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1974 Hesketh 308

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Traditions, like habits, are tough to break. Formula One, since its official origins in 1950, is as much a traditional series as it is on the cutting edge. In Formula One, the drivers of the past are constantly referenced in the present as driving styles and events remind of the series' rich past. In the midst of its transition into the global, corporate model, there were some that held to the tradition of Formula One and longed for days gone by of flamboyant drivers and national pride. Lord Alexander Hesketh was one of those romantics that held sternly to the traditions that had made Formula One what it was.

Hesketh was only in his early twenties when he started Hesketh Racing. Still full of dreams and memories of Formula One's early days with such larger-than-life names as Fangio, Moss and Ascari, Hesketh believed the names and the nations should carry on in the memory of the fan more than corporate sponsor.

Armed with his passions and ambition, Hesketh arrived in the racing world in 1972. In a very short time, Hesketh believed it was time to enter the elite world of Formula One. He would arrive in style. The first race the team entered was the Monaco Grand Prix in 1973. The team arrived with a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, a Rolls Royce and enough champagne to fill the harbor. While this would have caused many to have a smirk on their faces, it would soon become obvious Hesketh was a romantic about everything Formula One, this included taking the racing very serious. Very soon, the racing world would get an idea of just how serious a racing team owner Hesketh was, and the Hesketh 308 would be the chassis that would start the Lord's assault on grand prix racing.

Heading into the 1973 season, Hesketh had purchased a March 731 chassis. He would then send an invitation to Harvey Postlethwaite, who was an engineer with March starting in 1970, to come and create a car specifically for Hesketh.

While the team would carry on through the 1973 season with the March 731, Postlethwaite was busy designing the first Hesketh chassis. He would use the March as a source of inspiration for the first model. However, it was the team's first car to be designed and built from scratch.

The Formula One cars were growing in their power and handling. This; unfortunately, placed a premium on space. Important components needed to be positioned in correct places in order to work as efficiently as possible. In many cases, there just wasn't any room inside the car for these important components. Some of those important components were the radiators and oil coolers.

An innovative answer to the problem of not having room inside the tub structure of the car for components like the radiators and oil coolers was to move them to other areas they would be able to work efficiently, perhaps like the nose. This innovative design would end up making another appearance in the new millennium, but for different purposes.

Many designers, like March, had made the decision to position the engine radiators in the wedge-shaped nose. Postlethwaite, having come from March, would follow suit with the 308. The engine's radiators were placed in the nose. Plumbing ran from the nose, around the cockpit and to the Ford-Cosworth DFV engine at the rear of the car.

To make the nose as aerodynamically efficient as possible, the bodywork was designed carefully. To help generate downforce a flat plate was used to form a splitter and protruded forward from the nose bodywork. The splitter would split the air and squeezed the air that flowed between itself and the track. This sped up the speed of the airflow and created a lower pressure at the nose of the car. This pulled the nose of the car down toward the track.

Unlike modern front wings, the nose consisted of a whole structure that spanned the whole width of the front of the car. The sides were pulled in to help direct airflow out around the side of the car. A slot gap was located between the splitter and the rest of the nose bodywork. This served to direct air into the radiators housed underneath the nose structure. The structure; itself, was wedge-shaped and featured dramatic flip-ups in the bodywork right in front of the front wheels. These flip-ups were for the purpose of directing airflow up and over the turbulent spinning front wheels. They were marginally efficient.

The air entering the slot gap needed to be able to leave the nose structure; otherwise, there would have been destabilizing turbulence and inefficient cooling of the very important engine radiators. If the air had no place to go it would just get hotter and hotter and not be effective for cooling. To remedy the situation, another slot gap was fashioned in the top of the nose bodywork just ahead of the front suspension. A small gurney flap could be attached to the leading edge of the gap to help in the function of pulling the hotter air out from the nose. Air passing over the gurney flap, and the gap itself, created a low pressure that; in essence, served as a suction force to pull the hotter air out of the nose. It also helped to ease flow problems as it would serve to pull air through the radiators, instead of leaving them bottled up as air tried to pass through the radiator on its own.

The whole nose structure consisted of the wedge-shaped bodywork and metal splitter attaching to a tubular structure at the very front of the chassis. This tubular structure then attached to the car's tub, or frame. The tub, or frame, consisted of an aluminum monocoque structure that served to hold other important components, and, further strengthened by tubular framing in other important areas around the cockpit and to help mount the engine.

The car's bodywork, which covered the tubular framing that attached to the front of the tub structure and covered the steering and suspension arms, was carefully contoured to wrap inside the front wheels and around the double-wishbone suspension members. The double-wishbone suspension utilized a coil spring mounted at about a forty-five degree angle and over dampers. A U-shaped anti-roll bar ran through the car and was also utilized to provide stability at the front of the car. The uprights for the coil springs actually mounted to the tub structure of the car at a higher point that the rest of the main tub structure. This would require the bodywork to cover it to make it more aerodynamically efficient. Small air ducts stood vertically amongst the wishbones and provided air flow for the cooling operations of the front brakes. The brakes were ventilated discs at every corner of the car. Combined with the 58 inch front wheelbase, the braking power and suspension provided a solid and stable-handling chassis.

The tub structure was designed by Postlethwaite with the familiar 'coke-bottle' shaping in which the body is pulled in tight up near the nose, and then, contours outward. This design helps to reduce the drag of the air passing along the car at higher speeds.

The smooth bodywork attached to the aluminum monocoque structure underneath. With the bodywork removed the 'tub' as it is called becomes very apparent on the Hesketh 308. This is because the sidepod structures merely attach to the central tub structure. The driver sits down in this strong tub, which is further strengthened and offers crash protection through the use of tubular roll-structures. One of these tubular roll-structures is used to serve as a mounting point for the instruments and steering column. A panel was designed to attach to the one side of the tubular structure to serve as an instrument panel for the driver. Analog gauges were then mounted to the panel to provide the driver with important information concerning the operation of the car. Of course, the most prominent gauge in the cockpit was the engine rpm indicator.

The area where the pedals are located has usually been called the 'foot-box'. On the Hesketh 308 it becomes apparent where the name came from. The steering column runs down into the foot-box and attached to the steering arms.

Running along the right side of the cockpit was the shifter for the 5-speed Hewland FG manual transmission. Its mechanical linkage ran entirely through the right side of the cockpit and back to the gearbox at the rear of the car.

Safety measures not being what they are today, the driver sat in the 308 rather high and exposed. Contoured bodywork paneling sat down over the driver and the tub more for aerodynamic efficiency reasons than for the driver's protection, but it did provide some limited protection. The bodywork rose steeply and surrounded the driver up to his shoulders.

Inset along the side of the sidepods, one of the other important components to the car's operation was installed. The engine's oil coolers were placed in the sidepods of the car. As the air wrapped around the sidepods it would turn the slight distance to enter the oil coolers.

Hesketh decided to stick with the Ford Cosworth DFV engine to power the 308. The 3.0-liter V8 was capable of producing 465 bhp while turning at 10,800 rpms. When combined with the chassis, the V8 Cosworth was capable of pushing the 1300 pound chassis from zero to 60 mph in only 3.1 seconds.

In order to provide the power, the normally aspirated V8 engine needed air, and a lot of it. The solution Postlethwaite came up with was a tall airbox, similar to that utilized by other teams, to grab the air passing over the car and forcing it into the induction pipes for the cylinders. Instead of incorporating the airbox with the roll-hoop structure, a tall and narrow airbox was designed and attached to the top of the engine itself.

Aft of the Cosworth engine, and between the huge rear tires, the area was packed with transmission and suspension components. The rear suspension utilized a pair of trailing link arms that attached up at the front of the engine, but low enough that the airbox bodywork could cover the entire engine.

The four exhaust pipes on either bank of the engine exit down low and then tightly wrap around and end up merging into a single pipe for each bank. The exhaust pipes ran in between the driveshaft and the coil springs, and then, bent outward.

The rear suspension consisted of twin lower links, a single upper link and a U-shaped anti-roll bar for added stability. Braking power for the rear was performed via in-board mounted disc brakes. The in-board mounted disc brakes enabled the area directly around the wheel hub to remain relatively clear and uncomplicated.

The deep, single-plane rear wing attached to the car via a twin-pillar support structure. This support structure mounted high up on the car, right near the back of the engine. Because of its mounting position, the support structure lays back dramatically, as if to be dragging the rear wing behind the car.

Adjustable, the single-plane rear wing was rather narrow in width, but was deep. The camber of the underside of the plane was quite rounded and created a good deal of downforce. A small gurney flap could also be included to the back edge of the single-plane wing to provide more downforce for the car.

Ever the romantic, Hesketh adorned his car in very patriotic colors. The English team would have its cars adorned with the white, red and blue national colors, but would also adopt a teddy bear as one of its symbols. However, with James Hunt as one of its early drivers, Hesketh would prove to be anything but teddy bears out on the track. Even though Hesketh's aim was to have as much fun as possible, it was obvious that a good deal of the romanticism of Formula One racing was actually performing well during the races. And, in its first season, the collection of eccentric personalities; including Hesketh, Postlethwaite and Hunt would perform exceedingly well. Most of the established factory efforts kind of laughed when the fun-loving team chose a teddy bear as one of its symbols. After a few races, it was only Hesketh and Co. that were doing the laughing. Hesketh Racing had become one of the better contenders in Formula One, and in only its second season.

Hesketh would finish 6th in the 1974 Constructors Championship after it would score 15 points during its sophomore season. Those points came as a result of the new 308 and its rather successful season. Besides taking victory at the non-championship Daily Express International Trophy Meeting at Silverstone, Hunt managed to score 3rd pace results on three occasions and would finish 4th once. The 3rd place results came at the Swedish Grand Prix, the Austrian Grand Prix and the United States Grand Prix, which took place at Watkins Glen. The 4th place result happened at the Canadian Grand Prix. Postlethwaite would build upon the success of the 308 and would evolve the chassis into the 308B. This would prove to be a race winner, and in only the team's third season.

The eccentric romantics were very serious about Formula One, but having fun at the same time. In the stuffy business-like world of Formula One racing in the 1970s, Hesketh Racing seemed an aloof group of eccentrics that seemed to live in an era gone by. But they would serve to help Formula One hold onto its nationalistic and family roots for just a little while longer.


Sources:
'Hesketh 308 (1974-1975)', (http://www.histomobile.com/dvd_histomobile/usa/1199/1974_Hesketh_308.htm). Histomobile. http://www.histomobile.com/dvd_histomobile/usa/1199/1974_Hesketh_308.htm. Retrieved 5 April 2011.

'Hesketh 308: 308/1', (http://trackthoughts.com/2008/11/26/hesketh-308-cn-3081/). Track Thoughts: A Historic Motor Racing Journal. http://trackthoughts.com/2008/11/26/hesketh-308-cn-3081/. Retrieved 5 April 2011.

'Lord Hesketh's Teddy Bear', (http://trackthoughts.com/2008/11/17/lord-heskeths-teddy-bear/). Track Thoughts: A Historic Motor Racing Journal. http://trackthoughts.com/2008/11/17/lord-heskeths-teddy-bear/. Retrieved 5 April 2011.

'Hesketh 308 Cosworth', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/3934/Hesketh-308-Cosworth.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/3934/Hesketh-308-Cosworth.html. Retrieved 5 April 2011.

Wikipedia contributors, 'Hesketh 308', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 February 2011, 03:21 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hesketh_308&oldid=415628385 accessed 5 April 2011

Wikipedia contributors, 'Harvey Postlethwaite', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 September 2010, 06:56 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Harvey_Postlethwaite&oldid=383786704 accessed 5 April 2011

'Hesketh 308B Formula 1', (http://atspeedimages.com/search.php?s=Hesketh+308B+Formula+1). Atspeedimages.com. http://atspeedimages.com/search.php?s=Hesketh+308B+Formula+1. Retrieved 5 April 2011.

By Jeremy McMullen

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