F1 History Lite: Uncle Ken has a weight problem

brundle detroit

Brought to you by TJ13 contributor OddBall

On this day… 22nd July


Let’s be clear, I, just like so many of you out there, DONT LIKE CHEATS!

That said F1 has a chequered past when it comes to teams sailing close to the wind.

Whether it is a miss interpretation of a rule or a blatant shattering of the sporting code there aren’t many teams that are 100% squeaky clean but one of the strangest and frankly one of the most ingenious ‘bending of the rules’ was the case of the unsecured ballast in the Tyrrell car’s water tank.

In 1984, Ken Tyrrell (Uncle Ken to many) was again facing a major funding problem and with the teams winning ways and championship wins with driver Jackie Stewart were but a distant memory.

Tyrell was now the only team who were running a normally aspirated 3l Cosworth engine, something which allegedly irritated certain individuals at the FIA who believed F1 would be better served with all turbo cars because it would attract more manufacturers.

The power disadvantage was enormous and so Tyrell looked to find one of those ‘ingenious’ F1 rule loophole solutions, of which many had been employed over the years.

This answer was based on a trick used by Williams and Brabham who in 1982 had run water cooled braking systems. To ensure the cars reached the minimum weight at the chequered flag, the cars would be pitted and water added to replace that used during the race.

Having a normally aspirated engine, Tyrell ran a water injection system, which was a means of lowering cylinder temperatures to increase power. As had Brabham and Williams, Tyrell would top up the water tank to replace the water used during the race

But this alone could not explain some of the impressive results Tyrell were achieving. Martin Brundle drove an unspectacular race to finish an impressive second in Detroit.

The secret was that the Tyrell mechanics were adding something over and above the water for their car to make the weight at post race scrutineering. That something was lead shot!!

In effect the car was designed to weigh around 63 kilo’s less than it should at the start of the race, and some 140 lbs of lead shot was added later under high pressure with the replacement 2 gallons water for the injection system.

Amusingly, at one of the Tyrell ‘top up’ pit stops, some of the high pressure added lead shot escaped through the tank vent and rained down on neighbouring pits. Mechanics were seen furiously sweeping the pellets away before their cars arrived at the pit box.

The long and short of it was that Tyrell were fined, excluded from participating in the final three races of the season and were retroactively disqualified from all races that year.

The cost for Tyrell was more than just money and a lost season, it went some way to ruin their image in the eyes of many and painted a black streak over their great history.

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