Posts Tagged ‘Brian Redman’

(B Harmeyer)

Brian Redman’s Carl Haas Racing Lola T332CS Chev awaits the off at Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada 12 June 1977…

That’s Jim Hall in the Texan hat and you can just see a glimpse of Brian’s driving suit to the far left of the photo. Randy Lewis’ Shadow in front of the Lola I think. Redman was the ‘King of 5 Litre Racing’ in the US having won the American F5000 championship from 1974 to 1976 aboard Lolas- T332, T332/400 and T332C respectively.

When I first spotted Bob Harmeyer’s photo, I thought, ‘what a beauty, I can do something with that pit scene’. Then I looked a bit closer at the date and venue and realised it was the weekend Brian came close to meeting his maker-it was not the only ‘biggie’ in his career either.

Its the very first race meeting of the single-seat 5 litre Can Am formula- Brian and his Lola are about to indulge in some involuntary aviation, the landing sub-optimal in comparison to takeoff.

Carl Haas in the blue shirt and Brian Redman (who is the other Shadow bloke?) in the Mid Ohio pits, August 1975. #1 is Brians T332 ‘HU45’, #48 Vern Schuppan’s Eagle 755 Chev- Brian won from Al Unser and David Hobbs aboard T332’s, Vern was 5th (unattributed)

With F5000 on the wane a bit, in part due to the dominance of the Lola T330/332, it was decided to spruce up the show by creating a single-seat Can Am series for 5 litre cars- in essence F5000 in drag.

Gordon Kirby wrote about that first single-seat Can Am season in the June 2010 issue of MotorSport- ‘The death of the old Can-Am left the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) with Formula 5000 as its primary series. For a few years the American F5000 championship was pretty healthy, attracting big fields and top drivers like Mario Andretti, Al Unser Sr, Jody Scheckter and Brian Redman, who won the title for three consecutive seasons in Carl Haas and Jim Hall’s Lola-Chevrolets. But the SCCA and its promoters longed for the return of full-bodied Can-Am cars.

Burdie Martin ran the SCCA’s professional racing department in those days and says the series wouldn’t have come together had it not been for Haas. “Carl had sponsorship for his team from First National City Bank,” says Martin. “But he also talked them into sponsoring the series and, of course, thanks to Eric Broadley and Lola he provided the cars to make it happen. I talked to Carl and said we could make these 5000s into closed-wheel cars and call it Can-Am. I said it wouldn’t cost a lot of money and the cars were out there. We could add the 2-litre cars because there’s a lot of them around and they’re not that much slower. That would fill out the field. So Carl and I got on the phone and called some people, and all of a sudden we were putting a programme together.’

Team VDS Lola T333CS ‘HU2’ with standard Lola bodywork- albeit with the front wing added by the team- see text below

‘The SCCA’s last-minute decision to replace F5000 with the closed-wheel, single-seat ‘new era’ Can-Am didn’t inspire much confidence, or interest, from the racing industry. All the uncertainty surrounding the new series meant few teams were ready for the start of the 1977 season. In fact, Haas/Hall was the only Can-Am team able to do any serious pre-season testing and it quickly learned that the new nose for the enclosed wheels didn’t produce enough downforce. The team designed and built its own replacement, which incorporated an F5000 nose in place of the flat, cow-catcher nose of Lola’s T333CS ‘conversion kit’. The result was a car that looked more like an F5000 car with fenders rather than a sports/racer’.

Redman aboard his T332CS- note comments above in relation to the cars body/aero compared with the standard Lola body kit on Peter Gethin’s car above (Harmeyer)

‘Most Lola customers had installed the conversion kit on their F5000s and were pretty upset when Haas/Hall rolled out its unique car in first practice for the opening Can-Am race at St Jovite in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains. But it soon turned out that in some circumstances even the Haas/Hall aerodynamic package wasn’t up to the job.

In the middle of St Jovite’s backstraight was a humpbacked rise over which the Can-Am cars of Paul Hawkins and Hugh Dibley had taken flight in 1966. Ditto Jackie Oliver in 1970. In afternoon practice Elliott Forbes-Robinson became the first driver to fly a new-era Can-Am car through the air when his flipped as he tried to go over the hump on full throttle. Miraculously, the car cartwheeled through 360 degrees and landed upright on all four wheels. Forbes-Robinson jumped unscathed from the wreckage.

Later that day Brian Redman had a much more serious accident. Redman’s car did a violent backflip, landing upside-down and leaving him unconscious and in a critical condition with a broken left collarbone, a cracked sternum, two broken ribs and a fractured vertebra in his neck. Redman lay heavily sedated in hospital for a week while the swelling and contracting of his brain’s epidermis ran its course and his doctors assessed the damage to his brain and nervous system.’

Harmeyer’s shot of Redman’s car back in the paddock. The Lola aluminium monocoque has stood up to the impact remarkably well, look closely tho- the roll over hoop is gone, torn off/flattened in the huge physics upon landing. Redman a very lucky boy (B Harmeyer)

‘Deeply shaken by Redman’s accident, the Haas/Hall team withdrew from the race and headed home. With the three-time F5000 champion in hospital, a makeshift chicane was installed before the backstraight hump.’

Redman recalled that ‘…the roll bar broke and my head went down on the road. My helmet was worn away on each side. But as the car rolled off the track onto the surrounding land, it landed on its wheels, which was a good job. Because my heart had stopped and the track doctor was a heart specialist- he got that going again. And then on the way to the hospital the ambulance blew a tyre!’

Tom Klausler in the Schkee DB1 Chev at Road America in August. Truly wild coupe like so many cars in this series Lola T332 based (oldracingcars.com)

The Mont Tremblant race was run in half wet, half dry conditions and was won Formula Atlantic standout Tom Klausler driving the unique Schkee coupé, a quite sensational looking Lola-based car built by veteran Can-Am builder Bob McKee. Unfortunately the little team didn’t have the money to race or develop the car and ceased to exist by the seasons end.

Haas/Hall missed the next race at Laguna Seca whilst they looked after Brian’s needs and sought another driver to replace their pilot of the previous near half-decade.

Brian in the Mont Tremblant pitlane, not sure of the chassis number of his T332CS. Randy Lewis Shadow DN4B Dodge # 00 alongside. The car behind the Shadow looks like a T332CS with ‘standard Lola body’ but am not sure which car (B Harmeyer)

During practice in California there were more problems with ‘Cessna 180’s as Aussie F5000 ace, Warwick Brown’s VDS Lola T333CS took off going over the fast brow beyond the pits.

Brown- already a ‘Lola Limper Club’ member by virtue of a T300 F5000 accident at Surfers Paradise in early 1973 broke both legs in the big accident. Teammate Peter Gethin, a vastly experienced driver with an Italian Grand Prix victory amongst his many credits withdrew from the race until a proper solution could be found. Clearly the aero treatment was ‘unresolved’, as the lawyers would put it.

Tambay in the Haas Lola T333CS Chev ‘HU6’ on the way to a win at Mosport on 21 August 1977 (B Cahier)

Kirby- ‘Haas signed up-and-coming French driver Patrick Tambay to replace Redman. A smooth, fluid driver and a gentleman too, Tambay won six of the seven Can-Am races he started in 1977, all from pole, and easily claimed the championship. “I was also doing my rookie F1 season with Ensign, so I had a lot of miles under my belt that year, not only aeroplane miles but driving miles,” he recalls. “The Can-Am car had a lot of power, gave good grip and was a good tool to do mileage to make me sharp for my F1 ride. My Can-Am successes helped me build a strong confidence.”

Back to Brian. As we all know Redman was a racers-racer with several successful comebacks- that he did in 1981 driving a Lola T600 Chev. The Cooke-Woods run car won the IMSA GTP championship on top of the 24 Hours of Daytona, a classic Brian won at the seasons outset together with Bobby Rahal and Bob Garretson in a Porsche 935 K3.

The Redman/Sam Posey Lola T600 Chev during the Road America 500 miles in 1981, 2nd (M Windecker)

Credits…

Bob Harmeyer, Bernard Cahier, Getty Images, oldracingcars.com, Mark Windecker, MotorSport magazine article by Gordon Kirby 2010

Tailpiece: Calm before the storm, Mont Tremblant…

Finito…

(K Hyndman)

Jody Scheckter’s works F2 McLaren M21 Ford BDF (left) at Trojan Racing’s workshops in Beddington Farm Road, Croydon on 1 October 1972…

Alongside it is the first Trojan T101 ‘101’ F5000 coming together, the cars are close relations.

Jody took one European F2 Championship win in chassis # M21-72-01 at Crystal Palace in May, the title was won that year by Mike Hailwood’s works Surtees TS10 Ford BDA.

The South African charger was competitive throughout the season, but like others running BDA’s stretched close to 2 litres struck engine dramas. The standard cast iron Ford Cortina 711M block just didn’t want to be bored that far, pistons came close to kissing each other which is rather sub-optimal. The bespoke alloy Ford Cosworth BDG block solved that from 1973. Hailwood ran Brian Hart prepped 1850cc BDA’s and took a hotly contested first 2 litre Euro F2 title from Jean-Pierre Jaussaud Brabham BT38 Ford and Patrick Depailler March 722 Ford.

Jody recalled his McLaren M21 F2 year in an article titled ‘McLaren and Me’ on mclaren.com…

It was Phil Kerr who approached me about driving for McLaren…I don’t think F2 was their major interest, and I think in a way they were playing on the side with it. Teddy Mayer preferred the big time stuff.

F2 obviously wasn’t F1 or CanAm, which had been their main thing, and I had the only M21. I can’t remember thinking at the time that they weren’t putting enough effort into it, however I would probably not have known at that stage. That was the first works drive after running my own car, so whatever it was was fantastic.

At the beginning we had an 1800cc motor, and the other guys were 2-litres, so it was underpowered. We would run less and less wing to try and do the same speed on the straights, and then we had no downforce.

The car wasn’t bad. But initially it had a broken shock absorber, which nobody discovered. We weren’t competitive at all, and with me being new in, obviously people thought I wasn’t competitive. If you’re on your own, when you go well it’s good, and if you don’t, you wish had others cars to compare against!

In one way it was nice because you’re the only driver they’re concentrating on. If there was another one could you have developed the car quicker? Possibly, but I didn’t really think about it.

After a few races we went down to Goodwood and Denny Hulme drove the car and played around with it a bit. They had found in the workshop that one of the shock absorbers was broken. So they changed that, and Denny went out and did 1m14.2s or something like that, and I went out and in three laps did a 1m13.8s. I think we were doing 1m15s before that.

London Trophy, Crystal Palace 29 May 1972. Scheckter won in his #60 McLaren M21 Ford BDF by 1.5 seconds after 50 laps from Mike Hailwood’s #46 Surtees TS10 Ford BDA and Carlos Reutemann’s Brabham BT38 Ford BDF (J Fausel)

And then we went to Crystal Palace. I’d raced there in F3 and Ford Escort Mexicos, and I quite liked that circuit. The car was going well, and we won. After that everyone was looking at the car, wondering why it was going so quickly. I remember at Rouen passing Carlos Reutemann on the outside of a bend going down the hill.

Crystal Palace was a real breakthrough in a way. In those days there were F1 drivers competing, and, if you did well in an F2 race, you immediately showed that you were good enough to go up to the next level. Which is what happened.

Later Lotus came and wanted me to drive for them. I told McLaren and they said, ‘OK, we’ll give you a drive in the last Grand Prix, at Watkins Glen.’ I don’t think they’d thought about it, but when other teams start making offers, they knew they had to do something!

Watkins Glen (1972 US GP) was good because nobody recognised me, and I could walk around and not be bothered. I thought the M19 was fantastic. It was my first F1 car, and it just seemed to grip more and more, you could go faster and faster and nothing was happening, rather than sliding all over the place. It was nothing compared to the downforce of today’s cars, but in comparison to my F2 car the M19 had much more downforce, and bigger tyres as well’.

The story of Scheckter’s rather successful F1 career is one for another time.

McLaren pulled out of the production racing car market with effect the end of 1972. Trojan, acquired by Peter Agg in 1960 took over Elva Cars in 1962, Bruce McLaren worked with Elva to develop his McLaren-Elva Mk1A for the 1965 season, the Trojan built McLaren cars dated from 1969. The mutually fruitful partnership lasted until the end of 1972 at which point Agg continued building cars named Trojan- the T101 was the first.

January 1973 Trojan T101 ‘101’ is the car shown ‘as advertised before Ron Tauranac arrived in the design department’ Ken Hyndman

Trojan went into 1973 with a new F5000 design which was in essence the marriage of  the Ralph Bellamy designed F2 M21 front end with an M18/22 McLaren F5000 rear attached to a new chassis. Bruce would have approved, very much in his ‘Whoosh-Bonk’ tradition this machine!

The new car, designated ‘T101’ was designed by Paul Rawlinson with Ron Tauranac- post-sale and exit of Brabham to Bernie Ecclestone, brought in by management at the seasons commencement to ‘make the car work’.

Work it did- Jody Scheckter won the US F5000 L&M Championship in 1973 with 3 wins in T101 chassis ‘103’ at Laguna Seca and Michigan in May and Mid Ohio in early June. He then decamped and raced a Lola T330 (HU20) owned by Bob Lazier winning in it at Watkins Glen in mid-June after boofing T101 ‘103’ during practice.

He was back aboard T101 ‘103’, the chassis repaired at Trojan, at Road America Elkhart Lake on 29 June and Road Atlanta in mid-August and then raced another T330 (HU24) said to have been bought with his winnings, at Pocono on 3 September before ending the season in his faithful T101 ‘103’ in the final of the nine round championship at Seattle on 30 September where he was 3rd.

Scheckter and Redman at Pocono in 1973 (J Knerr)

Brian Redman aboard a sinfully sexy Carl Haas Lola T330 Chev (HU14) at the Riverside first L&M series round in 1973, he won. Mechanics names anyone? (M Paden Hewitt)

The above puts a wonderful gloss on the Trojan season but does not tell the whole truth!

Brian Redman started his reign as the ‘King of F5000’ in 1973, although he was uncrowned that year. He won the US Championship from 1974-76, and aboard the works Carl Haas Lola T330 in ’73 won five rounds- Riverside, Elkhart Lake, Road Atlanta, Pocono and Seattle.

The only thing which cost him the title were his factory Ferrari 312PB World Endurance Championship sportscar rides, he missed several rounds. The only L&M Championship race where Jody beat Brian ‘man on man’ was at Watkins Glen where T330 ‘HU20’ prevailed over Redman’s ‘HU8’.

The evolved for 1973 Lola T330 (from the late ’71-’72 T300) was a stunning production racing car which begat a whole series of dominant F5000 and single-seat Can Am cars- T332, 332C, 332CS and 333. Category destroyers in some ways, these cars!

But let’s not take anything away from the Scheckter/Trojan 1973 L&M wins- to finish first, first you have to finish and that they did that in spades! Jody won with 144 points from Redman’s 130 and Mark Donohue, Lola T330 AMC on 64 points.

Scheckter in the Trojan T101 ‘103’ Chev at Brands on 17 March 1973, first British F5000 championship round. DNF in the race won by Peter Gethin’s Chevron B24 Chev from Brett Lunger’s Lola T330 Chev and Tony Dean’s Chevron B24 Chev (R Bunyan)

The team did a couple of British early season F5000 Championship rounds to shake the car down before shipping it to the US, where they were ‘match fit’ from the start of the season.

Sid Taylor and Jerry Entin owned the car Scheckter raced and expected Tauranac would work on its development during the season but Ron was sucked into the 1974 Trojan F1 program, so Taylor/Entin received little help. What development the car lacked was more than made up for by Jody’s endeavour behind the wheel mind you!

Scheckter 1st from David Hobbs Lola T330 3rd, Peter Gethin Chevron B28 at left 2nd and Kevin Bartlett Lola T330 DNF behind Gethin. Laguna Seca 1973. Bartlett had a guest drive of Redman’s works/Haas machine whilst Brian was away on Ferrari sportscar duties- he was 3rd in his heat and DNF the final (unattributed)

Kiwi Ken Hyndman worked at Trojan Racing and took the colour factory shots on his first work day there on 1 October 1972…

Hyndman wrote on ‘The Roaring Season’- ‘The M21 F2 race car that Jody Scheckter had driven at Oulton Park a few weeks prior (on 16 September, DNF transmission in the race won by Peterson’s works March 722), was in the midst of being dismantled so as to form the basis of a new F5000 car. The main body/tub was a McLaren M22 and the suspension/steering was from the M21.’

In fact it seems clear that whatever Trojan did with ‘M21-72-01’ late in 1972 the car was sold to French hillclimber Yves Martin who used it in the following years.

In more recent decades the car is part of Scheckter’s collection of cars he raced.

Perhaps some components were used in the F5000 T101-1 build. Given the M21 was a one-off- only one chassis was built and raced by Jody in 1972, maybe the car was used in the workshop to help create the necessary drawings/patterns for components needed for the T101 batch build of six cars.

Shape of the T101 nose as raced different in profile compared with the original design as being constructed here in October 1972. M21/1 at right (K Hyndman)

The photo above shows ‘The Trojan F5000 T101X (T101 ‘101’) was first drawn up by a likeable young designer, Paul Rawlinson. He had also been a mechanic…Paul had the design that was M21 ahead of the engine and a M22 F5000 behind.’

‘The T101X had a concave surface nose section like a Porsche 917/10 Can Am car for added downforce. It had a full width nose with NASA type ducts for cooling the front brakes. This was to be powered by an Alan Smith tuned 5 litre engine…and looked pretty neat…’

‘Note in the background is the inverted M10B tub for (then Australian F5000 coming-man) Warwick Brown’ Hyndman observed, adding in relation to the Brown tub ‘that does not seem to match the records of the car (M10B-19)’ which indeed it does not but the chassis at a glance does look like that car at that time Ken!

Etcetera…

McLaren M21 ‘M21-72-01’

Yves Martin in his ex-Scheckter McLaren at Saint-Germain-sur-Ille hillclimb in 1974.

(T Le Bras)

Trojan T101 ‘103’

Ron Bennett and Scheckter (below) ponder the setup of the T101 in the Elkhart Lake paddock in June 1973. Alan Smith brought over his slide-injected engine for this race, Jody didn’t like the feel of it though, so they went back to carbs for the rest of the season. Clearly from the Brands shot above Jody used the injection engine early in the season too.

Suspension of the T101 was period conventional- single top link, inverted lower wishbone, coil spring/dampers and adjustable roll bar at the rear with upper and lower wishbones at the front. The gearbox is the good ‘ole Hewland DG300, F5000 standard issue.

(J Entin)

Scheckter gridding up at Riverside. ‘Look’ of the car in terms of chassis and nose similar to its Chevron B24/8 and Elfin MR5 contemporaries (M Paden Hewitt)

 

References/Photo Credits…

 Ken Hyndman Collection, oldracingcars.com, Jutta Fausel, Jerry Entin, Joel Griffin, Richard Bunyan, Jim Knerr, Thierry Le Bras, Michael Paden Hewitt

Tailpiece: Scheckter in the mist, Trojan T101 Chev, Michigan 1973…

Jody won at Michigan on 20 May from Derek Bell guesting in the Haas/Redman T330 and Peter Gethin’s Chevron B24 Chev (unattributed)

Finito…

monza bros

Siffert, Pedro chillin’, Redman and Kinnunen- JW squad 1970 (Schlegelmilch)

The JW Gulf boys relax before the off, the winning duo were Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen…

There was only one Porsche 917 amongst the first nine cars home at the duration of the Monza endurance classic on 25 April but the German flat-12 was first, Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen were happy winners.

Three Ferrari 512S followed them home, the Ignazio Giunti/Nino Vaccarella/Chris Amon Spyder 1.5 minutes adrift of the John Wyer Porsche.

It wasn’t a happy season for Ferrari in sportscars. Supremely competitive in F1 with the first of its flat-12 engined cars, the 312B, the 5 litre V12 512S really didn’t receive the development it needed to knock off the Porsches.

The German cars mainly raced at 4.5 litres in capacity that year but it was still more than enough. A win at Sebring in the second round of the Manufacturers Championship was Ferrari’s best result, and the flat-8 3 litre, nimble, light Porsche 908/3 mopped up on the tight, twisty circuits unsuited to the 917. The dudes from Stuttgart had the game well covered.

seppi

Seppi in conversation, and for the horologists he is sporting a nice Heuer Autavia chronograph  (Schlegelmilch)

The speed of Ferrari’s evolved 512S, the 512M was clear at the Osterreichring 1000 Km in October, so 1971 looked to be a great battle of two amazing 5 litre cars but effectively the Scuderia waved a white surrender flag before the seasons commencement.

They chose to race a new 3 litre flat-12 engined prototype, the 312P in 1971 with an eye to the rule change to cars of that capacity in 1972, rather than the factory race the 512M.

The Ferrari privateers did their best against the Panzers but it was ineffective, the speed of the beautifully prepared and superbly Mark Donohue driven Penske 512M duly noted. The 1971 endurance season could have been the greatest ever had Scuderia Ferrari raced those cars!

monza car

Pedro drives, Leo and the boys ride

Back to Monza 1970. The other ‘works’ Porsches were well back- the JW 917K of Jo Siffert and Brian Redman finished 12th, the Porsche Salzburg 917K’s of Vic Elford/Kurt Ahrens DNF with puncture damage after 92 laps and the 1970 Le Mans winning combo of Hans Hermann and Richard Attwood were out with engine failure on lap 63.

Still there was strength in numbers, Pedro and Leo were there at the end, in front…

Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmich

Tailpiece: Tifosi @ Monza, not as many as if a 512S won…

monza

(Schlegelmilch)

 

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‘yer don’t tend to think of Rodriguez as a Can-Am driver but he contested many races over the years without ever doing a full season’s program. A pity, as his fearless, blinding speed aboard big hairy V8’s would have been worth travelling a mile or three to see…

Here Pedro is with the 7.4 litre BRM P154 Chev during the Monterey Grand Prix weekend at Laguna Seca on 18 October 1970.

BRM built the P154 Chev to contest the 1970 Can-Am with George Eaton as its driver, the car was one of two brand new cars by Bourne’s just joined designer, Tony Southgate.

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The immensely talented BRM Chief Engineer, team manager and designer Tony Rudd fettling his nemesis, the complicated, heavy and recalcitrant! BRM P83 ‘H16’, Monza, Italian GP practice in 1966 (GP Library)

BRM had two terrible years by their lofty standards in 1968 and into 1969. The BRM H16 engine was finally made reliable-ish in 1967 but it’s corpulence, it was well over 300 pounds in excess of it’s designed weight made the cars power to weight ratio poor whatever the chassis designers did to take weight out of the rest of the bolide.

The replacement P101 2 valve 3 litre V12, first raced by Bruce McLaren in his McLaren M5B at the Canadian GP  in late 1967 was concepted as a sports car engine. Whilst light it wasn’t a match for the Ford Cosworth DFV’s power, torque, fuel efficiency or reliability, the same problems being confronted by Ferrari and Matra with their own V12’s.  Into 1968 the DFV was being raced in numbers; by Lotus, McLaren, and Ken Tyrrell’s Matra International team.

As the Bourne engineers focussed on engines they lost their way with chassis direction, a strength prior to this. As a consequence Tony Rudd, who had masterminded BRM’s rise and consistency for over a decade left in mid-1969 to join Colin Chapman at Lotus.

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British GP practice, Silverstone 1969 with Surtees telling the boss just how shite things really are! Sir Alfred Owen, the immensely successful industrialist listens carefully and acts, with ‘generational change’ at Bourne. Allan Challis is the BRM mech in orange (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

’69 BRM driver, John Surtees was having a shocker of a season on both sides of the Atlantic, Jim Hall’s conceptually brilliant but flawed Chaparral 2H CanAm car was an even bigger ‘sheissen-box’ than his BRM F1 P139 BRM. Time was ticking in terms of his own driving career, he was 35 and had managed to land in the wrong team at the wrong time, twice in the same year when time was very much a precious commodity!

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Surtees in the BRM P138 in Monaco 1969 practice. The cars all raced raced sans wings due to a CSI  overnight safety decree severely limiting them. Surtees Q6 and DNF after Jack Brabham ran up his clacker when his gearbox failed, no injury to either driver (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

With BRM owner Sir Alfred Owen’s consent Surtees approached Tony Southgate, with whom he had worked at Lola on the T70 Can Am and T100 F2 cars and more recently designed competitive cars for Dan Gurneys ‘All American Racers’ in Santa Anna, California.

Southgate’s Eagle 210 Offy won the 500 in Bobby Unsers hands in 1968, he also designed a successful Formula A car and a stillborn ’68 F1 car design, elements of which were picked up in the Indy and ‘A Car’.

eaton monaco

George Eaton at Monaco in 1970 in Tony Southgate’s brand new, BRG BRM P153 V12. Compare the ‘old and new’ P138 Monaco ’69 with P153 Monaco ’70  (The GP Library)

Southgate’s brief when he joined BRM was twofold; ‘do what you can now to get the P139 competitive and design a new car for 1970’…

The Brit quickly decided their was little he could do with the P139 so pressed on with the design of the P153, it and the evolved for ’71 P160 were front running, GP winning (4 wins) cars.

Whilst in the middle of the P153 design the chaotic BRM ‘decision making process’ determined that a Can Am challenger for 1970 was a good idea. It was a good earn after all. In a way it was a good decision as Southgate had Can Am experience at Lola and AAR but at the time focus on the ‘main F1 game’ would have been the more prudent course, but racers to the core the BRM outfit were!

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Tony Southgate’s quarter-scale layout drawing of the BRM P154 (Tony Southgate)

Given the designation P154, the car was very much a wedge-shaped device, developed at quarter scale in the Imperial College wind tunnel, then in MIRA’s full-size tunnel when it was completed.

Southgate recalled testing the car at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association test facility); ‘MIRA has a large test track, with high banked corners to enable high average speeds to be maintained…the one and only Jaguar XJ13 was there for a filming run…an hour or two later whilst in the wind tunnel we heard a load bang. The XJ13 crashed violently at 125mph when a rear wheel collapsed, it rolled four times, I’m glad to say Norman Dewis, Jag’s legendary test driver was only bruised’.

‘By comparison with the 1965 prototype Le Mans car, certainly pretty but what then seemed like old technology, basically it looked like an E Type with an engine in the middle, very round in section with low drag the clear priority. By comparison the P154 was very aggressive looking, wedge-shaped with square sections and downforce was written all over it.’

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‘The P154 model in the Imperial College wind tunnel. There was no moving floor in those days so the wheels were fixed with a small 1mm gap between them and the floor. The model was covered in chalk and paraffin so that when it dried the chalk left a surface air flow pattern for studying.’ (Tony Southgate)

The P154 had a neat lightweight monocoque chassis, the front suspension was similar to the P153 with a single upper link, lower wishbones, coil spring/Koni shocks and an adjustable roll bar. But the rear suspension was quite different as Southgate sought to run the exhaust low down, locating the exhaust primaries below the rear suspension lower wishbones, the aim was to lower the CG. ‘The end result looked good’. The suspension itself was conventional, single upper link, lower wishbones, twin radius rods for forward and lateral location and coil spring/Koni shocks and adjustable roll bar.

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‘The prototype BRM P154/01 being assembled at Bourne. I am showing (TS left) the Castrol USA representative (sponsor) around whilst Tim Parnell (team manager at right) looks on. The monocoque was quite neat and full-length, finishing at the gearbox. The engine is a Chevy developed by BRM, the gearbox a Hewland LG500.’ (Tony Southgate)

Designed for super wide 19inch wide Firestones which never appeared, the car always looked ‘over bodied’ with the 17’s the car raced with. This contributed to the handling dramas attributed to the beast.

The engine was built in-house at BRM and seemed competitive; Chev ZL1 aluminium blocked 7.4 litre, Lucas injected, magneto ignited, dry sump V8 developing circa 650 BHP. The gearbox was one of Mike Hewland’s LG500’s.

The car had little testing, ‘it was thrown together and sent to America for the mechanics to sort out on the hoof” Southgate quipped in a MotorSport interview. The poor unfortunates sent to the US with the car were Roger Bailey and Mike Underwood!

The car sorely needed testing as BRM’s first Can Am machine and the cars driver, Canadian George Eaton didn’t have the experience of big sports cars of both other 1970 BRM F1 drivers, Pedro Rodriguez and Jackie Oliver. ‘It was a low budget operation and the results reflected that. For me, it was a distraction at the time from the real thing-Formula One’ said Southgate.

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‘The completed P154 outside the Bourne workshop in 1970. Note the paintwork was not complete when this photo was taken. In this shot you can see the undersized tyres front and rear, which proved a problem on the circuit (Tony Southgate)

Racing the P154: George Eaton 1970…

eaton brm

George Eaton with the BRM P154 Chev, 11 June 1970 (Dick Darrell)

Eaton was far from devoid of ‘Big Car’ experience, however.

He raced a McLaren M10A Chev Formula A, 5 litre chassis successfully in North America in 1969 and had raced customer McLarens in the Can Am since 1967.

He was a very strong performer in his beautifully prepared McLaren M12 Chev in the 1969 Can Am consistently qualifying in the top 6 in a field with great depth of talent. His best results were in Texas 2nd, Edmonton 3rd, Watkins Glen 4th and Mid Ohio 6th. He was a bright young spark in these, big, demanding cars.

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‘An early race for the P154, George Eaton, Eatons distant 3rd at St Jovite Canada being a rare highlight’ (Tony Southgate)

So George knew what a good, sorted McLaren was all about and how to drive it figuring a bespoke BRM works car would be a very good thing. Which it was not! The lack of development miles told in the early part of the season.

He qualified 7th at Mosport and 3rd at St Jovite for a DNF with oil and transmission problems and a strong 3rd place. At Watkins Glen he had brake failure, Edmonton a wheel bearing failure and at Mid Ohio fuel pressure problems having qualified 13th, 6th and 25th. At Road Atlanta an engine blew having qualified 5th.

Pedro Rodriguez joined the series from Donnybrooke in September where he was 9th, ‘it didn’t go well in Eaton’s hands so we put Pedro in a car’ was Southgate’s quip, it rather implied the problem was George, which it was not.  The Mexican finished 5th at Laguna and 3rd at Riverside but was out qualified at each round by George. Frustrating for Eaton was Pedro’s results given the hard yards he had put in. He had rocker failure at Donnybrooke and crashes at both Laguna and Riverside, in the latter event a practice shunt which prevented him taking the start.

No way did Eaton have Pedro’s speed in a GP BRM but he was certainly mighty quick in a Can Am car. Southgate ‘Pedro wasn’t a technical driver , he’d just get in and drive his heart out’, clearly Eaton was quick, Pedro was Top 5 in the world at the time, Top 7 anyway! One rather suspects the P154 needed testing miles with a development driver to both stress componentry, the role Eaton played in races early in the season and to re-engineer or tweak the package to make it behave. Southgate says the suspension geometry, designed for 19inch wide tyres didn’t work well with 17’s.

Best results for the P154 in a season dominated again by the papaya McLarens, the M8D in 1970, were George’s qualifying performances at Road Atlanta and Donnybrooke, his 3rd place at St Jovite, Pedro’s 3rd at Riverside and 5th at Laguna.

In essence Eaton did a very good job with an under-developed, evil handling car, one of the best in the world also struggled with it…

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Eaton P154/01 Chev, Laguna Seca (The Enthusiast Network)

Development of the P154: Pedro raced the car later in the season and afterwards ‘came to see me in my office in Bourne to talk about the experience and told me in its present form the car was horrible to drive’ said Southgate.

‘I had great admiration for Pedro, so I knew it must be really bad. I was very embarrassed and immediately set about re-engineering it and fixing all the problems. The revised car, the P167 went on to be very good in 1971 but it was still a low budget operation’.

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This is an interesting drawing of mine because it shows the wind tunnel development shapes that were produced to arrive at the distinctive ‘shovel’ nose on both the P154 and P167. The heavy line indicates the final shape.’ (Tony Southgate)

Modifications to make the car competitive comprised a large rear wing, widening the front and rear tracks to get the outsides of the wheels out to the most extreme width which the proposed for 1970 19 inch wheels were supposed to achieve. The front to rear balance was achieved with a shovel-type concave nose section. ‘It was the same design theory I arrived at in the wind-tunnel for the nose of the P160 ’71 F1 car.’

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The 1971 BRM P167 was a P154 extensively modified.’…A new shovel nose section was added, new rear bodywork created and a rear wing fitted. The tracks, front and rear were widened.’ (Tony Southgate)

In fact when Howden Ganley, the talented Kiwi mechanic, engineer, racer and test driver drove the 1971 evolved car, the ‘P167’ at Goodwood the nose ‘grounded’ under brakes as so much downforce was being created. The fix was making the nose mounts more rigid.

Said Tony, ‘This was my first experience of very large aerodynamic loads deflecting the structure. The phenomenon was the visual interpretation to my understanding the sheer power of aerodynamics which could be produced on a modern car’.

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‘The BRM developed Chevy V8 performed well and was quite reliable, the trouble was we had no spare available. The car ran without bodywork between the wheels as shown here.’ 1971 P167 (Tony Southgate)

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‘The rear view of the P167 shows the exhaust system, which was unusual for a US V8 engined car. I liked it because of the lower CofG’ Note the rear suspension; single upper links, lower wishbones, coil spring/Koni alloy body dampers and roll bar. Inboard discs, LG500 Hewland ‘box with oil cooler above and magneto above it again. Note ‘stays’ to locate ‘mudguards’ above lower wishbones and monster wing compared with wingless P154 (Tony Southgate)

In a very limited Group 7 program by BRM in 1971 Pedro first raced the P167 in the European Interserie at Zolder in June, for Q7 and a DNF with a cylinder liner problem. He missed the next couple of rounds and then came the fateful Norisring round at which he lost his life, more of that below.

In September Brian Redman drove the P167 to a win at Imola and then in early October at Hockenheim against good fields, not Can Am quality mind you. The car was entered by Sid Taylor Racing, that year also running Brian in European F5000 events in a McLaren M18 Chev.

Buoyed by those results the Bourne hierarchy shipped the car to North America to contest the last two Can Am rounds in California. The car was raced again by Sid Taylor with his team providing the support. Jerry Entin and engine man George Bolthoff were with the team at both US races.

At Laguna Seca, Brian was Q6 and a strong 4th, and Howden Ganley raced the car at Riverside, Redman stayed in Europe to attend Jo Siffert’s funeral. The poor Swiss perished at the wheel of a BRM P160 at the end of season, 24 October, Brands Hatch ‘Victory Race’ after a tyre failure, the tyre moved on the rim and suddenly deflated, causing him to veer off the track and roll in the dip before Hawthorn Bend. He was almost uninjured but perished in a horrible fire. The plucky Swiss started the race from ‘equal pole’ with Peter Gethin, it demonstrated his competitiveness right to the very end of his career.

The talented Kiwi, Ganley a BRM F1 driver that season qualified 9th and finished 3rd behind the dominant McLaren M8F’s in the P167.

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Howden Ganley at The Times Grand Prix, Riverside, P167/01 in 1971 definitive form, 4th (The Enthusiast Network)

‘Alcan Team BRM’ ran the car as a works entry in the 1972 Interserie with Ganley scoring wins at the Nurburgring and Zeltweg amongst a swag of DNF’s for the P167. Mike Pilbeam engineered the car with Reg Richardson, principally an engine man, the cars mechanic. Once the Porsche 917/10 appeared in Europe the going got much tougher for the V8 brigade, Leo Kinnunen took the title, Porsche mounted in ’72.

In an unfortunate and bizarre sequence of events the P167 led to Pedro’s death, Southgate again; ‘During 1971 when the P167 was showing promise, Pedro decided he wanted to race it in Europe. So the car was entered for the big Interserie race on the Norisring street circuit in Nuremberg’

‘Part of the preparation was to re-run the engine on the Bourne dyno, hoping to find a few more horsepower. Tragically, as it transpired, the engine was damaged and we had no spare so we cancelled our entry’.

Pedro ‘phoned me that evening to see how the cars preparation was going, only to be told as far as we were concerned the race was off. I told him I was sorry for letting him down. ‘Never mind he said, I have been offered a drive in a Ferrari (512M) for good money-£1500′. I wished him luck in the race. Little did I know this would be the last time that I ever spoke to Pedro. He was killed driving that Ferrari’.

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Pedro and P167/01 in still evolving aero form, first race, Zolder, June 1971 (unattributed)

Tony Southgate has very fond memories of the great Mexican; ‘Pedro was extremely popular with everyone and I admired him both as a person and driver. He was a charismatic character with a particular aura about him, always appearing immaculate to the outside world, sleeking back his hair and wiping his brow after driving before he would talk to anyone. Actually he was a very private and quiet man…He never was a balls out qualifier; he preferred to save his efforts for the race. When his grid position was not as near the front as we would have liked, he would tell us that he would simply overtake a few cars on the first lap, which he often did. He was easy to work with, not a technical driver, but naturally talented and brave. Very brave…’

Bibliography…

‘Tony Southgate: From Drawing Board to Chequered Flag’ Tony Southgate, MotorSport interview by Simon Taylor, Jerry Entin on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, classiccars.com

Credits…

The Enthusiast Network, Southgate biography as above, Getty Images

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Pedro, P154/02 1970, Can Am circuit unknown (unattributed)

Build Numbers…

British racer and former twice national hillclimb champion David Hepworth bought all of the chassis’, patterns, drawings and moulds when BRM dropped the Can Am program, his best Interserie result was 5th at Silverstone in 1972.

It appears there were 5 chassis built: the two P154’s raced by Eaton and Rodriguez in 1970- P154/01 and P154/02. P154/02 was reduced, it’s parts donated to the P167 program, in recent years the car has been rebuilt/reassembled.

There was one P154/167 and two P167’s. The P154/167 ‘bastard car’ combined the P154 short wheelbase with P167 suspension geometry- this car does not appear to have been raced upon perusal of published records.

Rodriguez, Redman and Ganley raced the definitive P167/01 in 1971 in both the Interserie and Can Am.

Ganley raced P167/01 in the 1972 Interserie, Vern Schuppan practiced the same chassis but did not race it at the Nurburgring after engine failure in practice. Hepworth raced P154/01 in 1972 and in the 1973 Interserie, P167/01.

P167/02 was assembled later from spares acquired in the ‘job lot’ acquisition of cars and parts from BRM in 1972- it appears, entered for Hepworth, at the Nurburgring Interserie in 1974.

For many years the Hepworth family owned four of the five cars. I’m not sure of the present status of said racers but wouldn’t P167/01 be a nice thing to have?- ex-Rodriguez, Redman, Ganley, Schuppan and Hepworth…

Tailpiece: Racers Racer…

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Pedro, Laguna Seca and P154/02 1970 (The Enthusiast Network)

 

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Brian Redman looking pretty relaxed  prior to the start of the Monza 1000 Km on 25 April 1972…

It was a happy weekend (and year) for Ferrari, the Ickx/ Regazzoni 312PB won from the Jost/Schuler Porsche 908/3 with the sister SEFAC Fazz of the two great mates Petersen/Schenken third. Brian’s car was out on lap 32, the car was co-driven by Arturo Merzario.

Redman had a good year though, he won at Spa, a supreme test of high speed finesse, with ‘Little Art’ and at the Zeltweg 1000 Km paired with Ickx. Merzario took another win as well, Targa a big challenge, this time of speed and accuracy on the unforgiving, difficult to learn ‘Little Madonie’, in the singleton Ferrari entry he shared with rally ace Sandro Munari.

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Ickx, Peterson and Redman lead away, Ferrari 312PB’s, gloomy Monza 1000Km 1972 (unattributed)

The only race of significance they didn’t win, didn’t enter for that matter was the one which mattered most, Le Mans. Ferrari chose not to enter due to the difficulty the team had in making its 3 litre F1 adapted flat-12 last 24 hours, a problem Matra didn’t have with its far less successful in F1, V12! Graham Hill and Henri Pescarolo won Le Mans in a Matra MS670, Matra breaking through for a long awaited French win at Le Mans. The fact that arch rivals Ferrari were absent made the win no less satisfying…

Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch

Tailpiece…

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That Brian Redman had replaced Peter Revson for the Monaco ’72 weekend didn’t seem to make much difference to the presence of the fairer sex in the McLaren Team’s pit…

Revvie was contesting the Indy 500, Redman did a great job in the unfamiliar M19A Ford qualifying it 10th and finishing 5th, Jean-Pierre Beltoise took the win in his BRM in streaming wet conditions.

Revson’s Indy started well, he qualified 2nd but only lasted 23 laps before gearbox failure, Mark Donohue won in Roger Penske’s McLaren M16B Offy, so not an altogether bad weekend for McLaren.

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Redman during dry practice on Saturday. McLaren M19A Ford, rising rate suspension front linkages clear (Brian Watson)

Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, Brian Watson

Tailpiece: ‘I could get used to this F1 caper?!’ In fact its not what BR wanted at all…

redman quay

 

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Jackie Oliver’s Shadow DN6 Chev on its way to 2nd place, Road America, 27 July 1975. (Richard Dening Jr)

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Exactly 12 months later Oliver goes one better in the Dodge engined DN6B, winning the Road America race on July 25 1976. (Richard Dening Jr)

Jackie Oliver takes an historic win in his Shadow DN6B Dodge at Road America on 25 July 1976…

Chev engines won every championship F5000 race in the US from Riverside on 25 April 1971 when Frank Matich took a Repco Holden win in his McLaren M10B through until Oliver’s long overdue Shadow victory, the Lola T332 Chevs of Al Unser and Vern Schuppan were second and third.

Whilst the Dodge was more powerful than a Chev it was also heavier making the packaging of the car and its big cast iron V8 a challenge for designer Tony Southgate.

The Lola T332 was their 1974 production F5000 but was continually developed, the subsequent Lola T400 and T430 not quicker cars, a good 332 was as quick as an F1 car on the common circuits upon which both categories raced in North America. ‘Twas a remarkably good, very fast racing car the Shadow was competing against driven by the likes of Brian Redman, Mario Andretti, Alan Jones, Al Unser and others…

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Shadow DN6 Chev. Car based on Tony Southgate’s very quick DN5 1975 F1 contender. Aluminium monocoque chassis. Front suspension lower wishbone and top rocker actuating inboard mounted coil spring/damper. Rear single top link, lower twin parallel links, two radius rods and coil spring/dampers. Adjustable roll bars front and rear. 5 litre cast iron OHV Chev here, Dodge V8 from the Road Atlanta round in August 1975 , Hewlands TL200 gearbox, developed as an endurance racing tranny used rather than the F5000 standard, the ‘brittle’ DG300. Road America July 1975. (Richard Dening Jr)

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5 litre cast iron, mechanical fuel injected, OHV Chev V8 engine developed circa 530bhp@7800rpm. Rocker covers removed here for Road America July 1975 prep, one rocker missing. Magneto, its yellow ignition leads and fuel metering unit all visible. (Richard Dening Jr)

The Shadow DN6 was based on Tony Southgate’s very competitive DN5 F1 design and was first raced in 1975 powered by the ubiquitous Chev V8. Oliver took 4th place in the championship won by Redman’s T332, the car raced well at both Watkins Glen and Road America.

Gordon Kirby in his 1975 season review in Automobile Year said; ‘Almost immediately the Shadow proved to be competitive and in the last part of the season (the last 4 races) it became even more of a threat when after a long development program the team switched to Dodge engines, based on the same powerplant used in NASCAR by Richard Petty’. (in 1975 the Grand National Stockers were compelled by a carburetion ruling to use 355 cubic inch or 5.8 litre engines). The Dodge developed some 30 bhp more than the Chevys’ but was much heavier. The Shadows were not completely tuned and set up and did not win a single race. The whole of the 9 races were taken by the Lola Chevrolets.’

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Jean-Pierre Jarier lines up on the Watkins Glen grid with Brian Redman 13 July 1975. Shadow DN6 Chev and Lola T332 Chev. JPJ DNF with a broken oil line, Brian was 1st, Oliver in the other Shadow also DNF with a blown Chevy. (Gary Gudinkas)

F1 drivers Jean Pierre Jarier, Tom Pryce and Jody Scheckter each raced a second car in three rounds at Watkins Glen, Long Beach and Riverside respectively.

All three qualified in the top 5 but retired with mechanical maladies.

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Business end of the Shadow DN6 Chev. Engine magneto and fuel metering unit, Hewland TL200 gearbox to which the wing is mounted, neat duct for inboard disc and additional oil cooler all visible. Road America July 1975. (Richard Dening Jr)

1976 Season…

The following Shadow press release written by Rob Buller prior to the Mosport round, the second of the 1976 season, reproduced on the My Formula 5000 website outlines changes to the car and program over the 1975/6Winter.

Development work on the DN6 5000 car has continued over the winter under the direction of Chief Mechanic Ed Stone and Engine builder Lee Muir.

Stone joined the 5000 effort late in 1975 and immediately set about making chassis and suspension changes.’Basically the 1975 season progressed with little development, there wasn’t much time.’ Stone said in a recent telephone interview, ‘I was asked to make some suspension changes and the car was more competitive at the last 1975 race at Riverside with Jody Scheckter driving.

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Oliver in the Road America pitlane, July 1976. Shadow DN6B Dodge. (Richard Dening Jr)

‘But the heart of the Shadow development is the new Chrysler power-plant, a joint venture between Shadow and Chrysler’s Plymouth Division. The engine starts life as a 340 cu. in. stock block that is down-stroked to 305 cu. inches. It is fitted with the same injection system that is used on Richard Petty’s NASCAR Dodge.

Chrysler, which is heavily involved in NASCAR and Drag Racing, is new to F5000 racing, a class that has been dominated by the rugged Chevrolet 5 litre engine. As a part of their new kit-car package now under development, Chrysler has contracted with Shadow to do the engine development and sorting.

They supply the engine components to Shadow engine expert Lee Muir, who then hand builds and dyno tests each engine. Chrysler also helps with technical information and advice to Muir, who came to Shadow from McLaren’s engine department.

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Race debut of the Dodge engined Shadow DN6 chassis ‘2A’ at Road Atlanta 31 August 1975. Oliver 4 th, race won by Al Unser’s Lola T332 Chev. Specs; Dodge 340cid V8 taken back to 305cid by reducing the engines stroke. 5 litre cast iron, OHV, mechanical fuel injected V8. Bore/stroke 4.04 inches/2.96 inches, power circa 550bhp@7800rpm. Hewland TL200 ‘box. (unattributed)

‘The first outing in 1976 for the Shadow Dodge DN6 was at Pocono, Pennsylvania for the Series opener. Although they weren’t quite ready for the Pocono race, they were very encouraged with the results. Oliver was lying third in his qualifying heat when a connecting rod developed terminal stretch. As they only had one dyno’d engine a spare practice unit was installed for the feature. However, a fuel pump seal split on the grid and  it took 5 laps to change. By the time he joined the fray Oliver was hopelessly behind but by charging hard he was able to run with the leaders.

With that encouraging performance Stone and Muir returned to Phoenix Racing headquarters in Chicago and started preparation of the Shadow for the Mosport race. Further chassis mods have been made utilizing new springs, roll bars and revised suspension settings. To help weight distribution, the water rads have been moved forward a la McLaren Indy car. Muir will have three completely dyno’d engines ready for Mosport’.

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‘Sponsorship for the F5000 effort is a problem for Shadow. Since the departure of UOP, Nichols has been unable to get the full 5000 program underwritten. Various sponsors are now supporting the Formula One effort on a per race basis while only Goodyear, Valvoline and, of course, Chrysler are behind the 5000 effort. Thus Shadow must watch their budget closely and this, the team feels, will restrict the amount of development they can attempt. Nonetheless the 5000 effort has Don Nichols full support and he won’t field cars unless he can be competitive. And with the driver, new engine and chassis changes he plans to be competitive’.

Oliver lead at Mosport but was held up by a backmarker, Alan Jones snaffling the win, inevitably in a Lola T332 Chev.

Three weeks later he lead at Watkins Glen but a cracked sump ended his race, the Shadow finally won at Road America, Elkhart lake, Wisconsin. It was a good win as Ollie had to overcome diff and flat tyre problems in his heat which meant he started 14th on the grid of the final.

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Oliver on the way to victory, Road America July 1976. Shadow DN6B Dodge. Behind is Al Unser’s 2nd placed Lola T332 Chev. (Richard Dening Jr)

After 16 laps he was 3rd, within 3 laps he was past the Lolas of Al Unser and Brian Redman and took a strong win for the team.

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Oliver took 2nd place at Mid Ohio on 8 August 1976, Shadow DN6B Dodge. 1976 champ Brian Redman won in a Lola T332C Chev. (Richard Dening Jr)

Two second places at Mid Ohio and Watkins Glen secured third place in the championship again won by Redman’s Haas/Hall Lola T332.

With the demise of F5000 in the US at the end of 1976 and its evolution into 5 litre central seat Can Am from 1977 the Shadow’s raced on into 1977 and 1978 but without success, Lola’s T332/T333 the dominant cars in the early years of the class.

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Jack Oliver ready to go Road America 1975. CanAm Champ for Shadow in 1974. (Richard Dening Jr)

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Road America pitlane on a beautiful July 1975, Wisconsin day. Redmans Lola T332 at front. (Richard Dening Jr)

Etcetera…

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Comparison of the specs of the F1 Shadow DN5/7 and F5000 DN6 from the 1975 Long Beach GP race program. (Fred Bernius)

Tailpiece…

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Jackie Oliver Fan Club President? Road America July 1975. (Richard Dening Jr)

Photo and other Credits…Richard Dening Jr, Gary Gudinkas, Fred Bernius, My Formula 5000 website,   http://www.myf5000.com/index.html, Peter Brennan and Glenn Snyder for research assistance

Other F5000 Articles…

Elfin MR8 Chev & James Hunt.

https://primotipo.com/2014/10/15/james-hunt-rose-city-10000-winton-raceway-australia1978-elfin-mr8-chev/

Frank Matich and his F5000 cars.

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

Finito…

Le Mans start 1969

#14 Stommelen/Ahrens Porsche 917LH, #20 Siffert/Redman Porsche 908/2, #22 Lins/Kauhsen Porsche 908LH, #23 Schutz/Mitter Porsche 908LH, #2 Bonnier/Gregory LolaT70 Mk3b Chev, #7Hobbs/Hailwood Ford GT40…and the rest (unattributed)

Spectacular start of the tragic Le Mans 24 Hour Race, June 1969, the last with the traditonal driver sprint to the cars…

The Porsche 917 was a tricky, somewhat under-developed beast in its original specification even for experienced professionals. British privateer John Woolfe lost control of his on the very first lap of the race perishing in the subsequent accident.

Despite that, a 917 took pole and led the race for twenty hours, maybe it has been somewhat maligned in its formative year?

917 homologation CSI

Groups 4, 6 and the regulator…

By 1967 the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) were concerned about the growing speeds of the unlimited ‘pushrod production’ 7 litre Ford GT Mk4 and Chaparral 2F Chev and the 4 litre ‘racing engine’ Ferrari P4 and therefore banned them- it did so by increasing the required number of cars to be built and lowered the engine capacity limits for homologation or admission of cars into both classes.

For 1969 there were no minimum production numbers to qualify in Group 6 ‘3 litre Prototypes’ and a minimum of twenty-five cars to be built for homologation into Group 4 ‘5 litre Sports Cars’.

Effectively the changes in 1968 allowed the existing Mark 1 Ford GT40 and Lola T70 Mk3B cars to remain eligible to keep grid sizes up in Group 4, but with the hope or intent that 3 litre prototypes would be built in large numbers to bolster Group 6, Formula 1 having the same capacity limit at the time.

Porsche would not have had the 908 ready to race in 1968 had they not anticipated the rule changes for 1968 which were announced late by the CSI- in October 1967. Fifty cars were required to be built to qualify for Group 4 in 1968, but that was reduced, as stated above, to twenty-five for 1969, which rather left the door ajar for Porsche…

The FIA, as the governing body then was, had another crack at rewriting the rules to encourage 3 litre prototypes with effect 1 January 1972, given the speed of the 5 litre or thereabouts Porsche 917 and 5 litre Ferrari 512S in 1970 and 1971 but that is another story- lets not get ahead of ourselves.

Porsche had come close to Le Mans victory with their 3 litre 908LH ‘class cars’ in 1968 and wanted to go one better, to win outright, to do so they audaciously and at great cost built twenty-five 4.5 litre air-cooled Flat 12 engined cars- the 917 in 1969.

With the gauntlet thrown down, Enzo Ferrari, his coffers full of Fiat money having sold his road car division to them in 1969, built twenty-five 5 litre V12 512S’ to go head to head with Porsche in perhaps the two best years of sports car racing ever in 1970 and 1971.

917 at Geneva Show

917 homologation

(Porsche AG)

On 12 March 1969 a 917 was displayed at the Geneva Motor show with a price tag of DM140,000 a fraction of the cars development costs- a couple of weeks later in late March Rolf Stommelen ran a 917 at the Le Mans test weekend, its quickest time was three seconds a lap quicker than the Group 6 Matra 630/650 V12 of Johnny Servoz-Gavin, but its seeming dominance was not assured as the thing wandered all over the road, somewhat alarming at over 200mph…

The cars above were displayed for inspection at the factory before CSI representatives on 22 April, Ferdinand Piech cheekily offered them the opportunity to drive any of the machines to prove they were complete and running, said offer was declined!

Twenty-five Porsche 917’s lined up at Zuffenhausen awaiting the CSI chassis count for homologation into Group 4, 22 April 1969. Imagine what a chill that image must have sent down the spine of Enzo Ferrari!

Lets have a look at the design, development and competition record of the 917 with a focus on 1969, the 908/02 also gets rather a good look-in given its dominance of the year with twelve months of intense competition under its belt.

Design…

917 brochure

Sales brochure for the 917, a snip at DM140,000 in 1969

Engineer Ferry Piech said that Porsche would not have built the 3 litre 908 had they known the CSI’s intent in relation to the 5 litre group.

At the time they built the 908- a Group 6 car, the minimum production number for homologation into Group 5 was fifty cars not twenty-five, so he can be somewhat forgiven for not being able to read the minds of the rule-makers, then as now unpredictable. The regime of rules was not about encouraging 5 litre cars with ‘racing’ as against ‘production’ based engines.

So Porsche surprised everyone- until then they had built class contenders rather than outright cars and even then it was not thought possible to build a 5 litre air-cooled engine, to that time a Porsche specialty- water cooled Porsches were not to appear for nearly a decade.

Work started on the design of the 917 in July 1968 with Ferdinand Piech entrusting Chief Engineer Hans Mezger with the task of leading the project. Porsche describe the choice of the ‘917’ type number as follows ‘The 912 engine designation comes from more recent Porsche race car nomenclature, whereby the number of cylinders in that particular car’s engine is also included ie. 904, 906, 908, however the vehicle as a whole with a 5-speed transmission, is given the 917 designation.’

Porsche were convinced they could build a car down to the class minimum weight limit of 800 Kg based on the 908 which was 300 pounds lighter than their Alfa, Matra and Ferrari 3 litre rivals. The aluminium spaceframe chassis of that car was a guide and shifting the cockpit and drivers seat forward ensured the 908 wheelbase of 2300mm was kept despite the 12 cylinder engine being considerably longer than its little brothers eight. 908 practice was also applied in that the fibreglass body was bonded to the chassis. A design maxim from the start was a car of exceptionally low drag, top speed is important on the Mulsanne with two bodies for ‘slow’ and ‘fast’ tracks always intended to be homologated.

 

917 engine cutaway

Cutaway shot by Vic Berris of the aircooled, flat-12, SOHC 2 valve, fuel injected engine. Capacities/power  1969 4494cc/580bhp@8400rpm, 1970 4907cc/600bhp@8400rpm, 1971 4998cc/630bhp@8300rpm. Torque 376, 415, and 425 lb ft respectively. More than enough to see off the 512S/M Ferraris’…cooling fan absorbed around 17bhp @ maximum revs, far less than that absorbed by a water radiator @ equivalent speeds (Vic Berris)

To speed up the development of the 917 engine the same reciprocating parts, bore, stroke, valve and port sizes of the 908 engine were used giving a capacity of 4494cc with a bore and stroke of 85 x 66mm. Porsche believed, initially at least, it wouldn’t be necessary to build a car to the full 5 litre limit to dominate.

All the fuel injection and valve timing settings were taken over from the 908 albeit the valve angle differed to allow cooling air passages between the valves- four valves per cylinder was never an option for this reason, apart from that, the flat-12 is an entirely different engine to the 3 litre flat-8.

A long crankshaft did not allow anything other than a central power take off to avoid catastrophic torsional vibrations. The long crank hence became effectively two shorter cranks joined together at their flywheels, which were just a gear in mesh with another on the output shaft running parallel to, and under the crankshaft, which ran on eight main bearings.

Gerhard Kuechle and Valentin Schaeffer assemble a 917 engine, note central power take-off gears on the crank in 1969 (Porsche AG)

 

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917 engine on the dyno in 1969 (GP Library)

The power output shaft drove the triple gear type oil pump with four additional small oil pumps driven by the exhaust camshafts. Another shaft running symmetrically with the crank drove the two distributors of the electronic ignition, the Bosch fuel injection pump being driven off the left hand exhaust camshaft.

The engine had few steel or iron parts- the crankcase, cam covers and timing gear case were magnesium. The heads and cylinders were aluminium with titanium used for conrods, auxiliary drive shafts, the main output shaft and later in the engines development, valves and valve springs. The cooling blower and most of the air ducts were plastic.

The 4.5 litre engine weighed 528lb in its original form and developed 542bhp on its first dyno run, this rose to 580bhp @ 8400rpm by the time the car arrived at Le Mans in 1969.

A new gearbox was built to take 376lb ft of torque- the case was magnesium, used Porsche synchromesh and had a wet sump incorporating a ZF ‘slippery diff’ with 75% locking factor.

917 engine cross section

Cross section of the incredibly complex 917 engine, each of which took 200 hours to assemble. Magnesium crankcase is split along its centreline, the power takeoff is by pinion between the two middle main bearings, eight main bearings in total. DOHC per bank, two valves per cylinder sodium filled and two plugs per cylinder. Not winning was not an option! (Porsche AG)

 

917 assembly

All hands on deck…homologation and timeline pressures created surely one of the most amazing production lines ever!? Werk 1, Zuffenhausen (Porsche AG)

The spaceframe chassis was of welded aluminium tube and largely that of the 908 but suitably reinforced. Note that later in the program three chassis’ were built of magnesium, the wheelbase was 90 inches and track in 1969 58.8 inches at the front and 60.4 inches at the rear.

As with all Porsche racing cars the frame had to withstand 600 miles of hard driving on the Weissach ‘Destruction Course’ but even so a tyre valve was incorporated into the 103lb frame to allow it to be ‘inflated’, a loss of pressure indicative of chassis cracks- sub-optimal in a car of this performance!

Again, magnesium, aluminium and titanium parts were widely used for the running gear- titanium for spherical joints, hubs, springs, the gear lever and steering column. Magnesium was used for the uprights and wheels and aluminium for the steering rack, this obsessive approach to weight saving ensured the car tipped the scales at less than 800kg.

917 spaceframe

Porsches’ obsession with weight extended to the chassis which was welded aluminium tube. Total weight 103lbs. The one on the right is unfinished. Strong and light…both 917 and 512S Ferrari were spaceframe chassis’, hardly state of the art in 1969/70 but effective all the same. Porsche did not build an aluminium monocoque racing car till the 956 in 1983 (Porsche AG)

The suspension geometry was the same as the 908 but incorporated anti dive geometry, this was achieved by angling the upper and lower wishbone pivots to each other. Wishbones were used at the front with coil spring/damper units and an adjustable sway bar. At the rear a single top link and lower inverted wishbone was used, radius rods provided fore and aft location and again coil spring/damper units were used and an adjustable sway bar- Bilstein provided the shock absorbers.

Initially 9×15 inch front, and 12×15 inch rear, magnesium alloy wheels were used, with a single centre aluminium lock nut- the same as the 908, inside these big wheels the brake package in 1969 comprised ATE aluminium calipers clamping cast iron, ventilated rotors/discs.

Once ready to test, the suspension was largely set up at the Nurburgring- long suspension travel, plenty of camber change and tyres of a rounded tread section were necessary for performance there. This did not translate well at other circuits where the car was ‘under-tyred’ and the geometry thought unsuitable as well- more of this later in the article.

917 rear suspension drawing

Factory rear suspension drawing- upper top link, inverted lower wishbone and progressive rate coil spring/damper unit. Titanium driveshafts with ‘rubber donut’. Magnesium uprights with titanium hubs, ATE aluminium brake calipers clamped ventilated iron discs. Wheels in mag alloy with aluminium lock nut (Porsche AG)

The bodies were developed in the wind tunnel…

The 917 body was developed in the Porsche Design Department, a plasticine model was created at 1:5 scale and shortly thereafter a 1:1 model which was used for wind-tunnel testing at the Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines at the University of Stuttgart. Additional support for testing the aerodynamic development was provided by Charles Deutsch’s Pars based Societe d’etudes et de Realisations Automobiles (SERA), although this was later in the program, not at its outset in 1968.

Both short and long tails were interchangeable, fitted with the latter 236mph on the Mulsanne Straight was achieved in 1969- the bodies were fibreglass, bonded to the chassis, as already outlined and incorporated two seats and doors in accordance with the regulations.

Stability of the cars was critical, front spoilers were fitted and an ingenious setup of mobile rear flaps connected to the rear suspension in such a way that if the suspension was compressed the flaps would create an aerodynamic force to raise the tail whilst if the suspension was extended, the flaps would angle up to push the tail down.

In 1969 these appendages caused major dramas- only two weeks before Le Mans, during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, the FIA banned ‘moveable aerodynamic devices’ on all racing cars, a consequence of the many wing failures in F1 throughout 1968 and into early 1969- the ‘straw which broke the camels back’ was the breakage of Colin Chapman’s fragile high wings fitted to the Jochen Rindt/Graham Hill Lotus 49 Fords and consequent accidents a lap apart during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend at Montjuich Park- Jochen was lucky to survive that one.

As the 917 was almost undriveable without the flaps with which it was designed and homologated, the cars were allowed to race at Le Mans but the devices had to removed thereafter. Twenty-five sets had been made to comply with homologation requirements but only two or three were used!

917 Wing flaps

Porsche factory drawing showing how suspension deflections actuated the rear wing flaps, from full to no downforce. Movable aero devices banned by the FIA from the end of Le Mans ’69. Changes to bodywork design obviated the need for the flaps in both short and longtailed forms in 1970/71 (Porsche AG)

 

porsche 917 tail

’69 spec long and short tail comparisons (Porsche AG)

Construction…

From the outset Piech was determined to exhibit the 917 at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1969 to both maximise publicity and to use that timeline to ensure construction of sufficient machines to allow homologation before Le Mans- construction commenced in December 1968.

To meet the target Porsche created thirteen working groups into which 45 race mechanics were inserted to assemble the cars in the testing and race department at Werk 1 (Plant 1) in Zuffenhausen with 10 other mechanics taking cars of component pre-assembly.

Chassis construction was sub-contracted to Baur in Stuttgart and the fibreglass bodies to Waggonfabrik Rastatt. By this stage the first of Mezger’s engines had been tested and run.

917-001 after completion before loading for Geneva, outside Werk 1 Zuffenhausen (Porsche AG)

 

(Porsche AG)

With a little over two months to run the team were working around the clock to meet the deadline, with only a brief break for Christmas. Baur delivered the first chassis to Waggonfabrik Rastatt at the end of 1969, then, on 1 March 1969 the first chassis- 917-001 arrived at Zuffenhausen for final assembly, it was completed on 10 March 1969, the evening before its despatch to Geneva. At 3pm on 12 March the worlds motoring media gathered around the stunning new machine on the Geneva Show official press day.

Back at Werk 1 assembly continued, the 917 was accepted for technical inspection on 20 March but not all the cars were in running order so the CSI ordered a further inspection a month later ‘…the day finally arrived on 21 April 1969, the English FIA delegate, Dean Delamont, and the German ONS representative, Herbert Schmitz arrived at Werk 1 to examine the regulation compliant roadworthy units.’. The next day the Porsche Press Department declared that “The Porsche 917 is homologated as a sports car from 1 May 1969 and is expected to make its debut appearance at the 1000 kilometres of Spa-Francorchamps on 11 May”.

Porsche 917 homologation document dated 19 April 1969

Racing the 917…

The traditional Le Mans test weekend took place on 29/30 March 1969, there the 917 made its public circuit debut.

Proceedings were dominated by the gruesome death of Lucien Bianchi in the new Autodelta Group 6 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 3 litre V8 which crashed after a component failure befell the co-winner of the race the year before, going over the hump on the Mulsanne Straight.

Rolf Stommelen drove the car (below) and achieved a speed quicker then the 908LH, (LH is ‘Langheck’ or Long Tail), 3 minutes 30.7 seconds, over 3 seconds clear of Johnny Servoz-Gavin in a Group 6 Matra MS630/650. Whilst ‘on paper’ the car had potential the handling and levels of stability from the drivers seat were frightening.

917 Le Mans test weekend

(unattributed)

 

Le Mans test weekend 917 in Paddock

(unattributed)

Fettling the 917 at the Le Mans test weekend.

No amount of ‘at the track fixes’ would deal with the high speed instability the drivers were experiencing- body is fibre glass and bonded to the aluminium spaceframe chassis.

By that stage of the sportscar season the first two championship rounds in North America had been run and won in February and March- the Daytona 24 Hour was won by Roger Penske’s Lola T70 Mk3b Chev driven by Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons whilst the Sebring 12 Hour went to another 5 litre pushrod American V8- this time a JW Automotive Ford GT40 crewed by Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver- the season was wide open at this stage with Porsche still to get an outright win on the board.

The next two rounds at Brands Hatch in late April, and Targa in early May started to redress the balance though- both the Brands and Monza 1000km fell to the 908/02 combination of Jo Siffert and Brian Redman.

Gerhard Mitter and Udo Schutz won in Sicily, the Targa Florio on 4 May was a 908 rout- Vic Elford/Umberto Maglioli and Rolf Stommelen/Hans Hermann were second and third with another factory car of Willy Kauhsen/Von Wendt in fourth. ‘Porsche System Engineering Ltd’ entered six cars!, only the Lins/Larrousse and Attwood/Redman 908/02’s failed to finish. No 917’s were entered on a circuit totally unsuited to them.

Spa 1969 917

First race apperance for the 917, Spa 1969. Gerhard Mitter and Udo Schutz shared the car but an engine failure early in the race meant only Mitter got a race drive (unattributed)

After little testing, two 917’s, in addition to a ‘fleet’ of 908s were entered for the Spa 1000Km on 11 May.

Jo Siffert and Brian Redman practiced their 917 but Jo made the call to race a 908, the duo won the event from Pedro Rodriguez and David Piper in a Group 6 Ferrari 312P and Vic Elford/Kurt Ahrens third in another 908 with the Stommelen/Herrmann crew fourth.

Gerhard Mitter started his 917, having qualified it eighth but retired with engine failure on lap 1 having possibly over-revved the motor at the start- the 917’s continued to exhibit high speed instability, the very reason Siffert elected to race a 908LH. It was a good call from a championship perspective with another win on the board.

On the Spa grid- drivers immediately behind the 917? Kurt Ahrens in the anorak to the right aft of car (Porsche AG)

 

917 Spa 1969

(unattributed)

Gerhard Mitter wrestles his 917 around Spa’s La Source hairpin above, early aero with adjustable wings at the rear and no winglets up front- compare the front of the 917 at the Osterreichring in the photos to follow below. 1969 cars exhausts exited from both the rear and aft of the doors.

Porsche entered six cars at Monza- four Group 6 3 litre 908LHs for Elford/Ahrens, Stommelen/Herrmann, Siffert/Redman and Mitter-Schutz and two Group 4 4.5 litre 917’s for the last two named pairs who could make a choice between 908/917 as they/the team saw fit.

Frank Gardner 917 Nurburgring 1969

Frank Gardner and David Piper brought the 917 home for its first race finish at the Nurburgring 1000Km (unattributed)

For Porsche’s home event, the Nurburgring 1000Km on 1 June they hired two hardened sports car professionals in Frank Gardner and David Piper to ‘bring the thing home’- that they did in eighth place having wrestled the unruly beast, chassis 917-004, around 44 laps of the ‘Green Hell’ for six hours and twenty minutes.

Gardner was a noted test and development driver, Porsche were keen to get his views on the changes he considered necessary to make the car competitive. The race was won again by the Siffert/Redman combination in a 3 litre 908/02 ahead of four other 908’s- Herrmann/Stommelen, Ahrens/Elford, Rudy Lins/Attwood and Kauhsen/Karl von Wendt- what domination, the first five cars on the grid were all 908/02s.

image

Gardner/Piper 917 ahead of the Hobbs/Hailwood Mirage M2/300 BRM DNF and Ortner/van Lennep Abarth 2000SP NC (Schelgelmilch)

Le Mans 1969…

Other than more power- 580bhp, and with the anti-dive geometry of the suspension reduced from a factor of 50% to 5%, the 917 arrived at Le Mans as designed. Fortunately, as described above the cars were able to race with their adjustable rear wings, common-sense prevailed from a safety perspective.

At Le Mans Porsche famously, very narrowly lost the race by about 100 metres, the Hans Herrmann/Gerard Larrouse 908LH was just beaten by the Ford GT40 of the ‘two Jackys’- Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver, won in GT40 chassis ‘1075’ the same JW Automotive GT40 which was victorious the year before in the hands of Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi.

Le mans start 1969 Siffert in lead

’69 Le Mans start. Jo Siffert #20 908/2, Elford #12 917LH, Schutz 908LH, #7 Hobbs Ford GT40, #2 Bonnier Lola T70Mk3b Chev, #64 Hermann 908LH, #22 Lins 908LH…and the rest. (Porsche AG)

 

Elford retires 1969

The pole winning Stommelen/Ahrens 917LH retires on lap 148 with an oil leak, the car was hard driven, it was the teams ‘hare’ (unattributed)

Rolf Stommelen put his 917 on pole, outlining the cars potential but the car failed on lap 148 with an oil leak. Vic Elford qualified his second co-driven by Richard Attwood, the car led the race for twenty hours and did 327 laps- enough for ninth place but the car was not running at the finish having withdrawn with a cracked bellhousing.

Elford recalled ‘The engine was running like clockwork until that point. No problems whatsoever’ whilst Hans Mezger noted, upon returning from his lunch break at the time that ‘When I returned to the pit I could tell straight away that something wasn’t right.’

John Woolfe’s car was destroyed in his fatal lap 1 accident, the car having qualified ninth in the hands of factory driver Herbert Linge- car owner Woolfe started the race rather than the far better credentialled Linge.

elford 917 le mans 1969

Vic Elford in the car he qualified 2nd. He shared the car with Richard Attwood, they led the race for 20 hours, DNF after 327 laps with a cracked gearbox bellhousing (unattributed)

 

Le Mans finish 1969

Ickx wins from Hermann…the GT40 margin from the 908LH, 2 seconds after 24 hours of racing and despite losing 20 minutes in a long pitstop for the crew of the 908 to replace a front wheel bearing (unattributed)

The first 917 win, Osterreichring 1000Km 1969…

Porsche did not take a 917 to the 12 July Watkins Glen 6 Hour but were victorious again all the same, Siffert and Redman again won in a 908/02 from the Elford/Attwood and Jo Buzzetta/Rudy Lins Porsche Austria pairing- the non-Porsche class-winner was the screaming V12 Group 6 Matra MS650 raced by Pedro Rodriguez and Johnny Sevoz-Gavin to fourth.

‘More intensive testing and test drives were carried out before the last race of the year, the Austrian Grand Prix in Zeltweg…A scheme to improve driving stability is instigated by race engineer Peter Falk, is one of the first tests to be tested at the South Loop of the Nürburgring. Further tests are later conducted on the skid-pad in Weissach and at Hockenheim. Adjustments to the aluminium frame and modifications to the body are intended to enhance the characteristics of the 917’ Porsche wrote, confident in advance of the meeting.

Osterreichring start 1969

Starting grid Osterreichring 1000Km 1969. #29 Siffert/Ahrens winning 917, #33 Bonnier/Muller Lola T70 Mk3b Chev (2nd) #9Ickx/Oliver MirageM3 Ford (DNF). The 3rd placed Attwood/Redman 917 in white is behind Siffert. #42 Matra is Servoz-Gavin/Rodriguez (DNF) and the rest (unattributed)

The Seventh Austrian Grand Prix/Zeltweg 1000km/Austrian 1000km (take your pick) on the new 5.911km Osterreichring was the last round of the Manufacturers Championship in 1969 and is a fast track, circa 130 mph average and therefore well suited to the 917’s qualities.

And so it was that a 917 entered by Karl F von Wendt driven by Jo Siffert and Kurt Ahrens beat the Jo Bonnier/Herbie Muller Lola T70Mk3b Chev from the Richard Attwood and Brian Redman in the David Piper Racing Ltd 917K with Masten Gregory and Richard Brostrom fourth in the first of the 908/02s.

The Von Wendt/Piper 917 entries were made on the basis that both had options to buy the cars at a later date, Porsche having 25 of the things to sell, less those required for works use as you will recall…It wasn’t the strongest round of the year in terms of depth of entry but it was a win all the same!

Porsche 917 Spa Siffert 1969

(unattributed)

The Osterreichring winning Porsche 917K of Jo Siffert and Kurt Ahrens above.

Fitted with a 4.5 litre Flat-12 at this stage with the early rear aero treatment clear in this Shell promotional shot. In its first two races at Spa and the Nurburgring the car raced with a small fixed rear spoiler. Compare this photograph with the shot in ‘Etcetera’ below of the 1970 917K tail.

Jo Siffert (below) leads Jacky Ickx- the 4.5 litre Porsche 917 ahead of the 3 litre Mirage M3 Ford Cosworth DFV. JW Engineering, the entrant of the Mirage would be contracted by Porsche to race and develop the 917’s in 1970 and 1971, becoming the dominant team of that wonderful two year period…Le Mans excepted, where their luck did not hold!

Siffert and Ickx Austria 1969 1000km

(unattributed)

Race development, secret testing and the 917PA…

Jo Siffert Porsche 917PA Bridgehampton 1969

Jo Siffert Porsche 917PA, Bridgehampton Can-Am 1969. The race was won by Denny Hulme, McLaren M8B Chev, Jo finished third (unattributed)

Whilst a short tail 917K won the Austrian 1000Km race against weak opposition, other than at Le Mans the cars were still uncompetitive.

A critical test took place at Zeltweg which changed everything. Representatives of Porsche including experienced engineers Peter Falk and Helmut Flegl and from JW Automotive- David Yorke, Team Manger and Chief Engineer, John Horsman, attended the test which took place at the Osterreichring between 14 and 17 October 1969.

Two 917’s were made available- 917-006, a Le Mans practice car and 917-008 which led the race until it retired during the twenty-first hour. The target time for drivers Redman and Ahrens was the 1:46.6 the Gulf Mirage M3 Ford had done in August, by the end of the second day, the 15th, the best they had done was a 1:48.2.

During a pitstop John Horsman noticed the lack of dirt and bugs-gnats, on the rear bodywork which indicated to him the air was not following the contours of the bodywork and therefore the problems with the car were aerodynamic rather than suspension geometry or tyres. Note that the Porsche duo have claimed that they saw exactly what Horsman did at the same time he did so take your choice as to who was responsible for the key observation or whether the credit should be shared.

‘I knew immediately that we had to raise the rear deck and then attach small adjustable spoilers to the trailing edge. It was obvious to me that if the whole body was in the airstream it would be able to exert some downforce’ recalled Horsman.

Together with the JW mechanics- Ermanno Cuoghi and Peter Davies they quickly fashioned changes to the rear bodywork of 917-008 with aluminium sheet, rivets and tape, the work was finished after the circuit had closed. Brian Redman, sceptical, went out to test the car the following morning, 16th October and stayed out for 7 laps he was enjoying the car so much!

The changes were then made to 917-006 as well. Then, working between the cars on further alterations to both the body and suspension including springs and bars, no changes were made to the suspension geometry- and using wider wheels and Firestone tyres with whom JW were contracted (Porsche used Dunlops), resulted in a time of 1:43.2 set by Kurt Ahrens.

 

The John Horsman suggested changes to the rear deck of a 917 at ‘the Zeltweg test’ in October 1969 (J Horsman)

 

Less is more- you can see how the deck evolved over those couple of fateful days with more angle and bigger spoilers (K Ludvigsen)

 

(K Ludvigsen)

The Porsche design team, led by Eugen Kolb then had the task of ‘productionising’ the changes which involved the tail shape including redesign of the rear window, creating a tunnel in the upward sweeping tail to provide rear vision for the drivers and re-routing the exhausts to the open area behind the rear wheels. New side pods were also needed as they no longer housed the exhausts for the forward cylinders of the big flat-12. The nose profile was to be finalised too, with larger ducts for the brakes and fender vents for brake cooling.

The engine was largely left as was- whilst noting the exhaust changes, the Fichtel and Sachs clutch was replaced by a triple-plate Borg and Beck item whilst the gearbox and clutch housing were reinforced to avoid the failures experienced at Le Mans.

The pressure on Porsche was immense as a follow up test of what was by then referred to as the 917K was scheduled at Daytona only a month hence, on November 19 and 20 1969- it was another secret test with even Speedway employees refused admission to the grandstands and infield.

On hand were a squadron of technicians as well as drivers Siffert, Ahrens, Rodriguez and David Hobbs. In addition to the short tail, Porsche also brought along a new longtail, about which the drivers were not enthusiastic so the focus was on the ‘K’ and comprised Goodyear/Firestone tyre comparisons with simulated races and endurance runs.

Hobbs buzzed an engine on day 2 when he muffed an up-shift and bagged second instead of fourth gear and with it went his chance of perhaps partnering Pedro- the Porsche factory paid combination for 1970 was Siffert/Redman whilst the JW pairing, paid by them, ended up being Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen- Ickx went to Ferrari for both F1 and sportscars in 1970 and so was no longer available to John Wyer.

Further changes to the cars made as a consequence of the test included re-routing the oil lines through dedicated plumbing rather than the chassis tubes to reduce cockpit heat, creation of the ‘D shaped’ windscreen to improve driver vision on the banking, bringing the steering wheel closer to the driver (when wanted), detail changes to the steering rack and transmission and a new front upright design due to concerns about brake pad taper wear and stability under brakes.

Whilst there are no photographs from Daytona, 917-011 was sent immediately upon its return from Florida to the University of Stuttgart for wind tunnel testing, the shots show how the car looked. The tests confirmed acceptable drag and downforce readings so no further changes were made to the body prior to Daytona several months hence with the exception of a roof window.

917-011 in the Uni of Stuttgart wind tunnel in November 1969 (Porsche AG)

 

(Porsche AG)

Lets not forget than an open car was built- designated the 917PA (PA ‘Porsche Audi’ the US importer of Porsche) for Jo Siffert to drive in the 1969 Can-Am series late that year.

The 917PA competed in six races with its best results a second and a third, the car was ‘blown away’ by the 7 and 8 litre Chevs, Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme were dominant in their McLaren M8B Chevs. Valuable experience was gained for both the 1970 Manufacturers Championship and for another tilt at the Can-Am series. This information would prove useful for Porsche’s successful assault on the Can-Am championship in 1972 and 1973 with the awesome, turbo-charged 917/10 and 917/30.

Porsche had a fantastic 1969 season winning all but Le Mans. They won at Brands Hatch, Monza, Targa Florio, Spa, the Nürburgring, Watkins Glen and the Osterreichring to win the Manufacturers’ Championship and the GT Trophy as well as ‘blooding’ the 917 to set up its dominance for the next four years- two years in endurance racing and another two years at the Can-Am.

For 1970/1971 Porsche changed their approach to racing the cars, the factory continued to develop them but the race organisation was contracted to JW Automotive and Porsche-Salzburg, those seasons of success are another story- the seeds of dominance were sown in 1969…

Porsche 917PA and 917K late 1969

(unattributed)

Porsche media day in late 1969 at Hockenheim.

Porsche 917PA Can-Am car and 917K in shot. Brian Redman, Jo Siffert, Pedro Rodriguez and Rico Steinemann are in attendance. You can see the refinements to the rear bodywork of the 917K, reputedly ‘cribbed’ off the Lola T70Mk3b and also on the #23 1970 Le Mans winning car below.

Etcetera…

Porsche 917-001 (Porsche AG)

 

(Porsche AG)

Assembly in Werk 1 Zuffenhausen early 1969.

(Porsche AG)

The first car completed, chassis 917-001, was a show car and beauty queen in a variety of configurations right throughout its life, it was restored to its original 1969 917 LH specifications a few years ago.

(Porsche AG)

Ferdinand Piech with the CSI inspection crew at Zuffenhausen in April 1969, can’t have been a difficult task, they only had to count to 25!

The process took two bites of the cherry, the cars were not complete on the first visit so the team rocked up again a month later to ensure alles wast kosher allowing the formal homologation of the 917 into Group 4 to take effect in time for Le Mans.

Porsche kaleidescope le mans 1969

(unattributed)

Porsche kaleidescope of colour, 908 and 917 wings at Le Mans in 1969.

See the text for the operation of these rear wing flaps, 25 sets made for homologation but only 3 or so actually used! Flaps banned post Le Mans.

Porsche 917 at Le Mans

(unattributed)

The original 1969 917 body in all its glory.

#15 is the Herbert Linge/Brian Redman/Rudy Lins car which tested but did not race at Le Mans. It is a 917LH spec note front trim wings but lack of adjustable wing flaps at the rear.

(Klemantaski)

The Elford/Attwood 917LH at Arnage during Le Mans 1969.

Note the extreme length of the tail, side exhaust, front winglet and flaps at the back, allowed as per the earlier text for Le Mans only.

917-001 cockpit post restoration in modern times (Porsche AG)

 

917 cockpit

(Geoff Goddard)

Porsche racing cockpits have always been about function.

‘Momo’ steering wheel, lever for 5 speed synchro (sometimes 4) gearbox to the right. Aluminium tube frames on floor visible, six point harness and minimal instrumentation.

(unattributed)

Bata ‘Scouts’ were the go in cool footwear for twelve year olds in 1969, clearly the Bata ‘Jacky Ickx’ was aimed at a slightly older market!

Jo Siffert at Spa during practice, again note in particular the aerodynamic treatment of this 917K- Jo elected to race a 908 and won together with Brian Redman.

Jo Siffert Porsche 917PA Laguna Seca 1969

(unattributed)

Jo Siffert, Porsche 917PA being chased at the Laguna Seca Can-Am round by Denny Hulme’s McLaren M8B Chev, the dominant car of 1969- Bruce McLaren won the race from Hulme with Jo fifth.

Compare and contrast the bodywork of the 917PA above on 12 October and that of the car a fortnight later on 26 October below during the LA Times Grand Prix at Riverside.

There the car has a much ‘wedgier’ nose in search of greater front bite and top speed. Siffert was Q11 and DNF with an oil leak, Denny the winner in his M8B Chev- Bruce McLaren won the championship that year from Denny and Chuck Parson’s Lola T163 Chev.

 

Hermann 917 1970

(unattributed)

Quintessential 917K (short tail) 1970 spec car- here the Porsche Salzburg Le Mans winning car driven by Hans Hermann and Richard Attwood car.

The shot included to show the changes made to the car’s bodywork very late in 1969- different door line, no exhaust exits aft of the doors, wedge shape and Lola T70 Mk3b inspired rear deck.

Larrousse Porsche 917L Le Mans 1970

(unattributed)

For the sake of completeness the 1969 917LH evolved into this bodywork in 1970.

Here is the marvellous Martini Racing Team ‘Hippy Car’ of Gerard Larrousse/Willie Kauhsen which was second at Le Mans 1970- compare and contrast the swoopy, curvaceous long tail body with the 1970 917K #23 immediately above.

Le Mans poster 1969

Reference and Photo Credits…

Vic Berris cutaway drawing, Porsche AG, ‘Cars in Profile Collection 1’ article by Paul Frere, ‘Testing at Zeltweg’ article by Karl Ludvigsen in ‘Drivetribe’, International Motor Racing Research Center article ‘A truly Secret Track Test of The Porsche 917’, Vic Berris, Geoff Goddard, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Klemantaski Collection, John Horsman Collection

Tailpiece: No time to admire the scenery for Frank Gardner! 917/004 during Nurburgring 1000 Km practice in June 1969…

image

(Schlegelmilch)

Finito…