Success is found in the details. When two teams invariably compete with the same equipment, success will come down to the team that exploits every single detail possible. And it would be in the details in which March's 761B would be discerned from its predecessor. And, unfortunately, it would be the details that would mean the difference between success and failure.
Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd each pitched in £2,500 of their own money to begin a car production business that would provide competitive chassis to customers competing in all categories of racing. Thus, M.A.R.C.H. would be born.
March's goals were ambitious to say the least, but March Engineering would set to work creating its first designs. March's first efforts would be in building a Formula 3 car. This first venture would be mildly successful. However, for everyone involved at March, building the Formula 3 car would prove to be a watershed moment as the following year, 1970, would see March make the leap into Formula One.
Ambitious perhaps didn't adequately describe the men at March. Not only would the company build racing cars for all categories of racing, but it would also move forward with efforts to enter its own factory team.
In just two years after establishing the company, March would be routinely providing Ronnie Peterson with a podium-scoring car. And though the car would never achieve victory, the March 711 would help Peterson to be the 2nd place finisher in the fastest ever Italian Grand Prix and would eventually lead to him finishing 2nd in the World Championship behind Jackie Stewart.
The March 711 would become famous for its intriguing 'tea-tray' nose wing. March would follow up the 711 with a design that appeared to take March backward instead of forward. The 712 chassis would feature a much more pointed nose with the radiator angled to help make the slimmer nose. However, the high-speed adaptation of the chassis would look more from the 1960s than the 1970s.
Then came the 721. The 721 would see March move into the more modern, or at least current, era of Formula One. While the 'tea-tray' nose would make an appearance on the original model, thereby seemingly harkening backwards once again, the rest of the body seemed much more modern.
The massive, deep rear wing; the forward-slanted radiator sidepods and the seemingly one piece engine airbox, cover and cockpit fitting gave the car a modern, sleek look. Finally, it seemed March was heading back in the direction of the future after having taken a little foray into the past.
In time, the design of the 721 would mature until it would become the flat, wedge-shaped chassis that had been made famous by Lotus and others. Still, it seemed March was playing catch-up. In fact, the 721G model, as it would become known, would have a rather humorous nickname attached to it. The 'G' was jokingly meant to refer to 'Guinness Book of Records' as the car would be built in record time. It would be built incredibly fast due to the fact the 721 wasn't proving to be very successful. Therefore, the company would take a Formula 5000 chassis and would stick a Cosworth DFV engine in it. The result would be a small, light and rather nimble chassis that could have become a race winner had March had the time to develop it. However, the car did help to settle the direction in which March was to go in Formula One.
Up until that time, March had been developing chassis for Formula 3 and Formula 2, and then, designing and developing chassis specifically for Formula One. The 721G, however, highlighted the direction the team wanted to go in Formula One and the company found it could be achieved just by adapting Formula 2 cars to Formula One regulations.
Unfortunately, March would find itself on the back-foot once again. This would lead to the design team taking a step backwards in order to conform to Formula One regulations. Losing sponsorship money from STP, March would struggle.
March had become spread thin and the lack of focus in Formula One was translating into retirement after retirement and customer teams performing better than the actual factory effort. Finances proving precarious, March would find itself in a period of existence when it would say it had produced a new model chassis only to have its customers find out later that the car actually was more old than new. Just ask Frank Williams.
At the heart of this confusing period of March's history would be its 761B chassis. The 1975 season would see March debut its 741 chassis. Teams like McLaren would introduce its M23 chassis sporting the wide, low-profile nose with wings protruding out of each side. The radiator sidepods would feature distinctive leading edges to help direct airflow into the radiator or over the top. Then, of course, there would be the rectangular-shaped airbox sitting high above the driver's head.
The 741, however, appeared to be a step back. Tyrrell had been one of the first to use the wedge-shaped nose to help with airflow around the radiator inlet and to help the aerodynamic effect over the suspension and the front tires. This was not a new concept, not by any means. And yet, on the 1975 March 741, it would be the most prominent feature. A picture of the two models, the March 741 and the McLaren M23 side-by-side at Interlagos made for what appeared to be a contrast between modern and historic.
Then came the updated chassis, the March 751. While the 751 certainly appeared very similar to the 741 there would be a couple of noted differences. The most dominant of these differences would be noticeable right away at the nose of the car. The 741 had been designed with an arrow-shaped wedge nose. This arrow shape would be retained on the 751. However, the front splitter to the car's nose would be extended much further out front of the car giving the 751 a very pronounced lip. Additional changes to the monocoque of the car could be seen mostly in the sidepods of the car. The 751 would feature much more rounded, smooth sidepods with the radiators no longer canted outwards.
While the 741 would prove to be rather slow, the 751, which would make its first appearance in the Grand Prix of South Africa in 1975, would prove much quicker. In the hands of Vittorio Brambilla, the 751 would be just a little more than a half a second off of the qualifying pace of Carlos Pace in a Brabham-Ford.
At the wheel of the 751, Brambilla would prove to be surprisingly quick. He would start out a number of races up near the front row of the grid and would even take a surprise victory in the Austrian Grand Prix toward the end of the '75 season. However, the pace of the 751 would not be matched by a cool head from Brambilla. There would be, unfortunately, more than one moment in which Brambilla would either suffer from car unreliability or would retire from a race as a resulting of pitching the car into the barriers taking himself and the team right out of contention.
One of the biggest ailments the 751 would suffer from would be a nagging suspension problem that would often result in failure over the course of a race. More than once Brambilla would have his race come to an end as a result of the problem.
The 751 had proven to be fast, but it had also proven to be extremely fragile. Therefore, March would set about building upon the positives of the 751 and fixing the negatives. To help with handling and reliability, the monocoque would be stiffened on the new model chassis. Keeping with the Formula 2 theme, March would also focus on lightening the car as much as possible. A wider track would also be employed on the new model car. And, of course, the Cosworh DFV engine would be improved to help improve performance. The result would be the 761.
The 761 would continue with the same body style as the 741 and 751. However, there would be some changes made between the 761 and its predecessor. The nose of the car would feature a much less prominent lip and front splitter on the newer 761 than the 751.
The sidepods would continue to go through revisions as well. The 761 would feature beautifully-shaped sidepods that contoured outward around the cockpit and then made for a flush mount for the large radiators attached longitudinally on the aft portion of the sidepod.
The radiators on the 751 would undergo a series of evolutions that would all lead up to what would be used on the 761. One arrangement used on the 751 would be similar to the 741 with canted radiator turned outward into the air flowing along the side of the car. Another layout featured smaller radiators standing as tall as the sidepods and filling in the space between the rear wheels and the sidepod. One of the other arrangements, and the one that would be employed on the 761 would include flush-mounted tall radiators. These tall radiators would then feature angled leading edges that would help to protect the radiators from the on-rushing air. However, the tall radiators would help to create a channel for the air to flow between, thereby reducing drag some by channeling airflow away from the rear tire and directing it through the space between the tire and the exposed engine. This would then help to channel airflow to the exposed oil coolers just attached at the very back of the car.
The 761 would make its debut at the Brazilian Grand Prix, the first round of the World Championship for 1976. In the hands of Brambilla and Hans-Joachim Stuck the car would look impressive but still a long way away from being a race winner. The Grand Prix of South Africa would see two 761s finish the race, but well off of the pace of eventual race winner Niki Lauda.
The 761 continued to be about a second off the pace of the front-runners in qualifying and was proving to be as fragile as some of its predecessors. March focused on making fast, simple and competitive cars. It just seemed as though they forgot about reliable.
The retirements just kept coming for the 761. Therefore, March would look to revise the car in order to achieve better results, better reliability. This would give birth to the 761B. Ronnie Peterson would give the 761 its one and only victory before the 761B came onto the scene at the start of the 1977 season.
Upon its debut, it was believed the car was just a 761 rebranded. And it wasn't far from the truth. But there were some subtle differences between the two models. The most obvious change to the naked eye would be found at the rear of the car. The 761B would sport a different rear wing from that which had been used on the 761. Another, less obvious, evolution could only really be found if one had some kind of measuring device. The reason for that is the wheelbase on the 761B would be altered slightly from its predecessor. The 'B' featured a shorter wheelbase than that on the 761. Finally, although the 761 would see evolutions throughout the 1976 season, the 761B would utilize the air inlets positioned on either side of the driver's head unlike previous model March chassis that sported the highly-positioned airbox.
The 1977 season would see two teams using the 761B as its chassis of choice. One team would be Team Rothmans International. Bearing the Rothmans livery, the car would see no less than three different drivers at the wheel over the course of the season. The other team using a March 761B would be the Hollywood March Racing team. This team would be much more stable employing Alex Ribeiro throughout the whole of the season.
While merely an evolution of the 761, the new 761B would still suffer from terrible unreliability. It seemed reliability was the one thing March could not improve, not at least early in the season. In fact, through the first four rounds of the season, the new 761B would be outperformed by an older 761 driven by a customer team. It would take until the Spanish Grand Prix, the 5th round of the championship that year before Ian Scheckter managed to bring a 761B home for its first race finish. Frustratingly, Scheckter would be beaten still by a customer 761.
The low point of the 761B's career would come early when it failed to even qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix. It would get even worse when, through the first ten rounds of the championship, not a single 761B ever finished inside the top ten. Then, finally, at the Germany Grand Prix at the end of July, Alex Ribeiro would manage to claw his way to an 8th place result. By the Italian Grand Prix, just three rounds later, the 761B was phased out in favor of the 771.
March had started out its Formula One career on an incredibly strong note but then would go flat for close to a decade. The struggles would leave such entities as BMW begging them to forgot Formula One and concentrate elsewhere. This would prove successful as March would remain a dominant force in Formula 2 and would begin a force to be reckoned with in American Indycar racing. But throughout most of the 1970s, in Formula One, March could do very little right. Their cars had the potential, but failed to have the follow-through. This would be something of note for a company so widespread.
There is the statement out there that goes, 'Jack of all trades, master of none.' This could not have been a more fitting vision statement for March in Formula One. March was certainly involved in many categories of motor racing. Their cars were more than competitive. In fact, they would often win a race or two over the course of a season. But the one thing March certainly was not in Formula One, and that was being a master. And the 761B couldn't more appropriately reflect that.Sources:
'1976 March 761 News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/z13642/March-761.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/z13642/March-761.aspx. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
'March: History', (http://www.marchives.com/). Marchives.com. http://www.marchives.com/. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
'March: Chassis Types', (http://www.marchives.com/). Marchives.com. http://www.marchives.com/. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
'1971 March 711 News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/z21550/March-711.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/z21550/March-711.aspx. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
Wikipedia contributors, 'March Engineering', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 October 2012, 02:59 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=March_Engineering&oldid=517853389 accessed 18 December 2012
'1977 World Drivers Championship', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1977/f177.html). 1977 World Drivers Championship. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1977/f177.html. Retrieved 18 December 2012.By Jeremy McMullen
British manufacturer and Formula One constructor, March Engineering began operation in 1969 by its four founders, Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd. The name 'March' was chosen by using initials from their first or last names. Each of these individuals brought unique qualities and talents to the team. Herd was the designer, Rees was the team's manager, Coaker oversaw production, and Mosley handled the commercial side of the operation.
The purpose of the company was to provide chassis for customers competing in all racing categories. In 1969 the company built a Formula 3 car. A year later they produced an F1 racer, the 701, which they used for team competition and to supply to privateers. In the non-championship Race of Champions, Jackie Stewart gave March its first F1 victory. He won the Spanish Grand Prix a month later.
In the years to come, the company would become more successful in more classes, except for the F1 program, than any other manufacturer. Their products appeared in Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula Ford 1600, and CanAm.
March Engineering's first Formula 2 racer was the 702. There were six examples of this racer constructed. They were constructed of a space frame chassis and powered by a Cosworth MAE engine matted to a Hewland MK6 gearbox. In 1971, the 712M Formula 2 racer was introduced, of which, twenty examples were constructed. Power came from BMW and Cosworth engines with most being equipped with a Hewland FT200 gearbox. Both engines were excellent choices. The BMW four-cylinder units produced six Formula 2 Championships during the 1970s and was one of the most dominating power plants in any class of racing.
The naming scheme for the Formula 2 racers continued through the years. The 1972 F2 racer was dubbed the 722. For 1973, the teams Formula 2 racer was the 732. For 1974, the racer was the 742, 752 in 1975, and the 762 for 1976.
For 1978 the team focused heavily on their Formula 2 racers for the works BMW team. Bruno Giacomelli and his 782 was a strong contender in the 1978 season, and would eventually go on to win the F2 title.
In the 1979 European Formula 2 season, Marc Surer drove a BMW powered March 792 to the championship. Ground effect on the cars also played a major role. There were 32 examples of the 792 constructed, built atop of a monocoque chassis and most powered by the potent 300 horsepower BMW engine.
March Engineering's involvement with Formula 2 competition continued until around mid-1980's.March 761
The March 761 was raced during the 1976 and 1977 Formula 1 season. It was powered by a Ford/Cosworth DFV engine which brought the car to a one race victory during its racing career. It sat on pole position once and even had one fastest lap. In total, there were six examples created. In comparison to the prior March F1 cars, this had a wider track and a stronger chassis. Vittorio Brambilla
Vittorio Brambilla was born on November 11th of 1937 in Monza. He and his breother, Tino, were affectingly called the 'Monza Gorillas' by their competitors in the early 1970s. Tino was a former motorcycle racer who had secured a position with the MV Agusta factory team. In 1969 he was given an opportunity to drive a F1 Ferrari during a practice session, but that was the extent of his Formula 1 career. His brother, Vittorio, matured into a respectable and talented driver, and was given the opportunity to race in F1. His career in the sport lasted from 1974 through 1980.
Vittorio Brambilla made his F1 racing debut at the South African GP race in a March 741. He raced with March Engineering until the close of 1976, when he left for Team Surtees. In 1979 and 1980 he drove an Alfa Romeo 179. During his racing career, he had one victory, and nine top six victories. His victory was a Osterreichring in 1975 while driving a March 751, where track conditions were les-than-ideal, as rain plagued the entire day. After taking the checqured flag at the race, he spun the car off the track and damaged the nose of the car. He completed the cool-down lap and waved energetically to the crowd; the front of his car was just barely attached.
At the close of the 1976 season, he left Team March for Team Surtess. While there he drove a Surtees TS19 for most of his Surtees career, switching to the updated Surtess TS20 part-way through the 1978 season. His time with Surtees was riddled with mechanical difficulties and accidents. He suffered a concussion in the multi-car pile-up at Monza in 1978; this was the same accident which claimed the life of Ronnie Peterson.
During the 1979 and 1980 season, he drove for the Alfa Romeo Autodelta team. In 1979 he drove at Monza, Montreal, and Watkins Glen. The following year he drove at Zandvoort and Imola. After his short time with Alfa Romeo, he went into retirement.Ronnie Peterson
Ronnie Peterson was born of Feburary 14th of 1944 and raced in the Formula 1 sport from 1970 through 1978. He was the son of Swedish banker and one of the livelier and talented drivers in the F1 sport. Off the track he was mild-mannered, but in the cockpit of an F1 car, his personality seemed to drastically change. He drove the cars hard, fast, and aggressively.
Peterson's career in automotive racing began in Karting and Formula 3 competition, mostly associated with Tecno Racing. In 1970 he was signed to a three year contract with the newly formed March Engineering team. During that first season he drove a March 701 sponsored by the Colin Crabbe Antique Automobiles Racing Team. His talents on the circuit earned him a sport on the works team the following year.
The March 701 was the first March F1 car and was designed by Robin Herd with assistance from Peter Wright. The car's design was very traditional. It incorporated features from other F1 cars that were proven and safe. The only unusual, yet innovative, feature of the car was the side-mounted fuel tanks which provided additional downforce. Power came from a Ford/Cosworth engines.
In 1971, Peterson drove a March 711 for the STP Marching Racing Team. The March 711 was designed by Robin Herd, Geoff Ferris and Frank Costlin and powered by Ford/Cosworth and Alfa Romeo power units. Costin, of Lotus fame, provided assistance with the aerodynamics of the vehicle. The cars were given an innovative design which saw the removal of the frontal air intake in favor of channeling the air over an oval wing in the center of the car. The teams that win in Formula 1 are usually at the fore-front of design, technology, and innovation. Some ideas work, others do not. For March, the 711 design was not as successful as hoped and often suffered from a lack of proper engine cooling. Of the sixty-two starts, the cars failed to finish on 26 occasions. Peterson finished in second place five-times throughout the year. This impressive performance earned him a runner-up position to Jackie Stewart in the World Championship.
For 1972 he drove a March 721, 721X, and 721G, along with teammate Lauda. The 'X' designation signified a Works Car, while the 'G' was for independent drivers. The 721X was designed by Robin Herd whose goal was get the majority of the weight in the center of the vehicle. To help achieve this goal, the Alfa Romeo gearbox was mounted in front of the rear axle which forced the cockpit to move forward. The car never achieved major success and was replaced with the Type G, which had a more conventional weight distribution.
The following season, he switched to the John Player Lotus Team where he drove a Lotus 72D and 72E. The Lotus 72D was designed by Colin Chapman and Maurice Phillippe. It was a very innovative machine and years ahead of the competition in terms of design, aerodynamics, and technology. There was no frontal air-intake which improved wind resistance as there were fewer obstacles to pass-through. This gave the vehicle a higher top speed on the straight-stretches. The front of the car had a wedge-shaped, sloping, flat, nose which created additional downforce and held the car tightly to the track as it went through the corners. Power was from the proven Ford/Cosworth powerplant. The car provided Emerson Fittipaldi with a Championship, and the team three Conctructor's titles. Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Ronnie Peterson each finished in first place on multiple occasions with the Type 72 Lotus.
In 1973, Peterson captured his first F1 victory at the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. Other victories followed at Osterreichring, Monza and Watkins Glen. At the conclusion of the season, he was in third place in the World Championship. In 1974, he piloted the Type 72 Lotus to three more victories, at Monaco, France and Italy.
By now, the Lotus 72 was showing signs of its age, and a replacement was introduced part-way through the 1974 season. The replacement was the Lotus Type 76, which was a dismal failure. It was designed by Chapman and Ralph Bellamy and used in only seven races. Of the ten starts for the cars, it failed to finish on eight occasions. The team reverted back to the tried-and-true, yet aging, Type 72. The Type 72 would remain as a factory team car until the introduction of the Type 77 in 1976. Once again, innovation and ingenuity are necessary to win in Formula 1, but more-often than not, it is met with disaster. The Lotus 77, just like the Type 76, failed to secure the intended success.
The Type 77 was designed by Geoff Aldridge and Martin Ogilvie and featured two unusual design aspects. The first was the very sharp and pointed front nose. The other was the suspension system which was designed to allow for easy on-track adjustment to cater to any track or weather condition. It was comprised of a series of rocker arms instead of the usual coil-spring and wishbone set-up. Drivers Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson were dissatisfied with the results and reported that it was unresponsive and occasionally slow to react. Work continued on fine-tuning the car and its short-comings were slowly resolved. The car favored the fast tracks where high-speeds and straight-stretches allowed the cars potential to shine. The Type 77 was used for only a short time, before it was replaced with the Type 78.
Peterson stayed with Lotus for only one race during the 1976 season. He returned to March Engineering where he was given a March 761. This proved to be a smart move for Peterson, as the March 761 was a solid car with proven technology and aerodynamics, and could win races. It would become the most successful of the March cars with DFV-power. Near the close of the season, Peterson drove the March 761 to an overall victory at Monza. The prior race he had been sitting on pole position but was forced to retire from the race. Of the sixteen races Peterson contested during the 1976 season, he retired prematurely on ten occasions.
For 1977, Peterson was convinced to switch teams again, and drive for Ken Tyrrell's team. He was offered a large sum of money to pilot the innovative, yet odd, Tyrrell P34. Tyrrell was introducing a new design to the sport of Formula 1 and was unsure if it would be a success or a failure. To test their design, they enrolled the services of Peterson who was a proven race winner and an veteran to the Formula 1 sport. The Tyrrell P34 was designed by Derek Gardner and its most striking feature were its six 10-inch wheels. The team was experimenting with the belief that smaller wheels would provide less air resistance. It was used in F1 competition for two seasons, but was never a serious contender. Peterson was often beaten by his teammate, Patrick Depailler.
The team, and many others, were questioning if the prior talents of Peterson had begun to fade. He signed with Lotus for the 1978 season and drove a Type 78 for part of the season, before switching to the Type 79. The Type 78 had first seen action during the 1977 season, and was driven by Mario Andretti to four wins during that year. More wins would have been forthcoming, if accidents and mechanical difficulties had not side-lined the car during the other races. The Type 79 was introduced in 1978, and was a continuation of the Type 78. It was a product of testing and tuning, and designers worked closely with Andretti in fine-tuning the machine. It was a dominate car in the hands of Andretti and Peterson. The cars main features were its wings, which took advantage of aerodynamic principles.
Peterson was able to re-secure his reputation as a capable driver with the help of the Type 78 and Type 79 Lotus cars. He captured victories at South Africa and Austria and often finished right behind Mario Andretti.
The 1978 season as going well for Peterson. He was offered the primary driver position for team McLaren for the following year. His reputation had been reestablished and he was winning races and driving strongly. At Monza, he was involved in a serious accident which did not seem life-threatening at the time. A short time later he slipped into a coma as a bone marrow embolism got into his bloodstream. Within hours, his time on earth had concluded. The tall, Swedish driver's life and career had come to an end.By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2012