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The short shelf-life of the Life Racing Team...


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#1 bigears

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 21:18

As I am armed with a huge stack of 1990 Motoring News newspapers and I am off work as I got stomach cramps. So I thought I would keep myself occupied to do some browsing for information about one of F1's worst and slowest cars, the LIFE Racing team.

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Motoring News 5th January 1989.

[quote]It was reported that Gary Brabham will attempt to prequalify Life Racing's F1 contender throughout 1990, after cementing a deal to drive for Ernesto Vita's fledging team in the F1 championship.[/quote]

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Motoring News 24th January 1990.

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Motoring News 21st February 1990.

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(from Autosprint 19/1990, page 63)

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Motoring News 28th February 1990.

Prequalifying at Phoenix
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(from Autosprint 11/1990, page 21)
His fastest lap was 2m 07.147s

Prequalifying at Interlagos
[quote]David Brabham sat patiently all through Thursday waiting for Vita's car to come to Life. When finally do so in afternoon managed a few sorely lap in L190. Didn't repeat that feat in prequalifying, Life expiring after only a quarter of a lap with a broken con-rod.
Did not run (at all!)[/quote]
Motoring News 26th March 1990.

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Motoring News 4th April 1990.

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Motoring News 11th April 1990.

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Motoring News 25th April 1990.

Seriously, this is becoming a joke and Motoring News even reprinted last week's article for the 2nd May 1990 edition!

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Motoring News 2nd May 1990.

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Motoring News 10th May 1990.

Prequalifying at Imola
[quote]His fastest lap was 7m 16.212s.[/quote]

They want to put in a Barber Saab Pro Series driver in the Life car?!

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Motoring News 23rd May 1990.

Prequalifying at Monaco
[quote]Bruno Giacomelli struggled as ever with the Life, which surprised many by appearing at all and then surprised them even more by completing 10 smoky laps before expiring. It was within two seconds ofr the Coloni and 14 of Bernard's Lola, and iot was evident that when the white markers on its fresh Goodyears wore away, the evil creation was still going no faster. Bruno had the right idea when a Japanese photographer spotted him bolting on the rear wing on Thursday and asked cheerfully "You wanna buy it?" The photographer was smart enough to decline.
His fastest lap was 1m 47.187s[/quote]
Motoring News 31st May 1990.

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(from Autosprint 22/1990, page 53)

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Motoring News 6th June 1990.

Prequalifying at Montreal
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His fastest lap was 1m 50.253s[/quote]

[quote]Life team manager Sergio Barbasio confirmed in Mexico that he team has succeeded in purchasing Lotus' old Judd CV V8s and that the L189B will be equipped with them from Hockenheim onwards. "At the moment our design people are working on adapting the chassis to take the engine, which is 10mm higher than our W12," he said.[/quote]

Prequalifying at Mexico City
[quote]Bruno Giacomelli did but a lap in the Life before stopping with...an engine problem. His fastest lap was 4m 04.475s[/quote]
Motoring News 27th June 1990.

Motoring News to review on the F1 teams' form:

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Prequalifying at Paul Ricard
[quote]...and the Life didn't even manage to get out due to yet another engine problem. Did not run (at all!)[/quote]
Motoring News 11th July 1990.

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Prequalifying at Silverstone
[quote]At the back, as usual, the cheerful Bruno Giacomelli burped the Life round for sporadic laps before rolling to a halt on the circuit when the electronics packed up. Poor man is now sentenced to continue with the W12 as the team won't be switching to Judds after all.
His fastest lap is 1m 25.947s[/quote]

Motoring News 18th July 1990.

Apparantly, they didn't have their own pit facilities. They worked on the grass with very few tools but Giacomelli was still smiling though!

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Prequalifying at Hockenheim
[quote]Finally, Bruno Giacomelli did his usual rearguard job in the Life. "The engine was perfect, but it doesn't yet have reliability we need," he said. "The real thing was that the team wanted to change the dampers, and we ran out of time. The trouble is, we don't have the material or the time to test; we have one car and few engines. The engine is reasonable, given its lack of development. It may sound strange, but it's true."
"Why the damper change? "I don't really know," he admitted. His fastest lap is 2m 10.786s[/quote]
Motoring News 1st August 1990.

Prequalifying at Hungaroring
[quote]Nothing to report! His fastest lap is 1m 41.431s[/quote]

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Motoring News 15th August 1990

Prequalifying at Spa
[quote]As usual Bruno Giacomelli brought up the rear in the Life, which refused to start until the closing stages becauses its compressed air bottle is somehow frozen! "We did our usual five laps. Nothing impressive!" smiled Bruno, who had walked home, after a wire vibrated loose, and stopped the engine on his slowing down lap. His fastest lap was 2m 19.445s[/quote]
Motoring News 30th August 1990.

[quote]Life's deal to re-equip its L189B chassis with Judd engines is on the go again. The team is hoping to have a moncoque to accept a CV V8 ready in time for the Portuguese GP. "It will be very hard work, but I am hopeful," said Bruno Giacomelli in Monza.[/quote]

Prequalifying at Monza
[quote]The Life, as usual, managed few laps (two on this occasion). "And only one of them is timed! grinned Giacomelli. "Then we broke the engine, and this time it was a good bang!" His fastest lap is 1m 55.244s[/quote]
Motoring News 12th September 1990.

Prequalifying at Estoril
[quote]Even that was better than the Life though (it was referring to the Coloni car) The team had duly plugged in a Judd CV in place of Franco Rocchi's under developed W12 powerplant, but electrical problems prevented Bruno Giacomelli even from leaving the pit lane...
Did not run.[/quote]
Motoring News 26th September 1990.

Prequalifying at Jerez
[quote]...while this time the Judd-engined Life made two laps before grinding to its routine halt.
His fastest lap was 1m 42 699s[/quote]
Motoring News 3rd October 1990.

[quote]Gary Brabham, the middle of Sir Jack's three boys, did what any other struggling driver would have done at the beginning of the year and accepted with some alacrity Ernesto Vita's offer of the drive in his unique Life L190. Of course we all know now that it was a disaster of unmitigated proportion, but at the time nobody was to know just how bad it would be. THat didn't take long, however, by Imola Gary had vacanted the cockpit, thoroughly disillusioned by the total inability of the Italian to run a worthwhile effort[/quote]

[quote]Bruno Giacomelli was drafted in to replace Gary B at Life, and while that might have seemed a curious decision on the chubby Italian's part, his rumoured $30,000 a race put it into better perspective. A case of take the money and walk. He cheerfully accepted that his weekend's work would always be over at nine o'clock on Friday mornings. His record of 12 successive non prequalifications was bettered only by Claudio Langes who starred with the perfect tally of 14 (out of 14 entered) by the Eurobrun camp.[/quote]

[quote]Last, and certainly least, comes Life, a misnomer if ever there was one. Ernesto Vita took over the F1 assets of First Racing abortive attempt to graduate from F3000, adding his own W12 engine designed by former Ferrari engineer Franco Rocchi.
Things never turned got off the ground, and turned from awful to unmentionable when Gianno Marilli quit early in ther year. The L190 was abysmally unreliable, rarely completed more than five laps per meeting (its record was eight!) and never looked remotely like prequalifying. THe engine was troublesome and lacked mileage, the project lacked money, and the whole thing became pathetic. In Phoenix Life didn't even have a tyre pressure gauge! By Silverstone Vita was scheduled to replace with W12 with Judd CVs, but we were told there wouild be a delay when the team penned an installation.
But surelym as a First, the car had been purchased with Judds? The truth that there was no money to buy the British power units, and even when there was, by Estoril, an electrical problem prevented the car firing up!
Vita continued to make optimistic noises and has even talked of a return in 1991, but like the Life itself, few take such boast seriously. F1's creditability can do well without such circuis acts.[/quote]

To sign off this thread of the struggling Life team. Here is a nice scan of Bruno Giacomelli in the Life.

http://img.photobuck...191290_MN_v.jpg
Motoring News 19th December 1990.

Credits to Honza (from aerogi's forum) and gdecarli for the colour photos/scans of the Life car.

Roughly about five years ago, Bruno Giacomelli admitted that the Life L190 car was the worst car he ever driven. It gave out 360bhp, compared to the 800bhp from the McLaren Hondas! The car's top speed was about 100km/h slower than McLaren. he’d never been so frightened in a car like this!

Also Life Racing Engines still owes him a lot of money. "Maybe I should have taken an engine or perhaps the entire car with me when the team went bankrupt."

So does anyone have any stories or even photos of this struggling Italian team? Enjoy the read! :)

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#2 COUGAR508

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 21:45

Thanks for posting all the material!

I distinctly remember the story about the Life team's lack of a tyre pressure gauge, and them having to borrow one from a rival team. Gary Brabham's exasperation at the situation was palpable.

I don't remember the stories linking Rob Wilson and Bernd Schneider to the driver, however. They both had a lucky escape!

#3 bigears

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 21:50

Originally posted by COUGAR508
Thanks for posting all the material!

I distinctly remember the story about the Life team's lack of a tyre pressure gauge, and them having to borrow one from a rival team. Gary Brabham's exasperation at the situation was palpable.


It was from their prequalifying rivals, Eurobrun at Phoenix.

#4 COUGAR508

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 21:54

Originally posted by bigears


It was from their prequalifying rivals, Eurobrun at Phoenix.


Yes, the fact that they had to borrow the item from Eurobrun must have made it even more galling.

I wasn't a regular reader of Motoring News in 1990, and it looks like I missed out on plenty of juicy gossip! My recollection had been that once Gary Brabham left, it was offered straight away to Giacomelli, and he accepted...

#5 RA Historian

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 03:40

[
Prequalifying at Phoenix
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(from Autosprint 11/1990, page 21)
His fastest lap was 2m 07.147s

[b]That is four more photos than I got of the car. I was at Phoenix at 8:00 AM on Friday for pre-qualifying. I was just getting my camera ready to shoot when the Life sputtered and banged its way past. I was not ready yet, but thought, "oh well, I'll get him next time by". But there was no next time by......
Tom

#6 fines

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 09:04

Superb! :up:

Reminds me that I did something very similar many years ago, when I was preparing a Life story for 8w that never saw the light of day [sorry, Mattijs :(]. Will try to find it, and post it here.

#7 Teapot

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 10:10

If I'm not mistaken, when the FIRST car (the base for the Life L190) came out and Divila heard about new life (er...) being put in his aborted project (he was due back to March to work on the ill fated 88B and the car was completed by a milanese design firm) and saw the new car, he described it as nothing more than "an interesting flower pot" and took legal action to stop his name from being mentioned in connection with the team. It seems that everything, from the suspension pick up point, to the gearbox casing, down to the chassis moulding and the steering assembly was a complete mess. He also, allegedly, warned the drivers against racing it.

#8 Paolo

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 10:40

Oh, this seems to be similar to the Divila story told here...  ;)



http://forums.autosp...y=&pagenumber=2



By the way F1rejects.com (now recovering from an hacker attack) has a wonderful depiction of Life's story.

#9 HistoryFan

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 14:03

Great work :clap:
Would be interesting on other little teams too...

#10 bigears

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 14:10

Originally posted by HistoryFan
Great work :clap:
Would be interesting on other little teams too...


I might have a go with the First Racing team but I am feeling better so I can do other things!

Maybe later this week or so...

#11 rdmotorsport

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 14:55

Very interesting, I was invited over to Reggio Emillia in the early days of Ernesto Vita project,I remember meeting the late Franco Rocchi who was a charming man but struck me to be (or at least appeared)very old he spent his time betwen engine design and painting wonderful water colours!

The team was being organised(if that is the word) by a very busy Milanese gentleman who previously raced Maseratti Bi Turbo in saloon car races his name escapes me but he was very enthusiastic and did seem to have some idea and direction of this project.

Unfortunatley everyone wanted to rush matters and rather taking my advice to develope and wait another year prior to joining the GP circus they plunged head first and other people try to help Paul Brown under the Mangoletsi organisation even the designer from Scott Russell Racing Engines explained why the W12 did not work and offered assistance but it was all ignored,Ernesto a charming man and his knowledge of local restaurants was marvelous so I always ate well!, but perhaps too much enthusiasm and not enough patience.

The story of having to borrow a pressure guage surprises me because they never seem short of anything apart from a chassis and engine!

Been nice if it had worked though.

Rodney Dodson.

#12 Paolo

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 16:26

Originally posted by rdmotorsport

The story of having to borrow a pressure guage surprises me because they never seem short of anything apart from a chassis and engine!

Been nice if it had worked though.

Rodney Dodson.


I recall reading they were absolutely without spares of any kind, and the personnel although enthusiastic had no race experience, nor was paid for its services. Nothing new for Italian enterprises.

#13 Barry Boor

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 18:10

Looking at Life from another angle, it appeared far more times than another red F.1 car ever did.

#14 rdmotorsport

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 18:16

Then I bow to your superior knowledge because at this stage I had long gone, but I do remember a couple of the mechanics they hired came from the Toppolino F2 team,Rocchi as you know was ex Ferrari plus I also recall a pile of bits arriving from Germany which included corner weights scales plus other set up gubbings etc. etc perhaps they vanished prior to their first race ?

#15 ghinzani

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 18:16

FIRST had tested the chassis with a Judd installed though, had they not? I believe Tarquini and maybe Apicella took it for a spin at least.

#16 rdmotorsport

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 18:30

Dear Barry,

What other red car would that be?

RD

#17 Barry Boor

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 18:33

Sorry, the name temporarily escapes me.

#18 COUGAR508

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 18:45

Originally posted by ghinzani
FIRST had tested the chassis with a Judd installed though, had they not? I believe Tarquini and maybe Apicella took it for a spin at least.


Tarquini was named as one of the drivers before they withdrew before the start of the '89 season. I seem to recall that Julian Bailey's name was also mentioned at the time.

#19 bigears

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 19:52

It is true, he visited the factory and then he mulled over it and then eventually he decided against it.

Then Tarquini was confirmed as the official driver in the final FIA entry list.

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#20 Racer.Demon

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 21:01

Originally posted by fines
Reminds me that I did something very similar many years ago, when I was preparing a Life story for 8w that never saw the light of day [sorry, Mattijs :(]. Will try to find it, and post it here.


Or you could send it to me after all... ;)

#21 fines

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 21:06

It was never finished, that's the point. :( I doubt I can gather the enthusiasm to pick up the story again...

#22 Racer.Demon

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 21:11

I understand, Michael. :)

And of course I should ask David (bigears) himself first. It seems he's done half the job already!

#23 stevewf1

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 21:41

Fabulous! Thank You! :up:

On one hand, I can see why the F1 "Powers-That-Be" wanted to prevent these kinds of sorry efforts from sullying the sport, but on the other hand, I sure don't like the way things are in F1 today.

I say "Let 'em try and let 'em fail"...

#24 bigears

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 22:31

Originally posted by Racer.Demon
I understand, Michael. :)

And of course I should ask David (bigears) himself first. It seems he's done half the job already!


You can go ahead, fines can use the material I have posted here. :)

#25 fines

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 07:29

As I said, I'm too wrapped up in other stuff right now to pick up the Life thread again, interesting though it would be. It's one of the (too many!) dead bodies in my basement, and I'm afraid it's going to stay there! :(

Originally posted by stevewf1
On one hand, I can see why the F1 "Powers-That-Be" wanted to prevent these kinds of sorry efforts from sullying the sport, but on the other hand, I sure don't like the way things are in F1 today.

I say "Let 'em try and let 'em fail"...

Exactly my thoughts! :up:

#26 COUGAR508

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 09:11

Originally posted by stevewf1
Fabulous! Thank You! :up:

On one hand, I can see why the F1 "Powers-That-Be" wanted to prevent these kinds of sorry efforts from sullying the sport, but on the other hand, I sure don't like the way things are in F1 today.

I say "Let 'em try and let 'em fail"...



I would agree, the Life story was probably the nadir in terms of very small teams in F1, and the Andrea Moda saga was the final straw for the FIA, and we started along the road to the "closed shop" situation which we have today. It's a pity that a happy medium could not be struck, which would have allowed these sorts of outfits admittance, subject to certain criteria.

#27 fines

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 09:54

So, here goes: Remember, I haven't done a thing with this corpse since 2001, and its probably a bit rough around the edges. Also, like David I had assembled every picture I could find of the thing, but they are in a different folder - will try to find them as well and edit them in.

Curriculum Vitae - The Story of the Life

A detailed history of the worst-ever Grand Prix car

August 24, 1990: On one of my very infrequent visits to Formula 1 Grand Prix meetings, I am sitting on a grandstand adjacent to the famous rise between Eau Rouge and Raidillion corners, part of the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps circuit. It's Friday morning, a quarter to nine, and only a small crowd of die-hard fans is present to witness the pre-qualifying session for the Belgian GP. It's not a glamorous job for the drivers, pushing a dog of a Formula 1 car of some impoverished end-of-pit-lane team through its paces merely to gain admission to the main game, a fact only too obviously demonstrated when, during the course of the day, Swiss driver Gregor Foitek, only just a fortnight bereft of his drive in the uncompetitive Monteverdi/Ford (née Onyx/Ford), enters the meanwhile brimming grandstand and sits down just a few of feet from me, acknowledged by exactly no one! The withdrawal of his team has taken the burden to pre-qualify off the once famous Ligier team, and thus diminished interest in this little side-show even further, to the point that only six 'nameless' cars circulate the Ardennes track in the cool of the emerging day. Fastest is Olivier Grouillard in the Osella/Ford, with a time just under 1'58", and to the delight of the home crowd it's Bertrand Gachot's Coloni/Ford in second, while the two AGS/Fords of Yannick Dalmas and Gabriele Tarquini struggle so far to keep the EuroBrun/Fords of the mercurial Roberto Moreno and Claudio Langes at bay, the four of them lapping just outside the two-minute mark.

Then, apparently out of the blue, a red car leaves the pit lane, accompanied by a huge cheer from the spectators. A Ferrari in pre-qualifying? As the car pulls up the small hill, emitting horrendous sounds and barely making the top, it soon becomes apparent that the cheers and the smiles on the faces of the onlookers are signs of amusement, rather than enthusiasm. Even today, I still wonder how many of them were actually aware of the fact that they now belonged to the very chosen few who had witnessed the worst Grand Prix car of all time in action! A sight indeed to behold...


Gary Brabham was arguably the least talented of the three sons of Australia's three-times World Champion Jack Brabham, but he was far from being a slouch at the wheel of a racing car. Between 1986 and 1988, he had won six British Formula 3 Championship rounds with a Ralt/Volkswagen, finished second also six times and once third, which ultimately resulted in the runner-up spot in the 1988 championship, behind J. J. Lehto and ahead of Damon Hill, Martin Donnelly and Eddie Irvine, no less! The following year, he graduated to Formula 3000, and though he managed only one points finish in the International Championship (5th at Brands Hatch), it was one of only two for the Leyton House-March chassis all year. Better still, he also drove a Reynard/Cosworth in the British Formula 3000 Championship, winning four out of nine races, finishing second twice and once third, in the process of beating Andrew Gilbert-Scott and Roland Ratzenberger to the title to complete a memorable year for the Brabhams, thirty years after the first World Championship for Sir Jack: His older brother Geoff successfully defended his IMSA Sports Car Championship with a Nissan, while younger brother David won the British Formula 3 Championship in a Ralt/Volkswagen - Amazing!

Due to his latest success, Gary was granted a super-licence to compete in Formula 1, and thus he signed a two-year contract with Life Racing Engines in January 1990. Whether he knew more about this new Formula One team than the outside world is quite debatable, and so the future looked as bright to the 28 years old and, from now on, Italian-domiciled Australian as it could have. After all, Ernesto Vita's team from Formigine near Modena was all set to enter Grand Prix Racing with a revolutionary new engine, christened the Life F35, and designed by former Ferrari employee Franco Rocchi: a W12, uniting the advantages of short overall length of a V8 engine with those of superior rpm of a 12-cylinder unit. It had three banks of four cylinders each, arranged in the shape of an arrow and angled at 60°, with a bore of 81 mm and a stroke of 56.5 mm, giving 3,493.7 cc. Its maximum rpm were given as 12,500 and the compression ratio as 13:1, with a total weight of 154 kg. Fuel injection and ignition by TDD were to be used, and spark plugs by Champion. Another reminder of the fame of nearby Ferrari was the Italian oil company Agip, who were to supply and sponsor the team.

Having a shiny new engine was one thing, but the days of buying a proprietary chassis from an acknowledged specialists were over since the days of the infamous Concorde Agreement in 1981, and thus not a viable option for the fledgling team. Over in France, Guy Negré and his MGN company had much the same problems and tried to attract the AGS team to run their similar W12 unit, but to no avail. In Italy, apart from Ferrari, there were quite a number of teams trying to gain a foothold in F1, but neither Osella, BMS Italia, Minardi, EuroBrun or Coloni were willing to gamble on the unproven engine, relying instead on the time-honoured Ford Cosworth or, in the case of the latter, an alliance with a big manufacturer like Subaru. Besides, there was always the hope to acquire customer engines by Lamborghini or Ferrari, so why bother with Life?

Luckily for Vita, there were almost as many F3000 teams in Italy willing to take the plunge into F1, and one of them, Lamberto Leoni's FIRST Racing team, had actually built a car in 1988, to be powered by a Judd CV engine. When the financial background did not materialise, Leoni was only too happy to sell the one-off chassis to Vita, who began track testing his Life F35 engine in this car, now dubbed Life F190, in 1989. Initial design studies for the FIRST had been by Ricardo Divila (of Copersucar/Fittipaldi-"fame" and by now working for the Brabham team), but the final execution had been in the hands of one Gianni Marelli, resulting in a totally conventional car with double-wishbone suspension all around, and pushrods activating the Koni dampers. At 2.78 m it had the shortest wheelbase of all in the 1990 season, making full use of the engine layout. Front (1.81 m) and rear track (1.657 m) were also of conventional dimensions, and the power of the W12 engine was transmitted via a home-built 6-speed gearbox, with Hewland internals, and an AP clutch. Tyres were supplied by Goodyear, and brake pads for the Brembo brakes by Carbone Industries. The 200-litre fuel tank was provided by Pirelli, the radiators by Secan, instruments by Stack, batteries by Fiamm and the steering by Pignone e Cremagliera. In all, the car was said to weigh in at 530 kg, making it rather a heavyweight compared to its rivals which usually weighed no more than the compulsory minimum of 500 kg.

The late withdrawal of the two German F1 teams, Rial and Zakspeed, left an entry of just 35 cars for the 1990 FIA Formula One World Championship, compared to the record 39 of the year before. Still, with a maximum number of 30 cars allowed for the main practice sessions under the Concorde Agreement, the continuation of the pre-qualifying procedure was necessary. The rules stipulated that, apart from 26 seeded cars (determined by the success of their entrants in the two previous half seasons of the World Championship), every car had to take part in a special practice session on the first day of a Grand Prix meeting, with only the four fastest in that session allowed to take part in the remainder of the meeting. As a new team, Brabham and the Life were thus one of nine competitors who were obliged to slug it out between 8.00 am and 9.00 am on Friday mornings, meaning that track time was a prerequisite if they wanted to stay a chance to survive this early sieving.

First tests were envisaged for late January, at the Misano Santamonica track, but did not happen before February 8/9 at Vallelunga, where Brabham managed no more than a few laps. Later that month at Monza, electrical problems stopped the team after only 20 more laps. Italian F3000 makeweight Franco Scapini was recruited as the new test driver for the team, but time was pressing and the car was shipped to Phoenix for the United States Grand Prix with barely 100 miles on the clock. As it was, not much was added to that figure in the Arizona desert city, when after a first flying lap in 2'07.147" Brabham went back into the pits to report a misfire, whereupon all the plugs were changed in approximately 10 minutes. Gary went out once more, did a 2'24.966" warm-up lap and then stopped out on the circuit with an ignition box failure, just 22 minutes into the one-hour session. It did not matter that the car was not retrievable in time, since the team had no spare box available anyhow, and that was that.

Fastest in this session had been Roberto Moreno in his EuroBrun/Ford, with a time of 1'32.292". He had also recorded the fastest speeds at the two "speed traps", 266.16 kph at the end of the back-straight and 241.31 kph at the start/finish-line. For the remainder of this article, I will always use the best performances of any given session as the basis (100) of an index to show the relative performance of the Life and, for evaluating purposes, other competitors. At Phoenix, Aguri Suzuki in a Larrousse/Lamborghini captured the last spot qualifying for promotion into the real thing, at an index value of 98.887. Gary Brabham and the Life managed only 72.587, and a top speed of 185.57 kph (69.721) on the back-straight and 178.28 kph (73.880) at the start of their flying lap. Amazingly, with this sort of performance they still ranked only second to last, since Bertrand Gachot's new and untested Coloni/Subaru (well, actually a year-old chassis with an old-fashioned Motori Moderni engine) managed only one very slow lap when the gear linkage broke as soon as it left the pits!

Things couldn't possibly get worse, could they? Two weeks later, the Brazilian Grand Prix was to be staged at a refurbished Interlagos track on the outskirts of São Paulo, and two unofficial practice session were scheduled for the Thursday to give the teams a chance to acclimatise to the new circuit layout. A rare opportunity to test for the Life team but, sadly, the day was thoroughly rained off. Come Friday morning, and at least the rain had stopped, though the track was still damp in parts. Along with his eight fellow sufferers, Brabham set off, carefully, to feel his way around the wet patches, equipped with Goodyear wets. At the speed trap at the end of the straight before the Subida do Lago and the twisty infield section, he clocked 151.33 kph (55.309), and never got back to the pit straight again, a con-rod having broken, and after about a minute of running and not much more than a mile covered, the team was ready to pack up. Gosh!

Much later, Brabham recalled: "When I first visited Life the ingredients were there for a super little team, but by the first race it was pretty obvious that they weren't going to be mixed properly. Half of them were now missing. Eventually, the situation became ridiculous." It transpired that the engine, during its first two outings, had never topped 11,000 rpm. The team was so badly organised, it did not even have a tyre pressure gauge at their disposal, and had to borrow one from the rival EuroBrun team! They had also tried to trick Brabham into believing that a new car would be ready in time for the next race at Imola, and when the Australian called the bluff, he wasted no time in bailing out. His reputation was saved when he found a berth in the Middlebridge F3000 team (subbing for his F1-bound brother David), and drove their Lola/Cosworth to a couple of third place finishes in the International Championship, at Monza and Enna-Pergusa. Though he was consistently out-qualified by his team mate all year, he managed to beat him in the championship, finishing two positions ahead in 11th. The name of the team mate? Damon Hill, future World Champion...

Now Life had to scrounge around for a replacement, and already in Brazil, Bernd Schneider was contacted, but the former Zakspeed driver declined the offer. How many others received invitations is open to speculation, but probably anyone with a remote chance for a super-licence got a call. While every other team made more or less use of two weeks of testing at Imola, Life was on the brink of liquidation. Scapini was never going to get a super-licence, and everyone else just wasn't interested. There was not even the money to go testing at a circuit less than 50 miles from the team's base, and to top the squad's misery, designer Gianni Marelli opted to quit his post! What next?

Enter Bruno Giacomelli, 37-year old Italian GP veteran. Runaway European Formula 2 Champion in 1978, with eight wins out of 12 races (March/BMW). All-time record holder of pole positions (11) in F2 championship rounds, and second only to Jochen Rindt (12) in all-time wins (11). Alfa Romeo factory driver in Formula One 1979-82, one pole position (USA 1980), one second place (Australia 1980) and one third (Caesar's Palace 1981). 13 races in CART 1984/5, one 5th (Meadowlands 1985) and two 6ths (Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca 1985) for Patrick Racing (March/Cosworth). Seriously injured in an Interserie sports car practice crash at Zeltweg in October 1986 (Lancia). Returned the following year to continue in sports car (Porsche) and touring car (Maserati) racing, recently test driver for Alfa Romeo CART and Leyton House-March F1 teams. So what on earth did he expect of Ernesto Vita's team? A lifeline, perhaps...

When the usual crop of underdogs assembled at Imola on Friday morning, Giacomelli and the Life were given an unexpected fillip by the absence/withdrawal of one of the successful qualifiers in Brazil: Yannick Dalmas had injured his left wrist in an accident during testing, and since he had also written off the first chassis of the new AGS/Ford JH25 and the replacement wasn't quite ready, he considered it pointless to make an appearance and withdrew. His sceptisism was confounded when his team mate, Gabriele Tarquini, stopped with fuel pressure trouble just after leaving the pits, and so the field was down to seven before the session had properly begun! Bruno took it easy on his first run in the precious Life, reaching 104.44 kph (35.104) on the straight before Tosa and then 75.01 kph (30.341) on acceleration at the start/finish-line, when all the coolant was dropped onto the track, a drive belt for the water- and oil-pump having broken. It was 8:08 am, and later on Bruno admitted to never even having engaged fourth gear during that lap...

The razzmatazz of Monte Carlo! There's no place in the world were a Formula One team would want more to shine than the little principality of Monaco at the Cote d'Azur. It's a window of opportunity, where hundreds of big-buck celebs watch the glamour of Grand Prix racing and risk infection with the bug. Impress here, and chances are you impress someone with the means to make waves. Fail to deliver, and you might as well write the year off! For all it was worth, the little outfit made a superhuman effort: After a cautious warm-up lap, Giacomelli felt his way around the daunting circuit and returned a 2'08.851", then 1'56.963", 1'49.672" and 1'46.149"! Incredibly, the Life continued to circulate and Bruno got down to 1'44.157", 1'42.230" and finally 1'41.187" before peeling off into the pitlane! Quite a show! Almost dazed by the sudden bout of reliability, the mechanics fitted qualifiers and with 20 minutes to go, "Jack O'Malley" set off once more, doing a 1'47.501" and, familiarly, stopping at the harbour front/swimming pool with a broken engine.

So how did he compare? Well, his best lap garnered an index value of 86.112, his top speed before the harbour chicane (213.32 kph) 81.466 and his speed on the start/finish-straight (190.69 kph) 80.446, which seems to suggest that Bruno was at least trying in the corners! Still, he remained at the bottom of the timekeeper's list even though the almost as dreadful Coloni/Subaru of Gachot lost all its oil on its third flying lap already and several other runners hit terminal trouble during the session. What's more, he would even have failed to make the grid as far back as 1974, even allowing for an optimistic 10 seconds adjustment to his lap time due to the two circuit modifications in 1976 and 1986! And, whisper it quietly, all but three of the 35 Formula 3 hot-shoes, trying to qualify for the Monaco F3 race 24 hours later, lapped faster than the Life, with Alessandro Zanardi (Dallara/Alfa Romeo) taking pole position at 1'37.007" (89.822)...



That's it, as far as I got. I had a few things more in petto, like the fact that the highest ever recorded speed of the Life was a speed I had already experienced personally on a German Autobahn, at the wheel of a road-going 854 Volvo sedan (!), and actually driven a like car over the same piece of tarmac (Kemmel straight at Spa) faster than the Life... :o

#28 COUGAR508

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 10:21

Great stuff, fines!

It always amused me how they named Scapini as their test and reserve driver, as if the car was going to achieve sufficient mileage to justify such an appointment!

#29 kurtiejjj

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 13:37

Fantastic stuff this! Good to see some 90s Grand Prix horror!

#30 bigears

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 13:51

Originally posted by COUGAR508
Great stuff, fines!

It always amused me how they named Scapini as their test and reserve driver, as if the car was going to achieve sufficient mileage to justify such an appointment!


In his 19 race F3000 career, he only finished four races (best result was a 10th in Birmingham and I think I got a video of him achieving his 10th place somewhere!)

He failed to qualify 12 times!

EDIT>> Found my YouTube video of him overtaking Ross Hockenhull for 10th place.



#31 COUGAR508

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 13:54

I had always been mildly curious about Bruno Giacomelli's reasons for accepting the drive with Life, and had assumed that he was just grateful to be back in F1 after so many years away. It would appear, from bigears' original post that he was handsomely rewarded financially for his efforts! Wouldn't it have been wiser to have invested some of that money in the car and the engine? They must have calculated that the benefit of Bruno's vast experience would be worth the outlay.

#32 ensign14

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 14:15

Scapini had the odd CART race of course.

One thing I remember reading about the Life team is that they apparently had co-ordinated knitwear that was also very pricey. And their logo was a sort of upside-down Ferrari typeface thing.

#33 COUGAR508

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 14:32

In retrospect, did Gary Brabham NEED to take the drive? His reputation was reasonably high at the time, due to his exploits in F3 and F3000. The grids were larger in those days, of course, and I'm surprised that he did not try to get a test drive, and combine that with a full year in European F3000. Maybe he did not have the sponsorship to do that, and jumped at the first F1 opportunity which came along?

There were other options available, such as Japanese F3000 and IMSA, but Gary must have felt that it was easy to become a "forgotten man" in these arenas.

He had also tested for a couple of F1 teams.

#34 Paolo

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 14:54

Originally posted by COUGAR508
I had always been mildly curious about Bruno Giacomelli's reasons for accepting the drive with Life, and had assumed that he was just grateful to be back in F1 after so many years away. It would appear, from bigears' original post that he was handsomely rewarded financially for his efforts! Wouldn't it have been wiser to have invested some of that money in the car and the engine? They must have calculated that the benefit of Bruno's vast experience would be worth the outlay.


They apparently calculated that they could make Bruno wait for his money.
Not many years ago Giacomelli stated in an interview that he never saw it.

#35 f1steveuk

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 15:33

having done a huge amount of research into the Napier Lion engine, a W12 (or more correctly a broad arrow) was the Life engine a W or a broad arrow, e.g two crankshafts or one wuth articulated con rods?

As far as engines go, it's a brilliant layout, favoured by Napier as it gave the dimensions of a V8, but the advantages of a 12, but without the problems of a huge long crankshaft whipping about and snapping!

I felt sorry for Bruno, I never thought he got a fair crack of the whip, and the Life wasn't a great end to a career.

#36 COUGAR508

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 15:47

Originally posted by f1steveuk


I felt sorry for Bruno, I never thought he got a fair crack of the whip, and the Life wasn't a great end to a career.


I remember switching on the Eurosport TV coverage of Friday qualifying at Imola, and being amazed to find him back in F1. If they were going to replace Gary Brabham, I would have expected one of the many Italian F3/F3000 hotshoes of that time to get the nod.

Was Bruno mainly racing Spice sportscars at that time?

#37 fines

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 17:30

Originally posted by f1steveuk
having done a huge amount of research into the Napier Lion engine, a W12 (or more correctly a broad arrow) was the Life engine a W or a broad arrow, e.g two crankshafts or one wuth articulated con rods?

One crankshaft, but I'm not sure about the con-rod arrangement. I want to say master and slave, somebody correct me if I'm wrong? :confused:

#38 f1steveuk

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 17:39

"master and slave", yep a much better description than mine........

#39 TennisUK

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 18:50

Originally posted by ghinzani
FIRST had tested the chassis with a Judd installed though, had they not? I believe Tarquini and maybe Apicella took it for a spin at least.


Not just tested - it actually competed, bizarrely!

http://www.silhouet....f1/bologna.html

Still, form looked pretty poor, even without the w12 and with Tarquini instead of Giacomelli.

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#40 TennisUK

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 18:54

Just noticed Herbert won in in 1992 with a Lotus 107 Judd (which sounds unlikely as they were using Ford HBs at the time) which would make this, I believe, the last victory in an "F1" event for a Lotus, though I suspect this may be outside the sprit of the definition of "F1" ;)

#41 Honza

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 05:47

Hi for all,

Here is my post:
Pre- Life car...... FIRST

Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
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Thanks to gdecarli for sending me Autosprint materials.
Can anyone translate text to english???? or to Czech :lol: :lol: :ROTFLMAO:

Posted ImagePosted Image
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I think the specification with JUDD engine is the same as late LIFE.
This is everything what i have about FIRST, anyone have more?

Regards :wave:
Honza

#42 Teapot

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 16:08

Originally posted by Honza

Can anyone translate text to english????


I translated the first part of the Autosprint article (page 10 and the first part of page 11)..hope you'll enjoy it!



(and sorry for my - very second hand - english!)


They don't talk big, but they did a lot of work, sticking to their heritage. Team First's people have been seldom seen in the F1 paddock, and in those rare occasions, only for the brief time of a morning. But in Agrate, the little town on Milan outskirts, where the team set up its premises, the working schedule was hectic and , sometimes, almost unbearable. The team was, at the same time, struggling to develop its March 88B up to an adequate level of competitiveness, while it was trying, on the other hand, to achieve as soon as possible Lamberto Leoni's dream: to build its own F1 car. And eventually, keeping all his promises, the former racing driver from Argenta, a man seemingly destined to a successful career as team owner and manufacturer, has reached his goal: the First 189 it's ready to make its track début. In a few days the new car will be fitted with the bodywork and shipped to Jerez , where Gabriele Tarquini will drive it, from 5/12 to 12/12, for the first test session in preparation for the 1989 season. It's going to be an hard season for a team that, as much as it rose to public attention for its results in the F3000 championship and its high standard of professionalism, will have to face all the kinds of teething troubles. Leoni doesn't look for short-cuts, nor he's handing out overambitious proclamations: the First F1 it's now a fully working single-seater, but it could be totally reworked during the winter, since the team declared to be “scared like hell” by pre-qualifying sessions, as the part of a racing event often resolved by sheer luck, and susceptible of diverting resources and focus from the development of the new chassis.
That's why Leoni and Richard Divila played it safe, penning a very sensible car, devoid of any concession to fanciful ideas or unproven devices. The 189 shares many traits with other cars on the grid, boasting a carbon kevlar monocoque , with accentuated wedge shape, push-rod suspensions and an advanced aerodynamic research, undertaken in the wind tunnel by the Brazilian, for the wings and undertray department. To top it all, the car offers to the wind a very small frontal section, as already seen in other Divila's creations (I.e. the first Fittipaldis).
Concern for the pre-qualifying obstacles emerges from Leoni's words “It's something conceived to mow down small teams – and even some largish ones, because it's not all down to money. Even teams with more than adequate funding cannot put down plans for an high end season. How can you manage the personnel? After pre-qualifying there are practise sessions and then the race, so you have to double the number of mechanics and engineers to look after the cars. And then you have to fly back home, undergo testing, and then you're heading to the track where FISA declared the next pre-qualifying sessions are to be held. Teams are overwhelmed by such an array of tasks, that F1 has become almost impossible to tackle. I think this is a bright idea from FISA just to hamper those who are willing to enter the championship. One possible solution could be to join forces with an existing team, not subjected to pre-qualifying sessions, but it's only an idea: what I really want now it's to take some track time and see if the car is worthy, and the driver and Divila, the man behind the design, are going to have the last word about this.”
First is well ahead other teams in the time schedule, and the new car has already been assembled and taken apart two times. “It's something that has to do with the fact that we're working on the first example of the project” explains Leoni “We had to analyse the assembling procedures and put particular attention in checking possible installation issues of mechanical and structural parts. It kept our man busy and give them the opportunity to train on new problems and we know, now, how to work on the chassis, should we build others in the future.”


#43 Honza

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 04:44

Thanks so much Teapot :up:

#44 fan27

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 15:37

Does anyone know what has happened to the car and where it may be?

#45 bigears

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 16:25

Originally posted by fan27
Does anyone know what has happened to the car and where it may be?


Yeah I was wondering about and whether if we will ever heard the big bang of the W12 engine once again... :stoned:

#46 Macca

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 19:49

I was quick enough to snap one shot in pre-qual at Silverstone:

Posted Image

It sounded like a bag of spanners in a tumble-dryer.......


Paul M

#47 COUGAR508

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 21:14

It may not have gone very fast, but in terms of looks the Life (in the configuration seen in the photo above) was by no means at the back of the grid in 1990....

#48 weisler

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Posted 25 October 2008 - 01:59

Originally posted by COUGAR508
It may not have gone very fast, but in terms of looks the Life (in the configuration seen in the photo above) was by no means at the back of the grid in 1990....


Agreed! It's a fairly nice looking piece of kit.

What a wonderful thread! Thank you so much for this review of the team. These small and somewhat hopeless teams have always facinated me for some reason or another.

Thanks again!

#49 COUGAR508

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Posted 25 October 2008 - 09:37

Originally posted by weisler


Agreed! It's a fairly nice looking piece of kit.

What a wonderful thread! Thank you so much for this review of the team. These small and somewhat hopeless teams have always facinated me for some reason or another.

Thanks again!


The fact that Giacomelli wore a red helmet and overalls made the effect especially pleasing. For me, those 1989/1990 F1 cars were the last pleasant looking GP cars before high noses and aerodynamic devices spoiled things.

It is funny, but the small, back-of-the-grid teams from those days seem to generate more nostalgia and discussion than the McLarens, Ferraris and Williams of that time. Perhaps we are all yearning for those days when it was so much easier for those with some passion and ambition to have a crack at F1. At the time, Life were largely derided as no-hopers clogging up the paddock. Nowadays, we can admire their sheer audacity.

#50 bigears

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 12:06

Found an interesting article about Life Racing Engines in an Autosport magazine:

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Autosport 11th August 1988.