The absolute highlight of the Clipsal 500 were the three vintage Formula 1 cars on display. Given that practise for the Australian F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne starts tomorrow and that I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon to attend the race, I thought it would be topical to take a look at these beautiful old machines.
The only one to turn laps of the track was the 1980 Williams FW07B that Alan Jones drove to his 1980 World Championship win, becoming only the second Australian since Sir Jack Brabham to win an F1 World Championship. The sound of it’s Cosworth DFV is something to behold. I can’t describe how incredible it was, so I shot this video of the William’s parade laps:
The thing that makes it different to a modern F1 car is that under the skin, it’s really just like any other open wheeler. It looks old tech to us now, but this was the cutting edge back in the day. The current owner and driver says “it’s really just like a big Formula Ford to drive”. Pfft, a Formula Ford with 490hp that is…
Designed by Patrick Head, the FW07B is a full ground effects car. It was apparently fairly hairy to drive during the demonstration runs at Clipsal because it had almost no grip. The Adelaide track is currently so bumpy that it required the team to raise the Williams far higher than it ever ran back in the day, just to clear the bumps. That meant that the ground effects couldn’t work (that and the demo runs weren’t really fast enough either), and the rest of the aero on the car is designed to work with ground effects. Ergo – no ground effects, no downforce.
Ground effects really adds a whole new dimension to car design. The front spoiler doesn’t provide much downforce, and back in the day they even ran a few races completely without it. The ground effects provide so much downforce that ridiculously stiff springs had to be used, otherwise the downforce would just pull the car straight down on it’s suspension at speed. They actually found that solid spacers instead of springs worked best, but then the ride became so bumpy that the driver couldn’t see.
They produced so much downforce that the steering became almost undriveably hard. Jones was one of the only drivers with enough upper body strength to last an entire race – a lot of the smaller European drivers simply couldn’t race them for any period of time.
This car has been sympathetically restored with the assistance of Alan’s former race mechanic. All of the aluminium work, chassis and bodywork are all original – even all of the paint and stickers are perfectly original – these are the very logos that saw competition back in the day.
The 2990cc Cosworth DFV 90deg V8 is the only non original part of the car. It’s not the actual original block, but identical in every way to the one originally used. The original engine was sadly no longer with the car when it was pulled out of a museum for restoration.
The fuel pump is a two stage mechanical/electric pump. An electric pump feeds the engine under 3000rpm, and once up to speed the driver flicks the switch to the right which activates the mechanical pump running from a cable drive off the gearbox. Under 3000rpm, the engine doesn’t spin fast enough to power the mechanical pump.