Dance Around the Rulebook

The Tyrrell P34 is undoubtedly one of the most unique and recognisable Formula 1 cars of all time. Its six-wheeled design, penned by Derek Gardner, aimed to skirt the rules that limited how wide front wings could be. In order to leave room for all the needed components (suspension, steering, the driver’s legs) the front wheels would sit well outside the edges of the front wing. To remedy this problem, Gardner devised his six-wheeled layout. By using 10 inch front wheels and tires he could fit everything neatly inside and under the confines of the front wing, reducing drag for higher straight line speed and providing the rear wing with cleaner air for cornering downforce. The problem with using smaller front wheels was the decreased contact patch which made cornering very difficult. So he just added another set, and connected them to the first.

When the car was unveiled in 1975 it was kept under a sheet with hoops to mimic the silhouette of normally sized front wheels. Imagine the surprise when that sheet came off! It’s clever aerodynamics and 3.0 litre Cosworth V8 made it quite a competitive car during the 1976 season, with its crowning moment coming as a 1-2 finish at the ‘76 Swedish Grand Prix. Jody Scheckter remains the only driver to have won an F1 race in a six-wheeled car, despite the fact that he hated the thing and referred to it as ‘a piece of junk’.

Changes to the car for the 1977 season meant that it was no longer very competitive and the idea was eventually scrapped. However, it’s worth mentioning that Tyrrell wasn’t the only team to toy with the idea of a six-wheeled F1 car. Williams and March Engineering developed prototypes with four rear wheels on two rear axles, while Ferrari built a version of their 312 T with four rear wheels on one axle. That’s right, a Ferrari F1 car with duallies. It was tested by Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann, with the latter crashing it at Fiorano and burning it to the ground.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Wednesday September 7th 2016.

Dance Around the Rulebook

Danger and Glamour: Mille Miglia

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The original Mille Miglia is one of motorsport’s legendary races, run at a time when health and safety came second to excitement. The thousand mile race over open public roads was conceived by an Italian Count in protest of the Italian Grand Prix being moved from his hometown of Brescia to Monza. The track was set as a lap of Italy from Brescia to Rome and back, and entry was restricted to unmodified production cars. Out of 77 starters only 51 made it to the finish line of the very first Mille Miglia. The race cemented the legendary status of marques such as Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW and Alfa Romeo, regularly attracting 5 million spectators along its route. Who wouldn’t want to see beautiful cars tear by on open beautiful roads?

Unlike modern rallies, the Mille Miglia sent the slowest cars out onto the course before the more powerful factory-backed competitors. Each car was given a number based on the time at which it started the race, so Sterling Moss’s legendary #722 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR set off at 7.22 am. He and navigator Denis ‘Jenks’ Jenkinson set the absolute record for the thousand mile lap with a time of 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds. Their average speed over that time was an eye-watering 97.9 mph/157.6 km/h. The race was held twice in its original format after that record-setting run, but the time was never beaten.

While probably for the best, it’s a shame that there aren’t many races left that match the drama and danger of the Mille Miglia. Holding it on public roads was divine madness. One year, German driver Hans Herrmann at the wheel of a low-slung Porsche 550 Spyder saw the gates of a railway crossing begin to lower as he approached. Tapping the back of his navigator’s helmet to tell him to duck, he floored the nimble little Porsche and flew under the barrier just before the train passed. That was the kind of race that the Mille Miglia was. Unfortunately, you’re only lucky so many times. At the 1957 running Spanish driver Alfonso de Portago, desperate to win, waited too long to change tyres on his 4.2 litre Ferrari. He lost control and crashed, killing himself, his navigator, and nine spectators. Five of those were children. The race was subsequently banned, and is now held as a timed rally at legal speeds open to pre-1957 cars which attended or raced in the original Mille Miglia.

Posted @Whippstagram on Intsagram, Wednesday June 29th 2016

Danger and Glamour: Mille Miglia

The Jewels of Monaco

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The Monaco Grand Prix is the race that best embodies the glamour, danger and money of Formula One. Each year the tiny principality in the South of France plays host to one of the greatest spectacles in motor racing, with cars tearing past multimillion dollar yachts atop the glittering Mediterranean Sea in Port Hercule. Drivers vie for space on a track carved from public roads that’s altogether too small for them. The many elevation changes and light-dark-light tunnel never fail to throw a spanner into carefully laid race strategies.

The Circuit de Monaco first played host to a race in 1929, long before the advent of Formula One as we know it today. Early supporters/competitors included Louis Chiron and Baron Phillipe de Rothschild with Chiron being the only native of Monaco to win the race. The 1929 running was won by William Grover-Williams driving a Bugatti Type 35B. The race has been part of the F1 world championship since 1955, but had no crash barriers whatsoever until 1969. That quirk lead both Alberto Ascari and Paul Hawkins to take unplanned swims in the Mediterranean. During the 1960s Graham Hill became known as Mr Monaco thanks to his 5 victories at the race. That record stood until Ayrton Senna reached 6, with five of those coming consecutively. Michael Schumacher matched Hill, but unsurprisingly nobody has matched Senna.

People say that were it not a beloved jewel of a race, Monaco would never be allowed to be added to the roster of modern, purpose built racetracks in the Formula 1 season. It’s too dangerous. It’s too much work to shut down public streets. That’s one of the things that makes it so special. Take the playthings of the fabulously wealthy and race them through the streets of one of the ritziest places in the world, past the casino and the harbour where the rich come to play. This is where Formula 1 belongs.

The Jewels of Monaco

Unmatched: 300 SLR and Stirling Moss

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Sir Stirling Moss won the 1955 Mille Miglia driving this gorgeous Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR. Departing at 7.22 am, Moss and navigator Denis Jenkinson maintained an average speed of 97.96 mph on the 1000 mile figure eight course from Brescia to Rome and back again, while competing with other racers and dodging public traffic to whom the entire course was still open. The pair completed the course in 10 hours, 7 minutes, 48 seconds, and finished 32 minutes ahead of second place teammate Juan Manuel Fangio. The SLR’s edge was that under its magnesium bodywork it was essentially Mercedes’ W196 Formula One car, which had won 9 of the 12 races and both of the world championships that it had been entered in. Modifications included adding a second seat for the navigator, headlights, and enlarging the W196’s 2.5 litre straight 8 engine to 3 litres. The car produced 310 horsepower, and took sports car racing by storm in 1955.

Tragically, one of the SLRs collided with an Austin Healey at the end of the pit straight Le Mans the same year while being piloted by factory driver Pierre Levegh. The Frenchman’s Mercedes was still travelling at 150 mph, and he had no time to react. The car became airborne and disintegrated, with parts flying into the tightly packed crowd before flames from the fuel tank ignited the magnesium bodywork. 84 people including Levegh lost their lives in the single worst motorsport accident in history. Mercedes had already been courting the idea of ceasing motorsport operations at the end of 1955, and the Le Mans disaster was the final nail in the coffin.

After the end of Mercedes’ racing program the SLR’s deisgner, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, appropriated one of the SLR/SL coupes (built with an enclosed cockpit to increase driver comfort in long distance races like the Mille Miglia) as his personal daily driver and enjoyed what was by far and away the world’s fastest road car with a top speed approaching 180 mph (remember, this was essentially a Formula One car with enclosed wheels). The car came to be known as the Uhlenhaut Coupe, and now resides in Mercedes’ museum near Stuttgart. It is undoubtedly one of the world’s most valuable cars.

Published @Whippstagram on Instagram, Dec 15th 2015

Unmatched: 300 SLR and Stirling Moss

The Best Ever: 2015 Mercedes F1 W06

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This sublime piece of engineering is the Mercedes-Benz F1 W06 Hybrid, and it’s fair to say that it ran away with the 2015 Formula One season. It was just named racing car of the year at the Autosport awards, and statistically it’s the most dominant Formula One car ever, capturing 703 constructor’s points of a possible 817. Drivers, pit crews, and strategies don’t mean much without a reliable, fast car, and the W06 is the carbon fibre embodiment of those qualities. It was certainly most powerful car on the 2015 F1 grid due to some extremely clever engineering. The V6’s single turbocharger sits nestled between the banks of cylinders; a design which allows for a smaller intercooler and in turn allows for smaller side pods, making the car more aerodynamic than the previous year’s W05. Described by Mercedes as evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the car was also lighter than its predecessor. In total, it won 16 of the 19 grands prix, started from pole position 18 times, and saw 1-2 finishes twelve times in 2015. Mercedes understands the old adage: ‘you’re only as good as your last race’ very well, and fans the world over look forward to seeing where the car will go from here. Personally I’m hoping next season sees some drama and competition between constructors and not just between Hamilton and Rosberg. Roll on March 20th and the Australian Grand Prix!

Published @Whippstagram on Instagram, Dec 8th 2015

The Best Ever: 2015 Mercedes F1 W06