Notes On The Cars At Imola

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AS THIS was the last European Grand Prix for this year, and the last opportunity for factories to do anything close to home, both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo took the opportunity of making clear their intentions for 1981. Ferrari ran their turbo-charged 1 1/2-litre V6 during practice and Alfa Romeo had their turbo-charged 1 1/2-litre V8 engine on show in the pits, with the information that it would appear in racing some time during the 1981 season in Europe. Renault merely consolidated their position by remarking that they had not made any alterations to their cars since Zandvoort, to which we replied that there did not seem any real cause to after the way they had gone at sea-level.

Ferrari: The long-awaited turbo-charged 1 1/2-five V6 Ferrari appeared for the second day of practice. This was 126C-049 and though it was the second turbo-car, the first being 047, it was still in the nature of a travelling test-bed and what might be termed “a bit of a lash-up”. However, it went very impressively, driven by Villeneuve and when he was not driving it he was in the old flat-12 car number 048. Scheckter was using 046 until he destroyed it in the early minutes of the Saturday afternoon timed session in a monumental high-speed crash due to going too fast before the tyres were properly warm. He then took over the muletta number 043. On Sunday 045 appeared as a reserve car.

Tyrrell: There had been some cutting-and-shutting and stitching together at the wood-yard after the German and Dutch GP events. Daly’s wrecked car was re-constituted using the repaired monocoque from Jarier’s Hockenheim crash so the car took the official designation of 010/2-4. It will be recalled that it was 010/4, travelling under the number 010/3, which had been demolished at Hockenheimring and that a new car was built up in the paddock around a brand new monocoque so that the completed car was 010/5 even though it was still 010/3 on paper. This car was used at Imola by Jarier, and referred to by the team as 010/3-5. The ways of the special builder are indeed complicated.

Brabham: The Chessington-based tearn are certainly well organised for building new cars and BT49/9 was brand new for Piquet, while BT49/7 was his spare car, though Rebaque had occasion to use it during practice. The young Mexican’s car was his usual one BT49/6, but converted back to Hewland gearbox layout. In fact there were no Weismann gearboxes to be seen, though Pete Weismann was in attendance.

McLaren: Before this meeting the McLaren team’s 1981 plans were announced, in which McLaren Racing is to join a Formula Two team to become McLaren International with the financial backing of Marlboro to continue in Formula One. John Barnard takes over the design work and Gordon Coppuck has been made redundant, so the new man takes over the M30 project. Alain Prost was in the M30, with M29C/5 as spare and Watson was in M29C/2.

ATS: No changes in this team for Marc Surer, D4/04 to race and D4/03 as spare.

Lotus: Andretti’s preferred car 81/1 has at last been updated with the high sides added to the cockpit, giving more stiffness to the monocoque, thus allowing stiffer springs tube used. His spare car was his usual 81/2, while de Angelis had 81/3 as usual. The experimental 81/B had similar single-piece rocker arm rear suspension as the other cars and was driven by Mansell in the first test-session. He crashed the car slightly and abandoned it beside the track and a little while later an Arrows ran into it and demolished the front suspension and the front of the monocoque. Mansell used 81/2 on the second day of practice. This accident caused the Lotus mechanics to write on the noticeboard in their pit “Lotus 81/B died today”.

Ensign: The same two cars as always, MN14 for Lammers and MN12 for Lees.

Renault: With the ability to be on the front of the grid at 5,000 feet and at sea-level and on fast circuits and ones full of chicanes, like Imola, there cannot be too much wrong with the 1980 Renault cars. Jabouille was in RE23, Arnoux in RE25 and the spare was RE22. In other words, all was in order.

Fittipaldi: F8/1, the car Rosberg crashed at Zandvoort, was totally rebuilt around a new and slightly improved monocoque, thus retaining its identity. Emerson Fittipaldi used F8/2 and the old F7/1 was brought along “for emergency use”.

Alfa Romeo: Although in their home country the Milanese team were not exactly on home ground in the Emilia-Romagna area of Italy; in fact, they were very much in Ferrari country. None-the-less they put on a strong show with three V12-engined cars that improve every time you see them. Brambilla was in the seventh car built, carrying 179/02, Giacomelli was in the sixth car built carrying 179/03 and the third car built was the spare, carrying the identity 179/01. In one of their pits, for all the people “on the inside” to see, was a nice little engine display, the units being mounted up on plinths. 1978 was the 3-litre flat-12 engine, 1979 was the 3-litre V12 engine still in current use, and 1980 was the new 1 1/2-litre turbo-charged V8 engine ready for next year.

Ligier: This team’s plans for next year involve an association with Talbot and Matra, which will bring about a whole new scene for them with the industrial necessity of changing from the ELF petrol company, Goodyear tyres and Cosworth engines. Meanwhile they have either lost their way as regards choosing a compromise of adjustments to suit a given circuit, or outside influences are affecting their judgement. The latest outside influence is the announced departure of Didier Pironi at the end of the season, to join the Scuderia Ferrari. For Imola Pironi took over JS11/15/04 while Laffite fluctuated between JS11/15/03 and JS11/15/02.

Williams: After Zandvoort the monocoque of FW07B/9 was repaired, following its practice crash and it was returned “as new” to Alan Jones, while FW07B/7 retook its place as the T-car. Meanwhile FW07B/5, which had been assembled in the Zandvoort paddock went back to its “test-car” role. Reutemann retained FW07B/8. Keegan was in FW07B/2 under the RAM Racing banner.

Arrows: With Jochen Mass still suffering the after-effects of his Austrian accident his place was taken by Manfred Winkelhock, a German national driver. On the first morning of testing he lost control of A3/3 and rammed the abandoned Lotus 81/B. Thereafter he took over A3/4. Patrese used A3/5. With very little warning designer Tony Southgate left the team, David Wass moved up into his place and Gustav Brunner (from ATS) joined the team.

Osella: A brand new car for Cheever, FA1/B1. It followed the basic lines of the earlier cars but had a slimmer monocoque and detail improvements from knowledge gained with the earlier cars. The original car FA1/1 was present as the reserve car. — D.S.J.