1988-1989 Leyton House March Racing 881
By the mid-1980s turbo-powered Formula One cars were dominating events all season long. There was virtually no chance for a normally-aspirated car to compete against cars capable of turning up boost levels to produce 1000bhp. However, there would be a young man willing, and somewhat forced, to take on the challenge. The result would be a design that would change Formula One from the moment it appeared.
March Engineering had begun building cars in 1969. Within just a couple of years, March would be building a myriad of different chassis for a number of different forms of motor racing. Of course, Formula One would be one of the focuses for the company based out of Bicester in Oxfordshire.
March's first years in Formula One would be 1970 and 1971. And though the company would be a mere infant, they would stun many with numerous podium results throughout those first couple of years. However, it wouldn't be until 1975 and 1976 until March finally earned victories within the sport. By that point in time, March was building cars not just for Formula One, but Formula 2 and Formula Atlantic. However, the company would be just getting started.
The 1977 season would be a tough one for March. Their 761B and 771 would be unreliable and slow. Retirements and failures to qualify would be more numerous than race finishes over the course of the season. As a result, the company would depart the Formula One scene until 1981 and 1982 when it would kind of try and make a return to Formula One. When March returned to Formula One there would be a young engineer that would be a part of the team that would help to shape the fortunes of March later in the decade.
Adrian Newey would be fired after a misunderstanding with March's driver Christian Danner in 1982. Newey, however, would not be fired from March. Instead, he would switch his focus to the United States and, in particular, IMSA GTP racing. His prototype sportscar design would go on to win the IMSA GTP championship two years in a row in 1983 and 1984. This would lead Newey to become part of March's Indycar project.
Newey would prove his talent by designing the March 85C. Not only would it become incredibly popular with Indycar teams and drivers, the car would win the 1985 Indianapolis 500 in its first try. The next year, the car would not only win the Indianapolis 500 again, it would also win the championship. Following victory in the Indianapolis 500 in 1987 March realized their Formula One effort needed his talents once again.
Danner had had Newey released from his role as a trackside engineer. However, after March returned to Formula One racing in 1987 and found the going difficult once again, the company realized they needed Newey more for his talents as a designer. So, Newey would join the team and would set to work designing a new car for the 1988 season.
The car Newey was in charge of building would replace March's 871. Over the course of the '87 season, the 871 would be quite disappointing. As in the case before, March's car would prove to be unreliable and slow. The only highlight over the course of the season would come on the streets of Monaco when Ivan Capelli finished in 6th place earning a single point for himself and the team on the season.
Though it was the end of the 1980s, the 871 would look old. Its nose would be wide and very low. The sidepods would feature the coke-bottle shape but the Cosworth, normally-aspirated engine, would be exposed. The whole rear of the car would not be terribly aerodynamic. Newey knew March was at a disadvantage even before he started to consider his design. The team would be using normally-aspirated Cosworth engines while the rest of the teams would make use of powerful turbocharged engines. Newey knew his car didn't stand a chance in sheer power and speed. He needed to make up the difference somewhere else.
The car would become known as the 881 and it would end up demonstrating what aerodynamics could do for a design. All of the teams that were using turbocharged engines, their cars would be rather big and gangly due to cooling and other concerns. Newey would determine to use this weak point to his advantage.
Very little of the 871 would come into play for the 881. The reason for this was simple: Newey would design a car built around the concept of overall aerodynamic efficiency. There could be no compromising.
The 881, not being a turbocharged car, would not suffer the same cooling limitations as those suffered by its competitors. Therefore, Newey would be able to design a much more tightly-packaged car than what already existed up and down the pitlane and it would start right at the nose of the car. This would rely then on the use of even more composite materials then had been used on its predecessor. The very light, very strong carbon fiber enabled Newey to tighten things up while actually increasing rigidity and strength.
The nose of the 881 would depart from the 871 in that it was not a low-positioned, wide nose. Such a wide nose meant the front wings of the car were smaller, and therefore, there would be less downforce created at the front of the car. This would be changed on the 881. The nose would taper down to a point and the wings would be increased in size. Furthermore, the nose would be raised up in the air a bit. By so doing, Newey would lessen the interference that usually took place along the leading edge of the wings and nose as the air tried to squeeze through the small space under the elements. Squeezing the airflow under the wings did little more than add drag to the car. This would be lessened by positioning the nose higher in the air. The air striking the nose would be turned downward to pass underneath the car where it would be helpful in creating that all-important suction. However, the air would also be turned to either side of the nose and the low-positioned radiator inlets in the sidepods would have even more airflow.
Continuing with the nose of the car, the overall width of the nose would be lessened to such a degree that drivers Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin, who had been used to larger cockpits, would complain about feeling terribly cramped behind the wheel. What they didn't realize is that they were the test pilots, so to say, of a whole new era coming in Formula One where every little bit of a car would be scrutinized and if the width wasn't absolutely necessary it would be gone.
This tight packaging presented a challenge for the front suspension arrangement. The double wishbone and coil arrangement would be positioned in such a way that some aerodynamically-shaped bulges to either side would easily hide all the less efficient elements.
Concerned about aerodynamic efficiency from nose to tail, Newey would put considerable effort into the design of the sidepods. The overall height of the sidepods would be reduced allowing more airflow over the top toward the rear of the car. In addition, the leading-edge of the sidepods would be angled backward to allow the air to flow around the sides of the car much more easily. Although the sidepods would be smaller, a larger radiator would be used. Positioned at an extreme angle inside the sidepod, the large radiator would be fed more than enough air through the inlet. The exchanged hotter air would then be ported out the back of the car as a result of the sidepod bodywork having a gap left open around the low-positioned exhaust. The air flowing around the sides of the car helped to pull the air through the radiators and out over the rear diffuser.
What would be interesting about the 881's rear diffuser is that it would sport an idea that would make its way back into the Formula One a little after the turn of the 21st century. Newey would reposition the exhaust. Instead of exiting out the back of the car underneath the rear wing, Adrian would position the exhaust low to the try. The actual exits of the exhaust would be underneath the car through two holes where the rear diffuser turned upward. This was, effectively, a blown diffuser, albeit only when under power really. The diffuser itself would be wide with great arches to help create the vortex that pulled even greater amounts of air underneath the car, which produced even more downforce
One final, and very important touch to the 881 would be something very simple. Newey would design a tight, aerodynamically-efficient engine cover for the car that helped smooth the airflow to the back of the car. Incorporated in the design would be the airbox for the 3.5-liter Judd V8 engine that would power the car.
Newey's genius would come through the 881. Over the course of the 1988 season the Judd-powered car would be the fastest normally-aspirated car in the field. Then, of course, there would be the Japanese Grand Prix in which Ivan Capelli would take his normally-aspirated 881 and would pass Alain Prost in the all-conquering McLaren-Honda MP4/4. It would be the first time since 1983 that a non-turbo car had led a Formula One race. It wouldn't last long as Aryton Senna would go on to win the race in the other McLaren-Honda, but, a 3rd and a 2nd place over the course of the season would more than prove the abilities of the March 881, of Adrian Newey and of aerodynamically-sound designs. Sources:
'Team: Adrian Newey, OBE', (http://www.redbull.com/cs/Satellite/en_INT/Red-Bull-Racing-Adrian-Newey/001242969794203). Infiniti Red Bull Racing. http://www.redbull.com/cs/Satellite/en_INT/Red-Bull-Racing-Adrian-Newey/001242969794203. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
'1989 March CG891-01', (http://www.race-cars.com/carsales/march/1343415919/1343415919ss.htm). Race-Cars.com. http://www.race-cars.com/carsales/march/1343415919/1343415919ss.htm. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
Wikipedia contributors, 'March Engineering', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 March 2014, 12:10 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=March_Engineering&oldid=598681601 accessed 18 April 2014 By Jeremy McMullen