TUNING TEST VW-Brabham's Lighter Formula 3
TUNING TEST VW-Brabham’s Lighter Formula 3
JOHN JUDD, business associate of Sir Jack Brabham since 1966 and whose Rugby-based Cosworth DFV Formula I engine building activities were the subject of a MOTOR SPORT profile in 1978, enjoyed August 1982 heartily. On the 15th of that month Brands Hatch witnessed an extraordinary reversal in the fortunes of the Formula 3-dominant Toyota d.o.h.c. engine. The first four positions in the prestigious MarlIxwo Championship round contained three VW s.o.h.c. power units: David Scott scored An engine’s first British Championship victory. Season-long points-scorer Martin Brundle was second for VW and 1982 Swedish Champion Bengt Traggardh fourth. All used Formula 3 race prepared units by John Judd’s Engine Developments concern at Rugby and carried the legend VW-Brabham upon their rocker covers in recognition of that long business partnership. That same weekend Keke Rosberg carrying a Judd-built DFV in his Williams FW08, fractionally missed winning the Austrian GP. Yet, on August 20th, Mr. Rosberg came up with the goods to set the seal on Mr. Judd’s month of joy, winning the Swiss GP at Dijon with DFV number 310 providing a 122.21 m.p.h. average to defeat Alain Prost’s turbocharged Renault in the dramatic closing laps. “I’ve never been one of those who held that it was necessary to have four valves per cylinder or twin overhead camshafts to win in Formula 3”, said Mr. Judd in September, when MOTOR SPORT was privileged to drive the David Price Racing / Team BP Ralt RT3-VW at Goodwood. John Judd continued, “we had been preparing Volluwagen water-coded fours for Formula Super Vest since 1978. This gave us some basic knowledge of the engine, which still is a very Popular unit in the USA, giving about 195 b.h.p. with fuel injection. We started work on it as our own project, drawing up a new crankshaft in steel, specifying new pistons, sorting out the awbox and restrictor arrangements [F3 demands a nun. long by 24 mm. diameter air intake restrictor — J.W.I looking at carnshaft profiles and head.deciding tease the VW Golf GTI semi-Heron
“We thought the main advantage of the engine would be its weight, a total of 215 to 220 lbs. — “due 65 lbs. less than the Toyota twin cam. This ts certainly one factor, but that light steel crank and the usual lightweight flywheel of a racing !rtgine mean that it just loves to rev. We thought a would be all done by 6,000 r.p.m. because of t’Se restrictor, but we find that it is happy to go higher, and that seems to be another plus point.” Mut Judd and his staff politely declined to reveal the bore and stroke configuration which takes the engine from 1.6 to 2.0 litres the F3 limit since 1974 Yet it may be worth noting at this point that VW themselves now provide a 1.8-litre version of their GTI Golf / Scirocco engine with the bore up to 81 mm. from 79 mm. of 1600, and the stroke increased from 80 to 86.4 mm. Judd and his team — there are now 25 working at Somers Road in Rugby with DFV engine work fut. Lotus, Arrows, Fittipaldi and Ensign as well St Williams — chose predominantly Lucas parts lye the fuel injection system. The metering unit is a, that origin, us are the injectors, but some
came from their own fabricating resources. Through his Brabham association, and therefore a good working relationship with Ron Tauransc at Ralt (purveyors of rolling chassis to 90% of most 1982 British F3 grids), John Judd introduced his new VW baby to the World in the first week of July 1981. “It was quite a ‘works-straight-out-of-the-box’ debut”, recall. Judd. “On the Wednesday of that week it first went on the test bed, and by the weekend it had appeared with Thierry Tassin in the Ralt, making third overall at Silverstone.”
Camshaft development has proved the only difficult area for the VW. The engine itself regularly lasts 2,000 miles between rebuilds and requires very little maintenance at all compared with its rivals — “but at present the rather spiky cam we have in for the ten engines we’ve built so far, can require the profile regrinding every 1,200 miles nest” Judd commented.
Running on the highest compression ratio they can manage without undue pinking 112.2:1), and a variety of BP oils, this simple engine provides some 160 blip. between 5,200 and 5,500 r.p.m. with peak torque at 4,800 r.p.m. The cost? Presently £5,500, but likely to be 0,800 for most of the customers served for the 1983 season. Already taking the engines are a variety of Spanish, Danish and French drivers, with two engines allocated to the David Price-run Ralt-VW that we drove. Campaigned this season by former Audi tram-mate to Stirling Moss, Martin Brundle, it had recorded three second places and the same number of thirds by the end of August. Overseas, the VW-Brabharn unit had won six races in the German Championship and two in France. In Britain the engine remained exclusive to the Price/Brundle/BP equipe until June 1st, as Les Thacker of BP took a gtunble in contracting for use of the VW power plant.
Brundle was well known to VW and BP through his spirited driving of the uncompetitive Audi 80s in last year’s British saloon car series. Regular MOTOR SPORT readers may find the Price name familiar too. Hr provided the Unipart March-Triumph Dolomite F3 car that we tested for the December 1978 issue. Price continued to run the frequently temperamental Triumphs throughout 1979, when Nigel Mansell won two races for the equipe in a season ruled by Chico Serra and Andrea de Cesaris: all of them Formula 1 regulars today.
When the Triumph passed into history, Price was given the job of making the Rover 3500 V8 into a saloon car racing winner, in which task they succeeded dunng 1980. Most people will remember the Alan Jones victory in the car at Donington at the close of the year, but in fact it was Jeff Allam who scored the Rover’s first British Championship win. The Rovers were taken away from Price to Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) who have graced these pages frequently enough in recent months to need no further introduction. Left without the Rovers and rather over-committed to saloon car racing, Price cut back sharply and changed his business fundamentally. There were twelve staff and a motor sporting accessory business in addition to the Twickenham racing shop: now less than half that staff are employed and home is half of the ubiquitous Gomm Metal Developments Ltd. establishment at Old Woking. Having flirted with everything from saloon car raving to running Giacomo Agostini in a Williams FW06 for the British Formula 1 series, Price is firmly back in Formula 3 these days, although one can still buy SOITIC fancy racing-styled bodywork panels for
Since 1978 the biggest change in Formula 3 has been the growth of Ralt in the category. The RT3 made its debut toward the end of 1979 and was the machine used by both Stefan Johansson and Dr. Jonathan Palmer in gaining their British F3 title successes. At the Brands Hatch August meeting in which the VW-Brabham motor scored its 1, 2, 4 result, RT3s were the mount used by eight out of the first ten, only the seventh placed Anson and the tenth position Pilbearn interrupting that significant monopoly. Not a March to be seen!
When we tested the March-Triumph in 1978 there mass reasoned protest from one of our readers — a former March employee — that we had been too hard on the car in emphasising the changes Price had made to the standard specification. Today you can run an RT3 in its £13,750 plus VAT fens and win Championship points amongst the “hardest driving front runners you’ll ever see,” according to Brundle. Largely that is what Price appears to do with his RT3 for Brundle, but that does not stop him trying all his own modifications — just as all the other front runners do. There’s no need for Kevlar panels or any other lightening process with the VW engine installed: they have to run about 25 kg. of ballast to come up to thc 455 kg. weight limit anyway. I was told Price would normally run a stiffer Gomm-manufactured monocoque instead of the standard item “which has been getting progressively stronger and thinner over the seasons,” in the team’s words, following the general pattern set by F 1 for maximum sidepod and ground effect space on either side of the car. In fact our test Ralt was first run at Monaco for Jean Louis Schlesser and inherited by Martin from that event onward as his original car had been destroyed at Dijon.
Walking around the pristine white and black Ralt-VW I was never in any doubt as to why some £90,000 a year would be charged to a customer wanting a replica of the service offered to Brunde in Britain and Pierre Petit in France. Throughout the Goodwood test day, Price tried innumerable Press and rear wing combinations — even no wings at all — in the continual testing effort that all front runners put in to try and pull a tenth of a second lap speed over their opponents. In fact a pointed nose and delta rear wing she latter rather like a smaller version of Ferrari’s famous rear outline) were adopted furs Silverstone race days after my test and Brundle qualified on pole position, finishing second abet a very wet race. Other signs of continual homework included the team’s own wishbones, beautifully shaped in the current aerodynamic idiom and tilted 4. to provide some extra downfmce, plus their own anti-mll bar arrangements. There is a cockpit adjustment facility for the front bar. The engine installation is a standard East Super Vee arrangement with the engine unstressed, but Price runs his own side skirts and chose Boss racing wheels (designed by Williams Fl team member Neil Oatley) instead of the more usual Dymag “because I can changes rim on these, and the weight penalty of 3 lbs. a set does not matter, given the advantage the engine provides”. The eight and ten inch wide wheels carry Avon tyres — demanded by British regulations — or Michelin for overseas events. The overall standard of preparation was exactly as one would have hoped from former William, mechanic Nick Butler and former McLaren man Jim Cheesrnan: the latter was in charge of johansson’s Ralt RT3 during its 1980 campaign,
so the fact that he also worked on Niki Lauda, car probably counts for less than his intimate Irnowledge of winning in Formula 3. . . .
Ground effect transformation
Looking at the pictures of that 1978 March we tested at the same circuit, I was immediately reminded of the revolution that has occurred in the lesser formula. Mirroring Formula 1, bodywork has grown to accommodate ground effect tunnels from front to back, the suspension and all other ancillaries cleared out of the air path. Even the smooth contours of the Ralt’s rear end, enclosing the engine completely, form a stark contrast to the rudely exposed mechanicals of 1978. Only the “cannon. which carries the mandato, air restrictor spoils the elegance of the rear, although it is noticeable how much higher the rollover hoops have become—and how much neater the single pillar rear wing installation Squeezed into the glassfibre seat and reassuring six point Winans harness, the best part of four years has wrought less change internally than externally. To the right of the driver lies the abbreviated gear lever for the Hewland Mk. 9 five speed gearbox at the tail of the car. First lies over on an island closest to the driver with the remaining four forward ratios in a simple H-pattern, and the only onca required during a flying lap at Goodwood. Reverse is a wriggle away and opposite first. The ratios are very closely spaced with some 140 m.p.h. provided uu the maximum at 6,200 r.p.m. A three-spoke l’ersonal steering wheel with its graduated hand gnps sits in front of the usual stark racing sheet metal panel, which carries a cable-driven tachometer (telltale at 6,200 r.p.m., with combined smaller gauges on either side. As usual these tell of fuel pressure, oil and water temperature. plus oil pressure. While the temperatures reflected a warm day and my slow driving with just 70″C indicated, the oil pressure was unusually low by racing standards (but not those of this power unit) with only 45-50 ffis./sq. in. shown. Underneath the line of the instrumentation there was an assortment of controls, varying from the small hand-wheel which controls roll bar tension mnd therefore effective stiffness) on the left, to the push button starter, ignition and fuel pump switches toward the centre and finally, over to the right once more, the fire extinguisher control. Sleek covers hide the small racing mirrors, these and the elliptic wishbones combining with the curvaceous ground effect bodywork to make the 1978 Formula 3 car look like something from the proverbial ark by comparison.
The first few yards were very peaceful, for the boys elected to push me around their pit lane truck. Using the (ironic, Toyota starter motor to turn the racing VW motor brings a wheezing response, followed by a crackle from the exhaust. First gear was selected with a further push to ease engagement, but the twin plate clutch has been net up with eve, possible aid to overcoming the difficulty with rapid getaways that has cost the team some good r.ults this season. Thus it is very “friendly” for a stranger to use. As ever the Hewland speed of gear change and the smug satisfaction that comes from exchanging ratios swiftly without the obstruction of synchromesh was one of the stmng early impressions that gradually blended into the formidable array of strengths provided by a modern ground effect racing car. To Martin Brundle, 24 years old and fighting for the chance to earn his living in the top echelon after a motor trade upbringing that has grounded him in the mechanical as well as practical aspects of ,
competition cars, it now all feels “a bit slow”. To me the car feels blindingly rapid, snorting from comer to corner with such acceleration that my eyes had difficulty in relaying to my brain without constant panic signals whenever one of Goodwood’s fast curves flew into view.
Only months before I had the privilege of driving a 5-litre Ferrari on this track and — according to the unofficial timing — I seemed to get to grips with that very rapidly. The current ground effect Formula 3 is a different matter: I got Martin B to sketch out a proper lap of Goodwood: a 1 min. 14.2 sec. exercise for Brundle that day (over two seconds faster than the 1978 March-Dolomite). As before I found that a mortal can get some feeling of the correct racing responses on slower corners, hut through the flatout right of Madgwick /5,400 r.p.m in fifth for Martin; some 130 m.p.h.) and the 200 r.p.m. extta in fifth that he manages to muster to enter the sharp right before St. Mary’s, a 5.200 r.p.m. fourth gear twitch left, these are exercises I now leave to my imagination. Certainly I could have fun, revelling in the snap of acceleration in second and third, even building up speed happily in fourth before apparently driving into a flint wall when the brake pedal was depressed urgently — for that show fast the brakes seem to respond. Yet I always felt as though my brain was 30 ft. behind the capabilities of the car and my heart just didn’t stretch to the Commitment with a capiml C that entering a third gear touring car corner in fifth requires!
No surprises in that, but the engine certainly did provide some compensations, speeding even this faint heart toward Woodcote in a welter of low flying impressions that added up to just the same exhilaration as the Ferrari supplied, but naturally without that glorious 12-cylinder “soul music”. More an anglo-teutonic parade-ground bark of purposeful efficiency when 4,500 r.p.m. was exceeded and full throttle could be applied. In third onward it is most camisole accelerate flat out below 4,500 r.p.m., because the unit will begin to pink restlessly. From 5,000 to 6,200 r.p.m. is the working band, which is fun but maybe F3 ought to have more r.p.m. and more power to try and avoid the chasm drivers must now leap up to Formula 2 — ur in some much publicised and criticised recent cases, straight into Formula 1.
What matters is that John Judd has proved a new unit can be both reliable and competitive in Formula 3, providing Martin Brundle with a chance, and the opportunity for BP “to do something different in F3.. BP support Bundle’s efforts in much the same way as they supported Mess in an era when nobody had ever heard of Elf. Judd receives the ultimate accolade for the 1983 season with the news that VW Motorsport in Hanover will be selling the VW-Brabham units for Europeans.
As to the Ralt RT3 formula car, the exhilaration of attempting to command such impressive cornering power, matched by such flawless control over braking and acceleration forces, is always worth trying first hand. Yet iris what we cannot sec, but only feel and judge from lap times, Rabin understanding of aerodynarnim applied to single-seaters, that finally defeated March in this category. In Formula 2 it has been a different story: March + Michelin + BMW has proved too good for Ralt (or Spins for that matter) + Bridgestone + Honda V6. The international progress shown by British-based chassis and engine racing specialists continues to be deeply impressive. We have much to be proud of in this field, particularly when such cars are so ably fielded with the additional expertise of companies like that of David Price, or former Standard House Formula 2 corr.pondent Murray Taylor, who provided Rah-Toyotas for Tommy Byrne’s domination of the British Formula 3 series, prior to his departure for Theodore and GP racing. Our thanks to David Price, VW at Milton Keynes and Martin Brundle for the chance to see for ourselves that thr VW-Brabham power unit gets over the normal F3 reluctance to rev so that, in a comparatively short space of time, it has become truly competitive M all but middle to low range torque. I was joking when I talked about reviving the Audi-owned Auto Union GP heritage with a turbocarged five-cylinder to one of the VW sporting representatives recently, but maybe they should ask Mr. Judd to look into it — if he can spare the time away from helping the DFV amass yet more
GP victories. . . . J.W.
NB; Although judd’s Rugby company do suPPlY Lance with some DFV service, the unit Elio de Angelis used to record win number 150 for the Cosworth VS was supplied and maintained by Cosworth themselves.