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aTao
769794.  Sun Dec 26, 2010 5:22 am Reply with quote

I remember seeing an F1 gas turbine car. Run by Gold Leaf team Lotus.
The only noise it made was tyre and wind, freaky compared to the roar of the other cars.
It was, however, a racing disaster, the turbine took several seconds to respond to power demand, so to drive it was necessary to floor the accelerator when entering a bend so you had the power for the straight immediately after.

 
brunel
769884.  Sun Dec 26, 2010 11:25 am Reply with quote

aTao wrote:
I remember seeing an F1 gas turbine car. Run by Gold Leaf team Lotus.
The only noise it made was tyre and wind, freaky compared to the roar of the other cars.
It was, however, a racing disaster, the turbine took several seconds to respond to power demand, so to drive it was necessary to floor the accelerator when entering a bend so you had the power for the straight immediately after.

That would be the famous Lotus 56B, which was used back in 1971 for a handful of races - and as it was not used for a great number of races, that is a fairly rare car to have seen. Was it at Brands Hatch, where the car first ran during a non championship event?

It originally started out as an Indianapolis 500 car, inspired by Parnelli Jones, who had entered a gas turbine car in 1967 and nearly won, only for a transmission bearing to fail a handful of laps from the end of the race.
In 1968, the Lotus 56 was easily the fastest car at the Indy 500, but Graham Hill crashed after a wheel bearing failed, and both his team mates went out with broken fuel pumps within moments of each other, with under 10 laps to go of the race.

Unfortunately for Chapman, the USAC took exception to the Lotus 56, as it easily thrashed its rivals, so they banned anything that wasn't a piston engine, or with four wheel drive (which the 56 also had) from 1968 onwards.

In fact, there were several problems with the Lotus 56B beyond the throttle delay you mentioned. The four wheel drive system made the car quite nose heavy (and overweight in general), and the fuel consumption was very high compared to the famous Cosworth DFV that was in use at the time (the turbine car used 75 gallons a race, compared to 45 gallons for a DFV).
And, added to that, even at idle the turbine was producing 70bhp, and there was no clutch or other mechanism to disconnect the engine. So, not only did the car require unusually powerful brakes, just to hold it still at the start of a race, but the car behaved very strangely under braking as it tried to continue moving forwards.

According to Dave Walker, who drove the car several times in 1971 (and his biography is here http://www.f1rejects.com/drivers/walkerd/biography.html ), it was, all in all, a very hard car to drive - the only time that it was remotely competitive was in the Dutch Grand Prix, which started out wet, giving the four wheel drive car an advantage. However, Walker crashed out after six laps (having nevertheless moved up from 22nd to 10th) - Chapman was furious, thinking that Walker could have won both his and the cars first ever championship race.

However, given that the track was rapidly drying, and the strange braking behaviour making the car increasingly hard to drive, most observers doubt that Walker would really have been able of winning, or even scoring points.

 
aTao
769886.  Sun Dec 26, 2010 11:35 am Reply with quote

I saw it at Oulton Park, cant remember the year, but I guess you have it. I was at the track the day before the race and stayed overnight in one of the BBC links vehicles with my dad. We were woken by the practice laps on race day, I bleared out of the van to see a car disappearing that I hadnt heard pass. after a few laps it was apparent that there was a 'silent' car.
As a young boy I was enthralled by this and adopted it as my favourite, only to be soon dismayed that it vanished without winning anything.

 
brunel
769915.  Sun Dec 26, 2010 2:17 pm Reply with quote

That, I suppose, is one of the most interesting things about Formula 1 cars from that era - since you had the freedom to develop the cars in very different ways.
True, quite a lot of the time, the experiments would end in failure - asides from the 56B, Lotus also tried out the 63, which was another four wheel drive car (although using the trusty Cosworth DFV). That, like the 56, was another damp squib, with the four wheel drive system being more of a hindrance than a help, and eventually that too was abandoned.

However, both the Lotus 56B and 63 did have major long term impacts on the design of the cars of the time. Both cars inspired work on the Lotus 72, particularly the wedge shaped body of the Lotus 56B and the wings of the 63, and the 72 is considered to be the forerunner of the modern F1 cars.

Considering that the Lotus 72 was very successful in its lifetime, taking 20 wins, three constructors and two drivers championships, the fact that the 56B was so unsuccessful, forcing Lotus to turn all of their resources on the 72, perhaps was a blessing in surprise after all.

 

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