centre of gravity of the whole car forward, this being assisted by reason of there being no weight out behind the rear-wheel centre-line; with radiators mounted on each sidle of the cockpit and no weight forward of the front bulkhead, apart from the nose cowling the 721X has a very low polar-moment, or lack of “dumb-bell” effect, which should make for very fast and short directional changes and a high degree of the Issigonis “dodgeability factor” which should suit Peterson’s remarkably quick reflexes. Both cars were fitted with American-designed and Alfa Romeo-built limited-slip differentials, which have not been giving complete satisfaction and are due for a change. In addition both cars were built with An Romeo-based gear-selection mechanisms, but for this race 721X/I was using a March-designed external selector mechanism that was proving as troublesome as the Alfa Romeo one on Peterson’s car. Of course the “reverse” gearbox has its practical problems. Changing the gear ratios now becomes a complicated seven hour, rather than simple 3/4 hour task and Peterson is (or was) rather fond of trying out different ratio combinations. Provision has been made for removing the rear end without having to bleed the brakes each time, by use of some special aircraft type “snap-on” no leak connectors. Alex Stokes, BRM’s gearbox and transmissions man, took a look at the box when it was in pieces and wasn’t exactly impressed.

Both cars were fitted with a “press on”/”pressoff” ignition button on the steering wheel within instant reach of the driver’s left thumb, being a fitment used on the works cars since Peterson had the throttles stick wide open on the Alfa Romeo V8-powered March at Silverstone last year. Another brand new March was the 721G built as an experiment for the private London stock-broking Clarke/Mordaunt/Guthrie/Durlacher syndicate for Beuttler to drive. This consisted of a 1972 Formula Two March chassis modified to take a Cosworth V8 engine, with extra tankage by the addition of petrol tanks slung externally on each side of the cockpit. As the Formula Two March uses the same size brakes as the Formula One car anyway the construction of this “special” did not present too many problems, but as this was its first try-out it was very much in the nature of an experiment. In case the works STP cars ran into serious trouble the team had a normal 721 car with them as a reserve. The 1972 team cars were using a full-width nose, cowling and 721X/2 had small air-inlets at each front corner to let air into the brake scoops and 721X/1 had this modification made to its nose cowling after practice was finished. Both cars had a revised form of ducting around the side-mounted radiators and at long last these ducts seemed to work and the engines ran cool enough, whereas in the past the radiator ducts have invariably had to be discarded to get the temperatures down.

After Walker crashed his 1971 Lotus 72/R6 at Silverstone the John Player Team Lotus equipe had but two serviceable cars, Walker taking over Fittipaldi’s old car 72/R5 and the Brazilian team-leader having 72/R7, the 1972 built car that first appeared in the Interlagos GP in Brazil. To the casual glance the two black and gold cars looked identical, but there were numerous detail changes in the construction of the newer car, though the basic design was unchanged. Both cars had the 1972 revised rear suspension with two parallel-link lower suspension members in place of wishbones, and the new car had different top front wishbone members, of simpler construction, a conical-shaped oil tank at the rear instead of the fat oval one on the earlier car, and the rear aerofoil mounted on a separate tubular structure above the gearbox, instead of partly on a tubular structure and partly on the rear cross-member over the top of the clutch housing. Both cars retained the torsion bar suspension front and rear, inboard brakes all round, side-mounted water radiators and rear-mounted oil radiators as on the original Lotus 72 introduced in 1970, and they had the regulation red lamp at the rear faired into the top of the right-hand oil radiator. Under the “chisel” nose cowling is the fire-extinguisher container and the hydraulic fluid reservoir for the brakes and clutch.

Three 1971 Suttees cars comprised the Edenbridge effort, all uprated to 1972 specification with side water radiators and full-width nose cowlings, these cowlings having large openings on each side directly in line with the radiators on each side of the cockpit. The inboard-mounted front suspension units allowing a clear passage for the air between the upper rocket-arm and lower wishbone on each side. These 1971 versions of last year’s cars are designated TS9B and Hailwood had 005, Schenken 006, in the Rob Walker Brooke-Bond Oxo colours of blue and white and de Adamich had 004 in the red and white colours of his Italian sponsor. The Ferrari team also comprised three of the B2 cars, modified in detail, with their oil tanks moved from behind the driver’s head, where it used to breathe oil stains down the back of his overalls, to a position at the rear of the car above the gearbox and a fairing covers the top of the engine from the cockpit crash bar, tapering rearwards and blending into the rear aerofoil. Regazzoni, in fact, had a brand new car. No. 8, to the latest B2 specification, Andretti took over Regazzoni’s No. 5, Ickx stayed in his regular car and No. 7 was left at home.

Matra were not only using modified 1971 cars, but they were beginning to look like last year’s equipment. With only Amon entered he had two cars, both rebuilt to 120C versions. the Spare being MS120C/04 and the car for the race being MS120C/06. For 1972 the front suspension has been changed in detail and perforated rear disc brakes were being tried, while there were two types of air-collector box available, one fairly low and flat, the other tall and with a very large orifice. On to the back of the latter had been grafted a streamlined tail made of fibreglass, that was hollow and acted as the oil tank breather box, there being a gauze panel on each side to let the system breathe. This pointed end to the air box extended rearwards to the aerofoil, but was abandoned as in a sideways situation it blanked off a large percentage of the aerofoil and reduced the downward pressure on the rear of the car, a Matra man explained! It was thought by some that this extension of the air-collector box was to catch any stones or debris flying into the box before it dropped into the engine, but this was not so as there was a solid wall between the box and the catch tank. One of the Frank Williams cars actually did have an opening at the back or the air-collector box, with a plastic bag over the hole and it did collect some small stones and grit that would otherwise have passed through the engine,

The Tyrrell team had the three cars they produced last year, 002 with the longer cockpit for Cevert, 003 for Stewart to race and 004, which was finished for the London Motor Show last year, as a spare for Stewart. If they had been altered in any way from their 1971 specification it was not obvious. Ecclestone’s team of Brabham cars comprised the old BT33/3, raced last year by Schenken, and now being driven by Wilson Fittipaldi, the elder of the two brothers, and the 1972 built BT37/1, similar in most respects to last year’s BT34/1, but with a single radiator at the front instead of the Tauranac layout of two radiators with an air gap between them. With Tauranac having left the Ecclestone Brabham company Bellamy has returned to the firm from McLaren and more or less taken over where Tauranac left off. This new Brabham was driven by Graham Hill. The McLaren team produced a brand new car to the basic M19 design of last year, it being designated M19C/1 and was for Hulme, but he had the last year’s car M19A/1 as a training car and actually used it for the race after practising with both of them. The second car from last year. M19A/2 was driven by Revson, and all three cars had the variable rate front suspension as introduced last year, but the orthodox rear suspension that dates back to the M14A design.

With thirty-one Formula One cars in the paddock there was sufficient machinery to whet anyone’s appetite even though there was a lack of any completely new design or new engine. — D. S. J.