Brought to you by TJ13 contributor OddBall
On this day… 27th July
Two things I remember about 1986, one being the horrendous accident of the NASA space shuttle Challenger and the second being the German GP at Hockenheim.
The race was started under a blistering German sun and the drivers were pushed to their absolute limit throughout the race.
The teams knew it was going to be tight with fuel given that the turbos of the day had a major drinking problem. Throw in the nature of Hockenheim circuit and everyone knew the day was going to be a rough ride.
To increase the power, teams had been producing ever bigger turbo units. However, this extra grunt came at huge cost because the regulated fuel limit was smaller than the cars required to run at full chatter for the full race duration.
Solution: Fuel saving measures were employed – sound familiar?(
Unlike today’s technological marvels these systems utilised a simple boost control that was governed by the driver, rather than a computer, and this led to some spectacular duels in these fledgling turbo years.
As the race unfolded the gaps between the leading drivers began to yo-yo as fuel became an issue.
Leads evaporated in the German sun as drivers ignored the fuel gauge and pressed for ever more power.
Alain Prost was harrying the Williams of Nigel Mansell and this battle continued until the very last lap. The margins were tight indeed – very, very tight.
As Senna approached the flag he began to weave his Lotus back and forwards across the track. Many saw it as a celeration, but it quickly became apparent he was flat out of juice.
The camera cut back to the Prost\Mansell battle and the millions of TV viewers watched enthralled as the McLaren began to slow and then sway across the track. The French champion desperately tried to get the last few drops of fuel into the engine but it wasn’t to be and his engine finally died.
Prost attempted to deploy some Jedi like powers as he rocked inside the cockpit back and forward against the steering wheel.
To his credit, he eventually climbed out of the car and pushed it towards the finishing line. But as car after car passed by, the efforts became evidently futile.
Prost wasn’t alone that day as 3 other cars failed to make the pit lane as they ran their tanks dry.
The modern computerised F1 space ships won’t allow this eventuality any more, but on THIS day back in 86 we saw just how exciting fuel saving can be.