ATS Tipo 100

ATS Tipo 100 1960s Italian classic F1 car

Few F1 cars can top the ATS Tipo 100 for eyebrow-raising intrigue. In ’61, Ferrari’s race division was riding high. As F1’s new 1.5-litre era dawned, prospects for the Italian marque looked rosy. The fire-engine red, shark-nosed Ferraris ruled the F1 roost. Enzo Ferrari – founder of the firm – was, doubtless, very happy. Not so, some of his employees. At the end of the ’61 season, Enzo fell out with his top engineers. The outcome was that they picked up their spanners and left.

Ring-leader of the Ferrari rebels was Carlo Chiti. Rotund of build – and temperamental by nature – he was widely considered a design genius. He was also thought of as a thoroughly nice chap. Chiti led his troop of dissident technicians to Sasso Marconi – near Bologna. In no time, he had set up his own factory/foundry. He had financial clout – courtesy of a trio of industrialists. Chiti was a man on a motor racing mission. Following the mass walk-out from Modena, Ferrari found they had a rival. Namely, ATS – or, Automobili Turismo Sport. There was now a new team on the Bologna block. And Carlo Chiti was the man in charge.

The V8-powered ATS Tipo 100 debuted at the ’63 Belgian GP. It created quite a stir at Spa Francorchamps. In a piece of PR many a more modern team would be proud of, the ATS transporter was parked away from the paddock. F1 aficionados could talk of nothing else. When the Tipo 100s were revealed, the buzz was electric. Come the green light, however, the build-up was not backed up on the track. From the mechanics’ perspective, the cars were far from ideal. To wit, their chassis had to be sawn, then re-welded – just to change the engines. Not really what an ex-Ferrari race engineer was used to! Certainly, two high-calibre drivers had been recruited to the ATS cause. Phil Hill was a former world champion. And Giancarlo Bhagetti had won the ’61 French GP. As it turned out, though, even their combined talents could not stop the Tipo 100 under-achieving. Through ’63 – and the following two seasons – results ranged from disappointing to dire. Over time, the ATS project petered out. Its gallant challenge to the force of Ferrari failed. Nonetheless, Chiti – and his renegade team – displayed courage and integrity. In the end, though, the small-scale ATS team – and the Tipo 100 – simply ran out of steam!

Honda RA302

Honda’s RA302 car was a while in the making. The Japanese giant arrived in F1 in ’64. It brought with it a transversely-mounted V12 motor. A complex masterpiece of engineering, it was the talk of the GP world. It took Honda nearly two seasons to make it to the top step of the podium. The first win came in Mexico – in the final race of the 1.5-litre era. If Honda thought they had cracked it, they were ahead of themselves. In ’66 and ’67, results were lacklustre. At the time, all F1 engines were heavy. Honda’s exotic V12, though, tipped the scales at 100lb more than its rivals. Not ideal!

Thankfully for Honda, John Surtees was on the driving roster. By the start of the ’68 season, he had helped develop the RA301 car. It was tidier of design than its predecessor. It was also more powerful. Surtees was assured that a lightweight V12 was on its way. At that point, head honcho Soichiro Honda threw a spanner in the works. Well, it was his works, to be fair! Honda-san’s priority was selling N600 saloon cars. Their engines were still air-cooled. Honda’s increasingly successful motorcycles were also on Soichiro’s mind. They, too, were air-cooled. For Mr Honda, bread and butter business trumped motorsport. He instructed the race department to come up with an air-cooled motor – to match the roadsters’ powerplants. The lightweight V12 Surtees had been promised was mothballed.

In due course, Soichiro got his air-cooled F1 car. Parked in Silverstone’s paddock, the Honda RA302 looked a dream. Light and compact, its 120° V8 sat snugly at the back of a monocoque chassis. When the time came to fire it up, Innes Ireland was at the wheel. The erstwhile Lotus legend was now a journalist. Ireland was about to take the RA302 out for its first test-drive. When he returned to the paddock, it was not with good news. Handling-wise, he said, the new car was all over the shop. Surtees’ mood that day was already testy – and Ireland’s report did not improve it. Surtees had not even known the car was coming, until the last minute. Never mind that it was already entered in the upcoming French GP. Surtees declined to have anything further to do with the RA302 – which was clearly way underdeveloped. Honda France duly stepped into the GP breach. Jo Schlesser – looking to move from F2 to F1 – would do the driving at Rouens. Come race day, the French weather was dreadful. Schlesser – and the RA302 – started towards the back of the grid. Surtees, meanwhile – driving the RA301 – was vying for the lead. On only the second lap, Schlesser’s new air-cooled engine let go. The RA302 careened into a bank and caught fire. Tragically, the French ace died in the blaze. Later that year – in the Italian GP, at Monza – Surtees did finally drive the recalcitrant RA302. But, to no avail. At the end of the ’68 season – perhaps chastened by the RA302 experience – Honda withdrew from racing. It did not return until the Eighties!

Tyrell P34

To have described the Tyrell P34 as radical would have been understatement. After all, six-wheeled cars are not exactly two a penny – on road or track! Over time, other F1 constructors would also try six-wheelers on for size, however – so Tyrell cannot have been that far out on a limb. Derek Gardner designed the car. His primary aim was to reduce frontal area. Four 10″ front wheels helped do just that. The wheels and tyres on Formula 1 cars do tend to be rather large, do not forget! The result was more than merely improved aerodynamics – deeply desirable though that was. Grip, too, was substantially upped – especially on turn-in to corners. Having four front wheels took the P34’s traction to a new level. Aesthetically, it may have been open to doubt. Functionally, though, there was no doubt at all.

The ‘P’ in P34 stood for Project. To begin with, it was to be no more than a prototype. Boss Ken Tyrell was dubious that the car would make it from test-bed to race-track. But when the ‘project car’ was put through its paces, it was found to be formidably quick. Quick enough, in fact, to give the then current car – the Tyrell 007 – a run for its money. Ken Tyrell’s reservations rapidly vanished. A no holds barred racer was duly green-lighted.

The P34 took to the grid in ’76. By season’s end, the car had fully justified the faith placed in it. In the constructors’ championship, Tyrell was bested by only Ferrari and McLaren. In the drivers’ title chase, Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler placed third and fourth respectively. Scheckter took pole, then won in Sweden – with Depailler not far behind. There would be several more second-place finishes. Two fastest laps had been bagged – Scheckter’s in Germany, Depailler’s in Canada. So, things looked good for ’77. Ronnie Peterson replaced Scheckter. Sadly, though, P34 momentum was not maintained. Tyrell lagged behind in development terms. Tyre supplier Goodyear had issues of its own. It was facing stiff competition from Michelin. The P34’s one-off tyre requirements were becoming a drain on Goodyear resources. It soon became clear that the end was nigh for the P34. Both March and Williams subsequently toyed with six-wheelers. They were both stymied by transmission issues. In due course, six-wheeled systems would be banned. During its brief time in the sun, however, the Tyrell P34 was on the front foot in pushing F1’s technical envelope!

Lotus 79

The Lotus 79 was yet another product of Colin Chapman’s fertile mind. This time, the legendary Lotus boss trained his sights on ‘ground-effect’ – the process of aerodynamically ‘pressing’ the car to the race-track. In theory, it is said, an F1 car could be driven upside-down – so strong is the ‘downforce’ it generates. It was that kind of handling, then, that Chapman sought to incorporate into the new Lotus.

Lotus had started their ground-effect quest with the 78 – or, ‘wing car’. Each side-pod housed an inverted aerofoil. ‘Skirts’ below the side-pods ducted air through a venturi. That created a vacuum – by slowing down, and then speeding up air through a bottle-neck. The skirt sealed in the air – which the aerofoil then used to ‘suction-clamp’ the car to the tarmac. The upshot was that the Lotus 78 had been the fastest car on F1’s grid. The 78’s speed advantage, however, had been offset by reliability issues. The 79 would sort them – or so Lotus hoped. The best parts of the 78 car were retained. Lotus then added a couple of updates. By placing the fuel tank behind the driver, the chassis could be narrowed. That helped the venturi do its thing – which was increasing the downforce. The side-pod skirts, too, had been upgraded. They now moved up and down, as required – providing a surer seal.

The net result of these changes was precisely as Lotus had planned. The 79 car was streets ahead, in the ’78 season. Mario Andretti drove the car to five F1 wins – enough to take the World Championship. Team-mate Ronnie Peterson also won – and was runner-up in the final standings. And Lotus-Ford took the Constructors’ Championship, at a canter. Chapman – and the Norfolk-based team – were ecstatic. But – as is so often the case in F1 – it was not to last. From the start of the ’79 season, it was clear Lotus’ competition had come prepared. Almost to a team, they were armed with their own takes on the ground-effect phenomenon. Indeed, some of the engineers had twigged that yet more downforce could be served up – so long as parts of the car were strengthened to cope. Lotus was duly outstripped by its beefed-up rivals. But, that would never obscure the fact that – during its brief season in the F1 sun – the Lotus 79 had put the opposition well and truly in the shade!

Bugatti T251

The Bugatti T251 was designed by Gioacchino Colombo. He had formerly worked for Ferrari. Fifties F1 cars were front-engined. Or, they were until Columbo came along. His T251 broke with that tradition. Its straight-eight engine was placed behind the driver. The 5-speed Porsche gearbox – and final drive – were unitary with the motor. That allowed for weight distribution ahead of its time. It all sat in a tubular space-frame chassis. Which was, in turn, hitched up to deDion axles. The fuel tanks flanked the driver. Another harbinger of F1 things to come.

The catalyst for the T251 was Jacques Bolore. He had recently married into the Bugatti family. It was not long before Bolore was influencing the way Bugatti was run. Since founder Ettore Bugatti’s death – in ’47 – the firm had put racing on hold. Bolore, though, had visions of Bugatti back in F1. Enter the T251! It was unveiled in late ’55 – at an airfield, close to Bugatti’s Molsheim base. It was there, too, that the car was first put through its paces – though not until March of the following year. Tester was Maurice Trintignant. The T251 was duly entered for the French GP, at Reims. Not, however, without qualms. T251 testing had revealed flaws. Designer Columbo – and driver Trintignant – maintained that more development was needed. But, Bolore’s mind was made up. He wanted to go racing. And – in terms of executive clout – Bolore was now in Bugatti’s box seat.

Two 251s were taken to Reims. As the race got underway, the cars’ avant-garde layout seemed on the money. Traction was noticeably improved – especially out of slower corners. High-speed handling, on the other hand, was hairy. The 251 had qualified 18th out of 20 starters. Ironically, it was to retire after only 18 laps. The pretext Bugatti gave was that the throttle was sticking. But, it was clear – to anyone with eyes to see – that the T251 was way off the pace. And – with Bugatti’s coffers depleted – there was no more money for development, anyway. All a bit of an anti-climax, then – as far as Bugatti’s return to top-flight racing was concerned. Sadly, Jacques Bolore’s beloved T251 project turned into something of a damp squib!

Cooper T51

The Cooper T51 is one of the most radical racing cars ever built. John Cooper – and his small-scale team – took the prevailing motorsport wisdom of the time, and turned it on its head. In ’59, it was a given that a racing car’s engine sat at the front. The Cooper équipe set about querying that status quo. In so doing, they would revolutionise race car design. The T51 would be rear-engined – with all of the technical turnarounds that entailed. They were well worth the effort, though. At the wheel of a T51, Jack Brabham took the ’59 F1 drivers’ title.

It was the Cooper-Climax, though, that first sowed the rear-engined seeds. Last time around – in ’58 – it had won two GPs. Admittedly, they were towards the start of the season. Notwithstanding those wins, the Cooper-Climax was taken less than seriously. A case of beginner’s luck, as it were. Its early success was attributed to its squat dimensions – rather than engine location. So, it was only quick at twisty circuits, it was said. And, it was true that the Cooper was down on power, compared to its competitors. But, there was good reason for that – which the Cooper-Climax’s detractors neglected to take into account. Its motor was from F2 – albeit, enlarged to 2.2 litres. The front-engined brigade had 2.5-litre powerplants, at their disposal. In F1, of course, small fractions can make a big difference!

At any rate, the T51 was fitted with the full 2.5-litre unit. Cooper’s engine supplier – Coventry Climax – had increased its stroke, to make up the difference. The new Cooper kicked out 230bhp. That was still less than its rivals. Its compactness-based handling advantage, however, was enough to see them off. The rear-engined set-up had knock-on positives. With no prop-shaft now needed, the driver could sit lower – with all the streamlining pluses that brought. Weight-saving, too, was a beneficiary. It was more than just junking the prop-shaft. With engine and final drive directly linked, the transmission could be less robust. That meant less weight. Overall, the T51’s mass was more centrally-aligned. That made it even more manoeuvrable than it already was. In turn, tyre wear, too, improved. And, that was just the car. When it came to the T51’s driving roster – it was impressive, to say the least. As well as ‘Black Jack’ Brabham, Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren were on hand. Both the Monaco and British GPs fell to the Cooper, that year. Indeed, it was en route to winning the World Championship – at the first time of asking. That spoke volumes, regarding the impact the T51 made. In effect, John Cooper’s team – and its front-to-back engine philosophy – re-wrote the F1 tech spec. After that, there was no going back!

Ferrari 312T

The 312T won the ’75 F1 World Championship. Ferrari were cock-a-hoop. It had been eleven long years since the last one. Having the great Niki Lauda as driver helped, of course. But, Lauda would have been first to acknowledge the contribution of a fellow member of the Ferrari team. Namely, Mauro Forghieri – who designed the 312T’s engine.

The Ferrari flat-12’s motor had slimmer bores than those of the V-configured layouts of other teams. That allowed them to rev higher. Increased engine speeds meant more horsepower. It also meant more fuel consumption – so the 312T hit the grid heavier than its rivals. Thus, it fell to Ferrari’s strategists to erase that handicap as the race wore on. They obviously made a good fist of it. Lauda won three consecutive races – 5, 6 and 7 – in Monaco, Belgium and Sweden. He had added two more by season’s end. Deservedly, then, he took his first World Championship. Small wonder he described it as ‘the unbelievable year’! To be fair to their competitors – not least, Brabham – Ferrari’s car was head and shoulders above the rest.

Engine man Mauro Forghieri’s masterstroke was his positioning of the 312T’s gearbox. The horizontally-opposed flat-12 set-up meant the motor’s mass sat lower. The result was better handling. Still a bit twitchy – but a big improvement on the Ferrari 312B3’s understeer. Forghieri took weight distribution a step further. By placing the gearbox behind the engine, mass was not just lowered – but more centralised, too. The 312T now manoeuvred as well as it moved. At the start of the ’76 season, the 312T was to win another three back-to-back GPs. But, ’75 had been the car’s finest hour. Niki Lauda – alongside team-mate Clay Regazzoni – had done the Tifosi proud. The Scuderia Ferrari fanatics had seen their team restored to the upper echelon of world motorsport. So, on top of being one of the most iconic race cars ever built, the 312T was a terrific all-round package. As such – in terms of technology – Ferrari pointed the way to the fully-integrated future of F1.

Williams FW07

The FW07 moved Williams into F1’s major league. Its precursor – the FW06 – had already nudged the team firmly in that direction. Patrick Head was chief designer. Key to the FW06’s success was ‘ground effect’. Lotus first introduced this piece of GP game-changing wizardry. Aerodynamic skirts ‘sucked’ the Lotus 78 to the tarmac. That groundforce helped the car corner. So much so, that it had rendered the Lotus nigh on unbeatable. But, the 78 had a chink in its armour. The car’s structural strength – or lack of it – limited the amount of downforce that could be used. Fast-forward to Williams again – and the FW07 featured a robust monocoque chassis. In layman’s terms, it could take as much ‘vacuum-suck’ as the venturi could chuck at it!

The ’79 season was well underway by the time the FW07 was launched. It did not take it long to get up to speed, however. Come the mid-point of the campaign – and the FW07 was flying! Clay Regazzoni took its first win. Fittingly, for Williams, it was at Silverstone, England. By season’s end, Alan Jones had added a further four wins to the tally. Next time around – in 1980 – and the FW07 was there at the start. Jones went on to win Williams’ first World Championship. In doing so, he pipped Nelson Piquet to the post – in his Brabham BT49.

In ’81, it was more of the same. Carlos Reutemann topped the podium for most of the season. ’82, though, saw the curtain come down on the FW07. The car’s final Act was staged at Long Beach, California. Keke Rosberg finished second – giving Williams another world title. Ground effect – in the form of the FW07 – had generated more than just downforce. It had provided Williams with their first – but not last – taste of F1 dominance!

Jaguar D-Type

In the mid-Fifties, the Jaguar D-Type was motor racing’s top dog. It won consective Le Mans 24 hour races – in ’55, ’56 and ’57. At the ’57 event – come the chequered flag – D-Types occupied five of the first six places. Fair to say, then, it was their day. Not only that – but they were all privateer entries. It would seem the famous French circuit was a second home to Jaguar at the time. Silverstone, of course, being their racetrack of choice.

As was apt, the Jaguar C-Type blazed the trail. ‘C’ stood for Competition. Jaguar turned to their XK120 sports car. It was a proven success – on both road and track. William Lyons was boss at Jaguar. He opined that – when it came to racing – pure production cars could no longer cut it. A dedicated Jaguar motorsport division was required. As a result, a race-spec body kit was grafted onto the XK120 chassis. The C-Type subsequently won twice at Le Mans. In doing so, it demonstrated its new-fangled disc brakes were the way to go. The race department was paying for itself already!

The D-Type was Jaguar’s first full-on racer. It hit the grid in ’54. From the get-go, it was clear Jaguar had been busy. The flowing curves of its bodywork came courtesy of Malcolm Sayer. The stabilising fin at the rear looked like it had been lifted from a land speed record car. Beneath it sat a monocoque chassis. Disc brakes were fitted all-round. They had been jointly developed by Jaguar and Dunlop. The front-mounted 6-cylinder engine fed 250bhp to the rear wheels. Top speed was 175mph. In the ’54 Le Mans race, a D-Type harried a Ferrari all the way to the flag. Though Ferrari fended it off, it had a much bigger motor. When it came to the press conference, Jaguar no doubt chalked that up as a moral victory! The D-Type was still available to privateer drivers, and race wins were duly recorded around the world. Coventry, England was Jaguar HQ. The city was now well and truly on the automotive map. The D-Type was a racer, rather than a roadster. To that extent, it changed motor racing. No longer were competition cars within easy reach of the average driver. Motor racing would become less accessible. Few cars, then, have moved motorsport on more dramatically than the Jaguar D-Type!

Renault RS01

The Renault RS01 never won a race. But, it was one of the most important F1 cars ever built. That is because of what it brought to the sport … money! In the Sixties, the cash-stoked spectacle of today’s billion-dollar industry, was but a glint in a banker’s eye. Then, F1 was about gas, grease – and the spirit of racing. The cars on the grid were not so far removed from those that could be viewed in any well-appointed showroom. Souped-up, of course – but not radically different on a technical level. For better or worse, the Renault RS01 changed that status quo for good. In the Seventies, grease started going global – and not just in the cinema queues. Grease – as in the glamour of GP racing. For a financier – and his suit – that was worth risking the odd oil stain!

The Renault RS01, then, was a catalyst. The Gallic giant’s commitment to F1 forced fellow manufacturers to do likewise. Alfa Romeo, Honda, BMW et al – they would all want a piece of the F1 pie! It was the mid-’60s when Renault spotted a shot at the big time. A blue riband 3-litre Formula was in the offing. Motorsport’s governing body gave the green light to super- and turbo-charged cars. So long as they had no more than half the capacity of their normally-aspirated rivals, they were good to go. In engineering terms, Renault saw a chance to position themselves at the cutting edge. They chose to go the turbocharged route. The Renault team were already in F2. As a result, they had a tidy two-litre V6 at their disposal. Pared back to 1.5-litres, as per the regulations – and duly turbocharged – the V6 was ready for F1. Especially when it had been slotted into a super-stiff chassis – designed by Andre de Cortanze and Jean-Pierre Jabouille. Hey, Jabouille even doubled up as driver!

In theory, the RS01 should have been setting the pace. It made substantially more power than its rivals. In practice, though, things were not so straightforward. The car’s Achilles heel was poor reliability. Add to that, turbo lag. Suffice to say, its kick-in was far from light-switch sharp. That unpredictability made the RS01 a real handful – even for a driver of Jabouille’s talent. Improvements were made – but still, the RS01 Did Not Finish too many times. Fourth place points did eventually come – at the ’78 US GP. A year later, Jabouille even put the RS01 on pole – at Kyalami, South Africa. To be fair, that was largely because the non-turbocharged cars were suffering a case of high altitude sickness! At any rate, the pole did not convert to victory. Jabouille would go on to win – but that was in the Renault RS10, complete with ‘ground effect’ aerodynamics. No, the RS01’s claim to fame was that it was a game-changer. It spawned a succession of rivals with turbocharged power. Those cars – and their constructors – reaped rewards the original did not. The price of innovation! The turbo-era cars would, in due course, have their wings clipped. But not before the excitement – and money – they generated, had percolated worldwide. F1 moved up a gear. The Renault RS01 set a turbocharged trend!

%%footer%%