Gerhard Berger pings his Ferrari 640 through the ‘Bus-Stop’ chicane, Spa 1989…
He spun off on lap 9, the race won by Ayrton Senna from teammate Alain Prost in McLaren MP/5 Hondas’ and Nigel Mansell in the other Ferrari 640.
Ferrari 640 and Innovation…
The new single-seater was known colloquially as the 640 after its design number, but was officially F1-89.
Nigel Mansell joined the team, Gerhard Berger was his teammate. Ferrari took three wins and was third in the Constructors’ Championship with 59 points.
The F1-89 hailed the return of the normally aspirated 12-cylinder engine and in a major first for Formula 1, also had a gear change bar mounted behind the steering wheel.
Ferrari have never been noted for innovation but this was a ‘game changer’ which all other teams and formulae followed.
Nigel Mansell won his debut race at Interlagos and then headed the pack across the line again at Budapest. The Scuderia’s third season win came from Gerhard Berger at Estoril. McLaren took both titles that year with Alain Prost winning the Drivers’ Title for them.
The semi-automatic gearbox was Barnard’s solution to the problem of the long manual actuation mechanism. Barnard interviwed by ‘MotorSport’ in 2005 said ‘The project started because I wanted to make the monocoque really narrow. In those days we had to fit a gearshift run through the monocoque alongside the engine and back to the gearbox. It was a real pain to find a route for this and make room in the cockpit for the selector and the driver’s hand. I thought, ‘Surely, instead of a gear lever, I can have a switch.’ So it was a packaging imperative. The gear linkage affected lots of things, and of course the driver was taking his hand off the wheel during changes. The time-saving advantage came afterwards. Vittorio Ghidella, running Ferrari post-Enzo, was terrified of the ‘box failing and had a manual version built; Mansell tested it and said ‘forget it’. But the effort was a danger to the project.’
Originally intended to appear in ’88 on the 639, the electrohydraulic ‘box and normally aspirated V12 were held back until the following season once it was clear that the equivalency rules for ’88 made it vital to run a turbo to be competitive. When it did at last race in ’89 the new transmission was initially unreliable but it eventually became clear to everyone in the pitlane that here was a technology they would all have to copy.
Ferrari say that ‘the new gearbox and communications difficulties with Barnard who was working from England dragged out the car’s development’. However, when it finally did emerge, it was seen by the other constructors as a shining example of superb engineering and aerodynamics, the latter thanks to its extremely clean-looking form’
Boy, it was and is a stunning looking car, perhaps the last really sexy F1 car?
With the banning of turbo-charged engines from the end of 1988, as stated above, Ferrari returned to a normally aspirated 65° V12 Bore/stroke 84 x 52.6 mm displacing 3497.96 cc. The block was cast iron as a result of Barnard driving Ferrari hard on engine length and to get the crank as low as possible. He also influenced the 4 bolt pick ups for the engine, which differed from the way Ferrari hung their engines from the tub before.
Compression ratio was 11.5 : 1, maximum power 441 kW (600 hp) at 12,500 rpm. Valve actuation was DOHC per bank, five valves per cylinder, Fuel feed by Weber-Marelli electronic indirect injection, Ignition electronic, single spark plug per cylinder, lubrication dry sump. Clutch multi-plate with a 7 speed electro-hydraulic gearbox.
The chassis was designed by Barnard and his team at Ferraris’ Guildford Technical Office in the UK. When Barnard joined the team Ferrari had not won a race since 1985 so he was able to name his terms, inclusive of not working at the factory in Maranello! Ferrari agreed to the establishment of a design office near Barnards’ home in the UK.
The chassis was typical of the period, a Kevlar and carbon-fibre composite monocoque, its distinctive pannier shape a function of the large volumes of fuel, 220-230 litres carried at the time..
Barnard commented about the cars suspension ‘The 639 had conventional spring/damper units on top of the chassis, but because the 640 monocoque was so narrow I drew up a torsion-bar arrangement instead which started the short-torsion-bar fashion that continues today. It kept the installation as compact as possible and also I didn’t like coil-over dampers. The springs were never well enough made to avoid side loads on the damper rods and consequently added friction. I designed a lower friction package with the torsion bar, which ran on ball bearings. It was a really good solution’.
Front suspension comprised independent push-rod, torsion bar springs, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar. Rear suspension independent push-rod, twin wishbones, coil springs over horizontally-mounted telescopic shock absorbers. Brakes were steel discs. Steering rack-and-pinion. Fuel tank capacity 192 litres and Front tyres 25.0-10.0-13 and Rear tyres 26.0-15.0-13.
Apart from Mansells debut win at Interlagos in Brazil the gearbox gave early season troubles, both drivers having DNF’s in all subsequent races until the French GP, the ‘box the cause of many of them.
John Barnard again comments and sets the record straight ‘The semi-auto gearbox was slagged off early on for being unreliable, but that was unwarranted. A lot of the retirements in early 1989 listed as gearbox failures weren’t at all, they were due to loss of power to the ‘box. The alternator was driven by a belt from the crank and this kept falling off. It took a long time to find out why, using high-speed photography on the dyno. At this time the V12 only had a four-bearing crank which started to whip at certain revs, causing the front pulley to shed the belt. The alternator would stop and so would the gearbox electronics. We didn’t have any fundamental problems with the ‘box itself. It was pretty reliable. It was mostly standard inside and the hydraulic system was simple and robust.’
After these problems were sorted the advantages of the gearbox were clear…Barnard had instigated the second technical innovation of his career, the first the carbon-composite chassis…
Check out this article on John Barnards’ McLaren MP4/1 Ford…
Scuderia Ferrari, MotorSport June 2005