June 22, 2009

Tyrrell 012 - Ford

A little history

Designed by Maurice Philippe as most of its predecessors had been, the Tyrrell 012 was introduced for the 1983 Brazilian Grand Prix, replacing the conventional 011 model. Though it followed the trend of the times by using carbon fibre as its chassis’ material of choice, the 012 still relied on the time-tried Ford Cosworth DFV engine when most of Tyrrell’s rivals were switching to turbocharged blocks. In the seats of his two cars, Ken Tyrrell placed American newcomer Danny Sullivan alongside the rising star he was nurturing since 1981, Michele Alboreto. Deficient in power, the 012 suffered during the season, though on the twisty Detroit track, Alboreto bagged an unexpected victory which, as it turned out, would be the last ever for the famed DFV.

Carried over for 1984, the Tyrrell 012 would record fair and consistent results during the year, despite the fact that both the team’s cars were now driven by newcomers, German Stefan Bellof and Britton Martin Brundle – Sullivan having returned home to run in the CART championship after an undistinguished season and Alboreto being signed by Ferrari. By that year, Tyrrell alone was relying on the venerable DFV, capitalizing on the fuel restrictions that would penalize turbocharged cars. Indeed, Bellof finished a promising 3rd during the memorable Monaco Grand Prix which was held in appalling weather conditions, opening a string of good results for Tyrrell. Though the cars sometimes struggled to qualify, they just seemed to fly on race days. A rational explanation was found after the Detroit Grand Prix.

Tyrrell had never hidden using an inboard water tank, which content was injected into the cylinders, increasing power. Being progressively emptied during the races it allowed the cars to run underweight until it was topped off again before the chequered flag. There was nothing either secret or illegal in this, the Tyrrell people simply exploiting a loophole in the FIA’s rules as many other teams had done before them since 1982 – except for one detail: it was proven that the water used to refill the tanks was mixed with lead pellets, so the cars were actually very light during the races... For the rest of the season was staged a Tyrrell vs. FIA struggle – a sad off-the-track circus of the kind today’s Formula One is now accustomed. Tyrrell desperately tried to prove that this extra ballast wasn’t illegal, but the team’s reasoning, though arguably valid, proved too far-fetched this time. All previous results were cancelled, and the team was excluded for the last races of the season.

For Tyrrell, which had never fully recovered its early competitiveness after Jacky Stewart’s retirement eleven years before, this was the final blow. A modest outfit with limited budget, Tyrrell was now in dire straights, for the FIA’s rules of the time stipulated that the international body would finance all of a team’s travel expenses for a season providing this team had scored at least one point during the previous year. With an outright disqualification in 1984, Tyrrell would roam the planet at its own costs during the next year, a very heavy burden.

Tyrrell soon gave up its fight against the march of times. Though the 012 fitted with the now hopeless DFV was again fielded at the beginning of 1985, during which the team relied on the very same pilots it had employed previously, it was superseded by a new turbocharged 014 powered by Renault in the midst of the season. For most of the remainder of its existence Tyrrell was condemned to back rows and semi-obscurity. In 1997, aged 73 and increasingly weakening, Ken Tyrrell sold its outfit to a tobacco company which was just too eager to circumvent toughening advertisement rules. Thus, at a time when F1 teams has been reduced to nothing more than sport franchises, Tyrrell first became BAR, then Honda, then Brawn GP. What’ll be next? Frankly, I don’t really bother anymore.

About the model

Model: Tyrrell 012 - Ford Cosworth
Year: 1984
Event: 1984 Formula One championship, driven by Stefan Bellof (disqualified and excluded from competition)
Maker: Minichamps
Scale: 1/43
Distributed by: Minichamps ref. 400-840004, limited edition - 3,024 pieces
Acquired: second hand, gift from a friend, in October 2008, in Manila, Philippines

It’s a Minichamps, the reference in industrial-type, factory-built 1/43 Formula Ones – that sums it all. My rating is 15/20.





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lorenzo721 said...

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