Notes on the Cars at Zolder and Imola

With the Belgian GP and the San Marino GP on successive weekends (April 29th and May 6th) there was precious little time for anyone to return to base between the races so most of the teams set off for Belgium with sufficient equipment for the two weeks. Europe based teams like Ferrari were at a big advantage and the Maranello team were back home by Monday lunch-time after the Belgian race the cars were stripped down, inspected and rebuilt with fresh engines and gearboxes and were out on test at Fiorano on Wednesday and arrived at Imola on Thursday. Other teams had to drive direct from Belgium to Italy and do all their overhaul and preparation in the Imola Autodromo pits workshops, which have excellent facilities, but not quite the same as being at home in your own workshops. Renault were able to return to base, as were the BMW-M Power group with their Van-load of engines and the Porsches facilities at Weissach were readily available for the power units of the McLaren cars.

Brabham: Three complete cars and three half-cars. The three complete cars were BT53/5 (Piquet), BT53/2 temporarily disguised as BT53/6 (Fabi) and BT53/3 (spare). Although these sleek Gordon Murray designed cars look the same to the casual or unobservant glance as the BT52 model of last year, they are really all-new based around a lengthened monocoque of carbon-fibre-composite (CFC) to take a 220-litre fuel bag, as last year’s “sprint” cars only held 195 litres. During the redesign of all the components the control point for the “onboard” jacking system has been moved from the rear of the car to the front of the car, so that the driver can drive into the air-line probe rather like a jet-fighter latching on to an air-borne tanker. The rear air jacks were moved further out-board, to points on the rear of the hub carriers. BMW revised the layout of its enormous single KKK turbo-charger unit on the left of the engine, moving it rearwards with the inlet just forward of the left rear wheel. The Behr air-to-air intercooler on the left and the combined oil and water radiator on the right were both repositioned and moved forwards with front entries and top exits as opposed to the side entries used last year. The spare car (or T-car) is 53/3 and during testing and qualifying it is built up with carbon-fibre brake discs and pads and minus superfluous equipment such as the “on board” jacking system, so that it is essentially a super-light, short-distance “sprint car” to be used by Nelson Piquet in his quest for pole-position on the grid. Important, not only for the morale of the team, the pleasure of the sponsors and the benefit of the driver, but also for the finances of the team, for part of the complicated method by which FOCA share out the money involves grid position and to have the reigning World Champion on pole position is worth enough money to keep a team like RAM or Spirit in business for a long while. It costs BMW and the Brabham team a lot of money to try for the big qualifying prize, but with Nelson Piquet in the cockpit it is well worth the gamble.

Apart from every conceivable spare part being carried, and an unlimited supply of M-power from Munich, each unit in its own transport box, the team have a complete rear half of a car for each complete car, this half being complete from the monocoque rear bulkhead backwards. This means engine and all its radiators and accessories, gearbox, rear suspension, hubs, brakes, piping, wiring, catch tanks in fact everything except the rear aerofoil, the wheels and tyres. These complete packages are mounted on trestles at the back of the pits workshops and in Zolder each car had its spare half standing ready behind it. Very impressive. Under normal conditions when everything is running smoothly, Piquet has the use of BT53/5 and BT53/3 and Fabi has BT53/2. On race day all three cars are fitted with steel brake discs and are so similar that it is difficult to tell one from another.

Tyrrell: The team’s three cars are simply marked 012/1, 012/2 and 012/3 and are powered by last year’s Cosworth DFY engines, recognisable by their ribbed cam-box covers. As a Cosworth engine complete weighs less than a turbo-charged 1½ litre engine with all its accessories such as turbo unit, intercoolers, manifolding, larger water and oil radiators and electrical management system, it is possible to build a simple car like the Tyrrell 012 to an all-up weight which is below the 540kgs bottom limit. The Tyrrell cars have a water bag behind the driving seat and if the car scales 520 kgs then 20 kgs of water can be put in the bag to bring it up to weight. If it weighs 500 kgs then 40kgs of water can be added (about 8 gallons) and as cars are not checked for weight until the end of a race it is possible to run the race under the minimum weight limit, stop in the closing laps and take on water, and pass the weight check at the end of the race. Please don’t ask why FISA don’t weigh cars before the race! Tyrrell team drivers are both new to Formula One and both show very good promise; Martin Brundle uses 012/3 which is blue and Stefan Bellof uses 012/1 which is black with various coloured stripes over it, all to do with Bellof’s sponsor Merado. The spare car, which is blue, is 012/2 and Bellof used this car in Brazil and South Africa when 012/1 was the team spare.

Williams: Powered by the Honda, the FW09 series of cars appears briefly at the end of the 1983 season and this year three new cars were built; they are FW09/3, FW09/4 and FW09/5. The first two are the cars intended to race (Laffite in No. 3 and Rosberg in No. 4) and the third is the spare for Rosberg as well as being used for experimental work. At Zolder it carried an experimental car-to-pits radio system and was fitted with a water-to-air intercooler system designed and built by Williams Engineering in place of the Behr air-to-air intercoolers on the other cars. In the first two events Rosberg tried the T-car and was convinced there was something basically wrong with it in the way it responded to adjustments. It was the same at Zolder, so after the end of practice a total rebuild of the car took place using FW09/1 and FW09/5 disappeared into limbo!

Last year the Williams pits were flanked by a Union Jack and the flag of Saudi Arabia. This year the pits wave the Union Jack and the flag of Japan, while the Saudi Arabian flag flies from the cab of the Leyland transporter behind the pits.

McLaren: While the Ron Dennis / John Barnard team is officially called McLaren International and the red and white colours are those of sponsor Marlboro International the cigarette company, the cars are meant to be called Marlboros and the engine is meant to be called a TAG Turbo. In actual fact the team derives from the original team created by the sadly-missed Bruce McLaren and the car is designed and built by the McLaren International team. The engine is designed and built by the Porsche firm at their research centre at Weissach as a customer-project for the firm Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG) who sponsor the whole engine project for Ron Dennis. To keep the designers happy the car should be called a Barnard / Mezger Special, for John Barnard’s delicate touch with a pencil can be seen throughout the chassis, suspension, body and aerodynamic design, his detail work being a close rival to that of Gordon Murray, while Hans Mezger who is the Porsche engineer in charge of the engine design has an artistry of his own, unseen inside the 80-degree V6 turbo-charged 1½-litre unit. That Barnard and his team work in close co-operation with Mezger and his team is self-evident in the end result. The McLaren-Porsche, Marlboro-TAG, B / M Special, or Dennis / Ojeh Special whatever you care to call it, is one of those complete cars to be admired from any angle. It is one of the standards by which to judge Grand Prix design, and standards are very high these days. The team’s driver line-up is also very high by today’s standards; Alain Prost and Niki Lauda can face up to anyone.

The three cars in use are MP4/2-1, MP4/2-2 and MP4/2-3, the last figure being the actual chassis / monocoque number, the 4 being the fourth Project of Ron Dennis and /2 is the turbo project. Basically Prost uses number 2, Lauda uses number 1 and the spare car is number 3. Some idea of the equality of preparation of the three team cars was clearly shown in South Africa when Prost had to take the spare car a matter of seconds before the start and proceeded to drive right through the field to finish second to his team-mate. His race-car had refused to restart on the grid due to a valve in the fuel system sticking shut due to the artificially induced low temperature of the petrol. Prost also raced the T-car at Imola, this time from choice.

RAM: John McDonald’s small team, run in partnership with this friend Mike Ralph (hence Ralph And McDonald - RAM) stemmed from a deal made with Robin Herd of March engineering of Bicester to run a Formula One team of March cars as a semi-works effort. Gradually the cars became less March and more RAM and by the time the 1984 project was started the RAM team was independent. Last year they used Cosworth power but this year became customers for the Brian Hart 4-cylinder 415T turbo-charged all-alloy mono-bloc engines, using Holset turbo-chargers. The team started the season with one brand new car and one of last year’s cars redesigned to take the Hart engine. French driver Philippe Alliot had the new car and Englishman Jonathan Palmer had the hybrid car for the first two races. For Zolder a second 1984 car was completed and Palmer gave it its début and used it again at Imola.

Lotus: This is another complex team that we all know and admire as Lotus, a name synonymous with Colin Chapman and it always will be. However, financial and other interests would have us call the cars by all manner of other names such as John Player Specials, until the cigarette company pulled out for a brief spell, during which the cars changed colour and name, but underneath were still Lotus cars inspired by Colin Chapman. Today the cars are still Lotus cars, inspired since Colin’s sudden and tragic death, by the Frenchman Gerard Ducarouge whose knowledge has been gained from long first-hand experience with Matra, Ligier and Alfa Romeo, of how not to go motor racing. Just as Black and Gold has become the hall-mark of some of the best advertising in the past decade, and looks like continuing, those colours have become synonymous with the cars from Hethel.

The team are now in their second year of their association with Renault for the use of the French V6 turbo-charged engine and the 1984 cars, designated 95T are logical developments of the hastily-build 94T model of last season. There are three cars in use at present, 95T/3 for Elio de Angelis, 95T/2 for Nigel Mansell and 95T/1 as the communal spare car. It had been hoped to get 95T/4 finished in time for Imola, but it was not to be.

ATS: This small German-owned, England-based team continue on from last year with their neat CFC monocoque and “customer” BMW turbo-engine that seems to have equal power to the Brabham works engines under normal circumstances and there is no lack of bravery from the ATS driver Manfred Winkelhock. Normally they race their D7 model and have the old D6 model as the spare car and test-car.

Renault: The racing team of the mighty French automobile manufacturer is a self-contained entity within the Regie-Renault empire and started the season with a new set of standards as regards cars and drivers. The RE50 series cars are based on a CFC single-piece monocoque and the V6 Gordini-Renault engine has been totally redesigned with alloy block in place of the delicate cast-iron one but follows all the well-tried principles of the previous 90-degre V6 turbo charged engine, except that the German KKK turbo-chargers have been replaced by American Garrett-AiResearch units. The underside of the RE50 sweeps upwards at the rear into two long tunnels that extend rearwards beyond the end of the gearbox. Into these tunnels are fed the exhaust pipes from the turbines, the single outlet from each unit dividing into two large diameter tail pipes and alongside each pair is the smaller tail pipe from the boost-control valve. (On the Lotus engines there are still three exhaust pipes to each turbine) On the instrument panel of the RE50 is a digital counter that indicates the number of litres left in the petrol tank and there is a radio contact between the driver and the pits, the driver’s helmet having integral microphone and ear-receivers with the system plugged into a snap connector on the side of the helmet. Behind one of the steering wheel spokes is a contact lever operated by a finger for contacting the pits receiver, where an engineer is in constant touch if needed. During a race the driver can either ask for petrol tank calculated contents figure and check with his digital read-out, or he can receive a visual reading on his pit signal board, if the pit indicates 75 and his instrument reads 75 all is well, but if his instrument reads 65 it is time to ease off on the throttle on acceleration, or turn down the boost control. It is up to the driver to match his instrument to the figure given by the engineers in the pits. If his reading is higher he is free to go on using everything the engine will give.

1984 saw the Renault team start afresh with two new drivers of known quality. Partick Tambay had proved himself with the Ferrari team and Derek Warwick had shown his potential with the Toleman team. They started with three new cars in Brazil, RE50/04 (Warwick), RE50/03 (Tambay) and RE50/02 (T-car), the original RE50 having done all the winter test work. For Zolder and Imola there was a brand new car for Tambay (RE50/05) and RE50/03 became the spare. The team still do not consider it necessary to have two spare cars at a race. For a short time Warwick tested some new carbon-fibre brake discs and pads at Zolder but they were not used for the race.

Arrows: This small team from Milton Keynes run by Rees and Oliver formulated ambitious plans for the supply of BMW turbo-charged engines, maintained by the Swiss engine man Heini Mader and Zolder saw their first appearance with M-Power the new A7 car. For the first two races the Arrows drivers Marc Surer and Thierry Boutsen used last year’s A6 Cosworth powered cars, but in Belgium there were two BMW-powered cars, A7/1 which had done some testing and A7/2 which was new. In deference to the Belgian driver and his sponsors the team put both A7s at Boutsen’s disposal, though only A7/2 was required, the first car remaining in the garage. Surer had two Cosworth powered cars for his use, A6/4 which he actually owns, having bought it from the team at the end of last season, and A6/2. At Imola the positions were reversed, Surer having the BMW-powered A7 cars and Boutsen the Cosworth powered A6 cars.

Toleman-Hart: Although the new TG184 has been out on test it was not due to race before the French GP so Senna and Cecotto had three of last year’s cars for the Belgian and Italian races. The young Brazilian newcomer had TG183B/05 and the Venezuelan ex-motor cycle racer had TG183B/03. At Imola there was an embarrassing hiatus when a message came through from the Toleman Group head-quarters in Brentwood, Essex, saying “do not run the cars.” There was some difference of opinion between the Toleman management and the Pirelli company who supply the team with tyres and money. The upshot was that Senna and Cecotto missed the first day of practice and qualifying. On Saturday Senna was a comfortable twentieth in the morning test-session but struck trouble in qualifying and he failed to make the grid. The end result of the mysterious messages from Brentwood was that the Toleman / Pirelli partnership was terminated after the Imola race.

Spirit: The Gordon Coppuck / John Wickham team are running on a very tight budget at the moment with their Italian driver Mauro Baldi drumming up advertising money on a race-by-race basis. Consequently activity is on a pretty low-level and they field two virtually identical cars powered by Hart turbo-charged engines, one as a race car and the other as a stand-by to ensure that they are always able to participate. The first 1984 car was built from the bones of the Honda engined project of last year, this being 101/1B which was used in Brazil and South Africa, when it was painted red. By Zolder its colour was changed to white and it was accompanied by a brand new car 101/2B. On the first practice day at Zolder the Hart engine in the first car gave trouble so the team had to use the brand new and un-tested car, which took some time to sort out. After that things ran more smoothly and they were able to adhere to the basic plan of using 101/1B all the time and keeping 101/2B in reserve for emergencies.

Alfa Romeo: it is a little difficult to take seriously an Italian car with such a famous name when it is painted green. Alfa Romeo are only in Grand Prix racing by reason of Signor Pavanello running the team under his own banner of Euroracing and he needs money to keep the team afloat and this money comes from Benetton the Italian knitwear manufacturers and their image is green and black, hence the green Alfa Romeo cars. The 1984 cars are based on a CFC monocoque made in England and power comes from the compact little 1½ V8 turbo-charged Alfa Romeo engine. They started the season with two new cars, for Patrese and Cheever, neither of who are natural “front runners” while Prost, Piquet, Arnoux and Alboreto are around, and one of last year’s 183T cars was taken along as the spare car. In Zolder the team came up to full-strength with a brand new 184T car which Cheever took over, this being 184/3, and 184/1 became the “muletto” or spare car. Patrese retained 184T/2. The situation remained stable at Imola.

Osella: The team’s first car with Alfa Romeo V8 turbo-charged power was totally destroyed in South Africa and a brand new one appeared at Zolder. Although the first car was in the nature of a prototype built around a 1983 Euroracing Alfa chassis, the new car was designated FA/1F/02 and has a similar design of monocoque to last year’s Alfa Romeos. This car is driven by Piercarlo Ghinzani and at Imola he was joined by the Austrian driver Jo Gartner in one of the 1983 Osella cars designed by Tony Southgate and using a 3-litre unblown V12 Alfa Romeo engine, chassis FA/1E/02.

Ligier: Like Team Lotus this French team, owned by Guy Ligier, depends on the Regie-Renault for its power and they also have resident Renault engineers and mechanics to look after the turbo-charged V6 engines. A brand new car appeared at Zolder, for the use of Andrea de Cesaris, the top half of the engine cover and rear aerofoil being painted red in recognition of his Italian nationality, the overall colour scheme of red, white and blue being rather confusing; this was JS23/04. The French newcomer François Hesnault retained JS23/02 and either the original prototype car (JS23/01) or JS23/03 are retained as spares, only three cars being taken to a race.

Ferrari: One thing that the Scuderia Ferrari is never short of is material, in the shape of cars, engines, gearboxes, suspensions, aerodynamic appendages and so on. Such material seems to be top priority at Maranello or Fiorano, and why not, for without it you will never win races and that is the sole reason Enzo Ferrari is in racing.

The team started the season with three brand new C4 models, and at Zolder a fourth one appeared; they also restarted their engine numbering system for the redesigned 1984 engine and the new car, 126C4/074 arrived with engine number 12 installed. While the CFC monocoque on the C4 is similar to that of the C3 the redesigned engine has a smaller and lower crankcase, with the cranskshaft mounted lower, the twin turbo-chargers on top of the engine are more towards the rear and lower and a redesign on the transverse gearbox accommodates the lower crankshaft line, the overall benefit being to the lower the centre of gravity of the complete car.

The latest car in the C4 series was for Alboreto’s use and it’s only visible difference to its sister cars was the use of a complicated exhaust system feeding into the turbines. Previous engines have used siamesed pipes from each cylinder, there being an exhaust port for each of the two exhaust valves. The new system ran separate pipes to the turbine inlet so that the junction where the six small pipes from the one bank of cylinders came together was a welder’s nightmare. The new system was in search of improved turbine performance, and the cross-over layout is retained as is the valve controlled connection between exhaust and compressor outlet manifolding. Alboreto used 126C4/074 with the new exhaust system to win the Belgian race and retained the car for Imola, where the new exhaust system let him down by splitting and leaking all the gas pressure away from one of the turbines. Arnoux used 126C4/073 at both races. At Zolder 126C4/072 was the communal “muletto” as 125C4/071 was doing some testing at Fiorano, but for Imola all four cars were on duty, Alboreto having 074 and 072 while Armoux had 073 and 071. For the Italian race Alboreto used engine number 15 and Arnoux used engine number 11 and we are only at the fourth race of the season. See what I mean about the Scuderia Ferrari’s priority on material? – D.S.J.