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


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#51 COUGAR508

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 14:43

Originally posted by bigears
Found an interesting article about Life Racing Engines in an Autosport magazine:

Posted Image
Autosport 11th August 1988.


Rocchi certainly seemed to be a very interesting guy! It's great to read about their sheer excitement for the project. Little did they know how things would eventually turn out.

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#52 potmotr

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 17:58

I think the headline writers of the motorsport press must have been glad the Life team ended when it did.

Judging by the clippings added here, they would have certainly run out of Life puns within days...

#53 unofficialf3000

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Posted 23 November 2008 - 12:47

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


As of September, someone called 'Racesport' on ten-tenths said that their friend was going to run the Life soon, the W12 engine having been restored.

#54 cpbell

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Posted 29 November 2008 - 21:13

I recall reading somewhere, that, in Silverstone testing, Giacomelli managed to come past the pits on one lap with the engine firing on all 12 cylinders. Supposedly, the mechanics cheered sarcastically, to be answered by the usual 11 cylinder spluttering the next time around... :lol:

#55 Maurizio

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 14:46

Hi.
I had the opportunity to work for Life Racing for one year and a half, and wrote my graduation thesis on Franco Rocchi's W12 engine. So if anybody wants to know more I'll be happy to answer - if I know the answer, that is...

BTW as far as I know, rumours of the W12 being restored and prepped for running inside the Life F1 car again are correct.

Maurizio

#56 ensign14

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 15:08

Hi Maurizio :wave:

I think all of us would love to see something about what life was like at Life. There's so much written about the successful teams, but those at the back of the grid work just as hard, only with less money.

So, for a few starters, how come Bruno Giacomelli got the drive after Gary Brabham? And did he get paid £30,000 per race as Autosport suggested?

How disappointing was the performance? Did everyone know it was going to be so off the pace, and hoped that it would get better with more time and development, which did not happen?

How were relationships with other teams?

The car did not seem to be sponsored, so I assume there was not much money around. Were you aware of any possible sponsorship deals?

What was your opinion of Formula 1 when you were working in it? What efforts (if any) did you make to seek another job with another team?

:)

#57 Alexander M

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 16:15

Some great materials here :)

I have a bit of information about team's connection with Soviet business in Jan. 2000 Formula magazine issue (Russian magazine which wrote mostly on Formula-1 subject) and a book by Artem Kiselev called 'Battle for formula' ( Битва за формулу ). The stories are almost the same there and sound like this:

In August, 1990 the car arrived to the USSR together with Ernesto Vita to present the team in Moscow and Leningrad, as Vita has signed a sponsorship contract with Soviet company called Pic. Pic director, Mihail Pikovskiy, has promised to invest 20 million dollars and to provide some help from Soviet military industry with technologies. Vita has already placed Pic ads and Soviet flag (together with Italian, of course) on his cars and changed the team's name from Life to Life-Pic, but no money has been received.

Judging by the pictures in this thread, the cars ran as Life-Pic in Monaco, Montreal, Hungary, Hockenheim and Silverstone at least, while in Phoenix and Interlagos there were no Life-Pic inscripts and Soviet flags on them.

TNF member Dracula has already posted two images from Life-Pic presentation in USSR here:
http://forums.autosp...907#post1901907

:wave:

#58 Maurizio

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 09:16

Hi.
Well, to start with, there was a well-written article in the weekly supplement to "l'Equipe", the Franch daily sport newspaper, about Life racing and I will post scans next week. It gives you a good insight about the team.

My life with Life requires some time to be told. Since I have some work to do, I'll have to split it in a few 'chapters'.

At the time I was a student of Electronic Engineering at the University of Bologna, looking for a graduation thesis. I was introduced to Mr. Vita by a common friend. They needed someone with some knowledge of electronics, to take care of the TDD-made engine control unit (now TDD-Walbro) on track and in the dyno-bench room, so I was hired and I could do my thesis (a simulation of the W12 motor) with Life racing.

I don't know how come Bruno was hired. All I know is that he was a great guy to work with, and it is likely that he did not get paid. The figure of the contract might be right, but I don't think the money ever materialized. I cannot be sure as I never looked in Bruno's bank account :) but...
I worked together with Bruno (I'm an electronic engineer) throughout the season; as I skipped the first two GPs I also never had a chance to meet Brabham apart from once in the facory. Bruno was very helpful, patient, and behaved very professionally despite being obvious to anyone that the team was completely hopeless. He has a good mechanical background and I remember him personally making some parts on the lathe in Monaco: imagine the two of us driving a scooter, searching for a toolshop in Monaco, so that he could make washers that someone in the factory had forgotten to assemble... and imagine one of the current F1 drivers doing so :rotfl:

The performance numbers speak for themselves. On the dyno bench, the motor would give 480 Hp @12000 RPM. A Judd motor of that time was around 580/600 Hp. The lack of horsepower was not probably due to the W12 architecture but due to inefficient combustion. In fact, after Life folded, we took the motor, and for our own intellectual curiosity developed the center 4 cylinders gaining approx 35 Hp. An extrapolation on the whole 12 cylinders made us think that the same changes applied to the whole motor would provide around 580 Hp. Not that the motor would last long, but anyway...
Anyway, it was believed back then that in the car, due to poor air intake, power would significantly drop.

Had the motor been any good, maybe money would have come in from an interested third party. But with chronic lack of funds, and poor performance, it was obvious that the whole operation was doomed.
I was told by Rocchi that before committing themselves to the 12 cyl Boxer, Ferrari had developed and tested a W12 'slice', i.e. a prototype three cylinders motor with the same architecture of Life racing, with good dyno bench result, but eventually the team choose the Boxer as it was a more proven architecture with less in-car installation troubles (the W12 had three exhausts, three injection rails, and so on)

Reliability was abysmal, and still, we are not sure why (I mean myself and my friend who is currently rebuilding the W12). Certainly, however, the symptoms were those of a bad bushing lubrication.
Personally, I think that the motor, with extensive R&D, could be turned into a good engine revving at 12.000 RPM, so good enough to compete in 1990; however, doing so would have required resources far beyond anything available to a small team - let alone a financially broken one... I don't think that the W12 could rev much higher than that.

I just now called my friend who has rebuilt the W12. The complete car was shown recently at a fair in Spain, statically, but the motor was rebuilt, tested earlier on the bench and works. Hopefully before the end of March, it should do a few laps.

I will post more next week.

Regards
Maurizio

#59 fines

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 10:30

Superb stuff, Maurizio! :clap: :clap:

Keep it coming!

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#60 ensign14

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 11:25

Superb indeed! Many thanks. :)

Any reason why Mr Vita took on Formula 1? Sportscar racing might have been a bit less, well, conspicuous.

#61 unofficialf3000

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 21:06

Great insight, Maurizio! :clap:

Originally posted by Maurizio
I just now called my friend who has rebuilt the W12. The complete car was shown recently at a fair in Spain, statically, but the motor was rebuilt, tested earlier on the bench and works. Hopefully before the end of March, it should do a few laps.


I just found a photo on flickr:
http://www.flickr.co...N03/3303460481/

#62 Pikachu Racing

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 05:49

Amazing info! Thank you Maurizio! :clap:

#63 Maurizio

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 14:57

Good day everyone and sorry for the late reply.
I'm very busy at work this week and I forgot to bring the "L'equipe" magazine at work to do the scan. I'll do that next week.

Anyway, back to 'Life at Life'.

Relationship with other teams was... oh well, let's start with Ferrari, where I ended up working 1993-1996:
obviously Life was a microscopic minnow and I really don't know what opinion could Ferrari have of the ill-fated attempt.
Certainly, the whole idea of the W12, coupled with the fact that the designer was Ferrari's former technical chief, Franco Rocchi, made their heads turn in Life's direction, at least briefly.
Anyway, with a factory just 5 Km off Ferrari's Fiorano circuit, some common suppliers, and certainly an interest in having a good neighborhood relationship, the owner of the company released a press interview with lines like "I will put the Ferrari legend in the shade". That was a very bad idea, obviously, and Life could never test in Fiorano until the end of the year, when the Judd was phased in instead of the W12.

At the end of the season, in Monza, Life bought a Judd engine from a well known F1 company, now deceased. In a movie-like scene, a briefcase full of dollars changed hands in the selling company's motorhome, and we drove home with the Judd 8 cylinder motor, supposedly at 0 Km after rebuild. Bummer: we were sold a motor so bad, that crankshaft was locked solid! I suppose the seller believed we would not survive long enough to tell the story but we managed to make it all the way to Estoril and, under threat of legal action and press disclosure, the motor was exchanged for a good one (at least we were told it was good...).
In a long sleepless night in Estoril we reassembled the car and Bruno was able to do at least one prequalifying lap, during which he lost the rear bodywork (airscoop). I mean 'THE' bodywork, as we only had one :). But this was a victory for all of us. Imagine that in two weeks we had rebuilt the car changing from the W12 to the Judd engine, managed to survive the motor swindle, and eventually pull one single qualifying lap. The chief mechanic of the team who sold us the motor came and shook our hands as, his words, we had accomplished an impossible mission. To give you an idea: we travelled to Estoril on the same plane of Ferrari and Minardi, carrying radiators as hand luggage.
Actually, even the motor that they sold us was believed to be almost dead by the selling company. I discovered it by calling Judd later on, when all other teams were in Japan and Australia for the last GPs of the season. The guy who replied, who knew nothing about us and the other company, candidly advised me to return that motor immediately to Judd for rebuild because, he said, the driver of the other company had overrevved it to more than 14000 RPM in a Zandvoort test.

It was the end of the season and almost the end for Life Racing Rngines. In such dire straits, Mr. Vita asked me to call (no kidding) Mika Hakkinen to offer him a test drive. Laughing my head off, so I did. I did not speak to him personally but his secretary kindly denied. I wonder why :)

#64 RA Historian

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 15:03

Very entertaining and informative, Maurizio! Thank you very much for your wonderful posts! :up:
Tom

#65 fines

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 15:27

Reality is much, much better than fiction! :D

Fabulous stuff, Maurizio :clap: Let's hear some more!

#66 Victor_RO

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 15:31

Wow, that's totally messed up. Thank you for the stories Maurizio, it's fantastic to have an insight into how the ultra-backmarker teams buzzed and spluttered along at the turn of the decades. :lol: :D :up: :up:

EDIT: Was the Judd engine bought from Lotus or from Brabham? Since you mentioned that the company is now dead in F1...

#67 Paolo

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 16:44

... or Arrows?

#68 ensign14

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 16:51

Originally posted by Maurizio

Anyway, with a factory just 5 Km off Ferrari's Fiorano circuit, some common suppliers, and certainly an interest in having a good neighborhood relationship, the owner of the company released a press interview with lines like "I will put the Ferrari legend in the shade". That was a very bad idea, obviously, and Life could never test in Fiorano until the end of the year, when the Judd was phased in instead of the W12.

"Formula 1 - The Unfulfilled Prophecies."

Originally posted by Maurizio

It was the end of the season and almost the end for Life Racing Rngines. In such dire straits, Mr. Vita asked me to call (no kidding) Mika Hakkinen to offer him a test drive. Laughing my head off, so I did. I did not speak to him personally but his secretary kindly denied. I wonder why :)

Almost-moves thread?

Many thanks, Maurizio.

#69 Racer.Demon

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 17:16

Originally posted by fines
Reality is much, much better than fiction! :D


Amen to that! :up:

#70 Victor_RO

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 17:52

Originally posted by Paolo
... or Arrows?


Ahem... Arrows used Ford DFR engines in '90. EDIT: Damn it, I must have thought about it; the engine must have come from Brabham; I must have forgotten for a moment about the ill-fated Lotus-Lamborghini of '90. But not as ill-fated as the Life F190, obviously...

#71 T54

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 23:24

I would like to point out here that Maurizio is the owner and soul behind the Slot.It company of Italy that has produced the finest, best-looking and best-performing home-racing 1/32 scale slot cars for quite a few years now, mostly GTP, Group-C and sports prototypes, besides the finest of accessories from gears to motors to aluminum wheels. Maurizio is also an expert skier and from all who have been privileged to meet him, a true gentleman.

T54

#72 HistoryFan

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 10:50

Originally posted by Maurizio
Anyway, back to 'Life at Life'.

Relationship with other teams was...


I've read an interview with Frank Williams in the last publication of the Speedweek magazine and Williams said, that it was not really good that there were so many teams in the early 90s because they don't really stay long and so other companies who has contracts with such little teams were very angry as they failed all the time to pay because they closed the team down. So the companies demanded more money from the other teams!

@Maurizio: Nice to read! :up:

There were also rumours, that Bernd Schneider was a possible driver for Life? Can you tell me more about that, Maurizio?

#73 Haddock

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 15:02

Originally posted by Victor_RO


Ahem... Arrows used Ford DFR engines in '90. EDIT: Damn it, I must have thought about it; the engine must have come from Brabham; I must have forgotten for a moment about the ill-fated Lotus-Lamborghini of '90. But not as ill-fated as the Life F190, obviously...


Could have been March/Leyton House - They were running Judd V8s at the time I think.

#74 Maurizio

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 21:26

Again sorry for the delay.
I am not aware of any contacts with Bernd Schneider, but this does not mean that there weren't.
As I said, in Spain, a nice journalist from l'Equipe, the yellow coloured French daily sports newspaper which sponsors the Tour de France as well (hence the 'yellow jersey' I think), came to us as she wanted to write an article about Life F1.
Obviously the fact that my family name is Ferrari and that the factory was close to Maranello, lead to an interesting opening of the story:
"It's the story of a car. A red one. The factory is near Modena. And the engineer's name is Ferrari. Maurizio Ferrari. The comparison stops there". Certainly I was very happy and amused. Equally good where some lines inside the article: "Briefings, why? We have nothing to discuss", and "It's better not to prequalify, we haven't got any spare parts left".
Actually, she also spent some time with us at night while we were rebuilding the only existing airscoop, laying down carbon fiber and resin, then painting it read. Oliver, the chief mechanic, a brilliant guy who later became Emanuele Pirro's chief mechanic when Emanuele won the Italian saloon cars championship, can be seen in the pictures with his hair dyed red - by the paint he sprayed in a makeshift painting chamber: the inside of the truck!
Like I promised, here are the scans of the article:

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I am the guy right under Francesca Papa, the only woman in the pictures.

Images have been reduced; larger images that make the text readable (in French) can be found by clicking here:

http://i104.photobuc.../Equipe0001.jpg
http://i104.photobuc.../Equipe0002.jpg
http://i104.photobuc.../Equipe0003.jpg
http://i104.photobuc.../Equipe0004.jpg

I have added some tags to the pictures with the names of all the persons involved.

Jerez was the last race, or attempt to, for Life Racing. The car was later run in Fiorano (Ferrari kindly let us use the circuit eventually), where Oliver was given the opportunity to drive it. Me? Yes I had driven it a couple of times... when she was sadly towed back to the pitlane!
Technically speaking, the experience with Life Racing Engines was the best thing that could happen to me as a young engineer. Rocchi taught me a lot, and some other guys there (especially Oliver, who incidentally is the guy who has recently rebuilt the motor and the car) were certainly brilliant. Geez, how many times can an undergraduate get an opportunity like that and graduate with a former Ferrari F1 Technical Director as 'mentor' (I don't know the right english word)? Besides, it was sheer fun, I got to travel to MExico and Canada and all European GPs... and they even paid me!
The experience later led me to a work within Weber Marelli and later Ferrari (1993-1996) where I designed and wrote a lot of software for the F1 car: first the 12 then the 10 cylinders, before moving to small scale cars (now I make 1/32 scale slot cars and my company is called Slot.it ).
The last thing missing now is the publication of my graduation thesis on the W12. I will try to do it in the next few days, as it can give some good insight on the working of Life's motor to the technically minded. Unfortunately, it is in Italian only.

A comment on the picture on Flickr:
http://www.flickr.co...N03/3303460481/
The air intakes on the driver's shoulders seem a bit too small compared to the ones we used. Nevertheless, she can now be run!

Regards
Maurizio

#75 Gert

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 22:03

Many thanks for the interesting stories. Wonderful :up:

#76 Andretti Fan

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 04:33

Thank you Maurizio. Very very interesting to hear an insiders perspective on the team.

#77 Scoob_Phil

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 15:30

Thank you Maurizio for sharing those experiences, absolutely brilliant !! thank you !!

:clap: Please if possible share some more stories :clap:

#78 HistoryFan

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 20:21

@Maurizio: Thank you for the stories!

Perhaps you can tell me more about the end of the team. Were there any people who wanted to buy the chassis, engines or the quite team to stay in F1?

#79 potmotr

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 20:57

Thank you Maurizo, that is a really great read!

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#80 Maurizio

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 15:47

A friend pointed me to this article on Engine Technology

http://viewer.zmags....a8#/5687d1a8/52

It's about the W12. Interesting read.

#81 Victor_RO

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 04:23

Looks like the restoration project was succesful... The car will run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed!

http://www.f1fanatic...tival-of-speed/

#82 ghinzani

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 10:12

Amazing - any idea what day its running? I might have to sniff a late ticket!

#83 RA Historian

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 12:49

Looks like the restoration project was succesful... The car will run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed!

Well, based upon its history, I would go easy on the will portion of that sentence!
Tom

Edited by RA Historian, 30 June 2009 - 12:49.


#84 Victor_RO

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 14:44

Well, based upon its history, I would go easy on the will portion of that sentence!
Tom


I'm sure about the "will", but I'm not sure about the "how much" bit. :rotfl: Might be everything, from 3 feet to the whole hillclimb course three times around. I'm pretty sure Mr. Bell will have to park that car with a mechanical failure, though.

Edited by Victor_RO, 30 June 2009 - 14:47.


#85 F1Fanatic.co.uk

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 18:33

Here's some pictures of the car following its restoration:

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More pics here: http://www.f1fanatic...tival-of-speed/

#86 FLB

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 19:16

Could have been March/Leyton House - They were running Judd V8s at the time I think.

Considering Giacomelli had some links with Leyton House, I think it's likely it was them.


#87 Victor_RO

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 19:41

Here's some pictures of the car following its restoration:

Posted Image

Posted Image

More pics here: http://www.f1fanatic...tival-of-speed/


That engine seems to look a zillion times better in its "restored" form than what I suspect it did in 1990. Wonder if, in its restored form, it's able to push 500bhp. Should be interesting to see what is going to go on with it...

#88 RA Historian

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 21:04

I agree, Victor. I fully imagine that the restoration as seen today has produced a much better and more prepared car than ever existed in 1990. Back then, a lap made was a cause for celebration. :lol:

Tom

#89 ensign14

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 21:21

Problem is, if it gets to the top of the hill, it won't be very true to its historic roots.

#90 Victor_RO

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Posted 01 July 2009 - 11:02

Problem is, if it gets to the top of the hill, it won't be very true to its historic roots.


It will be true to its roots, because it will be as reliable as the car in Monaco-spec. A whole 6 or 7 laps before parking the car at the side of the road. (Was on an earlier page)

#91 Macca

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 18:40

Seen today at Goodwood:

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Posted Image

Paul M

#92 ensign14

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 18:58

But not heard?

#93 potmotr

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 20:56

More shots from today (Sunday) at Goodwood. Saw the car running which was awesome. Seemed to run up the course without too much difficultly, but didn't seem to make the top 30 fast cars at the end of the day... According to the helmet the driver was Art Merzario but programme said it was Derek Bell. Perhaps he was the guy who drove it on Saturday and whose head was about four inches above the roll hoop!
Anyway, who owns this historic car these days? And who has restored the engine and what kind of performance are they getting these days?
Any more information on this car and its appearance would be appreciated.
Here are some of my snaps. Was my first Goodwood and was amazed how close you could get to all this great historic machinery...
I have a short video clip of the car in action too, though not very long.

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© potmotr

Edited by potmotr, 06 July 2009 - 13:10.


#94 Victor_RO

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 21:15

^ Please post that video... I think people will be very grateful if they manage to listen to how the worst F1 car in history sounded like.

#95 Gregor Marshall

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 22:08

Isn't it great how such a "rubbish" race car is so loved by us all; it was one of my highlight cars on Friday!!

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#96 potmotr

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 22:18

^ Please post that video... I think people will be very grateful if they manage to listen to how the worst F1 car in history sounded like.


Righto, here it is. Sorry, it is a very short clip due to my thinking I was taking a still rather than a video. So a bit lucky I guess! Hopefully someone will post a better clip of the machine in action...



And a quick video of mine showing L190 in the pits.



Edited by potmotr, 05 July 2009 - 22:24.


#97 ghinzani

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 08:03

Thats deinately Art Merzario in the top pic, how apt! Bet its a step up from a pile of leftover Kaushen bits!!

#98 fines

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 08:10

At the very least, he fits into the car... :D

#99 potmotr

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 08:27

At the very least, he fits into the car... :D


Yes, whoever was driving on Saturday (Derek Bell?) looked like he was wearing the car.

If he'd had gone over his head would have hit the road first.

Not that it was going fast enough...

I had a poke around the cockpit and the machine looks an incredibly tight fit.

W12 looked quite interesting, nice and clean, you can hear a little of how it sounds on my clip above.

Had plastic water cups sticking out of the 12 inlet trumpets to protect the engine from foreign objects I guess.

Does anyone know who owns this machine and restored it?





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#100 Victor_RO

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 10:17

Righto, here it is. Sorry, it is a very short clip due to my thinking I was taking a still rather than a video. So a bit lucky I guess! Hopefully someone will post a better clip of the machine in action...


To be honest, that actually sounds like the car was running with the Judd V8 instead of the W12. But then again...