Some people can't have people whispering behind their backs; Don Nichols took advantage of it. Rumors abound concerning the man's life, his apparent involvement in Military Intelligence and his doings in the Far-East. Though much of Nichols' life was, and remains, a mystery, one thing was for certain—his cars and team is well known.
Upon leaving the military, Nichols became a dealer for Firestone and Goodyear in the Far-East and then start Advanced Vehicle Systems Inc. This was the beginning of 'Shadow'. Using the rumors and mystery to great effect, Nichols chose the name 'Shadow' and would adorn his cars with the figured of a cloaked man, or sometimes, just a pair of eyes.
Shadow had managed to forge a good life in Can-Am racing. The team, and the cars, came online; unfortunately, when it was too late. Can-Am racing was in decline. Nichols then announced he would enter Shadow in Formula One
Helped by Jackie Oliver who had driven for Shadow in Can-Am, Nichols had managed to lure Universal Oil Products, and former BRM designer Tony Southgate, to come on board with Shadow. While Southgate was the talent, Nichols wasn't without intelligence as well when it came to innovative ideas. Unfortunately, many of those ideas only managed to exist in another world. In reality, the innovations didn't work, or, were not very practical.
Shadow continued to take part in both Formula One and Can-Am. Even though the series became defunct at the end of the season, Jackie Oliver and George Fullmer finished one-two in Can-Am in 1974. In Formula One, the team wasn't quite as good. The team would manage to wring some top-five results out of its first few chassis, but there still needed to be some development.
One thing about such a shadowy figure as what Nichols was, nobody knew what to expect from Shadow one race to the next. Rarely did one chassis model make it through an entire season. Often times, Shadow would race two, possibly even three iterations of a chassis before the end of a season. The 1976 season would be no different.
Heading into the 1976 season, Nichols was caught off-guard when Universal Oil Products announced it was leaving Formula One. This left Shadow without the funds to continue developing a new car. All the team could do was start the season with an updated version of the DN5. It would be called the DN5B.
Nichols would use everyone at Shadow as his operatives. Jackie Oliver would end up being able to work a deal with a Swiss cigar company called Tabatip to come on-board as a sponsor. This enabled the team, who had unfortunately lost Southgate to Lotus for a period, to introduce its newest chassis, the DN8. This would prove to be one of Shadow's best and most competitive cars. It would be run by a handful of teams for a couple of years before finally being retired. Although Shadow would stick with the DN8 for a while, each race would see practically a whole-new version of the car unloaded off the trucks.
The DN8-1A would be debuted at the Austrian Grand Prix in 1976. It, like many other Shadow chassis, featured a number of innovative design concepts. Also like many of Shadow's other models, though it would seem to change race-to-race, the DN8 would become very recognizable amongst its competitors.
Perhaps most recognizable for its long, low-slung nose, the DN8's nose; drawing mostly from the one-off DN7, actually served a greater purpose than merely providing a crash structure, holding the front wing and being an attachment point for the front suspension. Before leaving, Southgate created a nose design that would actually end up being taken and would end up making an appearance in Formula One and Le Mans racing in the new millennium.
The wide, shallow nose serves as an attachment point for a double-plane front wing. The double-plane helps to increase downforce as it allows the airflow going over the top of the main-plane to be split again. As the airflow speeds up to flow under and behind the smaller plane, it creates more downforce.
While the wide, shallow nose holds the front wing, the nose itself also served another important function concerning the car's operation. The design of the car, being what it was, had no place for the radiators to help cool either the engine or the oil. This, of course, is a big problem. The design of the nose would provide a solution. The nose features a two-channel opening that allows air to flow into. Housed right behind this two-channel nose is the car's oil cooler. Attached by fluid lines that run all the way from the rear of the car to the nose, the airflow coming into the car's nose goes through the oil cooler and lowers the oil's temperature.
This airflow then needs to find a way to exit, or, it just creates turbulence because the whole area gets blocked by the excessive amount of air flowing in, but having no place to go. The solution was to have the airflow then exit out through the top of the nose. The contoured lip of the top of the bodywork, and the other portion of the bodywork that appears to flow like a waterfall into the channel, helps to create downforce. The arching flow of the air as it leaves out the top of the nose creates a low pressure that helps to suck the air flowing into the nose out through the back. This actually helps the operation in a couple of ways: the lip and gap helps to pull the hotter air out, but, because of the suction caused by the low pressure, it helps to draw more air in, which only further helps cooling.
This same kind of idea would later be used for Formula One and Le Mans prototype designs into the new millennium, but for the purpose of using the nose of the car to generate extra downforce. Using the same concept, the air flow is able to be used to generate downforce. But in the case of the DN8, Southgate had found an ingenious way to cool the car's oil. One thing was for sure, only the low-slung, long nose would enable such a design to be employed in such an efficient manner. This would serve as evidence that the aerodynamic revolution would have to look at every aspect of a car's design to create the most efficient design.
The innovative designs and concepts don't stop with the nose of the car; it just blends into more. The bodywork widens as it travels back. Southgate created an interesting way to incorporate the front suspension into the aerodynamics of the car. Instead of a narrow nose with long suspension arms extending out to the wheels, the bodywork was widened and cut-out to provide the upper-wishbone freedom of movement. The upper-wishbone was designed in such a way that it hinged in the middle. The suspension's coil spring was placed vertically inside the widened bodywork. As the car rode over the bumps, the wishbones would rock up and down. The upper-wishbone would rock on its central hinge. This would compress the coil spring when the wheel was deflected upward.
The upper-wishbone was made of a single, aerodynamic piece that formed the top of the car's bodywork when it wasn't being deflected. The lower-wishbone was a more conventional arrangement using two angled pieces welded to the wheel's hub. To the inside of the front wheels there are ducts that protrude inward. These ducts help to grab the passing airflow and direct the cooler air into the ventilated disc brakes to help with cooling. The brake calipers used to help stop the car came from Lockheed. Many other teams used Lockheed brake calipers at this time in Formula One.
The top of the bodywork was only tall enough to hide the coil springs of the front suspension. The bodywork would not change in height throughout the entire length of the car. Instead, the bodywork was shaped in such a way that it rose up sharply to surround the cockpit. This was known as a 'tower' design. Due to the low-nature of the nose design, the driver sat tall in the cockpit. The bodywork would rise up and surround the driver, offering a little form of protection.
The protection offered by the bodywork was very little considering there was practically nothing in the form of structure around the driver, except down by the waist, in front to hold the instruments and steering column and behind the driver's head with the roll-hoop. Otherwise, the tub structure did little to protect the driver.
The tub itself was made of strong aluminum in a monooque, tubular framing. The nose bodywork fitted over a tubular crash structure that was formed to the correct angles to support the nose bodywork. There was very little in the way of 'crash' structure. The design of the tub was such to provide light weight rigidity and a means to attach the other components of the car.
A front roll-hoop attached into the frame of the tub and rose vertically in front of the driver. This was used as a roll-over structure, but it also had the analog instruments attached to it via a flat piece of the sheet metal cut-out to house the instruments. The structure would also provide a rigid mounting point to support the steering column. To help provide strength, another tubular-shaped piece of metal attached to the floor of the car, between the driver's feet, and to the roll-over structure. This provided great strength, but obviously needed to be covered for better aerodynamic effectiveness. Again, because of the shallow height of the nose bodywork, the driver sat up high in the car. Because of the high-sitting driver and the front roll-over structure the 'tower' was created in the bodywork design.
The tubular support structure that attached to the roll-over structure in front of the driver formed the angle for the bodywork's lines as it ascended upward, out of the lower bodywork. The bodywork narrowed as it ascended, until the driver's shoulders and head practically touched the sides. Inside the cramped cockpit, the 'office' was sparse. Due to only having the roll-over structure to mount instrumentation, the cockpit presented the driver with only a few important analog gauges. The main instrument to dominate the driver's view was the all-important rpm gauge. The small gearshift lent control to the Hewland TL 5-speed manual gearbox.
Unlike other teams of the day, the Shadow DN8 was designed without sidepods. This kept the overall width of the car narrow right around the area of the cockpit. The car only widened as it neared the rear due to the width of the engine and the suspension arrangement for the rear.
To either side of the driver's head, airboxes stuck out into the airflow. The DN8 used a 3.0-liter, Ford Cosworth DFV V8 engine. This 90 degree, 4 valve engine was normally aspirated, and therefore, needed air to breathe to develop its 470+ horsepower. Many designs of the time merely cutout the bodywork, which left space for the air-induction pipes to stick up into the airflow. These 'trumpets', as they were also called, would grab the air and channel it into the cylinders of the engine. Turning at almost 11,000 rpm, it would be more effective if the airflow could be directed into the engine. Southgate had mostly used bodywork to create an airbox, or, channel through which the air would flow to the engine. On the DN7, Southgate had gone the way of many other designs and create a tall, narrow airbox that stood well above the driver's head and directed air into the engine. This was abandoned on the DN8. Instead, two airboxes were designed, which protruded out to either side of the driver's head. These two channels funneled into one box that fitted over the top of the engine. This two-channel airbox was incorporated into a larger piece of bodywork that served to cover the roll-hoop and its supporting tubular structure, but also, served to cover the rest of the engine and its other components.
The engine bodywork didn't cover all of the engine, however. The bodywork was cutout and left the top of the engine's cylinder banks exposed. This allowed quick access to the engine's many spark plugs and wires, but it also served to keep the bodywork narrow. One other important reason for merely leaving the heads of the cylinder banks exposed had to do with practicality of design.
The rear suspension was held rigidly by twin-trailing arms. The upper trailing link attached to a mount between the cockpit and the engine. To provide freedom of movement for the trailing links, the bodywork that would go to cover the engine needed to be abandoned.
Due to the design of the car, there was no place to practically put the radiators to cool the engine and the oil. The oil cooling was handled by the nose design. The engine cooling still needed to be figured out. The only possible solution was to mount the radiators to the side of the car in sidepods, but how? In an attempt to keep the car design as narrow as possible, more narrow radiators were designed and mounted at an angle along the side of the car. In the case of the DN8-1A, a simple sheet of bodywork covered the outside of the radiator. However, small panels, or shutters, were stacked vertically, covering the top of the radiator. These panels helped to grab the air and direct it into the radiator. A piece of metal paneling was mounted ahead of the radiator at the same angle as the radiator and would grab the airflow down low and would direct it up toward the radiator. The air directed into the radiator would simply exit out the back.
While the front of the car was innovative in its design, the rear of the car consisted of a mess of components fit as tightly as possible in a rather small area. The rear suspension worked the same as the front, just upside-down.
The lower-wishbone hinged up and down. This was connected to a U-shape link that attached the rear wheels together. As the rear wheels would go over bumps, the coil spring, which was attached at a forty-five degree angle would compress. While this compressed, the U-shaped link would flap up and down. This provided adequate suspension at the rear.
Due to the tight nature at the rear, the Lockheed disc brakes were attached in-board. The driveshaft ran through the disc and on to the rear wheels. At least, by having the brakes located in-board such as they were, they would be in the free-air and would be able to be cooled without the need for any ducting.
The exhaust from the V8 Cosworth engine exited from the engine cylinders right behind the radiator sidepods. The exhaust then turned and bled into one pipe that exited out of the back of the car between the lower-wishbone and the driveshaft.
While the rear of the car was important as it produced the drive for the car, the rear wing was due considerable focus. The rear wing featured a straight leading-edge and a two-plane design. Though adjustable, the lower main plane consisted of a greater cambered lower portion. This accelerated the air as it passed around underneath the wing. This accelerated air produced lift in the opposite direction—downward. Similar to the second plane attached to the front wing, the smaller upper plane took the air passing over the top of the main plane and split it again to produce even more downforce. The whole wing element was attached to the car via a twin-pillar support system that was narrowly spaced.
While the rear wing provides a decent amount of aerodynamic grip, the 61 inch rear wheelbase, with its incredibly wide tires, provided the car an incredible amount of mechanical grip. Though these large tires cause a large amount of drag, since it drastically impedes the airflow, the advantages gained through their grip more than exceeds the losses. When combined with the 58 inch front wheelbase, the car could be drifted quite effectively, which; at the time, was still the only way to be truly fast.
Though the DN8 bore similarities with its predecessors, it was put together in a much more efficient and effective package, as would be evidenced during its inaugural appearance in Formula One.
At the start of the 1976 season, Shadow had started off with its revised DN5 chassis. This would then be retired in favor for the DN7, which would only take part in one race. Keeping with the shadowy figure of its owner, Shadow would debut its new DN8 on the 29th of August at the Dutch Grand Prix.
The improvements were immediately apparent. Tom Pryce would take to the wheel of the black, red and blue chassis and would go out and turn the third-fastest lap in qualifying. It was obvious Shadow had hit upon something good.
In the race, Pryce would continue to impress behind the wheel of the new car. Though he would lose one spot from where he started, Pryce would finish the DN8's first race in 4th. What's more, he would only finish ten seconds behind the race winner, James Hunt in his McLaren.
Given the nature of Nichols, it was good the car was introduced when it was. The off-season was approaching. The off-season would provide the necessary time to take a single design and prepare it. Constantly changing models almost each and every race hindered Shadow from really tuning its cars. This would be evident in 1977. While the car would suffer more failures in its second season, it would also earn better results at the same time, including a victory in the hands of Alan Jones.
Throughout Shadow's history in Formula One, the DN8 would prove the most capable and versatile of all the models produced. It would also be the only model chassis to earn Shadow a victory during its Formula One history.
Proving to have inside knowledge of what it took to be competitive in Formula One, during its short history in the series, Don Nichols would lead the Shadow team to the very pinnacle. His DN8 was his instrument of choice during this shakedown of the competition.Sources:
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Wikipedia contributors, 'Shadow Racing Cars', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 31 January 2011, 21:30 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shadow_Racing_Cars&oldid=411245949 accessed 1 April 2011
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