Posts Tagged ‘Michael Andretti’

Dan Drinan prepares Michael Andretti’s March 86C Cosworth DFX at Indy, 19 May 1986…

Its the final few days of preparation before carb day and the final chance to test the car before the Memorial Day classic on 31 May. Michael’s cheque for qualifying third on the grid is on the wall.

Bobby Rahal won in a similar March with Michael sixth from grid 3 having led 45 of the 200 laps including the first 42. In a rout for March, the Bicester concern had cars in nine of the top ten placings, the only interloper was Al Unser Jr’s Lola Cosworth in fifth.

Rick Mears, Kevin Cogan and Rahal battled for the lead. In an emotional win, Rahal got the jump from Cogan after a lap 194 restart and took the victory for his team owner Jim Trueman who died of cancer eleven days later. Rick Mears was third.

Michael Andretti, Indy 500 1986, March 86C Cosworth (B Harmeyer)

With an opening photo like that the focus has to be on that magnificent engine and it’s conversion from F1 ubiquity to CART interloper.

John Barnard’s appointment to replace Maurice Philippe as Designer for the Vels- Parnelli F1 and Indy team was at the behest of his former Lola colleague, Jim Chapman, then VPJ Team Manager.

Barnard achieved much with both VPJ and Chaparral before returning to Europe and staggering F1 success with McLaren, but its his role in development of what became the Cosworth DFX V8 turbo which is of interest in this article. His primary job at VPJ was to design and develop the ground-breaking Parnelli VPJ6B and 6C which introduced the turbo Cosworth DFX to Indycar racing. Over the next dozen years the DFX dominated, winning 151 races, including 10 consecutive Indy 500s between 1978-87.

When Barnard arrived at VPJ in Southern California in 1975 he was thrown into the deep end, fettling the team’s F1 car and designing the drivetrain for Parnelli Jone’s off-road Ford truck- you can’t argue with those extremes of variety.

Danny ‘On The Gas’ Ongais, Parnelli VPJ6B Cosworth , Indy 1977 20th from Q7 (B Harmeyer)

Al Unsers VPJ6B rear, Indy 1977. Note turbo plumbing and wastegate outlet (B Harmeyer)

Through the early and mid-1970s Indycars were allowed to run unlimited boost with the ageing four-cylinder Offenhauser pushed beyond its limits. “I was on USAC’s rules committee and we kept blowing up engines,” says Parnelli Jones in a Gordon Kirby article published in MotorSport. “You could not buy an engine from Drake Engineering (manufacturers of the Offy) and run 500 miles. You couldn’t even run it 100 miles because of porosity in the engines. We had a machine to impregnate the engines so we could keep ours together, but you had to pull it all apart and blueprint it after you bought it…Then USAC cut the fuel mileage back to 1.8 mpg and I said to Vel, ‘We’ve got those little Formula 1 Cosworths. I think they could work’.”

In amongst the team’s F1, USAC and F5000 programs Barnard was beavering away ‘converting’ the F1 design into a USAC car by means of a variety of changes including turbo-charging the Cosworth DFV F1 motor.

John Barnard picks up the design changes: “It was actually a completely new chassis. We put coil springs on the rear, but I kept the torsion bars on the front. The Brit strengthened the car by double-skinning the monocoque and designing a much stronger front bulkhead. “That proved very useful,” Barnard says. “In ’77 we were practising at Indy and Al ran over Janet Guthrie’s turbine wheel, which came out on the track, and had quite a big accident. But he walked away. I was glad I had double-skinned that front bulkhead.”

The resulting VPJ6B was a much smaller overall package than the existing Offy and Foyt/Ford-powered chassis then racing.

Ongais again in 1977, note front suspension linkages, torsion bars the spring medium up front (B Harmeyer)

Unser 1977, Q3 and 3rd in the race won by AJ Foyt’s Coyote Foyt/Ford V8 turbo and Tom Sneva McLaren M24 Cosworth who started from pole (B Harmeyer)

Barnard also designed many key components for VPJ’s DFX development program. “There was a lot to do on the engine — inlet manifolds and all sorts of things. I was drawing conrods and pistons, an oil pump system, fuel injection and God knows what else. It was fantastic for me because I had never really got into engines much, but we had our engine shop so we could do this stuff to every part of the car and engine. It was fantastic, just like having a toy shop.”

But there was little support from Keith Duckworth for turbocharging the DFV. Duckworth famously didn’t believe in turbos. “I remember him giving me a lecture about turbos,” Barnard adds, “and another one about why 4WD wouldn’t work. I remember Vel reporting that Cosworth told him he was a bit of a twit trying to get all this horsepower out of an engine that was designed to generate 500bhp, and there we were getting more than 800,” Barnard says. “Vel told me, ‘Those bloody guys at Cosworth don’t mind selling me pistons and heads all the time. I’ve spent $100,000 with them just on pistons.’ But they told him we were idiots for making a turbocharged version of their engine.”

Unser and Andretti ran a few practice laps at Indianapolis that year in an early version of the VPJ6, and the first complete 6B made its debut in Unser’s hands in 1975’s season-closing race at Phoenix, finishing fifth. “Once we got in the right ballpark with wheel and spring rates we had pretty good balance, and it got better and better,” Barnard remembers. “We continued to muck about with the engine. It was an ongoing programme. I was making wastegates and all sorts of things.”

Unser scored the Parnelli-Cosworth’s first win in the Pocono 500 in June 1976, then won again at Milwaukee in August and Phoenix at the end of the season. “We proved that the engine worked and we brought Duckworth over to Pocono because we wanted to get a distributorship for the Cosworth Indy programme,” Parnelli recalls. “So Duckworth came over and damned if he didn’t turn around and steal Larry Slutter and Chickie from us.”

Ongais 1977 (B Harmeyer)

Unser 1977, gorgeous bit of engineering kit. Won the first Cosworth DFX  Indy win aboard a Chaparral Lola in 1978- 11 of the 33 starters were Cosworth powered  (B Harmeyer)

Barnard took a dim view of Duckworth’s manoeuvre. “As soon as we won Pocono, Cosworth saw the light. It wasn’t long afterwards that they nicked Larry Slutter and set their own engine shop up right there in Torrance, which to be honest I thought was pretty mean. “I was told by somebody at Cosworth many years later that the turbo Indy engine programme — the DFX as they called it — was their most profitable programme of all. So I wasn’t impressed with the way they did that. Vel and Parnelli were the ones putting their hands in their pockets to develop this car and engine, and I don’t think they ever got the proper credit.”

After all the money and effort VPJ had put into developing the engine, not being able to turn it into a commercial enterprise was a big blow, playing a role in the team’s demise a few years later. “Of course,” Jones says, “we were in a catch-22 because you had to satisfy your sponsors and we needed to order parts from Duckworth. We could have sued him, but we decided to try to work with him.”

For the 1977 season both McLaren and Penske built new Fl-based cars with DFX engines and Tom Sneva won the USAC Championship aboard Penske’s Cosworth-powered McLaren M24 and Penske PC5. Johnny Rutherford also won four USAC races in the works McLaren DFX while Unser and new team-mate Danny Ongais each won a single race, with Big Al taking the California 500.

Barnard quipped “I didn’t start the Cosworth programme,” he adds, “but I had most of the input making a car work around that engine. Looking back, I learned massive amounts and enjoyed it, too. It was bloody hard work, but I was a young man and ready to do whatever it took.”

Unser 1977, classic aero of that just before ground effect period. The F1 Lotus 78 raced throughout 1977- the first of the Lotus g/e’s (B Harmeyer)

Bibliography/Credits…

MotorSport article by Gordon Kirby 2013, Getty Images- Bettman and Bob Harmeyer

Tailpiece: Cosworth factory DFX studio shot…

Finito…

andretti

Michael Andretti’s McLaren MP4/8 Ford Silverstone lines being scrutinised from above…

Michael was in and out of Grand Prix racing far too quickly, in less than a season. His 1993 run of woe was made worse at Silverstone, he qualified back in the pack, rain ruined his qualifying run and then spun on the first lap, ending his race, he was going too hard too early.

Teammate Ayron Senna qualified 4th and lost 3rd when his car failed on the last lap, he was classified 4th. The race win was taken by Alain Prost in a Williams FW15C Renault.

Click on this link to the article i wrote about Andretti’s 1993 season; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/06/michael-andretti-and-f1/

Credit…reddit.com

andretti surfers 94 reynard

Michael Andretti aviating his Reynard 941 Ford over the Surfers Paradise kerbs. Andrettis’ victory in The Australian Indycar Grand Prix in March 1994 was just the fillip the American needed after his abortive McLaren F1 season the year before…

Nigel Mansell started ’94 where he left off, the Brit a winner in the 1993 ‘Indy championship in his Lola Ford, the season after his F1 World Championship victory for Williams in 1992. Nige was on pole with Andretti alongside in the brand new Malcolm Oastler designed Reynard 941 Ford, the marques first Indycar.

The race was restarted 3 times, first lap contretemps famous on the Surfers circuit. In the final restart Michael got the jump on Nigel and lead all 55 laps, the race shortened by 10 laps due to lack of light.

Michael won again in the Reynard later in the season at Toronto but the Penske PC23 was the best car of the season and the ‘Dream Team’ of Al Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy extracted all the car had to offer winning most rounds and Unser the drivers title.

By seasons end Mansell had returned to F1 albeit briefly, with Michael competitive again with 2 victories and 7 top 5 finishes in a year where the pickings were slim for all but Penske.

andretti surfers 94

Same car, driver and kerb but lower altitude…Reynard a lovely car and the first of many successful Indycars by the late, lamented marque. (Unattributed)

So what Went Wrong in F1 for Michael?…

Andretti came into racing via Karts, Formula Ford, Super Vee and Formula Atlantic. Before long he was an established Indycar Star and after a dominant season in CART 1991, on pole 8 times, winning the title and demonstrating his versatility with a Porsche drive at Daytona, he was looking to F1 as the next challenge.

Joining McLaren for 1993, alongside established team leader and candidate for the Greatest Grand Prix Driver ever was always going to be a tough ask, the Brazilian famous for taking no prisoners and intimidating his teammates in all ways possible.

Into 1992 things were looking a bit grim for McLaren…the teams performances were down, Honda were withdrawing from F1 and Ron couldn’t achieve the alternative factory engine deal he wanted. He attempted to buy Ligier to get the Renault engines, a deal vetoed by sponsors. The best he could achieve was Ford customer engines, one spec below those used by Benetton, who had the factory Ford deal, Michael Schumacher of course the driver.

Ayrton was watching all of this but couldn’t get a better drive, the best seat was with Williams, and engine supplier tipped Alain Prost into it rather than arch rival Senna.

andretti british gp 1993

Andretti, European GP Donington Park 1993. McLaren MP4/8 Ford. (Unattributed)

Ron needed a name driver in the event Senna decamped and signed Andretti…on paper a driver with potential albeit unfamiliar with both the cars and circuits. His announcement was made at the 1992 Italian Grand Prix to a bemused media.

The plot thickened somewhat with the signing of Mika Hakkinen, lately of Lotus, who was to be either test driver or race driver in 1993 depending upon what Senna decided, the Brazilian ultimately signing for the team again but on a race by race basis.

andretti kyalami

Michael optimistic early in the season at Kyalami, South African GP. (The Cahier Archive)

For Andretti things started badly with rule changes which limited testing…he badly needed seat time in both the car and on as many circuits as possible, the differences in characteristics between the relatively heavy single turbo 2.65 litre V8 Indycars, and 3.5 litre normally aspirated peaky, light, nimble and ‘very nervous’ Grand Prix cars immense.

The delivery of the Ford engine was late, only a month before the season opener at Kyalami, so was completion of the car and critical systems testing and checking which became clear with many failures particularly on Andrettis’ chassis during the year.

His season could be summarised as a series of own goals, accidents of his own making and mechanical or electrical failures which were entirely beyond his control.

Mixed in with that was his sheer pace which justified Andretti a second season in F1, at least.

F1 wisdom seems to be, including McLarens website, that the American didn’t really commit to F1. Indicative, in this view is continuing to live in the US, commuting by Concorde to the UK and the races as required. The theory is that living closeby to Woking, shootin’ the breeze with the Ronster and technicians would have helped.

It probably would have, as he would have done the testing miles Hakkinnen did but it’s too simplistic a view.

andretti helmet

Andretti started the season behind the eightball, noting he was ‘silly enough’ to sign for McLaren alongside Senna in a team ‘he owned’…

Jackie Stewart was smart to sign with BRM not Lotus for his debut F1 season in ’65, he had the choice but figured the lower pressure environment at BRM would be better for him, and allow him to come up to speed without the pressure of going head to head with Jim Clark, the standard by which all other drivers assessed themselves at the time. Noting that his BRM team leader, Graham Hill, the ’62 World Champ was at the top of his game at the time.

But these guys aren’t like you and I, they have towering self belief, why not go up against Senna in a great team, the chance may never come again? In that sense Andretti is be admired for putting his balls on the line, he was not the first or last Ace to be blown off by the Brazilians mesmeric other worldly skill.

On balance, looking from everyone’s viewpoint; McLarens’, Andrettis’ and the sponsors’, the deal made sense.

The McLaren MP4/8 Ford was a competitive car, Senna took victories at Monaco, Donington (one of his best) Brazil and Suzuka in the rain and in Adelaide, his last GP for McLaren and final victory.

During the rest of the season the Williams of Prost and Hill were the class of the field, Prost taking the title and retiring.

mclaren mp4 8 cutaway

McLaren MP4/8 Ford 1993. Neil Oatley designed Carbon fibre monocoque, suspension active with wishbones all around actuating coil springs and dampers. Carbon ceramic brakes. Ford HBE V8 ‘customer spec’ 3494cc circa 640bhp. McLaren 6 speed semi-automatic gearbox. 505kg. (Unattributed)

Let’s look at Andrettis’ year race by race…

andretti interlagos prang

Interlagos contretemps with Gerhard Bergers’ Ferrari. Could have been a lot worse. (Unattributed)

.Kyalami clutch failure on the line, fundamental preparation or lack of testing issue. He then ran into Derek Warwick on lap 4 trying to make up for lost time.

.In Brazil he goosed the start having muffed the 1-2 shift, qualified 5th (Senna 3rd), Wendlinger jigged one way, Michael the other collecting Bergers Ferrari initiating a spectacular shunt with the two cars cartwheeling thru the air.

.At Donington for the European GP. Q6 whilst Senna disappeared into the gloom in a sublime drive, from 5th to 1st in 10 corners and a lead of over 4 seconds at the end of lap 2. Andretti again took out Wendlinger  leaving the Sauber and McLaren beached in the Leicestershire mud.

european gp 1993 first lap

European GP, Donington Park 1993 lap1. Prost & Hill Williams, Wendlinger Sauber, Senna McLaren, Schumacher Benetton, Andretti McLaren, the Ferraris’ and the rest…Senna to the front and gone in 10 corners from Q4. (Unattributed)

.At Imola for the San Marino GP Q6 again, he completed 32 laps before spinning, whilst dicing for fourth with, you guessed it, Wendlinger. The spin was induced by a brake or suspension balance problem.

.In the Spanish GP Andretti finished fifth behind Prost, Senna, Schumacher and Patrese, the latter duo Benetton Fords with the factory engines.

. At Monaco Q9, his clutch did its own thing, up shifting early, losing revs and power, he was engulfed by the field, then hit Barbazzas’ Minardi up the chuff at Loews. He pitted to replace his front wing but then had a great run from last to 8th…but Senna won.

andretti mc laren monaco 93

Andretti Monaco 1993. (Unattributed)

.In Canada the car again ‘cacked itself’, this time a dead battery, he started the race 3 laps down and was classified 14th, Senna also had electrical gremlins that day, finishing 18th with alternator failure. Whilst in more recent times (2008) there have been claims by Marco Andretti that McLaren ‘sabotaged his fathers career’, the claims don’t hold water as Senna had as many gremlins as Michaels’ cars did. Hakkinen was ‘standing in the wings’ but McLaren had every commercial and sporting reason for Andretti to succeed not fail.

Andretti was the only American F1 driver at the time, their was no USGP either, the US is the largest global economy which McLaren was keen to tap into via the interest provided by their American driver…the conspiracy theory makes no sense to me at all and contradicts the facts.

.In France at Magny Cours the semi-automatic shift misbehaved resulting in Q16 but a strong showing, finishing 6th and getting valuable mileage.

.Michael looked forward to Silverstone as he had tested there pre-season, but his qualifying run was spoiled by rain, Q11. He started well but spun on lap 1 again going too hard too early.

.German GP, Hockenheim he qualified 12th after more mechanical dramas unrelated to him. But he thumped Berger on lap 4, DNF.

.At the Hungaroring, his fly-by-wire throttle failed in a run as high as 4th. Senna experiencing similar problems 2 laps later.

.Belgian classic, Spa. He had a long tyre change during which the engine stopped, Andretti 8th

.Monza, Italy. Andrettis’ final GP. He qualified 9th, Senna 4th. In the race both cars had brake balance problems, both spinning, Senna into retirement. Andretti continued after having grass removed from the radiators, fighting his way back through the pack from 20th to 3rd, a great run and his only podium finish, ironically in his last race, Michael being sacked, the drive going to Hakkinen.

andretti san marino

San Marino GP, Imola 1993. (Unattributed)

Andretti returned to Champcars successfully…he was competitive throughout his career but didn’t win another title and famously lead the Indy 500 for 431 laps in multiple 500’s the most of any driver without taking victory…

There are so many ‘Ifs, Buts and Maybes’ in life and racing…

If McLaren had done a better engine deal or installed the Ford earlier, maybe the glitches both drivers experienced all year would have been sorted in pre-season testing.
If the testing rules hadn’t changed Andretti would have driven the miles he needed in cars alien to him rather than doing his testing and familiarisations in the full glare of race weekends…and as worked so well for Villeneuve at Williams 2 years later who did a million miles in the car on all sorts of circuits.
If he had lived in the UK maybe his intent and commitment to McLaren would have been clearer.
Hakkinens’ signing added to the pressure on Michael, if he hadn’t been signed, the imminent potential replacement would not have been there.
If Andretti had started some of his races less agressively the DNF’s would have been reduced giving him the miles he needed and making him look less of a novice.

But, as the saying goes, ‘if yer Aunty had balls she’d be yer Uncle’ …

At the end of the day none of the above happened and it made more sense for McLaren to sign Hakkinen to partner Senna for 1994 albeit Senna went to Williams and Martin Brundle got to race the McLaren Peugeot in 1994, a combination which made the ’93 cars look like paragons of speed and reliability. In short had Andretti raced on with the team in 1994 he would not have had a car capable of running at the front.

Michael Andretti and F1 is still one of racings intriguing ‘mighta-beens’ all the same?

andretti in car close up 1993

Etcetera…

Short History of the Surfers Indycar Grand Prix

http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/sport/special-features/look-back-the-indy-300-glory-years-to-v8s-at-gold-coast-600/story-fnpctu9f-1227096490438

McLaren MP4/8 Ford…

http://www.mclaren.com/formula1/heritage/cars/1993-formula-1-mclaren-mp4-8/

Adrian Reynard and Reynard Racing Cars…

http://www.adrianreynard.com/reynard_motorsport.htm

Credits…

The Cahier Archive

Finito…