Tyrrell 012

Total Production: 7 1983 - 1985
In Formula One, every possible means of an advantage is exploited. The larger factory efforts, with bigger budgets, will use the extra financial resources available to them to explore more-expensive technology. The smaller teams are usually forced to find more 'creative' means to be competitive.

In the late 1970s, the turbocharged cars were just beginning to make their appearance in Formula One. Initially, there was little reason to fear as the engines proved fragile under the strain of the force induction. However, when combined with the ground-effects chassis the turbocharged engines made for a rocket-ship of a car.

In spite of its terrible teething problems, anybody with even a little intelligence could figure out the teams would end up perfecting the turbocharged cars until they could make it well past race distances without any problems. This led to a mass-exodus to the powerful new engines. However, there were some smaller teams that would not leave the ship so soon. One of those was Tyrrell. Tyrrell would focus on making an all-new chassis for the last remaining normally-aspirated engine in Formula One, the Ford Cosworth DFV.

The turbocharged cars obviously had a horsepower advantage, but were slightly more heavy. The option left smaller teams like Tyrrell were to create and use cars that barely met the minimum weight requirements. Being lighter and more nimble there would be a chance at some good results.

Making a car light enough wasn't too much of a problem. Creating one that was light and nimble, and yet, had stable handling, was not as easy. Ken Tyrrell would turn to Maurice Philippe to design the car. The answer Philippe came up with would become known as the 012.

One major influence to Maurice Philippe in the design of the car was the fact ground-effects chassis were banned going into the season. This enabled Philippe to create a 'minimal' design. Sidepods, which were mainly used for generating the ground-effect, could be totally abandoned.

Having no need to design sidepods into the car, the design philosophy could remain minimal and tight. In addition, Tyrrell would turn, for the first time, to carbon fiber composites to help build the car. This would help to keep the car light.

Therefore, putting the two aspects together, Philippe had the opportunity to make a truly exciting car. Being narrow and compact, and, being extremely light, Tyrrell's new design could be a truly nimble machine. But, without the turbocharged powerplant could it be fast enough?

Knowing they would be at a horsepower disadvantage, Tyrrell's design team had to design a car that could make up for the performance short-comings. Tyrrell wouldn't go it all alone, however. The team would get some help from its engine supplier Cosworth.

Tyrrell was the sole-remaining team that would use the Cosworth powerplant for the 1983 season. Aware of its short-comings, compared to the turbocharged BMW and Renault engines, Cosworth went to work seeing what it could do to claw back some of the horsepower differences. The solution they would come up with would be a short-stroke 3.0-liter engine capable of producing 530 bhp. Tyrrell had their engine. They just needed to design and build a car to fit around it.

Maurice had gone to work designing as small a package as he could. The resulting design would be rather impressive. Overall, its shape would bear great similarity to that of an arrow. Compared to the 011 of just one season prior, the 012 was vastly different. It truly was compact in its design.

Due to ground-effects being banned, more emphasis was placed on other forms of aerodynamic grip that could be produced. Of course, the main tools for the production of the aerodynamic grip was the front and rear wings.

The monocoque nose structure enabled the front wing to attach right inside the nose structure. This 'slot' for the conventional front wing served to rigidly attach the wing. It would then be covered by a piece of bodywork that was nicely contoured and more aerodynamic.

Being conventional in its design, the leading edge of the front wing was straight and featured just one main plane. The underside of the front wing was greatly cambered in an effort to speed up the air flowing underneath the wing, thereby, increasing downforce. In addition, the trailing edge of the upper portion of the wing was contoured quite heavily. The trailing edge also utilized a small gurney flap to help generate as much downforce as possible.

Composite technology at the time was still rather restrictive. Complex contours were not an easy endeavor at the time. Therefore, the main structure, while carbon-fiber and aluminum honeycomb, would still be rather boxy. It would then be covered by smaller bodywork that was rounded, more contoured. This was never more clear than on the piece of bodywork that housed the front wing.

The main structure was of an aluminum monocoque and could be detached from the main composite crash structure. This was then covered by a composite body panel that was more rounded and aerodynamic. In later evolutions of the 012, the entire nose section could be pulled off to reveal the carbon-fiber tub crash structure that extended from just ahead of the front suspension and travelled back to where the engine bolted on to the chassis. In addition, the later generations of the 012 featured a front wing that attached to either side of the composite nose, thereby, appearing to run through the car. This made for a much more aerodynamically efficient nose design.

Chassis designs just a year or two prior were still needing to use metal tubular structures that attached to the tub structure, and then, would be covered by bodywork. The use of composite materials made it possible to make reinforced structures, such as a nose, that could attach right to the tub structure. This served to simplify a car's design dramatically.

The composite structure allowed the coil spring front suspension to be housed inside the structure itself, instead of merely being attached to it. In addition, the front suspension on the 012 utilized double-wishbone arrangement with a pull-rod operated coil spring.

The pull-rod suspension is the same as the push-rod just inverted. The pull-rod, the diagonal suspension arm seen connecting to the wheel hub, merely pulls on the suspension rocker arm located low in the nose structure of the car. This action then compresses the spring and provides cushion and stability over the bumps and through the turns.

Speaking of the wheels, the car utilized ventilated disc brakes all the way around the car. However, breaking under racing conditions heats up the discs to incredible temperatures. To prohibit fading and general failure, the brake temperatures needed to remain within a certain temperature range. This created the need to have cooler air directed right into the brake assembly to help cool the brakes.

Though revised throughout the season, and from year-to-year, brake ducts were made and attached to the inside of the front wheel. These ducts changed, mostly, just in their size. However, it is important to provide optimum air flow for such an important component. Therefore, a couple of different duct designs were created for the 012. The simplest, and most common, design was a small rectangular duct that ran along the inside of the front tire. Tyrrell did; however, have another duct design. This duct bent around the front tire and was incorporated into the endplate of the front wing. This arrangement grabbed the air flowing around the endplate in the belief this was a more-efficient way to funnel cooling air into the brake housing.

Due to the design of the chassis, which was normal at the time, the driver sat high in the cockpit. Therefore, in order to make the car as aerodynamic as possible, a steep angle in the bodywork was necessary to form the cockpit. Using the composite materials, the bodywork also served as a protective structure around the driver in the cockpit. Because of the increased strength of the bodywork, and the desire for lighter-weight chassis, the cockpit remained exposed. The bodywork of the cockpit swooped downward along the side of the car. This helped the driver to get in and out of the car easier, but it also left him more exposed and vulnerable.

Inside the cockpit, the driver found the inside rather tight despite the lower bodywork along the side. Still before the height of the digital era, the driver's view was dominated by just a few important analog gauges. The tachometer was the dominant gauge in the driver's view, which was important given the Cosworth's ability to turn at over 11,000 rpm. To the right of the steering wheel was the small gearshift for the Hewland 5-speed manual transmission.

Right behind the driver sat the Cosworth V8 engine. Combined with the Hewland gearbox, the 530 bhp engine was capable of pushing the 012 from zero to 60 in under three seconds. It could also fly through a kilometer in only 21 seconds! Being normally-aspirated, the powerful engine needed a lot of air to breathe in order to produce the power. A composite body panel was created to mount over the top of the engine. The top of the bodywork had a mesh panel covering an opening to the induction pipes of the engine. In addition to filtering the air into the induction pipes, water injection was still allowed in Formula One at the time. This water injection system, which would later be a source of controversy, would help to further increase the engine's power.

While the front of the car was rather conventional in its design, the rear was quite different. Without the need for sidepods for ground-effects, Maurice was free to make a small, and narrow, car which would be good handling and fast. However, with a 530 hp engine pushing the car to speeds greater than 150 mph over the course of a single kilometer, there would be an incredible amount of heat that would need to be eradicated. The engine radiators and oil coolers would be very necessary. But the question was, 'Where to put them?'

Similar to the Brabham design, Philippe had come up with an angled radiator sidepod arrangement well back toward the rear wheels of the car. These angled sidepods are what gave the car its arrow shape. Each of the radiators and coolers would be positioned in these sidepods side-by-side. Small flap were positioned on the back-side of the vents to disrupt the airflow so to help provide the necessary time for the air to be pulled in through the radiators.

The entire area behind the radiator sidepods was open and provided ease of maintenance. The pipes running to and from the radiators were readily apparent. These pipes ran right near the exhaust pipes coming out of the two banks of engine cylinders. These pipes then bent around and merged into one pipe and then ran through the rear suspension members, bent upwards and exited out of the back of the car.

Similar to the front suspension, a pull-rod suspension arrangement was used. As the rear wheels rode over bumps, or went through turns, the diagonal pull-rod would pull on the rocker and compress the coil spring from the bottom.

Running right over the top of the exhaust pipe was the driveshaft. This portion of the driveshaft was not directly connected to the transmission. Instead, it mounted to the in-board disc brakes. The area around the rear wheels, especially because of the driveshaft, was too tight to efficiently have disc brakes cooling ducts. The solution was to mount the disc and caliper directly to the transmission and then run the driveshaft from there to the wheel. Given its location, the rear brakes still needed cooler air to help with temperatures. Therefore, right behind the coil springs, the disc brake cooling ducts stuck up into the airstream.

The important rear wing would go through a number of revisions. Philippe would even introduce and radical rear wing design that would end up practicing, but would never actually race in Formula One.

The arrangement of the rear wing depended upon the circuit. However, the basic arrangement of the 012 included a tri-plane setup. It used a lower main-plane, an intermediate and an upper-plane in its design. The intermediate and upper planes merely further split the airflow that passed over the lower main-plane in order to extract every ounce of downforce possible. In spite of the downforce generated by the rear wing, it was supported by just one support pillar.

When the season stopped at a higher downforce circuit, like Monaco, another smaller wing arrangement could be attached to the forward part of the rear wing's endplate. It would further be reinforced by being attached just aft of the radiators in the sidepods.

A radical rear wing design was introduced at the Austrian Grand Prix. The main rear wing featured a forward sweep to its angle. Like a kite, the middle of the wing featured a deep main-plane that seemed to point backward. The upper-plane also pointed backward. The upper plane also had a sharper angle, and therefore, the main plane was rather narrow in depth out at the ends. The purpose of the design was rather simple. The design was a more efficient version of the setup used at the higher downforce circuits. The wing needed to be designed as such to be firmly attached to the sidepod. The differing depths of the main plane did allow for a number of different adjustments to be made in order to provide the most downforce without the drag penalty.

The 'boomerang' wing wasn't the only evolution to the 012 that debuted at Austria. Tyrrell had mounted another wing element underneath the main rear wing. This wing element would actually serve two purposes. It would use the air flowing over the engine and gearbox to generate downforce. But it would generate this downforce through its other source of usefulness.

Ground-effects had been banned going into the 1983 season. Teams were ever searching for ways in which to get back the downforce that was lost. What made ground-effects chassis work was that they trapped the air under the car and forced it to squeeze underneath the chassis. This 'squeezing' created a strong low pressure, which acted like a vacuum pulling the car down to the track. This was lost due to regulations. One of the ways in which Tyrrell did its most to get the downforce back was it mounted another wing below and behind the boomerang main wing. Air flowing over the top of the wing created a vacuum that pulled air underneath it and the car. Though not incredibly strong like the ground-effects chassis, this lower wing further helped increase the downforce of the car.

In spite of the fact Philippe had been able to design and build a truly light-weight chassis that had more than enough power, it was not enough to battle the turbocharged cars that had more than what was estimated to be 200+ horsepower advantage. Tyrrell had declined in the standings throughout the later 1970s and was virtually without a sponsor during the early '80s. Thankfully, Benetton had agreed to come on as a sponsor and this enabled the team to at least develop the car. But only so much can be done when it is horsepower that is lacking, not evolution of the car.

Although the car lacked a good deal of power compared to the competition, the 012 made up some of the difference. The driver has the ability to make up even more of the difference. This was never more true than at Detroit in 1983.

Detroit was only the seventh round of the World Championship in 1983. The 012 was still new and needed to be further developed. But in the hands of the young and talented Michele Alboreto, Tyrrell would go on to victory. This would be the last for Tyrrell Racing.

Even though the 012 proved to be a very good car, having equal, or close, horsepower with the competition is something that is also was desirable. Being at such a disadvantage it would be easy for Tyrrell to take some very drastic measures, sometimes, less-than legal measures in order to make up for the deficiencies. This would end up being true about Tyrrell during the 1984 season. When the team really needed the best results possible in order to pay for its racing budget, the team would end up losing every point earned due to hydrocarbons being found in the water tank, as well as, lead ball bearings, which, were believed to bring the car up to the minimum weight allowance by the end of a race. This desperate maneuver would end up costing the team a number of good results during the season, including a 3rd place result in the wet at Monaco by Stefan Bellof.

The 012, with a Cosworth engine, would be used from 1983 on through the mid-point of the 1985 season. Ken Tyrrell's ability to find young talent would end up helping to keep Tyrrell aloft. These talented drivers would do what they could with what was a very good car, but just needed more power. The change would come in 1985.

In an attempt to maintain an ability to compete, Tyrrell would get turbocharged Renault engines and would place it inside what would be known as the 014. The 014 chassis was merely an updated version of the 012 with the turbocharged powerplant. Immediately, Tyrrell became competitive again, for what was basically the last time. The 012, therefore, served as Tyrrell's basis for its last successful attempt at Formula One glory.

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By Jeremy McMullen

Tyrrell Models