I have often had occasion to compliment the Formula One teams for the way they invariably arrive at a circuit well on time, whether it be in Sweden or Spain. Teams arriving late for practice or their transporters breaking down en route is almost unheard of these days and this is due in no Small measure to the quality of their transporters. Since the arrival of advertising on Formula One cars and the big money being paid by commercial companies to get their brand name on the leading teams, and thus in the forefront of television cameras and photographers, as well as in the written word, there has been money available for the teams to buy brand-new., up-to-the-minute transporters. With the completion of a European network of motorways journey times are halved, if not quartered. and a fully-laden articulated transporter that can cruise at 65-70 m.p.h. is a necessity for a busy Formula One team. There is too much money at stake to risk missing a practice or a race, so the days of the second-hand furniture van or obsolete Green Line coach are long gone. Today’s Formula One paddock would do justice to a trans-continental transport firm of the highest order.
Most of the teams use articulated vehicles, the large van body able to carry as many as four Formula One cars and with the universal European system if coupling it is a simple matter to change tractor-units if it suffers an accident or a mechanical breakdown. The manoeuvrability of the modern articulated vehicle is quite remarkable and to watch a really skilled driver backing his vast 40-ton vehicle into a narrow slot or between parked cars is to to watch an artist at work, especially if he is a master at his craft, and does the whole manoeuvre only using the outside mirrors. It is not possible to quote a value on the transporter of today for a lot depends on the fittings and fixtures in the van body and the equipment it carries, but ten to twenty thousand Pounds would not go amiss, while fully laden with a complete team of Formula One cars, spare engines, wheels, gearboxes etc., the value becomes astronomical and the cost of comprehensive insurance for trans-European trips hardly bears thinking about.
At a recent Grand Prix I took stock of the vehicles being used by the major Formula One teams and Volvo seemed the most popular. Ensign have a Volvo F86 tractor-unit on their articulated vehicle, Brabham and Arrows use Volvo F88-290-h.p. tractors, and Team Lotus “upstaged” the lot with a Volvo F89-turbocharged unit. By all accounts the Team Lotus transporter can deal with most of the others on acceleration and pulling up gradients, though the big Ford Transcontinental, as used by ElF Team Tyrrell and the ATS team, can match the 70-mph. cruising gait of the turbocharged Volvo. Equalling the Lotus transporter for exotica in commercial vehicles is the transporter of the Renault Sport team from Paris; this is a turbocharged V8 Berliet, just about the latest thing in big articulated vehicles. The Rebaque team also use a Berliet artic, but less sophisticated, a TR 280 model. Both the Fittipaldi team and the Wolf team use DAF transporters and Ligier and Martini use Mercedes-Benz. Naturally the Scuderia Ferrari use a vast Fiat artic model 170NT33. McLaren Racing and the Shadow team use Scania-Vabis and Surtees uses a Fiat 619T1 artic. The British Road Tax for these big trucks is over £1,000 a year, though one or two teams get away with a £50 tax having the team registered as a private concern, and the vehicle as PRIVATE.
Many of the teams use a small van for carrying spares or engines, or sometimes for taking a single Formula One car to test sessions. Alfa Romeo (Autodelta Spa) use an Alfa Romeo F20N van for carrying the Brabham team’s supply of flat-12 Alfa Romeo racing engines, and Ferrari use a Fiat 242 van to supplement their big transporter. Arrows use a Bedford TK860 van and Tyrrell uses a Mercedes-Benz van. The Brabham Teams started a vogue for a small transport vehicle which could be carried in the big transporter, for moving tyres and fuel etc. around the paddock. They built their own motorised platform truck, powered by a single cylinder industrial engine. Then Team Surtees appeared with a diminutive Honda pick-tap truck and Team Lotus followed suit. These little Honda trucks fit neatly into the back of the big transporter. While a pair of Lotus 78 cars and a pair of Lotus 79 cars will just fit into the big Volvo transporter, spares, wheels, engines, fuel and the Honda runabout truck are carried in a very large Leyland van.
The vast articulated transporters are usually manned by one or two of the team mechanics, the rest travelling by air or private car, and they all have interesting stories to tell and are a brotherhood in their own right, keenly competitive with each other, fiercely proud of their own particular vehicle, whether it be Ford or Volvo, yet ever ready to help each other at all times. It is not an uncommon sight to see a rival Formula One car being loaded into a transporter, to help out over some tight schedule.
One of the best sights in the season is immediately after the Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp, when those teams based in England have a mad dash to Gotenburg behind a police escort to catch the night boat. For about an hour, after everyone has packed up, tnere is a continual flow of these big articulated transporters manoeuvring around the paddock to get into line for going through the main exit to join the convoy behind the police escort, while overhead a police helicopter is in radio contact with the escort to advise them how the spectator traffic is flowing. It Is a moving sight to watch these huge articulated lorries leaving One after the other, the Team Lotus Volvo followed by the McLaren Racing Scania-Vabis, the Brabham-Alfa Romeo Volvo, the Walter Wolf Racing DAF and so on. It must be an even more inspiring sight to see them pounding across Sweden, nose-to-tail. Truly “the circus” on the move. -D.S.J.
For those interested in articulated commercial vehicles the list reads as follows:
Brabham – Volvo F88-290 h.p.
Tyrrell – Ford Transcontinental.
Lotus -Volvo F89 turbo 6.
McLaren – Scania Super.
ATS – Ford Transcontinental.
Ferrari – Fiat 170 NT33.
Renault – Berliet V8 turbo.
Shadow – Scania 111.
Surtees – Fiat 619T1.
Wolf – DAF.
Ensign – Volvo F86.
Rebaque – Berliet turbo TR280.
Ligier – Mercedes-Benz Type 1932.
Martini – Mercedes. Benz Type 1113.
Arrows – Volvo F88-290 .h.p.
B & S Fabs – Bedford TM3250.