Cars & Racing | 18 January 2017The Formula 1 Race Car that Set the Stage for the Modern Era Share article facebook twitter google pinterest The evolution of race cars is a fascinating subject for many. Sometimes a specific car comes along that changes the entire sport for decades. One such Formula 1 race car is the Colin Chapman-designed Lotus 49B which first hit the track in April 1968. Enjoy this close-up look at a legendary groundbreaker and the story behind it from the new book The Art of the Formula 1 Race Car. Lotus 49B During the 1960s, two changes to the Formula 1 engine regulations were to have profound consequences on the sport. In finding the best way to exploit the new rules, Colin Chapman’s Lotus team would lead F1 design in a direction from which it has scarcely deviated in four decades. The move to 1.5-liter engines in 1961 put a premium on efficiency, and Lotuses were at the forefront: Chapman rendered the space frame obsolete in 1962 with the Lotus 25, a monocoque design in which the majority of the body panels formed a structural part of the chassis with integrated fuel tanks on either side of the driver. Chapman also returned to a principle first explored in F1 by Vittorio Jano on the Lancia D50: reducing overall weight by using the engine block to take some of the suspension loads. The 25 was a sleekly minimalist missile that through ruthless weight-saving overcame the obstacle of its underpowered coventry climax engine. In 1963, the peerless Jim Clark won seven out of the ten Grands Prix in it, taking Lotus’ first drivers’ and constructors’ championships. Clark won the drivers’ title again in 1965, but for the following season the maximum permitted engine size doubled to 3 liters, leaving the manufacturers facing a quandary. Several even threatened to pull out. Lotus went with BRM, which offered the solution to flatten the “vee” of its 1.5-liter V-8 and mate two back to back with a shared crankshaft, forming an H-16. The block was strong enough for Lotus to use it as a fully stressed member of the chassis, taking the principle Jano had explored at Lancia to its logical conclusion: the “tub” would end with a bulkhead behind the driver and the engine would bolt onto it, with the suspension bearing off it and the gearbox. It was vastly overweight, though, and—with valve gear more intricate than a Swiss timepiece—too complicated to be reliable. Clark was able to drive the H-16-powered Lotus 43 to victory at the U.S. GP at Watkins Glen, but by then Chapman had begun to look elsewhere for power for his 1967 car. He persuaded Walter Hayes of Ford to bankroll a bespoke 3-liter V-8 designed and built by Cosworth. The Lotus-cosworth 49 was quick—claiming pole position in 10 consecutive grands Prix—but not reliable enough, and Denny Hulme won the 1967 championship in the relatively old-fashioned (it had a space frame chassis) Brabham BT24. Cosworth, having demonstrated the potency of its engine, was going to supply other teams as well in 1968, so Lotus urgently needed to find reliability as well as refine the 49’s performance. Meanwhile, there was another revolution brewing in aerodynamics. F1 designers had long understood the virtues of giving their cars a clean profile to achieve maximum straight-line speed. By the mid-1960s, they were beginning to look at another way of exploiting the airflow—to boost cornering speeds and solve handling imbalances. Enzo Ferrari demonstrated the potential of spoilers on his sports cars, and by 1968 F1 cars were also sprouting slim, aluminum aero appendages. These would not be the only changes to the look of F1 cars that year. When the 1968 season began, the factory Lotus 49s caused outrage by running in the colors of their new sponsor, Gold Leaf tobacco, rather than their traditional British racing green. Although rocked by clark’s death in an F2 race at Hockenheim in April, the team brought out the 49B in time for Monaco, with a marginally narrower monocoque, fins on each side of the nose, and an upswept tail section. Making a slight concession to driver comfort, the team transferred the oil tank and cooler to the rear (in a neat saddle-tank arrangement over the gearbox to avoid upsetting the weight distribution) so that hot oil wasn’t being piped along the sides of the cockpit. Graham Hill found the new car a massive advance over the old—the updated suspension geometry cured it of its tendency to be knocked off course by bumps—and duly became the first person to win the Monaco GP four times. The only retrograde element of the 49B came about as a result of switching from a ZF gearbox to the Hewland FG400, which wasn’t strong enough to take the full suspension load and required a small crossmember at the rear. But it enabled the team to swap gear ratios without stripping the entire unit, which made the 49B a considerably more practical car to work on during a race weekend. Other teams sprinted to follow Lotus’ lead. two weeks after Monaco, a host of cars arrived at Spa-Francorchamps sporting new fins. But Chapman was moving the game on. Every time the 49B appeared, it had some new aerodynamic refinement. The ducktail bodywork gave way to an aero foil— rather like a scaled-down model of an upside-down aircraft wing—mounted on aluminum pillars bearing off the hub carriers, they sat high above the car in clear air. Soon everyone was at it. Following the example of the Chaparral Can-Am car, Lotus fitted high front wings, also mounted on the hub carriers via a perilously slim piece of aluminum on each side. Hill rode the wave and clinched the championship at the final round, driving the car pictured here, chassis R6. That summer, there had been a string of fatal accidents in motor racing, including four F1 drivers. The authorities grew nervous and some drivers—led by the voluble Jackie Stewart—began to complain about lax safety provisions at the circuits and on the cars. None of this stopped the teams from chasing downforce through the use of high wings. Hill was shocked to discover at the first race of the 1969 season that everyone now had high wings—and they were breaking frighteningly often. Hill’s new teammate, Jochen Rindt, set the pace in the second GP of the season, the first time Montjuich Park in Barcelona had hosted a Grand Prix since the 1930s. On the ninth lap, Hill’s rear wing sheared off as he crested a rise and he speared off into the barrier, emerging shaken but unhurt. Eleven laps later, Rindt’s wing failed in exactly the same place, and he hurtled at barely diminished speed into the wreckage of his teammate’s car. Rindt was lucky to survive with just a broken nose to show for it. The high wings were banned in short order. The 49B gradually slipped from competitiveness as Chapman diverted all his resources into ultimately fruitless gas turbine and four-wheel-drive projects. Hill won again in Monaco, but that would be the team’s only victory of the year. The car that had brought wings and tobacco sponsorship into F1 would see in the new decade, racing in the first Grands Prix of 1970s in “c” spec before its replacement was finally ready. The engine that had been built for it would carry on powering F1 winners for years to come. Buy from an Online Retailer Even more of the most beautiful and successful Formula 1 race cars in history, presented in a way they have never been seen before. Formula 1: the pinnacle of motorsports. This is the world’s most popular form of racing, featuring the world’s greatest drivers competing in the most technologically advanced cars ever created, machines designed and built by some of history’s most brilliant engineering minds. For the original edition of Art of the Formula 1 Race Car, master automotive photographer James Mann brought a selection of these spectacular machines into the studio, portraying not just their engineering brilliance, but also their inherent beauty– the fascinating results of Formula 1’s mix of competition, creativity, and human ingenuity has made these vehicles into works of art. Now, in this new and updated edition, Mann has gone behind the lens once again to bring you even more of history’s most astounding racing vehicles, from the Alfa Romeo 158 that carried Giuseppe Farina to the first F1 world championship in 1950 all the way through to the present day, with models from Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Lotus, Ferrari, McLaren, and all of racing’s premier Formula 1 engineers. With historical and technological profiles by Formula 1 writer Stuart Codling and insightful commentary from designer Gordon Murray, creator of multiple championship-winning cars, the revised and updated Art of the Formula 1 Race Car continues its tradition as the ultimate homage to the ultimate breed of race car. Discover what Road & Track magazine called “the perfect blend of pictures, analysis and the racing history of these remarkable racing machines.” Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.