By on May 4, 2015

Williams-Cosworth FW07D

The Tyrrell P34 wasn’t Formula 1’s only car to sport six wheels. This six-wheeled Williams-Cosworth FW07D was developed by the team in Grove as a bit of aerodynamic trickery, but sported its extra axle behind the driver instead of in front.

Based on the ground effect FW07 chassis from 1979, the six-wheeled single-seater used six front wheels and tires as a way to the reduce frontal area – and drag – in 1981. It was all an elaborate plan to compensate for a lack of power from their Cosworth DFV, then producing a paltry 500 horses.

“We were all intrigued to see if we could balance a car that had such a large contact patch at the rear and we quickly discovered that we could. I remember (test driver) Jonathan Palmer telling me that he couldn’t really tell that there were four wheels at the back, although the traction out of slow corners was phenomenal,” Patrick Head, then technical director at Williams, told Auto123.

Even though the resulting FW08B, another six-wheeler based on a four-wheeler chassis, was “bloody heavy” according to Head, the weight issue wasn’t what buried the idea.

“In the end, the six-wheeler was banned after someone in a FOCA meeting said it would drive up costs and cause chaos during pit stops. The regulations were changed to say a car could only have four wheels, of which only two could be driven.”

The resulting four-wheeled, Honda-powered FW09 (in B-spec) went on to win only single race in 1984 at the hands of Keke Rosberg, father of current F1 pilot Nico.

[Photo: Williams]

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12 Comments on “This Six-Wheeled Williams FW07D Never Turned A Single F1 Lap in Anger...”

  • avatar

    Ferrari tested a 6-wheeled F1 car during 1977 too.

  • avatar

    Interesting! My first thought was “Hmm, looks heavy,” but not “…Bloody heavy.”

    My second thought was, if this had worked and been allowed by F1 rules, due to F1 technology trickling down to production cars, we’d all be driving six-wheeled moon buggies now.

    • 0 avatar

      “due to F1 technology trickling down to production cars, we’d all be driving six-wheeled moon buggies now.”

      Probably not, since a bunch of the benefits of the six-wheeler were related to things that don’t affect road cars – in particular, aero as regards open wheelers.

  • avatar

    “the six-wheeler was banned after someone in a FOCA meeting said it would drive up costs”

    Good thing they dodged *that* bullet.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s remarkable just how many people have zero grasp of economics.

      • 0 avatar

        “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”

        -attributed to Henry Ford

      • 0 avatar

        “It’s remarkable just how many people have zero grasp of economics.”

        They appear to cluster in the FIA. I am continually amazed by the unwillingness or inability of motorsport regulatory types to understand that teams will spend as much as they have to gain whatever advantage they can. That’s the *whole point*. If you prevent them from spending $1m to gain two tenths on the track flamboyantly with engine power and fancy wings, they’ll spend $1m to gain two hundredths with undetectable changes to suspension setup or engine management. This does not achieve anything positive for the sport.

        Despite the fact that this lesson has been learned the hard way over and over and over again – witness the 4-engine-per-season rule resulting not in lower engine costs but drastically raised costs as hundreds of components were fabricated, tested, and discarded in an attempt to build the single perfect engine – those in charge insist on continuing to stifle technical development in the name of cost-savings. It would be quixotic to the point of humorousness if the damage to the sport wasn’t so real.

        • 0 avatar

          You get it. The only way to lower costs is to lower the rewards of competition by shrinking the audience. The FIA does seem to be pursuing this course of action.

          Look at NASCAR in its heyday. The cars were cheap while the purses were huge, so the teams built individual cars optimized for each track. Eventually costs to compete were such that single title sponsors aren’t even a luxury of the top contenders. The cars may be fundamentally as crude as can be palated, but any money available gets spent looking for an advantage. If NASCAR limits test days to ‘cut costs,’ teams add cars to collect more data on those days. Nothing can ever cut costs except failure.

          Indy is the major series where these rules don’t apply. That’s because it is a farcical contest that exists for the competitors; whether it be to sooth their egos, circumnavigate capital controls in Brazil, or launder money.

          • 0 avatar

            Yep. My understanding is that NASCAR’s aero restrictions have, inevitably, backfired spectacularly in that the spec bodies resulted in such parity that even the vanishingly tiny gains achievable from such obscure techniques as rough surface aero (altering flow by scuffing / etc the surface of a part) became worthwhile. Naturally, these gains require wind tunnels and lots of expensive R&D to suss out, so, blam – spec aero? Aero costs increase!

            It’s not like this is restricted to top-level series, either. My uncle knows a guy who was involved with some local-level dirt go-kart racing; really crude stuff – plywood bodies, that kind of thing. But it was heavily restricted, and guys realized that the sealed engines that they were required to use could vary a bit in power. End result? You have a cheap spec engine, but in order to be remotely competitive you had to buy 20 engines and run the most powerful one. Costs went through the roof. And this was for some local yokels giving their kids a few laps at a dirt bullring.

            You. Cannot. Cut. Costs.

            Except, of course, as you said, by lowering incentives, which indeed the FIA and Mr. E are doing a wonderful job of. If you want to make winning in F1 less alluring, replacing all the classic events with image-burnishing ego-trips for jack-booted dictatorships is an *awesome* strategy. Monza and the Nurburgring? Who cares – replace them with Iran and Kazakhstan, where, as Mr. Ecclestone himself has blithely (and perhaps unintentionally appropriately) said, ‘nobody has any concerns’ about human rights. Indeed.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The Elf assup.

    I do think it needs a set of those BF T/As that are fitted on the Miata in the other article.

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