With the exception of Lola and Dallara, perhaps no other customer-based car manufacturer was as big as March Engineering. This was a small group of men that had big dreams. None of these men thought small. Therefore, it would not stay small very long. However, it tried to exist at a time when Formula One was becoming anything but customer-based.
Similar to the different styles of racing chassis offered, March; itself, was an amalgamation of four men: Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd. Each member of this team looked after different functions within the whole. The name 'March' would actually come from an amalgamation of the men's names: M
ees, Graham Coaker and Robin H
erd. Mosley concentrated on the commercial aspect of the company. Alan Rees would manage the 'in-house' racing team. Graham Coaker oversaw production. And, Robin Herd was the chief designer.
Initially, the company of men built just one chassis and campaigned it in Formula 3 in 1969. That was enough for them. Heading into 1970, the company announced it would provide a whole line of chassis to be available to take part in Formula One, Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula-Ford and Can-Am. In addition to providing customer cars, March would also enter an exhaustive factory effort in Formula One, Formula 2 and 3. This was an unprecedented intention.
Surprisingly, some famous drivers would utilize March in 1970. Jackie Stewart would use the new March chassis while driving for Ken Tyrrell. Besides Stewart, the March factory effort would end up getting Jo Siffert and Chris Amon. The car proved to be rather premature.
Things looked a whole lot better when Ronnie Peterson was able to take 2nd in the World Championship driving a March 711, with its Spitfire-shaped front wing, that was also called the 'tea-tray'.
Perhaps wearing pants that were too big for themselves, March always seemed to find good designs, but it would end up coming too late in a season to be able to make much headway. The cars were always being put together so fast. One example was their 721G. Herd had designed and built the 721X. This car experimented with the gearbox arrangement. However, the car proved to be way too heavy. This led to some quick changes being made. It would be called the 'G' for literally no other reason, as Herd would say, than the fact it stood for 'Guiness Book of Records'. The reason for this, Herd would say, was that it was 'on account of how quickly the car was put together.'
The success in Formula One would not come. By the time 1973 had come around, March was in financial difficulties. It was found that many privateers could take the March designs and make them regular point-scoring chassis, while the March factory-effort struggled. It was widely believed March was spread too thin. Had they just focused on one series they would likely have been very competitive. This was almost forced on the team. March had proven to be competitive in the lower formulas. This led March to focus on Formula 2 and 3.
Throughout the mid-1970s, March focused on building cars for customers instead of trying to have a factory effort. At this they did rather well. March provided teams with fast cars that were both simple and economical; two factors very important to customer teams. Although the factory effort had waned, many privateers continued to purchase March chassis because they were cheap, but also, competitive, if in the right hands.
At the end of 1977, the Formula One team's assets were sold. The Formula 2 chassis had reached its end, but the 782 would end up becoming a dominant force in Formula 2 the next couple of years.
Inspired; perhaps, by the success in Formula 2, March decided to make a return to Formula One. The company would return in 1981 with its 811 chassis. Then, in 1982, March introduced its latest Formula One chassis. It was called the 821.
The 821 wasn't an entirely new and radically different chassis. It would bear a striking resemblance to Williams' FW07. In spite of the striking resemblance, the performance of the 821; compared to the Williams FW07, didn't bear a striking resemblance. The March chassis struggled, comparatively.
The nose of the 821 was wide and rather thick. The huge, single-plane front wing attached to the side of the nose and could be removed. There even was an iteration that didn't have the front wing.
Unlike the tub designs of modern grand prix cars, where it was a whole structure and bodywork combined because of the use of composite materials, the 821; like many others, featured a metal monocoque structure underneath an aluminum-honeycomb bodywork. The metal monocoque structure added weight to the car as the bodywork that covered it had to be added into the total weight. This is different than today with composite materials where the structure and the bodywork are usually one. Because of the metal structure underneath, complex, aerodynamic designs weren't often that easy to accomplish. Any 'rounded' structure had to be designed into the bodywork covering and would not fit as tightly.
An example of the rounded structure needing to be designed into the mold of the bodywork, or attached in conjunction with the bodywork, would have to be the nose bodywork and the bulges out to either side on the 821. This was not a feature exclusive to March as it was used in many different manufacturer designs. However, it would reappear on a March chassis in the early 1990s. The very wide, bulging, bodywork helped to hide suspension members, such as the coils and the hinging arm of the upper-wishbone control arm, to provide a more aerodynamically efficient design. These bulges are not found in the structure underneath the bodywork. The bodywork covering the area would be molded in such a way as to come out with the bulges.
To the inside of the front wheels, air ducts extend forward of the front tire and were designed for the purpose of directing cooler air into the front disc brakes to help with cool the ventilated discs that performed much better at lower temperatures.
The line of the nose swept up toward the cockpit. Compared to designs of the later-part of the 1980s and early 1990s, the driver sat tall in the 821, but the bodywork extended up above the shoulder-line. Only the driver's head would be exposed. The front edge of the cockpit opening featured a little lip to help reduce the turbulence around the driver in the cockpit.
Flanking the cockpit opening were two incredibly small mirrors. The cockpit featured a manual 5-speed transmission and analog gauges for the tachometer, oil pressure and other important functions. Protruding out of the top of the bodywork was a single roll-hoop with twin-tubular braces that attached right into the car's structure.
To either side of the driver sat the square-shaped radiator sidepods. Low-slung, these radiator sidepods were made up of a sheet-metal monocoque structure and was mostly void, with the exception of two small radiators house in both sidepods. Vent openings on the top of the sidepod structure was important to the eradication of the heat built up from the engine. Air passing over the top of the large vent openings created a vacuum and pulled heat out of the radiator. The airflow would car the warmer air out the back of the car, thus helping to keep the engine cool. The line of the sidepod ascended as it travelled aft. This helped to direct the airflow toward the rear wing.
The bodywork covering the roll-hoop support braces descended downward and then met up with the flat-topped bodywork that covered the majority of the 3.0-liter, 480 bhp Ford Cosworth V8 used in the chassis. Since the car's engine was normally aspirated, the top of the air-induction pipes stuck out of the top of the car's bodywork in order to grab the air and pull it into the engine for combustion. This was not like the forced air-induction of the airboxes of Formula One today and from the early 1990s-on.
The V8 Ford Cosworth engine used in the 821 was designed with a 90 degree angle between the cylinders. This was advantageous as the wide angle would cause the engine to sit in the car with the weight lower to the ground than if the engine had a lesser of an angle, and therefore, was actually taller.
Besides being used to direct airflow toward the rear wing, the ascending bodywork on the 821 served another important purpose. Designers and builders of the time were not able to house gearboxes and suspension members as tightly and as neatly as on modern-day Formula One machines. But to leave them exposed meant the components were open to damage, and, would cause undue drag. Therefore, the bodywork was designed in such a way as to ensure the rear suspension, engine, the engine components and even portions of the gearbox would be hidden underneath the bodywork.
The trailing edge of the sidepods featured a small winglet design, or vertical structure in the bodywork. Though appearing to be a creative touch, it served another important purpose. It would be useful for the purpose of braking.
In between the ascending rear bodywork and the rear wheels arose the air ducts for the rear brakes. These ducts stood almost as tall as the wheels themselves and were in good position to catch the air travel across the top of the bodywork.
The car's rear end was rather straight-forward and conventional. About the only thing not conventional about the rear end was the design of the car's rear wing. The leading edge of the lower plane was not designed straight across. When looking downward on the rear of the car it becomes noticeable that the leading edge of the lower plane actually was shaped like a 'V'. This, like swept wings on an airplane, was intended to provide higher speeds than a straight leading edge design. A single support pillar was used to securely hold the rear wing to the rear of the car.
In spite of its many similarities with other Formula One designs of the times, the March 821 would prove to be less than competitive. The car would only be used during the 1982 season. However, the best starting position a March 821 would start a race from during the season would be 17th driven by Jochen Mass for Rothmans March Grand Prix Team at Jacarepagua in Brazil.
In 1982, two teams would use the 821 chassis during the season. March Grand Prix would, of course, use the design. The team would continue to use the chassis after Rothmans would come on as a sponsor for the team. In addition, LBT Team March would also utilize the chassis during the 1982 season. Although the car would be driven by a couple of different teams the car would go on to score no points during 1982, and actually, was proven to be quite a disaster.
Fortunately for March, it was just a matter of the car not being entered in the right series. The 821 would go through revision and would be entered in Indycar racing as the 81C. The car would prove to be amazingly successful and would go on to help win the Indianapolis 500 five straight years.
The utter failure of the 821 in Formula One would lead March to remain clear of Formula One for almost half a decade. In a series, like Formula One, where almost nothing was for sale for competitors, March had to step back and ascertain the direction it was to go. Everything about March was customer-based, which was not the direction Formula One was going. March's 821 would be one of the company's last attempts to make a customer car work in a specialty series like Formula One. Unfortunately, it would not learn its lesson.Sources:
'March 821: 1982-1982', (http://www.histomobile.com/dvd_histomobile/usa/333/1982_March_821.htm). Histomobile. http://www.histomobile.com/dvd_histomobile/usa/333/1982_March_821.htm. Retrieved 28 March 2011.
'All Teams Ever: March Engineering', (http://www.f1technical.net/f1db/teams/74). F1Technical. http://www.f1technical.net/f1db/teams/74. Retrieved 28 March 2011.
Wikipedia contributors, 'March Engineering', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 March 2011, 10:52 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=March_Engineering&oldid=416539450 accessed 28 March 2011By Jeremy McMullen