Notes from the paddock at Imola

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THE MECHANICAL scene at Imola could have been interesting had the majority of the FOCA teams not gone on strike. The new Williams FW08 cars were due to make their debut and the Brabham team intended to run one BMW-powered BT50 and one Cosworth V8-powered BT49. Lotus were due to make their European debut with the Type 91 and the McLaren MP4B, as run so successfully at Long Beach, was a favourite for the Imola circuit. As things turned out the Cosworth factory was only represented by “second division” runners, Tyrrell 011, ATS D6 and Osella FA1C, and the scene was essentially a turbocharged one with Alfa Romeo’s V12 in the wings on its own as the Talbot-Ligier team with their Matra V12 engines failed to appear. Guy Ligier does not seem to know whether he is “Arthur or Martha”, or in other words whether he is involved with Talbot and the Matra engine fleet or on his own as a “special builder” using English components. Wherever his loyalties lie the result was that he withdrew his Talbot-Matra V12 cars from the Imola paddock.

The FOCA chat-line was to the effect that thew cars had been made illegal by a new rule made by the FIA Tribunal in Paris and there was no time to alter them before the race. The basic Formula One rule says that there is a minimum weight limit of 580 kilogrammes, and to any normal thinking person that should not need clarification. Some of the twisted brains in Formula One, who style themselves as engineers, claim that the rule says the car shall only weigh 580 kilogrammes while it is being weighed, so they arranged “disposable ballast” in the form of a tank full of water that can be ejected “. . . to cool the brakes . . .” and thus run at 560, 550, even 530 kilogrammes throughout the race and then top-up the water tank before being weighed after the race. There has never been a rule to say they could do this or that they could not do this, so since the cheating has been going on they have “topped up”, but not for 15 years as their party line claimed. The new Williams FW08 has been specifically designed to be well below the 580 kilogrammes limit and to have its weight brought up with “disposable ballast”. The FIA Court ruling clarified the situation by saying that cars would, in future, be weighed as they finished the race, with no “topping-up” of liquids. Frank Williams maintained his cars could not be made legal in time, admitting that they had deliberately built an under-weight car. If the FW08 was going to weigh 580 kilogrammes with its water tank full, I do not see why it could not have raced at Imola with a full tank instead of an empty one. Presumably Gordon Murray’s Brabham cars were in the same position, and probably the McLarens as well, but I do not believe the Lotus 91, the Ensign, the March 821, the Fittipaldi, the Arrows A4, and the Theodore were in this category, yet they all went on strike with their “brothers”.

Ken Tyrrell broke ranks from the “brotherhood” on the grounds that he had just concluded a sponsorship deal with the Italian Candy Appliances firm and the Imola Ceramics Company, so he had to be there. The Arrows team are sponsored by Ragno Ceramics, who are not far from Imola, and McLaren are sponsored by Marlboro who were sponsoring the Grand Prix, so why didn’t they insist on breaking the ranks? As it turned out Ken Tyrrell looked as though he had “drawn the short straw” in the FOCA strike activity and the Union sent him to Imola as “trouble-maker”. After the final practice he put in an official protest against the turbocharged cars of Renault, Ferrari and Toleman-Hart, that was so fatuous and stupid that it could not have come from him, it must have come from the “shop-steward”. There is a Formula One rule that says 2-stroke engines, Rotary engines, Diesel engines and Turbine engines cannot be used in F1. Tyrrell put down his £80 fee and protested that the Renaults, Ferraris and Toleman-Hart cars were using Turbines. The Stewards and the Scrutineers were very nice about it and explained what a Turbine engine was to “Uncle Ken”, threw out the protest and kept the 80 quid. Jean Sage, of Renault, smiled tolerantly and asked how a Cosworth engine circulates its cooling water. By means of a water turbine, called a water pump. Tyrrell kept insisting that he was not at the race as a “FOCA plant to make trouble”.

Apart from this unnecessary blot on the landscape the paddock scene was very pleasant, with no one hiding anything, lying, twisting words, being clever or devious and there were no political meetings. It was all very pleasant and though the paddock was only half-full, it was the nice half of Formula One. Renaulthad a brand new car for Alain Front, number RE30B8, or RE38B in the order of things, while Arnoux had RE37B and RE35B was the spare car. No major changes were made as the RE30B model now seems pretty effective in all quarters and is legally down to a shade over the 580 kg. limit. Ferrari had three 1982 cars in their garages, the spare car fitted with small carbon-fibre canard fins on the nose against the normal large aluminium front aerofoil. There was no sign of the "trick" double rear aerofoil used at Long Beach. Keeping up with the juggling of components at the Maranello racing department gets more and more difficult. After Long Beach, Pironi's car (056) was found to have a damaged monocoque so the car was rebuilt around a new monocoque, but the result kept the same number (056). In effect it was a "second generation 056". During the first day of practice at Imola a tyre deflated and Pironi cannoned off the barriers and wrecked the car pretty conclusively. The Long Beach monocoque was on the jig at the factory being repaired at leisure, so overnight twelve Ferrari employees got stuck in and finished the rebuild by 4 a.m. The monocoque was then rushed to Imola and a new car built up around it, using some of the components off the wrecked car and many new ones from Maranello that were destined for the next 126C2 due to be built, which would have been 059. To try to keep things straight the collection of parts built up in the Imola garages was labelled 056, but in fact it was an amalgam of 056 and 059. Villeneuve had 058 that he had finished third with at Long Beach, using the "trick" double rear aerofoil that was protested by Ken Tyrrell (yes, him again!) and the spare car was 057.

The Alfa Romeo team had three 182 models, looking surprisingly crisp and clean, and were juggling with lead ballast to make them legal for Giacomelli and de Cesaris, the cars being numbers 1, 3 and 4 for what Alfa Romeo numbers are worth, number 2 having been severely crashed at Long Beach. When you see an Alfa Romeo engineer making notes on a technical sheet about a specific use and there is no engine or chassis number on the sheet, you begin to wonder if the Autodelta racing department works to any sort of system. Their race results would indicate that there isn’t a system.

The Toleman team are now sponsored by Ted Toleman himself through his firm of Cougar Marine as Candy Appliances have withdrawn and gone to Tyrrell. Two cars were being run for Warwick and Fabi and the monoblock Hart 4 cylinder engine is now the standard fitting. While still basically the TG181 cars the chassis and suspension components have all been strengthened and the cars have become progressively heavier, but the power from the 415R engine is just about keeping ahead on the equation. In reality the team are marking time while Rory Byrne and his design staff are working flat-out on an entirely new car.

Osella had their usual trio of cars for Jarier and Paletti and ATS had their set of cars for Winkelhock and Salazar, but were in trouble with tyres. Avon had agreed to keep the team supplied, but by contract it had to be through Bernard Ecclestone’s International Race Tyres Services, and at the last minute the IRTS tyre lorry was recalled to England! Michelin and Pirelli were prepared to help out, but ATS did not have suitable wheel rims for the radial tyres, though they managed to cobble-up a set of rear wheels so the hapless drivers experimented with used Avon cross-ply tyres left over from Long Beach on the front and new Pirelli radials on the back, but it didn’t work. Eventually the team dug out some more used Avon tyres from their English factory and flew them down to Imola but team owner Gunther Schmidt was not happy and very upset about British “blockade” tactics. — D.S. J.