The setting of the ground-effects era in Formula One would usher in the dawn of thunderous turbo-charged cars that would dominate the scene for the next half decade. But only Formula One's elite would be dressed and ready for the ball. Yet, there would be those smaller teams that would have to arrive at the party in year old gowns. These 'peasant-royals' would be forced to fight a battle stacked against them. One of those that would have to fight to uphold its honor each and every time out would be the Arrows-Cosworth A6.
By the late 1970s, the Cosworth engine was beginning to run into developmental problems. Compared to its competition it was lacking in outright power. In an effort to overcome this setback, ground effects would be ushered into Formula One.
The ground effects era would see some of the most remarkable performances by cars. Relying on the lower pressure built-up and trapped on the underside of the car cornering speeds would exponentially increase. This would help teams running the Cosworth engine maintain their level of competitiveness for much longer. But this would be just the beginning.
Always in search of the absolute, engineers with the major manufacturers started to look to combine even more power with the incredible cornering performances of the ground-effects chassis. Performance speaking, this would introduce the most remarkable time in Formula One's history, but it would also introduce one of the most dangerous.
In search of the ultimate performance, teams were beginning to outstretch the abilities of their drivers. In addition, the effects from the ground-effects chassis would lead to some terrible accidents, even deaths. Combined with the stiff ride necessary to maintain the venturi effect underneath the car a phenomenon called 'porpoising' would be induced into the car. This rocking motion and the incredibly stiff ride would exact a terrible toll on drivers. It had a tendency to make drivers sick besides the incredible loads the drivers were experiencing because higher cornering speeds. As a result, the combination of unhealthy factors would cause drivers, like Alan Jones and Mario Andretti, to walk away from Formula One.
The demands and loads on the drivers were exceeding their capabilities, or, were putting them in great danger. Therefore, the ground-effects chassis would be phased out over the length of the 1983 season. That meant those running the Cosworth engine were, again, at a performance disadvantage, especially with the presence of turbo-charging.
In the case of Arrows, David Wass had been the designer of the A5. This car would feature a wide-nosed aluminum monocoque design with sidepods mounted low along the side of the car to ensure the trapping of the air underneath the car in order to produce the necessary downforce.
Despite the lacking power of the 3.0-liter Cosworth engine, the A5 would go on to score four points-scoring results over the course of the remainder of the 1982 season. It seemed clear Arrows was on the right path to improving heading into the 1983 season.
Hampered by an insufficient budget, Arrows would be forced to work with what it had in an effort to score valuable championship points. Unfortunately, heading into the 1983 season, it was clear ground-effects would not last. Therefore, Wass would have to design a car that could remain competitive despite lacking ground-effects and still being powered by the underpowered Cosworth engine. Therefore, Wass would develop the A6.
Very much an A5 just with some minor adjustments, Wass believed in the basics of his A5 but would evolve the chassis to ensure Arrows could remain competitive within its restrictive budget.
The biggest difference Wass would design into the A6 would be in an area of the car not readily seen. The new regulations banning ground-effects called for flat-bottomed chassis. This would also cause the sidepods to be positioned higher than what they had been on previous chassis. Still, Wass would stick with the basic parameters of the A5 a good deal.
The nose of the A6 would still feature a wide, relatively flat nose with single-plane front wings attached to either side. Within the nose and footbox of the aluminum monocoque chassis the double wishbone suspension and other components would be hidden. The front tires would be dominated by the large air scoops meant to direct cooler air toward the brakes to help with the cooling of the disc brakes in order to prevent fading.
To either side of the cockpit would be two radiator sidepods boasting of large square openings feeding important cooler air to the radiators to help cool the engine. These sidepods would surround the rather wide cockpit. Despite the size of the cockpit, there would be no windscreen providing any protection. And while the cockpit had the room, the interior would be quite sparse with just an rpm gauge dominating the driver's instrument panel. To the right of the steering wheel, hidden underneath some metal panels would be the linkages to the FGA Hewland 5 speed manual gearbox.
Directly behind the driver's back had been designed a large square tank. This would be the car's fuel tank positioned in the center of the car, actually between the driver and the engine itself, to help with weight distribution in order to improve the car's handling properties. The size of the tank, given the regulations banning refueling, would cause the 90 degree Cosworth V8 DFV engine to be positioned a little further back toward the rear of the car. This would give the car a heavy back end and would affect handling. But boasting of 530 bhp, the engine could be used by the driver to help overcome some of the handling challenges the much more aft engine placement would cause.
In some cases, Wass had designed a full engine cover to fit over the top of the engine and the air inlet trumpets. To feed all-important air to the engine to help produce its 530 hp, the engine cover would be fitted with two large scoops positioned out either side of the cover. This would grab passing air and would direct it toward the engine. Otherwise, Wass would design a piece of bodywork that would cover the sides of the engine, but would leave the top of the engine exposed to the air passing over the top of the car.
Finished off with a large rear wing and its singular support pillar, the rear of the car would actually be quite clean on the A6. The only thing to protrude into the airflow, other than the large rear tires, would be the tall air scoops meant to feed air to help cool the rear disc brakes.
This evolved version of the A5 would do its best to take on the turbo-charged teams and would remain competitive during the early part of 1983 when the ground-effects was being phased out. However, toward the later-part of the season, the performance differences of the turbo-charged cars and those running the Cosworth were becoming quite noticeable. Despite going from zero to 60 in about 3.5 seconds and weighing under 1200 pounds, the Cosworth just did not have the power in a straight line
Still, Arrows, with its limited budget, would be forced to stick with the A6 into the early part of the 1984 season. The team had sealed a deal with BMW for their 4 cylinder turbo-charged engine but they would not come online until the later-part of the season. Therefore, Arrows would be forced to make due with the A6 through the first quarter of the 1984 season. Despite this, Thierry Boutsen would come away with two points-paying finishes, including a 5th place at the San Marino Grand Prix.
After that, Arrows would enter the world of turbo-charged cars. And while the team would improve, its budget would continue to limit its ability to drastically improve and become one of the major contenders in the pitlane. And that would continue to be the larger narrative of the Arrows team until its eventual demise at the end of the 2002 season. The A6 would show flashes of brilliance, just as the team would throughout its existence. The team, like the A6, would be there to take those occasional moments of glory. But in the end, like the Cosworth powering the A6, the team would not be able to keep up.
And so, while the A6 would not carry Arrows on to greatness, it would hold a special place in Arrows history as it would be the last normally-aspirated car before Arrows made the jump into the turbo era. Sources:
'1983 Arrows A6', (http://www.hallandhall.net/stock.asp?StockID=4776). Hall&Hall. http://www.hallandhall.net/stock.asp?StockID=4776. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
'Arrows A6 Cosworth', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/611/Arrows-A6-Cosworth.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/611/Arrows-A6-Cosworth.html. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
'(1983-1984) Arrows A6', (http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/arrows-a6/1088578083.htm). Histomobile.com. http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/arrows-a6/1088578083.htm. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Arrows', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 May 2012, 04:34 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Arrows&oldid=493937829 accessed 5 July 2012 By Jeremy McMullen