Lotus: Team Lotus had problems with their new Type 8o so the idea of taking it to the Californian race was abandoned and they relied on their three trusty Type 79 cars, numbers 2, 4 and 5, the first for Reutemann, the second as the spare (adjusted for Andretti) and the last for Andretti to race. The teething problems with the Type 80 were not serious, but the street-racing of the United States GP (West) was not the place for sorting out a new car. The braking on the Lotus 79 cars is still far from perfect, so different sizes of Girling mastercylinders were being tried. The Team’s main problem was the fact that at last year’s race at Long Beach they were racing the Lotus 78, with the Lotus 79 at home nearing completion ready for a very successful season. Now, here they were with a design too new to have been in California last year and already superseded by the Lotus 80. Some people call it progress, I call it getting on with the job Lotus-style.
Tyrrell: Tyrrell 009/2 which lost a wheel at Kyalami really destroyed itself, so a new car was built up, 009/4, and this was the team spare, Pironi taking over 009/1 while Jarier stuck with 009/3. The lastest aerodynamic tweak on these blue Lotus 79-like cars was the addition of vertical strips along the side pods to stop the air spilling off the sides, though by the time the hot air exiting from the radiators had mingled with the air bouncing over the deflectors on top of the side-pods it probably bounced right off the carl Thicker brake discs were being tried.
Brabham: The Ecclestone team had the same three cars as used in South Africa, BT48/2 (Lauda), BT48/3 (Piquet) and BT48/1 (spare). No major changes had been made, but numerous minor ones particularly in the region of the oil and water systems. The cars arrived with nose fins, but before the end of practice these were removed and both drivers raced without nose fins on their cars.
McLaren: They had only two M28 cars with them, the spare car being an old M26 in kit-form in a packing case, though it was never assembled. The M28 design is undergoing a complete redesign, only the basic monocoque being retained. Watson used M28/2 and Tambay M28/3. The major sponsor for this race was Lowenbrau beer which meant a complete respray for the whole team, into a combination of dark blue and turquoise; even the mechanics’ uniforms had to be changed. The cars were using a new design of Lockheed brake discs on the front, in which alternate transverse ribs on the peripheral cooling slots were omitted.
ATS: The German owner of the ATS team, Dieter Schmidt, has now assembled an almost totally non-German staff to run the project from a base in England, though the driver remains pure German. They had their two D2 series “ground effects” cars with them.
Ferrari: There was a brand-new T4 Ferrari (039) for Scheckter, with the later rear bodywork treatment in which the sides rise up to a knife edge in front of the rear wheels. Villeneuve had this body style on 037 with which he won the S. African GP and was using the same car in California. Scheckter’s S. African car (039), with the wide “turn-ups” ahead of the rear wheels, was the muletta but after he crashed 039 into the back of Pironi’s Tyrrell on Friday morning he used the T-car for the rest of the time, including the race. All three cars had sunken ducts deflecting air onto the inboard rear brakes, which rather spoilt the smoothness of the upper surface. During practice both drivers experimented with a completely new rear aerofoil arrangement in which a full-width “wing” was mounted forward of the rear-axle centre-line supported by a light tubular structure in the centre and side-plates attached to the bodywork just ahead of the rear wheels. The standard arrangement is a smaller “wing” mounted on a central pillar well behind the rear axle assembly. This new arrangement made the car much more “nervous” so that it changed direction with more response when being “flicked” through the wiggly parts of the circuit. Even though Villeneuve preferred the feel of the car with this new arrangement he was actually faster with the old central-pillar “wing” and made his pole-position time with the rearward mounting and retained it for the race. Scheckter stuck to the new layout for most of the practice and for the race. The T4 chassis had been modified and strengthened around the front end following weaknesses that showed up in S. Africa.
Fittipaldi: Still not happy with the “feel” and “balance” of the new F6 car, Emerson Eittipaldi soon put it to one side and used his trusty old car F5A/1. During the course of practice the side exhaust outlets on the new car “grew” little extensions which turned the exhaust gases rearwards and downwards. F5A/2 and F5A/3, which Motor Sport has always called Fittipaldis, but which the team called Copersucars, in deference to their sponsor, have been sold into the world of the British F1 Championship (Aurora AFX) and have been renamed as Mopars!
Renault: When the Renault team left France their new 1979 car was on test at Clermont-Ferrand being driven by Jean-Pierre Jaussaud. This is the RS10, which is an “orthodox” ground-effect car to 1978 thinking, still using the single turbo-charger layout on the V6 engine. The team drivers had the usual three RS01 cars, number 04 for Jabouille and 03 for Arnoux, with 02 as the spare, but as it was set up for the lanky Jabouille there was no way that little Rene Arnoux could reach the pedals. During practice the cars suffered breakages of drive-shaft universals and one of these caused 04 to virtually destroy itself along the concrete barriers at 170 m.p.h., Jabouille escaping miraculously with a damaged right wrist. When 03 broke a universal joint on Sunday morning, with no dire results, the team withdrew from the race.
Shadow: Three DN9B models, 2B for Jan Lammers with a gaudy paintwork of orange and blue, meant to depict the sponsor’s advertising motif. Someone said it was supposed to represent a lion! In practice de Angelis bounced 1B off the concrete walls so had to use 3B for the rest of practice and the race.
Wolf: A second car for James Hunt, brand new WR8, identical to WR7 but trying out the newstyle Lockheed brake discs. It worked so well in practice and the race that there was no need to call on WR7, which stood by as an emergency spare.
Ensign: After the overheating problems on the new MN09 in South Africa, the bizarre radiator layout at the front was abandoned in favour of more orthodox side radiators.
Merzario: The remarkable Arturo Merzario still manages to keep up with the Formula One world and produced a brand new car built around the ground-effects layout, still using the standard package of Cosworth V8 engine and Hewland gearbox. Whether the air air knew what it was supposed to do when it got under the car was a moot point, which applied to a number of other so-called ground-effect designs.
Ligier: There were no major changes in the Ligier team, Laffite retaining JS11/02, Depailler JS11/03 and the spare was JS11/01 . On Sunday morning Laffite’s car broke its gearbox, a brand new one installed the night before, and a replacement one was put on the car, but this seized up approaching the starting gridl JS11/01, which Laffite had to use in a last-minute panic, was not correctly set-up for Long Beach, especially as regards the steering rack which was lower-geared and had limited lock which made the two tight hairpins very difficult. It appeared that JS11/02 was suffering some sort of installation problem in its gearbox oiling system.
Williams: Although Frank Williams Grand Prix Engineering had their new FW07 car in the pit lane on race day there was no intention of using it, for it was only just finished and had not been tested. The object was to try it out at a Californian permanent circuit after the Grand Prix. It is a ground-effect car, and like Patrick Head’s FW06 cars it looked very neat, very smooth and very compact. For the Grand Prix the team had to rely on FW06/004 (Jones) and FW06/003 (Regazzoni).
Arrows: This is another team preparing a brand new design so they are able to sell off their 1978 cars into the British F1 series. A1/02 has been sold to Rupert Keegan, while A1/01 has been dolled-up and given to the Warsteiner Beer company for promotional purposes. As in S. Africa, Patrese used A1/06 and Mass used A1/05, while a collection of bits was taken out of the stores to make A1/04 as the team spare.
Rebague: Another team who have sold off last year’s cars to the Aurora series. Hector Rebaque now relies on his new acquisition Lotus 79/1, the prototype of the successful 1978 Lotus cars.