THE SPIRIT OF ’ 76
to prevent separation of low-pressure air
from beneath, while a NACA-style duct
cut in the floor sucked some of that air up
through the cockpit.
“We tested it using a pitot tube,” recalls
In 1976, the McLaren M23 was the
mechanic-cum-team manager Alastair
Caldwell, “and reckoned we had 250lb of
downforce, for free; the car was just as
quick down the straights. We had run a
ground-effect car in Can-Am for years
without realizing it was a ground-effect car.
Eventually the pennies started to drop.”
Coppuck: “My Indy car experience
made me realize that the better you
controlled the attitude of a car, the better
it will be. We ran more skirt than the others
and M23’s large plan area also helped.”
Forghieri had experienced something
similar: “We were lucky in that we had
worked with the sports car [his 312PB
of 1971-’ 73] and started to understand
what it meant to have a large flat surface
running close to the ground.”
Tests in Stuttgart University’s wind
longest, widest Formula 1 car out there.
In contrast, Ferrari’s transverse gearbox
made it compact and nimble. Based on
the results, both concepts worked...
The McLaren M23 earned Formula 1
drivers’ titles for Emerson Fittipaldi (1974)
and James Hunt (ABOVE, ’ 76) and took
16 GP wins with five different drivers.
Making its debut in the 1976 Spanish GP,
the 312T2 contested 31 GPs, winning
eight. It bowed out with a win in its last
start, Brazil ’ 78 with Carlos Reutemann.
More powerful than the Cosworth DFV,
Ferrari’s flat- 12 engine raced in F1 from
1970 to ’ 80. Its days were numbered with
the advent of ground-effect venturi tunnels
and the need for vee-configured engines.
FLAT- 12 FAILINGS
Gordon Coppuck used the basic layout
of the Indy 500-winning M16 and the
suspension geometry of the M19 F1 car
as starting points for the M23 (ABOVE).
INFLUENCED BY INDY
Ferrari’s 1974 iteration of the B3 was good enough to win three GPS (ABOVE, Niki Lauda’s
first career GP win came in Spain). But switching to a transverse gearbox for 1975’s 312T
turned it into a title-winning team. (BELOW) The McLaren M23’s first GP win came in its
fifth start, the 1973 Swedish GP, courtesy of irascible, but rapid veteran Denny Hulme.
TRIED, PROVEN AND IMPROVED
“We tested [the side skirts]
using a pitot tube and
reckoned we had 250lb
of downforce, for free”
1976 was Emerson’s [late] departure. It
left us shocked and in need. James was
the best alternative available.”
That said, the updated M23 that Hunt
wriggled into – steering box upturned and
cockpit surround extended so as to neither
stub his toes nor skin his knuckles – was
fitted with Kevlar panels and a pioneering
onboard pneumatic starter to obviate the
need for a battery: a 15kg (33lb) saving.
Coppuck: “We never used carbon fiber as
a proper structure. That would have needed
an autoclave and a ‘clean room,’ which we
didn’t have. However, make something
too light and it can become unstable.”
It had also sprouted plastic side skirts