Notes on the cars in North America

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The planning of the Formula One calendar is such that the two races in North America that close the season, are arranged on consecutive weekends so that the teams can pack their cars and spares for a single round trip across the Atlantic by Cargo plane and arrive as prepared as possible for a two week stay away from base. Those teams who were involved in the Goodyear tyre-testing session at Watkins Glen immediately after the Italian GP were at a slight advantage in having a spare car already in North America that merely had to be transported from America across the border into Canada for the race at Montreal. The main part of the cars, spares and equipment was flown to Montreal and after the Canadian GP were transported on a fleet of car-carrying transporters down into the United States to Watkins Glen. The most impressive sight in the Montreal paddock area was in the Brabham garages for Bernie Ecclestone had got his men to work wonders as regards hours and effort and produced three brand new BT49 cars in an incredibly short space of time. Once the association between Brabham and Alfa Romeo had been severed after the Imola race there was no turning back and everyone got stuck in on the new project which was the BT49 series, using a V8 Cosworth DFV engine in place of the V12 Alfa Romeo engine. A lot of the knowledge gained with the BT48 cars was used in the new design, such things as wheels, suspension, brakes, gearbox being the same, while the construction of the riveted aluminium monocoque chassis was similar. With the more compact and less thirsty V8 Cosworth engine the car could be shorter and the fuel tank some 8 gallons smaller and the overall weight quite a lot less. BT49/01 was built up around the basis of a BT48 monocoque, but BT49/02 and BT49/03 were built up from scratch, the third car only having time for a brief run around Brands Hatch circuit to make sure all the systems worked, before packing it off to North America. It was the second car which did most of the test-running, driven by Nelson Piquet, and he stayed with that car for the American races. The third car was destined for Niki Lauda, and after his defection from the team it was taken over by Ricardo Zunino, while the prototype car was used as the emergency spare.

As on the BT48 the fuel tank is an integral part of the monocoque, utilising the space behind the cockpit, but on this new design the oil tank is in the space between the engine and gearbox, above the clutch bell-housing. For the moment the Alfa Romeo-built gearboxes from the BT48 are used, but testing is underway with a new transverse-shaft layout gearbox made specially for Brabham by the Californian Weiseman firm. The sidepods, with under-car airflow and sliding side-skirts follow the BT48 principles, but the radiators in the pods are at an angle instead of lying flat as on the previous car. Oil is cooled by the left-hand radiator and water by the right-hand one. Brakes are mounted “outboard” on all four wheels, with single 4-pad calipers front and rear. Nose fins are fitted and the rear aerofoil is mounted on a central pillar off the gearbox, while the exhaust pipes from each bank of cylinders curl up and over the rear of the engine, with two short tail pipes concealed in a rectangular opening which is part of the top body-panelling. At the rear a very short anti-roll bar is mounted under the differential housing and is controllable from the cockpit by flexible cable, while the front anti-roll bar is adjustable from the instrument panel by a mechanical linkage of rods and bell-crank levers as on the BT48. Finished in red and dark blue these new cars looked neat and functional and a credit to Gordon Murray and his work-force, who were justifiably proud of the whole effort.

The Renault team had a brand new twin-turbo car for Jean-Pierre Jabouille, numbered RS14, having missed out RS13 for superstitious reasons, and this along with RS12 for Arnoux and RS10 as the spare car, was getting a lot of attention from the English Lockheed technicians. The braking effect on a small turbo-charged engine on the over-run is not so pronounced as on a normally-aspirited 3-litre engine so that the Renault brakes have that much more work to do. The wiggly Montreal circuit is particularly hard on brakes so Lockheed had fitted all three cars with a water injection system into the cooling air for the brakes. The principle is based on the simple fact that damp air conducts heat better than dry air, so the system is such that a nozzle sprays water into the air-stream that passes through the brake disc. It is not the same as water-cooled brakes. The idea was used on the ill-fated Jaguar V12 racing saloons and also on the Mirage cars at Le Mans, and is quite simple in layout. A plastic container supplies water to a small electric pump, as used in a windscreen-washer system, and a pressure switch is inserted with the hydraulic brake line so that when the pedal is pressed the switch operates the electrically-driven pump in the plastic container and water under pressure is passed along plastic pipes to diffuser nozzles mounted in the sides of the brake ducts so that an emulsion of air and water goes into the centre of the brake disc and centrifuges out through the radial slots cast in the disc. Duplicate water containers and pipework are used for the front and the rear, the front container being under the nose cowling among the master-cylinders and the rear one being alongside the gearbox, both electric pumps being activated from the one pressure switch mounted at the front near the pedal. The intention was not to supply water to the air for the whole of the race but only during the opening stages when the car is at its heaviest with a full load of fuel and the brakes are doing their maximum work. In addition to this water-injection, spacers and deflector plates were arranged to provide a centrifugal flow of cooling air over both faces of the disc as well as through the radial slots.

While the Lockheed men had been working on this layout with the Renault engineers, Harvey Postlethwaite had designed a similar system for the Wolf WR9, the only car the team had at the Canadian race. The principle was the same, of supplying wet air instead of dry air to the brakes, but the system differed. Aluminium water tanks were mounted in each side pod, one for the front brakes, the other for the rear and small electric pumps supplied the pressure, but unlike the Renault system of an hydraulic pressure switch the Wolf system used a mechanically operated electric switch activated by the brake pedal itself. Instead of feeding the water to diffuser nozzles, Postlethwaite had tubular brass jets mounted in the air stream at the entrance to the cooling ducts, like a primitive Edwardian carburetter. He also ran a larger volume of water on each brake application than the Renault system.

With the Formula One season now being almost continuous from one year to the next the appearance of new cars is no longer at a fixed time, and they appear almost as frequently as the races, as teams try to catch up, or merely keep up with the opposition. While the new Brabham BT49 is obviously the Ecclestone team’s arm for 1980 and will start next year with two races already to its credit, other teams are well under way for next year. Alfa Romeo completed a second of their new V12-engined cars in time for North America, so we can bid goodbye to the flat 12-cylinder Alfa Romeo engine, and the Rebaque team intend their new HR100 design to be no more than a stop-gap between their ex-works Lotus 79 and their totally new car bring designed ready for 1980. The two races in North America should have seen the last appearance of the very successful Williams FW07 cars and their plan is to produce a revised version of the same basic design, which will be the B-series, incorporating knowledge gained from experiments carried out on this year’s cars, and after that the FW08 will be built. For the North American races they used cars numbered 1, 3 and 4. The Tyrrell team were out in force with three entries and a spare car, Pironi, Jarier and the spare being the usual cars, 009/6, 009/3 and 009/1, respectively, while their third entry driven by Derek Daly was 009/5, previously only used for testing. The three team cars had all been converted to B-specification, with outboard rear brakes and centre-pillar mounted rear aerofoil, while the spare car (009/1) was still to the original format of inboard rear brakes and the aerofoil mounted on end-plates. The Fittipaldi team were also running an extra car, for Alex Ribeiro, and he used F6A-1/2, while Emerson used F6A-1, the former car retaining the original rear aerofoil mounted on end plates from a large diameter cross-tube and the latter have the later and more fashionable pillar-mounted rear aerofoil.

The Scuderia Ferrari had three cars and a good supply of engines and transmission with them, with 040 for Scheckter, 041 for Villeneuve and 038 as the “muletta”, the last car being to Monza T4B specification with the twin caliper outboard brakes at the rear and the revised bodywork. They also had with them the forward mounted rear aerofoil as it was felt that the Montreal circuit might call for a handling characteristic that gave more “dodgeability” than normal, but after tests in practice they settled on the more normal rearward mounting. Also after practice in Montreal 038 was converted back to T4 specification with the inboard mounted rear brakes. Alfa Romeo had a second V12 engined car with them, which was for Brambilla, this being 179/02 to the same specification as the new car that had appeared at Monza, which was still being driven by Giacomelli.

Tony Southgate had revised the rear end of his Arrows A2 design, shortening the wheelbase by removing the spacer between the engine and the gearbox, the brakes had been moved to the fashionable outboard position, the suspension springs were tucked in close to the gearbox and the drive-shafts, and the under-body fairings extended rearwards under the shafts. The rear aerofoil was mounted low down on end plates and the exhaust pipes were within the bodywork, running under the driveshafts and exhausting into the space between the undertray and the rear aerofoil. Both A2 cars had been rebuilt to this layout and as a spare car they still had their only remaining A1, which Patrese had raced at Imola. It had apparently gone so well there that the Italian was keen to race it at Montreal, feeling that it could be flicked through the ess-bends more easily than the A2, which was happier on long fast bends.

The Shadow team had cars numbers 1, 2 and 4 with them, having sold number 3 to David Purley for the British F1 series of races and Ligier had only two cars to transport over from France, JS11/02 and JS11/03, as JS11/04 had already been doing tyre-testing in Watkins Glen.

At the Montreal circuit brakes were to be the critical factor and Tyrrell, McLaren, Fittipaldi and Ferrari all had bigger and better cooling ducts on the front, while the Williams team added extra ducts to their existing system. — D.S. J.

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