April 08, 2020 By Georges B. Ramirez

Aerodynamics (1968 – 1970)

Second Part of a Series

We ended last week with the early 1960s cigar shaped Formula One cars that were at the apex of the “minimizing drag only” era and Jim Hall’s Chaparral 2E winged CamAm racer in the mid 1960s so, I will continue on.

The wing finally made its appearance in Formula One in 1968 when Collin Chapman mounted two small ones on either side of the Lotus 49’s nose as well as something more like a big spoiler at the back. It was the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix (I was there), Graham Hill’s car had them and domineeringly secured pole position and went on to win the race. By the next race in Belgium, Ferrari’s Forghieri installed a proper inverted wing on the rear wheel hub of Chris Amon Ferrari 312 with two posts. He qualified first easily and by the following grand prix it had spread like wild fire, just about everyone had wings. Not to be out done Chapman, got rid of the rear spoiler and installed a wider and taller wing in the rear where the air is undisturbed by the turbulence of the cars ahead. Just to put things into context. F1 had just moved from 1.5 liter to 3.0 liter engines that put out 450 horses, which was a lot to handle back then. Hence, they had to find ways to improve grip.

1968 May 26, Monaco. Graham Hill’s Lotus 49B the 1st wings in

1968 June 9 Belgium, Spea-Francorchamps. Ferrari fits a proper inverted wing at the rear of Chris Amon’s Ferrari 312/67

1968 Colin Chapman scales up with a taller and wider wing

Soon they all had flimsy tall wide wings up high. But, now they were mounted both front and back and sometimes the turbulence of the rear wings of cars in front would lift the front wing of the car behind. So, away the front wings went. But the wings were still flimsy and would on occasion break from the down force it generated and wind resistance. The horrific accidents that resulted from all this, caused officials to ban the front tall wings.

1968 March 1st, South African Grand Prix, Kyalami, South Africa (from left to right) Jack Brabham in his Brabham with collapsed wing, Graham Hill’s Lotus 47B of Colin Chapman and Jackie Stewarts Matra Cosworth MS10 of Ken Tyrell with the double tall wings

The “straw that broke the camel’s back” was at the Spanish Grand Prix in May of 1969. Early into the race. First Hill’s then Rindt’s Lotus 49B’s had wing failure ending in two horrifying accidents. Rindt actually hits Hill’s abandoned wreck. Both very lucky to have survived such crashes.

1. Pre Grid note the absence of the front wings.

Rindt crashing.

At this point, all tall wings where banned by the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) the equivalent of the FIA then. They restricted not only the wing height but width as well. Both front and rear wing widths were basically limited to the inside of the left and right tires so, full wings at the back and the two small ones on either side of the nose.

1. The maximum height, width and locations of the wings are controlled.
2. Aerodynamic devices have to be of fixed geometry with no movable parts
3. They have to be rigidly attached to the body work
1969 Monaco Grand Prix, post FIA banning the tall wings and cars adhering to the new regulations.

During the same period of experimentation throughout the 1960’s, the prototypes had a basic aerodynamic issue of their own. Prototypes are, cars like those in Le Mans and CamAm, basically full bodied cars with their wheels covered. This may have cleaned the airflow but, if you drew its basic shape you will notice it is like an airplane’s wing which produces lift. Faster air (longer distance) on top and slower air below. Hence, spoilers came to be, they literally spoiled the airflow. (see diagram below)

Anyway, back to 1970. The Chaparral 2E also suffered the same FIA ban which inspired Jim Hall to create the Chaparral 2J, the famous ground effects vacuum car. It had skirts along the sides and two fans at the back that would that would suck the ground when it accelerated and blow it out the back. Kinda like a hovercraft but in reverse. It debuted in 1970 though it was banned the same year.

1970 Jim Halls Chaparral 2J Ground Effects Vacuum Car

We will get back to this car as we get into the later part of the 1970s. Anyway, I am ending part 2 with the start of the 1970s.

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