The first of­fer­ing from this mys­te­ri­ous team didn’t quite live up to its prom­ise

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS -

We re­mem­ber Don Ni­chols’s first Shadow F1 car from 1973, the ‘Coke bot­tle’-shaped DN1

Pointy beard, black cape and tore­ador hat: Don Ni­chols didn’t ex­actly con­form to team-owner type, even in the fab ’n’ far-out decade of ’70s F1. The Amer­i­can, who died in Au­gust aged 92, was a true-life in­ter­na­tional man of mys­tery who cre­ated one of the great­est cult teams of mo­tor-rac­ing lore. The DN1 was the svelte ma­chine that launched Ni­chols’ equally enig­matic Shadow team into F1 in 1973. The chas­sis shown here is the 3A, sold to Gra­ham Hill as the dou­ble cham­pion took his first steps as a team owner/ driver un­der the Em­bassy tobacco ban­ner. The two works cars, run in Shadow’s trade­mark plain black, es­tab­lished their cre­den­tials as a force to be reck­oned with, and two podi­ums in their de­but year seemed a de­cent re­turn. But it was a slog of a sea­son and a de­flat­ing prece­dent that would linger through­out Shadow’s eight-year spell in the top flight.

In­trigue sur­rounded Ni­chols, al­legedly a for­mer CIA op­er­a­tive and US army vet­eran of WWII and Korea, who had made a for­tune while serv­ing in Ja­pan by im­port­ing and sell­ing rac­ing-car com­po­nents and tyres. Back at home in the late 1960s, he founded Ad­vanced Ve­hi­cle Sys­tems and went Can-am rac­ing un­der the Shadow moniker. The shady fig­ure in cloak and hat, which was used as a team logo, was a look adopted by Ni­chols him­self, in­spired by a pulp fic­tion su­per­hero he re­called from child­hood, named The Shadow.

His Mk1 Can-am car, fea­tur­ing minia­ture drag-re­duc­ing wheels and a gi­gan­tic rear wing, set the tem­plate for Shadow’s un­con­ven­tional ap­proach. Af­ter four years of toil in the wake of Mclaren and Porsche, the team achieved few solid re­sults, but Ni­chols an­nounced his in­ten­tion to crack F1 any­way.

Fu­ture Ar­rows boss Jackie Oliver had be­come part of the Shadow story in Can-am and, with one eye al­ready trained on a life be­yond driv­ing, he gal­vanised the team’s grand prix as­sault. BRM de­signer Tony South­gate was hired to draw a car, which he did from his own garage, and premises were ac­quired in Northamp­ton. South­gate had been re­spon­si­ble for BRM’S fi­nal GP win­ners, and his ap­point­ment was surely a key fac­tor in at­tract­ing Hill as a team pa­tron.

The re­sult­ing DN1 cer­tainly looked right. The at­trac­tive all-en­velop­ing body, fea­tur­ing a coke-bot­tle-shaped rear, was ahead of its time and born of South­gate’s stu­dious aero re­search at Im­pe­rial Col­lege’s wind­tun­nel. Tight pack­ag­ing included ra­di­a­tors tucked into the side­pods rather than hung be­hind the rear axle, with the fuel and oil tanks po­si­tioned cen­trally be­hind the driver. It was neat, tidy and pur­pose­ful.

Even the fuel the car con­sumed pointed to the fu­ture. Spon­sor UOP (Uni­ver­sal Oil Prod­ucts), who backed the team in Can-am, had just in­tro­duced a process to man­u­fac­ture lead-free gaso­line. What bet­ter way to mar­ket their prod­uct than by us­ing it in F1? Ac­cord­ing to South­gate it had a smell of pear drops, and trans­port­ing it to each race added to team ex­pen­di­ture. But with an equiv­a­lent oc­tane read­ing to reg­u­lar leaded fuel the con­coc­tion was no detri­ment to per­for­mance.

The team didn’t make the first two races of 1973, but Oliver and un­der­rated US racer Ge­orge Follmer pitched up in South Africa, where the lat­ter in­her­ited P6 and one point first time out. This was promis­ing, but it got even bet­ter at the next race. Follmer ben­e­fit­ted from at­tri­tion to snatch third at Mon­tjuïc Park, where Hill also joined the party for the first time with his Em­bassy-liv­er­ied car. Things were look­ing good.

But, there­after, re­li­a­bil­ity nig­gles dogged all three en­tries and de­sign flaws be­came ap­par­ent. That pack­ag­ing was per­haps a lit­tle too tight. Cool­ing was an is­sue, with the side­pod ra­di­a­tors prov­ing too small for the job. And South­gate


was forced to lengthen the wheel­base, which did at least im­prove weight dis­tri­bu­tion. The de­signer also dis­cov­ered a snag with Cos­worth’s DFV, which, de­spite its near-ubiq­uity in F1 by 1973, was an en­gine new to him af­ter his time work­ing with BRM’S V12. The V8’s char­ac­ter­is­tic vi­bra­tions high­lighted a fun­da­men­tal chas­sis rigid­ity flaw and the early prom­ise was soon shaken out by the frus­tra­tion of what could have been.

Hill man­aged no bet­ter than a ninth place at the Bel­gian GP and he sub­se­quently switched to a Lola for ’74. But there was at least some cheer for the works team, when Oliver led the rain-af­flicted penul­ti­mate round in Canada and was even­tu­ally clas­si­fied third in a con­fus­ing race some thought he’d won. A to­tal of nine points and P8 in the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship at sea­son’s end was re­spectable – but noth­ing more.

With hard lessons ap­par­ently learned, the new Shadow DN3 seemed a more promis­ing prospect for 1974. But while Oliver and South­gate’s DN2 cleaned up in Can-am, yet more frus­tra­tion fol­lowed in F1 – along with a ter­ri­ble tragedy. New sign­ing Peter Rev­son would die test­ing the DN3 at Kyalami af­ter a sus­pen­sion fail­ure.

The DN1 was pulled back into ser­vice twice more for JeanPierre Jarier for the early rounds of 1974 be­fore re­ceiv­ing its pen­sion. One chas­sis would find a sec­ond ca­reer in Bri­tain’s Shell­sport Group 8 sin­gle-seater se­ries, driven by, among oth­ers, Lella Lom­bardi, the only woman to score world cham­pi­onship points (well, half a point) in F1 his­tory.

As for Shadow, there was the odd glim­mer of suc­cess over the years that fol­lowed: back-to-back pole po­si­tions for Jarier at the start of ’75; Tom Pryce’s Race of Cham­pi­ons win at Brands Hatch that same year; and their sin­gle F1 grand prix win, by Alan Jones in the rain at the Öster­re­ichring in ’77.

But it was tragedy and con­tro­versy rather than world­con­quer­ing glory that would come to dic­tate Shadow’s F1 epi­taph. Pryce died in hor­ri­fy­ing cir­cum­stances at Kyalami when he col­lided with a mar­shal who was cross­ing the track with a fire ex­tin­guisher. Then, in 1978, fol­low­ing dis­agree­ments with Ni­chols, Oliver would break away to form Ar­rows, tak­ing South­gate with him. Ni­chols duly won the en­su­ing court case over the strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the Ar­rows FA1 and Shadow’s DN9, forc­ing South­gate and co to pro­duce an all-new car, the A1, in just 52 days. But it was the new team that lived on through the next decade and be­yond. Ni­chols sold out to Theodore in 1980 and quit F1 for good.

But for all the un­ful­filled po­ten­tial, the mys­te­ri­ous Amer­i­can and his Shadow still left their mark. The DN1 was a fondly re­mem­bered car with a great liv­ery that per­fectly cap­tured the swash­buck­ling, pi­o­neer­ing spirit of 1970s F1.

RACE RECORD Starts 40 Re­tire­ments 22 Wins 0 Poles 0 Fastest laps 0 Other podi­ums 2 Points 9

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