Formula One -- New Cars

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The Bernard Benetton

Just one week after the Brazilian Grand Prix, John Barnard’s long awaited new Benetton 191 was finally unveiled in Britain. Bearing a superficial resemblance to its Rory Byrne-penned predecessor, (for comparison see picture on page 410) it breaks significant new ground beneath its carbonfibre shell.

It was Barnard, of course, who pioneered the use of that material for a complete F1 chassis in 1981, but the introduction of innovative manufacturing techniques at Benetton has allowed him to produce a structure that uses fewer parts.

“It’s a more monolithic structure. It’s not really a step forward, it’s more like testing new methods that will enable us to make a step forward on the next chassis,” said John. “The number of separate load carrying components in the chassis is substantially reduced. This is the first step in an ambitious development programme. The new chassis is stiffer and lighter than the old, and easier to work on.”

Lack of time meant that instead of having the active ride suspension and semi-automatic transmission, the first B191 has been fitted with a very compact new six-speed transverse manual gearbox and conventional double wishbone and pushrod suspension front and rear. Barnard, however, who was responsible for developing the gearbox currently used by Ferrari and in particular for making it reliable, is known to be working on suspension systems manufactured fully in carbonfibre. “The gearbox will initially be semi-automatic, but the objective long term is to go fully automatic. We plan to bring in carbon suspension components one at a time later this year. Part of the trouble,” he continued, “is that I always seem to be rebuilding a team, rather than moving forward as fast as I’d like.”

Revised aerodynamics include front wing endplates, a high-speed rear wing and a show diffusor, but the development of the Tyrrell-style anhedral front wing was a genuine indication of the new car’s revised aerodynamics.

A Series V of the Cosworth V8 HB engine will be used by the team for the first time at San Marino, replacing the Series IV power unit which itself seemed to be losing nothing to Prost’s Ferrari during Nelson Piquet’s early lap duel in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The HB is known to rev to 13,500 rpm which makes it the fastest revving V8 ever, and while Cosworth personnel are coy about releasing true bhp figures, it is thought that it delivers a genuine 700 bhp in race trim.

After countless requests from Benetton, however, Ford and Cosworth are also preparing qualifying engines while the Series V will metamorphise into the even more powerful and faster revving Series VI as the season progresses into the second half.

Footwork Gears Up

Footwork Porsche unveiled its new FA12 challenger at the lavish headquarters of Porsche Cars Great Britain in mid-April.

The work of former McLaren, Penske and Onyx designer Alan Jenkins, it is the first fruit of the Milton Keynes team’s ownership by Wataru Ohashi. “We are a new team,” says Managing Director and Team Principal Jackie Oliver. “Arrows existed for years, but this is a new team. What you have seen in the last 14 years won’t be the same now. It’s all change. This year we aim to gear up to a championship challenge for 1992.”

Technical Director Jenkins admits his design team hasn’t been able to spend as much time with the FA12 in the wind tunnel as he would have liked due to availability. “We concentrated on looking at the whole raised front floor idea and where that led. You have to look at the front suspension geometry slightly differently as the place where you used to mount the lower wishbones isn’t there any more!”

Currently the car has an underslung front wing mounted on a vertical skeg, but he admits there are other configurations that may be used for different circuits.

With his experience of transverse transmissions at Onyx, and Arrows’ in building three, a strong pool existed to formulate a design around a new gearbox which could take maximum advantage of the central power take-off from the Porsche V12’s crankshaft.

The FA12 uses pushrod suspension all round, and like the new Benetton, careful use of moulding techniques has allowed Jenkins to dispose of some internal bulkheads.

Engine designer Hans Mezger responded to repeated suggestions that his baby is seriously overweight — the current estimate is 198 kilos compared, say, to the 135 kilo Ilmor V10 — with the comment: “People tell me it is heavy, but I say it is not too heavy. When we started the project we used technologies and materials from the V6 F1 and V8 Indy engines, so that will make the engine not heavy.”

He then admitted that development is aimed at reducing its weight (!) and increasing the power, which has also been said to be disappointing to the drivers.

Dr Ulrich Bez, Executive Vice President of Research & Development at Weissach, said: “We start at Imola with our first generation of race engines. What we have used so far are our test engines. Our next major step” — believed to be a lightweight version — “will be ready for Hockenheim”.

A problem with an oil leak on the car’s first test lost the team valuable time, and later a fuel pump gremlin prevented Alex Caffi from trying it, but Michele Alboreto expressed himself satisfied with the six laps he managed. “It feels livelier and more taut than the A11C,” he said, “and the turn-in is much, much better.” The team now moves on to Imola for its first serious run.