Finally, here we are with the best INSTA-BANNED example of the lot. The Brabham BT46B “Fan car” from 1978.
Back when Bernie Ecclestone was a team owner with the Brabham outfit, he had an up and coming designer called Gordon Murray, who would also go onto great things with McLaren in the late 80s and early 90s with the likes of Ron Dennis, Prost and Senna.
During 1978, Brabham still hadn’t achieved consistent success. Cars that had mastered ground effect, the art of “sucking” the cars to the ground with the use of skirts and large sidepods, were starting to dominate the sport and Brabham were struggling with this development. Lotus were currently the kings of this after Colin Chapman had discovered the art of ground effect for his F1 cars.
All that though would change at the ’78 Swedish Grand Prix where Brabham turned up with, essentially, a large fan strapped to the back of the car. The team tried their best to keep this development under their hat all weekend. The fan was hidden from view most of the time by an ordinary dustbin lid. When questioned the team would state the fan was simply for engine cooling (which part of its power was technically doing), and during Qualifying the team even allegedly brimmed the fuel tanks to avoid giving away their true speed and possibly getting in the dock before the actual race.
When the race started, it didn’t take long for the other teams to realise the state of affairs. The fan on the back essentially sucked the air in from underneath the car in conjunction with the standard ground-effect skirts, creating a powerful vacuum effect under the car. Mario Andretti even called it “a bloody great vacuum cleaner”.
Moveable aerodynamic devices were banned, even in 1978, but fans were allowed for cooling. The fan therefore legitimately cooled the engine through a radiator mounted on top of the engine to meet the regulations!
By half distance, the advantage was obvious to everyone. Other drivers even reported that it was almost impossible to follow the Brabham because of the amount of dirt and rubbish being ejected at a considerable rate of knots by the fan on the back of the car!
Lauda won the Grand Prix with relative ease. The “fan car” itself, after some behind-the-scenes political manoeuvring, was subsequently banned and the “fan” arrangement never raced again.
Have you enjoyed our series of ‘INSTA-BANNED’ tech articles? Are there any more examples you’d like us to explore, let us know in the comments!