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T-cars, race numbers and other trivial questions

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#1 lofong

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 18:42

I am a frequent reader but a rare poster to these pages. I have some very minor, extremely trivial loosely-connected questions which have puzzled me for some time. I am sure some of the answers are buried in other threads but I have never located them. My apologies if I am covering old ground. Any answers or additional info would be appreciated.

T Cars

This came up last year when I was in the States right after Indy and caught a tabloid-style program on CBS covering F1 its drivers and their lifestyles. Aside from the poor timing of the broadcast in the wake of the Indy fiasco, it begs the question of when was the last time that US network TV put out any program of 90 minutes or more duration on F1 that was not actual race coverage. But that issue aside, during the broadcast Martin Whitmarsh made a comment explaining that the McLaren team sent ‘T’ cars to races but he did not know why they were called ‘T’ cars.

I have a belief that the ‘T’ stands for ‘Training’ and its usage goes back to the Silver Arrows era. Is this correct?

I recall the days when the ‘T’ suffix was applied to the race number of the car during practice. When did this practice start? Did it die out with the ecclestonisation of F1? When was it last seen?

I do not remember seeing its use in other major race series outside F1 (but then it was generally only for F1 that I made the effort to attend practice days). Was this practice adopted in other international series? Did it in fact originate in grand prix racing?

Also, IIRC at one race in 1973 (possibly Spain) one of the teams (Surtees maybe?) had an extra chassis that was used by both its drivers in different practice sessions. But one driver used the ‘T’ designation to their race number and the other used a very high race number. Would this have had any significance? Was the use of an alternate race number (instead of the 'T' designation) for the ‘T’ car a common practice, back in those less standardized days?

‘Guest’ Drivers

I am aware that in F1 we have had examples of drivers having runs in another team's cars in official practice sessions. How were these handled? Were they formally authorized through the race organizers and the resulting practice times officially recorded? or was it very informal?

This leads to the question of whether there have been examples (not necessarily in F1) of fraudulent substitution of drivers, where say a number one driver has qualified a slow teammate’s car to get it into the race or simply an unauthorized driver practicing, qualifying or even participating in a race?

Race Numbers

I am aware that in F1 in general we have always pretty much had 2-digit numbers on cars. 0 came into play with Damon Hill and also Jody Scheckter for the North American races at the end of 1973. I believe this was because Jody was using zero in his American racing that year. Was its usage in F1 frowned upon, becoming a contributing factor to the standardised race numbers that were introduced in 1974?

At the high end we had Lella Lombardi trying to qualify a ‘208’ car in one of the mid-70s British races. But the 1952 German GP had race entries with 3-digit numbers starting at 101 (thus providing the record highest race number of any winner) and the previous year the numbers in the German race had started around 70. Is there a good reason? Were cars for these race allocated numbers unique to the race meeting, as was common in those days? But why were they not allocated the lowest numbers? In 1952 the GP was held to F2 regs, so was it considered not to be the main race on the program? Is there any obvious explanation here?

In the early years at many races cars were only allocated even numbers, a practice I believe that was last seen at Monza in 1970. I have seen this mentioned in a few threads but never with a definite explanation. Bad luck, given this method avoids using the ‘13’ and also ‘17’, seems feasible.

But I am confused as to why, for the British races, Aintree always allocated even numbers only while in the alternate years Silverstone, and in fact all the other UK venues, used all the numbers, both odd and even. Is there a logical explanation to this? Did these races maybe have different organizers?

Lastly with race numbers, I have seen a variety of numbers and some letters used at club level. In the States double zero and a zero prefix are not uncommon. I am aware that in the Mille Miglia the race number represented the start time of each entry. But are there any examples of letters or non-standard characters being used in race numbers in international racing? Are there other examples where the race number has additional meaning?


#2 gbl

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 18:51

T numbers are also used in american open wheel racing, here are some examples from 1983. They are still in use at Indianapolis, the Champcar series now uses an 'X' although it is not painted on the race since the last two years or so, only listed in practice reports.





#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 20:20

The T is for Training, as you surmised. And in the 30s the German teams did usually have at least one spare training car, but OTTOMH I can't recall them using T numbers. The spares were usually allocated odd numbers, the race cars being even numbered.

The German race numbers in the early 50s followed the order of the programme and I think you'll find there were big gaps in the numbering. If there were three races on the programme, then the numbering for race 1 would start at 2, for race 2 perhaps at 62 and for race 3 perhaps at 122, thus allowing up to thirty entries in each race. But of course if only twelve entries were received for race 1 then numbers 26 to 60 would not be allocated.