4WD Racing Cars
The track racing fraternity has dabbled with four wheel drive from time to time but it is currently banned from Formula-One (F1) Grand Prix and from Indy Car style racing. Of course four wheel drive is extensively used in rally cars, a trend begun by Audi.
1902: The Dutch firm Spyker built a racing car with full-time four wheel drive and a 6-cylinder engine! It won a hill-climb held by the Birmingham motor club in 1906.
1932: Harry Miller raced a 5L V8 4WD at Indianapolis.
1934: Miller V8 4WD at Tripoli and Avus GP [Motor 1969].
During the 1930s, Auto-Union and Mercedes-Benz indulged in a classic struggle with racing cars that had 8-cylinder, V12 and V16 supercharged engines of up to 6-litres and finally developed well over 500hp before capacities were restricted to 3-litres super-charged (or 4.5L unblown) in 1938. Despite having skinny tyres and enormous power, these cars were two wheel drive.
After WWII, Formula-One racing commenced with engine limits of 4.5-litres naturally aspirated or 1.5-litres super-charged. In 1948 Porsche built a (mid-) rear-engined car with a 283kW supercharged 1.5-litre flat 12-cylinder engine and four wheel drive, the type 360 Cisitalia, for Piero Dusio. The driver could select two wheel drive, e.g., for cornering, and four wheel drive for maximum grip on acceleration. The BRM 1.5-litre V16 (4x2) rates as one of the most magnificent failures from the post-war period.
1954: Engine limits were reduced to 2.5-litres unboosted or 750cc super-charged; no one seems to have taken up the 750cc option. Mercedes-Benz returned seriously to F1 Grand Prix racing with the W196 (4x2) and dominated 1954 and 1955. There were plans for a 4WD version of the W196 but this did not eventuate. Mercedes-Benz achieved two world championships to Fangio, before withdrawing from F1 racing.
1961: The engine capacity for Formula-One cars was reduced from 2.5 to 1.5-litres. Ferguson Research devised the Formula Ferguson (FF) four wheel drive system. Jack Fairman drove the 4WD Ferguson Project 99 (P99) F1 car in the British Grand Prix at Aintree. Later, Stirling Moss won the Oulton Park Gold Cup race in it; there was rain during the race but Moss's practice time was second fastest - 1m44.8s v. 1m44.6s by Bruce McLaren in a Cooper - so the P99 was no dry-weather slouch. This innovative car has a front mounted Coventry Climax 4-cylinder engine, Ferguson Four Wheel Drive System and Dunlop Maxaret ABS brakes. Moss nominated the P99 as his favourite Formula-One car in the September 1997 issue of MotorSport and he knew a few cars. The P99 is now at the Donington Museum.
The project's beginnings were with Fred Dixon and Tony Rolt who were
inspired by the racing possibilities of 4WD before WWII.
After the war they teamed up with Harry Ferguson (of the tractors).
Ferguson Research worked on many, perhaps too many,
innovative ideas, trying to interest the major manufacturers in
using 4WD in high volume production cars. Claude Hill devised a
centre differential arrangement with automatic locking to limit the speed
differences allowed between front and rear axles in the
case of wheel slip. The idea of a racing car, the P99,
was taken up in 1960 for 1961 as a high speed test-bed and
demonstrator of the system's advantages. BRM built a
rear-engined 4WD FF-based car for F1 in 1964, and there was more
F1 interest by 1969, but American Indianapolis-style racers
were more quickly receptive. The Ferguson 4WD system was also used in the
Formula-One later changed from 1.5-litre engines to 3-litre engines and one would have thought that four wheel drive would have become even more relevant, what with the increased power and relatively primitive tyre technology, but it was not tried again until 1969.
1964: Bobby Unser drove Andy Granatelli's STP-Oil Novi V8 with four wheel drive at Indianapolis, but the car was damaged in an accident. In 1965 it retired with mechanical problems.
1967: Granatelli's STP-Paxton 4WD Pratt and Whitney gas-turbine car ran well at Indianapolis, leading the race until retiring with mechanical problems. The design had the gas-turbine sitting along-side the driver.
1968: Lotus worked with
Granatelli to build the wedge-shaped
1969: The air-inlet cross sectional area for gas-turbines was restricted
in 1969 but the
1969 brought a brief flowering of four wheel drive to the 3-litre era of Formula One (F1). Lotus, Matra and McLaren tried 4WDs, and Cosworth, the engine maker, also built one of their own. The 4WDs did not perform well, but they were brand new and barely developed, while teams concentrated on the main-chance 4x2s. The drivers also objected to the heavy handling, or was it just "different"? Some thought that there could not be a 4WD success unless a team and its drivers wholeheartedly committed themselves to the system - a similar phenomenon later occurred in the F1 turbo-car era. (4WD however was later banned from F1.)
1969 June 21: The Dutch Grand-Prix at Zandvoort saw Matra and
Lotus bring 4WDs to practice - the Matra MS84 and the
The Lotus 63 drew on
Lotus's experience with the
The Matra MS84 was less radical in appearance than
Some controversy surrounded "aerodynamic devices" on the F1 cars at Zandvoort. Aerofoils, or were they "spoilers" sprouted on noses and tails and there was much stretching and bending of, and grumbling about, the rules in this regard.
1969 July 6: The French Grand-Prix, Clermont-Ferrand.
Jackie Stewart concentrated on practice in the 4x2 Matra MS80
(3:00.6), and was 6 seconds slower in a session in the 4WD MS84.
A new driver, John Miles, drove the 4WD
1969 July 19: The British Grand-Prix, Silverstone saw McLaren join Matra and Lotus in the 4WD club, trying the 4WD McLaren M9A, although only as an aside to the 4x2 M7As. The last 4 out of 17 places of the starting grid were filled with 4WDs: Derek Bell (McLaren M9A), John Miles (Lotus 63), Jean-Pierre Beltoise (Matra MS84) and Jo Bonnier (Lotus 63). Beltoise finished 9th, and Miles 10th, out of 10 finishers, respectively 6 and 9 laps behind the winner (Stewart, MS80) [MotorSport].
In due course, four wheel drive was banned from Formula-One Grand Prix racing. It is interesting to speculate if it would have been adopted, if allowed, or if the aerodynamic devices, which subsequently became highly developed, simply gave sufficient traction for 4x2s?
The 2009 F1 regulations allowed for a (limited) Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) to be used to recover braking energy and to reuse it for acceleration. Strangely, given that much of the braking is done through the front wheels, four wheel drive was not allowed.
-- Lloyd Allison
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