1978 Lotus 79
1978 Lotus 79

Ground Effect F1 Cars at 2016 Goodwood Members Meeting

Ground effect Formula 1 cars from the late 1970s and early 1980s will be celebrated at the 2016 Goodwood Members Meeting, to be held on March 19-20 at the Goodwood Motor Circuit in West Sussex, England.

Ground effect aerodynamics represented a quantum leap in F1 design; F1 teams had been utilising front and rear wings to create downforce for nearly a decade, but when Lotus’ Peter Wright turned his attention to the underside of the vehicle instead, the results were remarkable, and cornering speeds increased dramatically.

A field of more than 30 ground effect F1 cars will take to the Goodwood Motor Circuit for a high-speed demonstration run as part of the Members’ Meeting, giving visitors insight into what this short-lived era of Formula 1 felt and sounded like. The list of participating cars includes every model of ground effect Lotus, Ferrari 312T5, Williams FW07 and FW08, Brabham BT49C and McLaren MP4, as well as lesser known marques like Ensign, Fittipaldi, Osella and Wolf.

In an era of greater regulatory freedom, F1’s star designers constantly sought to steal a march on the opposition, experimenting with different engine and chassis configurations, outlandish aerodynamics and even extra wheels.

Having optimised the new ground effect technology with the Type 78 in 1977, Lotus dominated the 1978 championship with the sensational 79 – one of the most dominant F1 cars of all time, not to mention one of the best looking.

Where Lotus led, the other teams soon followed and the result was iconic cars like the Williams FW07, Brabham BT49 and McLaren MP4, which featured sophisticated aerodynamic profiling to literally suck them to the track.

Savagely fast around corners, the cars were physically demanding on drivers, who were subjected to previously unimaginable G-forces, in chassis with rock hard suspension – a necessity to cope with the downforce.

To balance the centre of pressure, drivers sat as far forward in the cars as possible – almost between the front wheels in some cases – giving them a distinctive, hunched appearance. Although effective, this also made them even more dangerous and, eventually, in the face of growing concerns about the safety of escalating cornering speeds, the governing body outlawed ground effect, mandating flat bottoms on cars from the start of the 1983 season.

Created by Goodwood owner Lord March, to recreate the atmosphere and camaraderie of the original BARC Members’ Meetings held at Goodwood Motor Circuit from 1949-66, the event conjures up some of the most evocative sights and sounds from the golden era of motor racing.

A packed, two-day programme for the 74th Members’ Meeting will feature 12 races for vehicles ranging from Edwardian leviathans to 1970s Grand Prix motorcycles.

For more information, visit Goodwood.com.

[Source: Goodwood; photo: Michael DiPleco]

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  1. Wings spoil the effect of racing. They should NEVER been allowed in the first place. A driver who needs these, should not be racing.