JANUARY 13, 1997
Walkinshaw reveals the Arrows A18
The Arrows A18 car is the first car to be built by the team since Tom Walkinshaw bought a majority shareholding in March last year. The 1997 season is being hailed as the start of a new era for the team which failed to win a race in 19 years of Formula 1 racing under its previous management.
"We have put together a strong technical and sponsorship team," said Walkinshaw, "but I don't think any of us doubt that we have a lot of hard work to do."
According to Walkinshaw the A18 is a completely new car. The design team - led by chief designer Paul Bowen and made up of refugees from both Arrows and Ligier - started work in June. The Arrows windtunnel was modified to run faster than before. The design process was delayed somewhat in mid-September because Walkinshaw had not signed the engine deal with Yamaha. It was further disrupted at the end of that month when Tom signed Damon Hill, who has particularly large feet and the Arrows designers had to change the footwell area inside the chassis to ensure there was enough room.
Although on the surface the Arrows-Yamaha A18 looks like a fairly conventional modern F1 car and the team concentrated on building a simple car which could be made reliable, there is at least one radical idea beneath the paintwork.
"We didn't want a complex car," said Tom Walkinshaw. "It is conventional but it is also a little bit innovative because the chassis continues over the top of the engine cover structure of the car and goes right back to the gearbox. This means there is a lot more beam strength in the car and it spreads the loads to try and stop - or help reduce - the twisting of the engine from the loads it has to carry."
Walkinshaw stressed the importance of reliability and there has been much work in recent month to make the Yamaha OX11A engine a more effective unit than it was last year with Tyrrell. This work has involved Yamaha in Japan, John Judd's Engine Developments company in Rugby, England, and the TWR Group's competition engine department, headed by former Cosworth engineer Geoff Goddard.
"We will be doing three stages of evolution in the course of the year," said Walkinshaw. "The first will test just before Melbourne. That will have all the modifications designed for reliability and that should be run in Melbourne. We will have the first major performance evolution for Imola and it is planned that we should have a further performance boost by the British GP."
The most important part of Walkinshaw's plan to win with Arrows in 1997 is his tire supply deal with Bridgestone. The Japanese company has been testing F1 tires since 1989 and is well-prepared to enter Grand Prix racing.
"I believe that at half of the races there will be little or nothing to choose between Goodyear or Bridgestone," said Walkinshaw. "At the other 50% of the races there will be a performance advantage dramatically one way or the other. If we are reliable we will be in a position to exploit that tire advantage when it swings our way. I don't think you could have anyone better to take advantage of that than Damon Hill if we can put a reliable car under him.
"I think we have to aspire to have a car which is capable of finishing in the top three reasonably consistently in the second half of the year. If we can do that there is no reason at all why Damon could not win one or two races. If we didn't have a tire advantage I wouldn't be saying that we could win races in our first season in Grands Prix. I haven't got stardust in my eyes or rose colored glasses. I'm being very analytical. We have one technical aspect of our car which should give us a significant advantage over the opposition in 25% of the races. It is up to us to put a reliable car under Damon to enable him to take full advantage of that."