Cosworth GP engines — the fifth season

One of the wisest things that Ford of Britain ever did in recent times was to give £100,000 to Keith Duckworth and Mike Costin, the two men behind Cosworth Engineering, and ask them to produce a winning Grand Prix engine. The stipulations that went with the contract were few, among them being the agreement that the Ford name should be put on the engine, and another was that Team Lotus should have exclusive rights to the engine in its first season and after that it would be on sale to other racing chassis manufacturers.

As we know, Duckworth worked more hours each week than some British workmen do in a year, and produced all the drawings for the Cosworth DFV-3-litre V8 engine, which first appeared, and won, at Zandvoort in 1967. From that day the V8 Cosworth engine not only dominated Grand Prix racing, but set the power standards for the 3-litre Grand Prix Formula.

When it first appeared the opposition came from the Repco V8, the BRM H-16, the Ferrari V12 and the Weslake V12, and three years later all those engines had disappeared and the Cosworth was supreme until Ferrari got his new flat-12 cylinder engine really working. For half of 1967, the whole of 1968 and 1969, and half of 1970 the V8 Cosworth was virtually unbeatable and once the Lotus monopoly was run all manner of teams used the Cosworth engine, which was being bought at the bargain price of £7,500 a time. A bargain price when you consider how much it would cost an individual team to produce a better engine, even if they were capable of doing so.

Even when Ferrari began winning races the Cosworth was not out-classed and in the right hands could give a good account of itself, but during 1970 it was stretched to the point of unreliability. Right from the start there was a Cosworth stipulation in the sales brochure that the buyer did not tamper with the engine, but sent it back to the factory at Northampton for repair and overhaul. This was all very well, but it caused some ridiculous situations where a team would install a new engine, start it up, find it was not running cleanly and smoothly so immediately take it out and send it back to Cosworth without even trying to find out what was wrong.

Gradually the sale of engines grew to absurd proportions and the repair and overhaul department became overworked and a queue began to form, waiting for overhauled engines. This reached a farcical state in 1970, encouraged by the unreliability that crept in, so that at some meetings you would see a team more engrossed in the organisation of getting broken engines back to Northampton than they were in winning the race. If your engine was not back at Cosworth before the opposition’s you stood a good chance of missing the next race. Some of the races to Northampton indulged in by team-managers and mechanics were more inspiring than those being driven by the team drivers on the track.

Finally Cosworth were forced to relent on their engine monopoly and they agreed to let certain outside firms do engine overhauls during 1971, and there was quite a rush to get on the Cosworth-approved list. This enthusiasm eventually subsided into more realistic terms and Cosworth accepted certain people, guaranteeing a supply of parts and maintenance and overhaul knowledge to enable 1970, or earlier, versions of the V8 engine to be properly prepared. Meanwhile the 1971 series of engines were under way in limited numbers, two engines per team being the aim, and these will continue to be serviced by the Northampton factory.

Whether the 1971 version of the DFV will be able to combat the flat-12 Ferrari engine and the ever-improving V12 Matra and V12 BRM engines, remains to be seen, but we can rest assured that Duckworth and Costin have not been sitting idle since the last Grand Prix of 1970.

As things stand at the moment, J. W. Automotive, of Slough, who run the highly successful Gulf-Porsche 917 sports car racing team, have set up a small separate group to prepare Cosworth engines for Gold Leaf Team Lotus and the Tyrrell team. McLaren and Brabham have got together with the Champion Sparking Plug factory at Feltham, and test-facilities have been set up at the Champion factory, presided over by Brian Muir, each team doing its own engine preparation work, and the March team expect to be making use of the Brian Hart engine-tuning establishment at Harlow, while the Surtees team ultimately hope to set up their own engine department, but in the meantime are working with Race Engine Services, a small firm not far from Northampton, and Bill Lacey’s engine shop at Silverstone.

All these teams should be having at least two 1971 engines, maintained by Cosworth, though when the season is well under way, this figure may be increased. All this sounds alright, except that the 1969 engines were outdated in 1970 and the 1970 engines were thoroughly trounced by Ferrari by the end of 1970, so that the thought occurs that it might be a waste of time and money to work on 1969 and 1970 engines, other than using them for test purposes and practice. While Ferrari, Matra and BRM continue with a development programme, it is hardly likely that any car using other than a 1971 Cosworth engine will be more than a “starting-money special”. The engine always has been, and always will be the heart of a racing car and without a strong heart a racing car is useless, unless it is in the hands of a Stirling Moss or Jim Clark, and we don’t have any of those in Grand Prix racing at the moment. Any superiority in chassis design these days is too small to make up for a lack of horsepower, so it looks as though the Cosworth-powered “special-builders” might be in for a lean time in 1971.—D. S. J.