Cutaway Thursday: Tyrrell P34

It doesn’t have to be an airplane does it? Nope (Imma hired gun pen here so I’m generously provided with a LOT of rope with which to hang myself latitude).

Probably one of my favorite F1 cars aside from Senna’s legandary and 1988 season dominating McClaren MP4/4 and the technologically revolutionary Williams FW15C.

More on the Tyrrell P34 from Wikipedia:

When unveiled, the cover was peeled away from the back forward and the collective gasps from the world’s press said it all. Along with theBrabham BT46B “Fancar” developed in 1978, the six-wheeled Tyrrell was one of the two most radical entries ever to succeed in Formula One (F1) competition, and has specifically been called the most recognizable design in the history of world motorsports.[1]

It first ran in the Spanish GP in 1976, and proved to be very competitive. Both Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler were able to produce solid results with the car, but while Depailler praised the car continually, Scheckter realised it would only be temporarily competitive. The specialGoodyear tyres were not being developed enough by the end of the season.

The P34’s golden moment came in the Swedish Grand Prix. Scheckter and Depailler finished first and second, and to date Scheckter is the only driver ever to win a race in a six-wheeled car. He left the team at the end of the season, insisting that the six-wheeler was “a piece of junk!”[2]

For 1977, Scheckter was replaced by the Swede Ronnie Peterson, and the P34 was redesigned around cleaner aerodynamics. The P34B was wider and heavier than before, and, although Peterson was able to string some promising results from the P34B, as was Depailler, it was clear the car was not as good as before, mostly due to the tyre manufacturer’s failure to properly develop the small front tyres. The added weight of the front suspension system is also cited as a reason for ending the project. Tyrrell even tried a “wide track” P34B to improve its handling, but this put the front wheels out from behind the nose fairings and reduced the aerodynamic gains from having four small front wheels. Thus, the P34 was abandoned for 1978, and a truly remarkable chapter in F1 history was over.

More recently the P34 has been a popular sight at historic racing events, proving competitive once more. This was made possible when the Avon tyre company agreed to manufacture bespoke 10-inch tyres for Simon Bull, the owner of chassis No. 6. In 1999 and 2000 the resurrected P34 competed at a number of British and European circuits as an entrant in the FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix series. Driven by Martin Stretton, the car won the TGP series outright in 2000, the sister car repeating that success in 2008 in the hands of Mauro Pane; this example is today part of a private collection in Italy. Stretton also achieved numerous Pole Positions and class wins at the Grand Prix Historique de Monaco. The P34 has also been seen a number of times at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

So here ya go:

TyrrellP34a

An interesting car with a uniquely chequered history but why the 4 front tyres? Let the website for the car, Project-34, tell you:

Derek set to work on designing a car to replace the successful, but rapidly ageing Tyrrell 007. He calculated that they needed the equivalent of a gain of 50hp on the competition in order to leap frog the other teams, since almost everyone was running the same engine the gain would have to be made elsewhere in the design. After a few weeks of research he presented his concept to Ken Tyrrell in August 1974. A concept that drew on the experience of those years spent working on the four wheel drive, Gas-Turbine cars, for there, on the piece of paper presented to Ken was sketched an F1 car with six wheel’s ! Two regular sized wheels at the rear and four small 10″ wheels at the front. Derek explained the reasoning behind his concept to Ken.

The theory was that exposed tyres cause lift, and the bigger they are, the greater the lift they will produce, standard four wheel F1 cars counter act this effect by the use of more wing at the front, since the six wheel concept would greatly reduce the lift effect generated by the front wheels it would not need to run large amounts of front wing thus it should have a straight line speed advantage.

An interesting car with an interesting history and there’s one for sale and if you have to ask for how much, you can’t afford it.

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2 Comments

Filed under Car Pr0n, History, Other Stuff, Outside the Box

2 responses to “Cutaway Thursday: Tyrrell P34

  1. Bill Brandt

    Sometime ago I read an interesting comment on F1 and the 70s – it was the last time one could build an F1 car without mega funding from sponsors – these days – last number I heard – I am trying to remember how many 100s of millions it takes to field a competitive F1 team these days.

    But Ken Tyrrell did this in his garage (must have been a big garage but still impressive).

    Build a decent chassis, throw in a Cosworth-Ford (an engine that dominated F1 for almost 20 years?) and you are in business.

  2. Steve

    Spill, you’re an F1 fan, too? If you’re ever near San Diego, give me a shout, I want to buy you a beer so I feel justified in asking you for a brain dump. 🙂

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