For­mula 1 by Wacky Races


F1 en­gi­neer­ing Yoda Adrian Newey fa­mously schooled him­self in the art and sci­ence of rac­ing car de­sign by build­ing a 1:12 scale Tamiya model kit of a Lo­tus 49. As a kid I tried to do the same, spend­ing long sum­mer days build­ing a Brab­ham BT44B, but enor­mous wealth, more tro­phies than Guardi­ola’s down­stairs loo and a ca­reer at the pointy end of For­mula 1 con­tinue to elude me.

I re­mem­ber that Brab­ham in ex­tra­or­di­nary de­tail. I re­call piec­ing to­gether the DFV V8, pick­ing out the Ford script on its cam cov­ers in sil­ver with a very small paint­brush. (The BT44, as did most ev­ery other ’70s F1 car en­gi­neered in the UK, used Ford’s all-conquering en­gine, hooked up to a bombproof five-speed Hew­land gear­box – the V8 helped democra­tise the sport in a way cur­rent own­ers Lib­erty would dearly love to re­peat.) And I re­mem­ber the way rear hubs, wheels and enor­mous Goodyears were teth­ered to the car by noth­ing more than a cou­ple of im­pos­si­bly dainty links. But most vividly I re­mem­ber the in­cred­i­ble sil­hou­ette: that pointy front wing with built-in radiators; the im­plic­itly rigid Toblerone-shaped mono­coque; that high-rise air­box like a car­toon sub­ma­rine’s periscope.

There have been more suc­cess­ful For­mula 1 cars than Brab­ham’s BT44 and BT44B (the BT44 evolved into the 44B for ’75). But they’re sig­nif­i­cant for sev­eral rea­sons. The two men be­hind them – Brab­ham team owner Bernie

Ec­cle­stone and de­signer Gor­don Mur­ray – would rev­o­lu­tionise For­mula 1. Ec­cle­stone al­ready had an eye on con­trol­ling the en­tire sport, not merely a team within it, and Mur­ray in­tro­duced so many game-chang­ing ideas (un­der-body aero, in-race re­fu­elling, re­clined driv­ers) that his would be­come F1’s most sought-af­ter brain.

Through the ’70s the F1 car’s evo­lu­tion ac­cel­er­ated wildly, and the Brab­ham neatly strad­dles two eras. Since the very be­gin­ning F1 cars had car­ried their radiators up front and the BT44 did the same, not in side­pods as would be­come the norm. The Brab­ham also por­tended the fu­ture in its rigid an­gu­lar­ity and its man­age­ment of air.

‘Vir­tu­ally all rac­ing cars were this bluff body, with a lot of air go­ing un­der the car, cre­at­ing lift,’ says Gor­don Mur­ray. ‘The 44 was the shape of an up­turned saucer, so that the stag­na­tion point [the point at which the on­rush­ing air meets the car] was moved closer to the road and more of the air went over the top. Sure enough we found we could run less con­ven­tional front and rear wing than other teams. I took it fur­ther at a test in Kyalami, with a sac­ri­fi­cial vee shape in fi­bre­glass un­der the car. The think­ing was, let’s try to scrape away yet more of the air that’s gone un­der the car. That gen­er­ated an­other 100lb of down­force. We ran that for two-thirds of the sea­son, baŸing peo­ple who won­dered how we could get away with such a small amount of wing. It was the first crude ground ef­fect…’

And ground ef­fect – as much as tele­vi­sion, spon­sor­ship, im­proved safety or tur­bocharg­ing – would de­fine the spec­ta­cle of mod­ern For­mula 1.

The men be­hind the BT44, Ec­cle­stone and Mur­ray, would rev­o­lu­tionise F1

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 ??  ?? Plug ’n’ play: solid and pow­er­ful DFV en­gine let Bri­tish teams fo­cus on chas­sis and aero
Plug ’n’ play: solid and pow­er­ful DFV en­gine let Bri­tish teams fo­cus on chas­sis and aero

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