In 1978 Colin Chapman revolutionised Formula One car design by introducing ‘ground effect’ to the upper echelons of open wheel racing with his Lotus 79.
By 1979 many Formula One teams were making copies and variations of the Lotus 79 using curved ‘venturi’ in the side pods between the wheels to gain traction grip by controlling the airflow between the lower surfaces of the car and surface of the road to create lowered air pressure underneath the car which ‘sucked’ the car to the road as it moved, the faster these vehicles were driven the more grip there was available.
Photo Dan Wildhirt
When, in 1978, former Taurus Super Vee designer and McLaren draftsman John Barnard was employed to build an Indy Car for Jim Hall and the Chaparral team to replace their Lola T500 Champ Car, Barnard was the first to transfer the latest Formula One thinking to the Brickyard for the Indy 500.
Al Unser Snr qualified the Chaparral 2K 3rd on it’s debut at Indy and then ran away with the race until the transmission failed on lap 104.
The following year Al Unser Snr moved to the Longhorne team who were building a car based on a design by former Super Vee engine builder Patrick Head who’s Williams FW07 design started winning formula one races in 1979 and would win the Formula One World Constructors championships in 1980 and 81.
Photo Ed Arnaudin
Johnny Rutherford pictured here alongside Mario Andretti, became the beneficiary of Al Unsers decision to move taking the Chaparral to Victory Lane at the Brickyard in 1980 and onto the PPG Indy Car World Series championship.
In all the Chaparral 2K won six races from 27 starts over three seasons. John Barnard moved back to Formula One with McLaren in 1980 where he introduced the first Carbon Fibre Composite (CFC) chassis into the series, almost all top open wheel series run vehicles using CFC chassis these days, and later in 1989 while working for Ferrari in 1989 he introduced the worlds first paddle shift electronic gear shift mechanism.
Between them Barnard and Patrick Head were the dominant designers during the 1980’s in Formula One interestingly they once worked together for a 46 year old London Taxi driver come racing driver Ronnie Grant on his Formula Super Vee team.
My thanks to Steve Arnaudin for scanning his Dad’s photo.
Hope you have enjoyed today’s Yellow Submarine edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil’ psycho on tyres’ and that you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !