Mechanically the European season of Grand Prix racing got under way in fine style (see page 837) and there were four new designs in the paddock plus one half-new design. With Ligier, Tyrrell, Brabham, Ferrari, Fittipaldi, Wolf and Ensign already with new designs the 1979 season is fast becoming a classic from an engineering point of view. The new Lotus 80 had already made a brief appearance in practice for the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, while the new Williams FW07 had been displayed statically in the pits at Long Beach.
Lotus: The Type 80 follows the successful Type 79 only in its basic principles, little or nothing being interchangeable between the two models. The aerodynamic conception is the next step forward in endeavouring to make maximum use of the air passing under the car, and to move its centre of effectiveness further back. The slim monocoque retains the single petrol tank behind the driver layout, and water radiator on the right of the cockpit and oil radiator on the left. The Type 80 also retains the long rocker-arm-operated inboard-mounted coil-spring front suspension and the inboard mounting of the rear suspension units. The side-pods of the body have a distinct curvature on them, instead of the slab sides of the Type 78 and the vertically-sliding “skirts” run from just behind the front wheels to the extreme tail of the car, passing under the rear drive-shafts. Linkage systems operating on each end of the skirts are controlled by small tension coil springs, and the “skirts” themselves slide up and down in the side walls of the side-pods, on tiny rollers. In addition to these long side “skirts” there are similar “skirts” under the long thin nose ahead of the front bulkhead. These “skirts” seal the nose of the car to ground and air passing under the front of the nose is encouraged to exit upwards through an opening in the upper surface of the nose, this opening having an adjustable trim tab across it. Unfortunately Formula One rules forbid the use of transverse “skirts”, otherwise one across the rear of the nose would make life at the front a lot easier. It will be appreciated that the problems of keeping the nose-cowling parallel to the ground under acceleration and braking is not easy and it is in this area that the Type 80 has been causing problems. In the original conception of the car the down-force afforded by air-flow through the nose was going to make the use of nose-fins unnecessary, giving two advantages, one being less drag at the front, and the other being improved air-flow into the radiator openings and under the side-pods. When this all becomes effective the total down-force will allow the removal of the rear aerofoil. Because of the problems with sealing the nose-cowling the car has been running without the nose “skirts” and using conventional fins on the nose, with a small aerofoil at the rear at the top of the side-plates.
At the rear, fibre-glass mouldings surround the gearbox and final-drive unit completely, as well as the upper suspension arms so that only the elliptical section lower wishbones and the thin drive-shafts are in the path of the air exiting out the back from the side venturis; even the inboard rear brakes are all within the shrouding, as are the suspension units. The whole rear end of the Type 80 is completely new, designed around a Lotus designed casting which contains the clutch housing, the oil tank, the crown-wheel and pinion housing, and the gearbox housing in that order. The conventional Hewland casting for the final-drive and gearbox is split longitudinally, opening in two halves; the new Lotus one splits transversely on the centre-line of the rear axle, the gearbox housing being in the rear half, with an end cover, the oil tank and clutch housing in the front half. This casting itself is a joy to behold. The rear disc brakes are mounted “inboard” on each side of the final drive, and have double calipers at the top, to keep things out of the way down below, the aim being to make the mechanical layout as slim as possible under the car. Cooling air to the outside of the discs is fed from a duct in the side of the car through tunnels moulded into the fibre-glass rear-end shrouds, while sunken ducts in the centre of the car feed cold air to the inner faces of the rear discs. The rear hub uprights have fabricated bearing carriers, with castings bolted fore-and-aft to take the suspension pick-up points, and are totally concealed within the wheels. Throughout the car steel components are made in titanium, making it the most expensive Lotus racing car to come from Hethel, but the weight is right down to the legal limit, and without all the aerodynamic fibre-glass mouldings the car would be well under the 575 kg. (1,265 lb.) limit.
Lotus 79 features such as anti-roll bars front and rear controlled and adjustable from the cockpit, low-percentage limited-slip differential, wheel movement and geometry, weight-distribution and balance have all been carried forward onto the Lotus 80. Team Lotus are confident that when the new car is over its teething problems it will give them the same advantage they enjoyed last year with the Lotus 79. After all, the crop of 1979 cars that have appeared this season have only just kept pace with the Lotus 79, some slightly better, some not as good.
Renault: By the end of last season the Renault design team under Francois Castang had two avenues to follow, the first the further development of their turbo-charged 1½-litre V6 engine, the second the aerodynamic route indicated by Lotus. On the engine side they explored the development of a twin turbo-charger layout, one to each bank of three cylinders, an avenue already well explored by Porsche, and on the aerodynamic side they could do little but follow the Lotus 79 route. A completely new chassis was designed, known as the RS 10, and this has the now conventional side-pods with air passing under them and sealed by longitudinal sliding “skirts”. The one-piece rear aerofoil of the RS01 is retained, which has top and bottom aerofoil sections, and in line with Lotus principles the suspension units are mounted inboard out of the air-stream. As it appeared in Spain the RS 10 was using a single turbo-charger layout, re-arranged to keep the megaphone exhaust tailpipe and the waste-gate tailpipe in the centre of the car above the gearbox.
In discussing the turbo-charged V6 Renault engine, with its four overhead camshafts driven by exposed toothed-rubber belts, there is a tendency to forget that it is only half the capacity of the Cosworth DFV, the V12 Alfa Romeo and the flat-twelve Ferrari engines. At 1,500 c.c. (or 1½ litres) against 3,000 c.c. (or 3 litres) the addition of turbo-charging from the exhaust has to make up a lot of difference, and everything is running at very tight limits. The turbo-charged sports car engines are allowed by regulations to be 2.1 litres and many people think that Formula One engines should be allowed to be 2,000 c.c. (or 2 litres), though the 3-litre engine designers do not support this view. When the Formula One Renault engine is on full song it is undoubtedly the most powerful engine in the field, and on maximum speed time-traps at most circuits the Renault is invariably fastest, but at the expense of reliability. The Renault engineers could reduce the amount of turbo-charging and aim for reliability, but the car would be a lot slower and the engineering aspect would be lost. Anything can be made reliable if it is made slow enough, which is not the point of motor racing.
Williams: When Patrick Head designed the Williams FW06 for last season, following the then conventional wedge shape, he came up with a very neat and tidy car, limited in its sophistication, but remarkably effective. This year he has followed the Lotus 79 route and once again come up with a neat and tidy design. Some designers can apply themselves to a project, produce a good answer, but be oblivious of the aesthetics of the final package. Other designers can do the same thing but instinctively, without conscious thought or compromise, end up with an aesthetically pleasing package. Patrick Head is one of the latter and the FW07 follows the FW06 in this end result, even though there is no similarity in the designs. The new car has the air-flow under the side-pods, sealing by sliding “skirts” and a smooth upper surface. The rear end, with its inboard suspension units operated by rocker-arms has been designed around the latest Hewland gearbox, the FGB, which incorporates larger pinion bearings, stronger casing with stiffer ribs and thick walls at critical points, all aimed at coping with the continual increase in torque and b.h.p. that Cosworth Engineering keep extracting from the DFV design.
The FW07 retains the rear aerofoil mounted on a central pillar rather than the latest trend of the aerofoil being mounted between two side plates, and during practice for the Spanish race experiments were tried with the nose-fins removed. FW07/001 which Alan Jones drove had done some running in California after the Long Beach race, but only to get all the systems functioning properly, the Ontario circuit not encouraging any progress with handling qualities. FW07/002 driven by Regazzoni went to Spain direct from the factory, without turning a wheel, and that both cars showed such good promise straight away suggests that Patrick Head knows what he is doing. Until Villeneuve had some new and softer tyres fitted to his Ferrari during the race, and established a slightly artificial new lap record, Alan Jones was holding the lap record, at a time when Andretti (Lotus 80), Reutemann (Lotus 79), Scheckter (Ferrari T4), Lauda (Brabham BT48) and Jarier (Tyrrell 009) were all trying hard.
Kauhsen: The small, bearded, German entrepeneur Willy Kauhsen, from Aachen, has been in motor racing for many years, driving and winning in long-distance racing with Porsche cars, as well as running the works Alfa Romeo 33TT flat-12 sports cars towards the end of their life. Now he has moved into Formula One with a car of his own construction, using Cosworth V8 power and Hewland transmission and following the general design trends of 1977 with a smattering of 1978. He has come into Formula One at an unfortunate time, for not only is the technical pace extremely hot, but the rules and regulations have been tightened stringently. Anyone not already established in Formula One and wishing to join in for 1979 had to show a measure of their sincerity and integrity by depositing a bond of $30,000 (about £15,000) with the FISA, returnable at the end of the season providing the team had fulfilled its obligations to take part in all the races. Willy Kauhsen achieved more notoriety than his car did, when his cheque for $30,000 was returned by the bank “dishonoured”. Before Spain he applied again and this time the cheque did not “bounce” so he was allowed in, but the FISA imposed a fine of $30,000 for the original misdemeanour, no doubt caused unintentionally by “deals” and “negotiations” between Kauhsen and sponsorship sources. The simplest lie in the business world is “. . the cheque is in the post . . .” and it seems likely that this was the root cause of the trouble. After all that what can one say of the Kauhsen car, except that it was not very impressive to look at, nor did it go very well in the hands of the inexperienced Brancatelli. We’ll just have to wait and see. There were two cars in the paddock, WK/004 which spent most of its time in bits, and WK/005 which caught fire when it was first started up and then gave numerous minor troubles so that it never looked like qualifying. Kauhsen says 001, 002, and 003 were prototypes that have been scrapped.
McLaren: When Gordon Coppuck showed us his newly designed M28 McLaren at the end of last year, he explained that the concept was to get the maximum amount of air to flow under the car, along the “ground-effect” route. To this end he had designed the M28 with a very wide track, and narrow as possible monocoque, and in order to keep the track/wheelbase ratio the same as on his previous cars, the new car had a very long wheelbase, using a long spacer between the Cosworth engine and the Hewland gearbox. The overall effect was a very big car and, inevitably, a heavy car.
At the design stage the team was going to be led by Ronnie Peterson, a driver renowned for his ability to drive anything hard and fast, no matter whether the design was good, bad or indifferent. His untimely death in the Monza accident robbed the McLaren team of one of their anticipated parameters, and as substitute they took John Watson. The Ulsterman is a nice driver and a good driver, but not of the Peterson breed, so when the team started testing the M28 they were a bit at sea in analysing the results. Watson is a driver who can drive fast when everything is to his liking, but lacks the analytical engineering know-how to explain or get exactly what he wants. The Petersons of the racing world have a natural genius for driving fast regardless of the feel of the car and do not profess to impart much information to the designer, other than tangible results in lap times.
It would be unfair to say the M28 was a design-disaster, but the results from Watson and his inexperienced team-mate Patrick Tambay were very depressing. In an attempt to salvage something from the despondency, team-boss Teddy Meyer, instigated a major redesign on M28/1, the prototype car. It was stripped to the bare monocoque and rehashed with reduced track and wheelbase, the aerodynamic shape was clearly influenced by the Ligier and the rear suspension was redesigned. With the long wheelbase spacer between the engine and gearbox there was room for the coil-spring/damper units to be mounted “inboard” in this area. With a shorter spacer the suspension units had to be moved back behind the gearbox and all the suspension arms and operating levers had to be redesigned. As the whole project had to be done in the minimum of time much of it was machined from solid lumps of duralumin, rather than fabricated from sheet steel or titanium. The end result was not very elegant. The result on the track was entirely inconclusive, Watson being little faster than Tambay in M28/3 to the original design. Unkind observers suggested that a squib up the driver’s backside would have been cheaper and less time-consuming! — D.S. J.