Engines – Interim

(With the Snooker World Championship semi-finals and final on the box until Monday, I am not going to find time to write part II about engines until next week – I hope to put it up by Tuesday but no promises. So until then some bits and pieces I have come across.)

There have been wins with engines with 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 cylinders with only one win for a sixteen cylinder engine for Jim Clark in the Lotus-BRM at Watkins Glen in the 1966 USA GP. The 3·0 litre H16 BRM was essentially two flat-8 1·5 units (derived from their previous V8 engine) one plonked on top of the other and the crankshafts geared together. It was initially so heavy it took six men to carry it into the Lotus workshop and although very powerful was horrendously unreliable. Lotus planned to use it whilst waiting for the Ford Cosworth V8 but mostly stuck with the 2·0 Climax V8s.

The Repco name was a contraction of Replacement Parts Company. The engines supplied to the Brabham team in 1966 for Jack Brabham to win his third title were basic with aluminium stock-blocks, single-cams and off-the-shelf parts but were light and reliable with many other top teams struggling to source suitable 3-litre engines. In 1967 for Denny Hulme’s title with the team, the engines had been upgraded to some extent by more specialist tuning and upgrades.

Ayrton Senna won all three of his titles with McLaren-Honda but won in 1988 with the 1·5 litre Honda V6 turbo , in 1990 with the 3·5 Honda V10 and ’91 with the 3·5 Honda V12.

Not many associate steam-power with Formula One. In the early ‘eighties, Renault and Ferrari were injecting water into the fuel entering their V6 turbo engines in order to cool the engines, improve fuel consumption and aid combustion. According to a technical report presented to FISA and both teams before the 1983 French GP, presumably paid for by one or more of the Ford Cosworth teams, this illegally raised the octane levels of their fuel to above 110 when the limit was 102. It seems crazy that adding water would make fuel more powerful but thinking about it, during combustion, the water would have instantaneously turned to very, very hot steam, hugely increasing in volume, adding to the power of the fuel exploding in the cylinder-chamber and the power of the engine. The report did not have it’s desired effect as by 1984 water-injection was commonplace. Such water injection is now banned. So much for green F1. (I came across this story in a 1983 edition of Grand Prix International.)

There is similarity between steam-technology and turbochargers. The triple expansion steam-engines heated water into steam in high-pressure boilers. The high pressure steam then first powered a narrow cylinder, but exited with pressure left in the steam. Next it went into a wider cylinder – less pressure than before but a bigger surface area to push against. Finally the steam went into an even wider cylinder before being released. A petrol/gasoline engine expels fumes from the cylinders that still have pressure left to give and turbos are driven by that leftover pressure.


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