- Brabham BT46
Formula One| Car_name = Brabham BT46
Constructor = Motor Racing Developments Ltd. | Team =
Gordon Murray| Drivers = Niki Lauda
Nelson Piquet| Test drivers = -
Front suspension = Pullrod double wishbone
Rear suspension = Pushrod double wishbone
Engine position = mid-mounted
Engine name = Alfa Romeo
Capacity = 3-litre
Gearbox name = Alfa Romeo
Gears = 5-speed
Type = manual
Differential = Alfa Romeo differential
Tyres = Goodyear
Fuel = Fina,
Agip| Debut = 1978 South African Grand Prix
Races = 15 (all variants)
Cons_champ = 0
Drivers_champ = 0
Wins = BT46 - 1
BT46B - 1
Poles = 2
Last_season = 1979
The Brabham BT46 was a
Formula One racing car, designed by Gordon Murrayfor the Brabhamteam, owned by Bernie Ecclestone, for the 1978 Formula One season. The car featured several radical design elements, the most obvious of which was the use of flat panel heat exchangers on the bodywork of the car to replace conventional water and oil radiators. The concept did not work in practice and was removed before the car’s race debut, never to be seen again. The cars, powered by a flat-12Alfa Romeo engine, raced competitively with modified nose-mounted radiators for most of the year, driven by Niki Laudaand John Watson, winning one race in this form and scoring sufficient points for the team to finish third in the constructors championship.
The “B” variant of the car, also known as the fan car, was introduced at the
1978 Swedish Grand Prixas a counter to the dominant ground effect Lotus 79. The BT46B generated an immense level of downforceby means of a fan, claimed to be for increased cooling, but which also extracted air from beneath the car. The car only raced once in this configuration in the Formula One World Championship; Niki Lauda winning the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp. The car was withdrawn before it could race again and the concept declared illegal by the FIA. The BT46B therefore preserves a 100% winning record.
The BT46 was an
aluminium alloy monocoquefeaturing the trapezoidal cross section common to many of Gordon Murray’s 1970s designs. It used a 6-speed Hewland gearboxand featured inbuilt pneumatic jacks fed from an external supply of compressed air to lift it off the ground for tyre changes during practice. It employed a very early version of the carbon brakes that were in universal use by the mid 1980s – a concept taken from the aircraft industry. The system, which Brabham had been developing since 1976, combined carbon composite brake pads with a steel disc faced with carbon composite 'pucks'.
Alfa Romeo had been using a flat 12 engine successfully in sports car racing for some time and had won two titles with some impressive results. The engine soon began to attract the attention of Formula 1 teams. [ Grand Prix Encyclopedia [http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/con-alfa.html Constructors: Alfa Romeo] ] At a time when most teams were still employing the
Cosworth DFV, the Alfa Romeo engine supply deal was seen as a potential competitive advantage. The flat-12 design, in common with Ferrari, allowed for a powerful engine, with a low centre of gravity.
However, the engine was also very wide and required a lot of fuel to complete a race distance. The most radical feature of the original car was its use of flat plate heat exchangers mounted flush to the surface of the bodywork in place of conventional water radiators. The absence of standard radiators allowed Murray to compensate somewhat for the large engine and fuel tanks and produce a relatively light design with a low frontal cross section (important to reduce drag). In practice the heat exchangers did not provide anything like enough cooling capacity, one of South African Murray’s rare design failures, and were replaced by more standard radiators in the nose of the car, similar to that of the BT45, compromising its aerodynamic efficiency. In addition to the question of drag the nose-mounted radiators moved weight towards the front of the car. [Henry, Alan (1985) “ [http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0905138368 Brabham, the Grand Prix Cars] ” p. 171 - 179 Osprey ISBN 978-0-905138-36-7]
The BT46s debuted at the third race of the 1978 season, the South African Grand Prix on 4 March 1978, with the revised nose mounted radiators. The cars were immediately competitive, although reliability was suspect.
After the winning debut and subsequent withdrawal of the BT46B “fan car” at the Swedish Grand Prix (see below) the Brabham team completed the season with the standard BT46s. Niki Lauda winning the Italian Grand Prix in the standard car, albeit after
Mario Andrettiand Gilles Villeneuvewere penalised a minute for jumping the second race start after Ronnie Peterson’s fatal accident at the first start.
In the end the cars were hamstrung by their unreliability and by the heavy flat 12 engine which did not permit the use of ground effects as implemented by the Lotus team.
The BT46 appeared for the last time in the Formula One World Championship at the first round of the 1979 season in the hands of
Nelson Piquet. Niki Lauda also used the car to qualify for that race, as the new BT48 was proving troublesome, although he did race the new car. Piquet retired on the first lap.
Brabham BT46B – the "Fan car"
Lotus had introduced the concept of ground effect to the Formula One world championship in F1|1977 with their fast, but not always reliable, Type 78. Peter Wright and
Colin Chapmanhad discovered that by carefully shaping the underside of the car, they could accelerate the air passing under the car, thereby reducing the air pressure under the car relative to that over it and pushing the tyres down harder onto the track. The increased downforce gave more grip and thus higher cornering speeds. Ground effect had the great advantage of being a low drag solution, unlike conventional wings, meaning that the increased cornering ability was not compromised by a decrease in straight line speed. [Paul Haney, Jeff Braun [http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0964641402 Inside Racing Technology] . TV Motorsports] In 1978 Lotus ironed out the reliability problems and further developed the concept from relatively simple sidepods with a wing profile into full venturi tunnels under the car. As soon as they appeared at Zolder the black and gold Type 79s of Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson outpaced the opposition by a comfortable margin. ["Brabham and the fan car" http://www.forix.com/8w/fancar.html Accessed on 11 March 2006]
It had not been clear to other designers just what Wright and Chapman had done with the Type 78, but by early 1978, Gordon Murray had grasped how the Lotus design was achieving its remarkable levels of grip. He also realised that the Alfa Romeo
flat-12engine used by Brabham that season was too wide to permit the venturi tunnels needed for really significant ground effect. [Henry, Alan (1985) "Brabham, the Grand Prix Cars" p. 167 - 168 Osprey ISBN 978-0-905138-36-7] At Murray's instigation, Alfa went on to produce a V12 engine for the 1979 season. [Henry, Alan (1985) “Brabham, the Grand Prix Cars” p. 190 Osprey ISBN 978-0-905138-36-7] Ferrari, however, persisted with the flat 12 design and therefore lacked full ground effect until their disastrous 1980 season. In the meantime, Murray's idea was to use another way of reducing the pressure underneath the car. In 1970 the Chaparral 2J“sucker car” had dominated the American sportscar scene. The 2J had two fans at the rear of the car driven by a dedicated two-strokeengine to draw large amounts of air from under the chassis, reducing pressure and creating downforce. ["Brabham and the fan car" http://www.forix.com/8w/fancar.html Accessed on 11 March 2006] Murray designed a version driven by a complex series of clutches running from the engine to a large single fan at the back of the car. Therefore the faster the engine ran, the stronger the suction effect. Like the Lotus, it had sliding “skirts” that sealed the gap between the sides of the cars and the ground. These prevented excessive air from being sucked into the low pressure area under the car and dissipating the ground effect. There was a rule banning “moveable aerodynamic devices”, but the fan also drew air through a horizontally mounted radiator over the engine. Using a fan to assist cooling was legal – Brabham had used a small electric fan to this effect on the BT45Cs at the South American races at the start of the year – and Brabham claimed that this was the primary effect of the new device. These claims were lent some legitimacy by the cooling system design issues that had affected the original design at the start of the year. [Henry, Alan (1985) “Brabham, the Grand Prix Cars” p. 181-183 Osprey ISBN 978-0-905138-36-7]
The BT46B was designed and tested in some secrecy. Brabham's lead driver, Niki Lauda, realised he had to adjust his driving style, mostly for cornering. He found that if he accelerated around corners, the car would “stick” to the road as if it were on rails. [Henry, Alan (1985) “Brabham, the Grand Prix Cars” p. 181-183 Osprey ISBN 978-0-905138-36-7] This had the side effect of exposing the driver to massive lateral
g-forces, which would become a major problem in the ground effect era.
The cars were modified BT46s – chassis numbers BT46/4 and BT46/6. ["Brabham BT46" [http://www.oldracingcars.com/type.asp?TypeID=BT46 www.oldracingcars.com] Accessed 11 March 2006] Modifications to implement the fan concept were quite extensive – involving sealing the engine bay as well as adding the clutch system and the fan. These modifications added about 20 kg to the weight of the car as well as costing around 20 bhp. ["Brabham Alfa Romeo BT46" [http://www.research-racing.de/bt46-1.htm www.research-racing.de] Accessed on 30 June 2006] ["Brabham BT46A" [http://www.statsf1.com/default.asp?From=/cars/modele.asp?idmodele=788%26LG=1 www.statsf1.com] Accessed on 30 June 2006] ["Brabham BT46B" [http://www.statsf1.com/default.asp?From=/cars/modele.asp?idmodele=799%26LG=1 www.statsf1.com] Accessed on 30 June 2006]
The two modified cars were prepared for the Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp on 17 June 1978, for Niki Lauda and John Watson. When not in use, the fan was covered by a dustbin lid, but it soon became clear what the modified Brabham was intended to achieve: when the drivers blipped the throttle, the car could be seen to squat down on its suspension as the downforce increased. Lotus driver
Mario Andrettisaid “It is like a bloody great vacuum cleaner. It throws muck and rubbish at you at a hell of a rate”. ["Watson on front row driving 'vacuum cleaner' (17 June 1978) " The Times" page 22] The legality of the cars was soon protested, but they were allowed to race. They qualified 2nd and 3rd behind championship leader Andretti. In the race, Watson spun off on the 19th lap. Once a back-marker dropped oil onto the track, the remaining Brabham was in a class of its own, seemingly unaffected by the slippery surface. Lauda passed Andretti, who dropped out shortly afterwards due to a broken valve, and went on to win by over half a minute from Riccardo Patresein an Arrows. [Henry, Alan (1985) “Brabham, the Grand Prix Cars” p. 183 Osprey ISBN 978-0-905138-36-7]
The BT46B competed once again in 1979 in the
Gunnar NilssonTrophy race at Donington Park. This was an event held to raise funds for the Gunnar Nilsson Cancer Fund. Originally intended as a non-championship Formula One race, without FIA sanction it was instead run in a time trialformat, with victory going to the fastest single lap recorded. As it was not an FIA event, the car's illegality was not a factor. Nelson Piquet drove, coming fourth of the five cars competing. ["The fan car raced twice!" [http://www.forix.com/8w/nilsson-trophy.html www.forix.com] Accessed on 11 March 2006]
There was uproar from rival teams, who saw the Fancar as a threat to their competitiveness. Lotus immediately started design work on a fan version of the 79. Bernie Ecclestone, owner of the Brabham team, had also been secretary of the
Formula One Constructors Association(FOCA) since 1972 and became its president in 1978. Ecclestone decided to withdraw the car from further competition to avoid conflict with other teams within FOCA. The CSI declared “fan cars” illegal shortly after the race on the basis that the fan constituted a moving aerodynamic device. The car was not considered to have been illegal when it raced however, so the Swedish Grand Prix win stood. The two converted chassis were returned to standard BT46 configuration for the next race. [Henry, Alan (1985) “Brabham, the Grand Prix Cars” p. 186 - 187 Osprey ISBN 978-0-905138-36-7]
Another variation on the theme was produced later in the season. Like the BT46B, the BT46C removed the radiators from the front wing assembly leaving a clean aerodynamic wing and moving the centre of gravity further back again. The standard radiators were replaced by units from a Volkswagen Golf ["Brabham Alfa Romeo BT46" [http://www.research-racing.de/bt46-1.htm www.research-racing.de] Accessed on 30 June 2006] mounted behind the front wheels out of the airstream in a region of positive pressure. [Henry, Alan (1985) “Brabham, the Grand Prix Cars” p. 189 Osprey ISBN 978-0-905138-36-7]
The BT46C only ran in practice for the
1978 Austrian Grand Prix. The drivers complained of reduced revs and straight line speed. It was not used in the race and did not appear again. [Henry, Alan (1985) “Brabham, the Grand Prix Cars” p. 189 Osprey ISBN 978-0-905138-36-7]
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