Grand Prix failures

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Sir,

Shaun Campbell is to be congratulated for an entertaining and well researched article. Most of the Grand Prix runts I can recall and some I did not turned up in the piece. However, I cannot resist nominating some additional heroic failures.

From the normally conservative house of McLaren we have the M26E. Built in response to the Lotus 79 for the 1978 season, the bent and discarded M26/4 was resurrected with sidepods and skirts. Hunt turned three laps with the hybrid beast during practice for the British GP at Brands Hatch and returned to the pits telling Teddy Mayer exactly where to put it. The whereabouts of the car are unknown, but it is unlikely to be where “Master James” suggested.

Tony Southgate intended to shock the world with the 1979 Arrows A2. However, the “doodlebug”, almost free of conventional wings and with its DFV engine and gearbox angled upwards at the back to allow for a full-width underfloor, was uncompetitive and ugly.

Colin Chapman followed the ground-breaking Lotus 78 and 79 with the 80. Like the Arrows A2 it tried to do without conventional wings substituting skirted venturi tunnels front, centre and rear. Development was abandoned in favour of continued tweaking of the rapidly ageing 79.

A typically pioneering Gordon Murray produced a “wingless” BT47 for the start of the 1979 season, but quickly moved to a more conventional set-up. This car also featured Alfa Romeo flat-12s folded into a V configuration by Carlo Chiti in the F1 equivalent of an afternoon. Other than a persistent oiling problem and a prodigious fuel thirst, this car was potentially “class of the field”, as Lauda’s victory in the non-championship Imola race showed. Run to less than full GP distance, it allowed the car to start on light tanks. (Murray, no fool, remembered this scenario when faced with similarly thirsty BMW turbos and brought back pitstop refuelling to F1 .) With DFV power, the BT47 became the successful BT49.

As a final nominee, we have the 1994 Pacific PRO1. Lacking the budget to design a GP challenger from scratch, Keith Wiggins took Reynard’s plans for an F1 car off the shelf and installed an limor V10. Unfortunately, the blueprints were dated 1991, putting the Pacifics at the back of the grid.

Alas, the days of multi-year effectiveness, as achieved by the McLaren M23, Williams FW07 and Lotus 49 and 72, are past.

Then again, perhaps not. The Reynard GP project was penned by Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn. On arriving at Benetton they discarded John Barnard’s B191 and substituted their Reynard concept to produce the B192. The concept and its developments went on to win GPs in 1992 and ’93, and the World Championship in 1994 and ’95. Thanks to another blueprint transfer, this time from Benetton to Ligier, this concept also had a win in 1996, with ’97 still to come.

Roy Glikin, Cambridge, Mass, USA.