Tuesday 14 January 2020

Pedro Lamy's 1994 Silverstone Testing Accident, by Ibrar Malik and Ben Green

This is a special blog to celebrate the launch of the audiobook: Team Lotus, Struggling Beyond The Post Colin Chapman Era.

This blog has been co-written by Ben Green, who is the proud owner of the Lotus Formula 1 car Pedro Lamy crashed during that Silverstone test in May 1994, just prior to that year's Spanish Grand Prix. If you have read the book: 1994 The Untold Story of a Tragic and Controversial F1 Season, you'll know Lamy's crash and its subsequent fallout, was hugely significant to F1 that year. Ben's Lotus chassis is the 107C (chassis no 1).

This is the (restored) Lotus 107C that Lamy almost was killed in during that fateful day at Silverstone in May 1994. Ben purchased the chassis from Team Lotus during 1995, along with a heap of spares.
1994 Lotus 107C
At the end of the 1993 season, Team Lotus's finances were in a bad way. The newly released book: Team Lotus, Struggling Beyond The Post Colin Chapman Era details how and why Team Lotus got there by the early 1990s.

Its Chris Murphy-designed 107B was fast but unreliable, while its complex active suspension and customer Cosworth HB engines had drained resources. Along came Honda with the Mugen brand and an updated 1989 ZA5 V10 engine, a no-cost factory option.

Furthermore, F1 rules for 1994 have changed, in comes mid-race refuelling with reduced fuel tank sizes inside cars. Active suspension is also banned so it's back to Penske dampers and ant heave bars.

Three new type 107C chassis are built as an interim before the arrival later in the season of the new for 1994 Lotus 109, which was narrower than the 107B tub. The new Mugen V10 engine allowed a slimmer engine cover, but the tub forward of the mirrors was kept the same to keep its impact test certification.

A new semi-automatic gearbox (normal clutch, paddleshift gear changes) was introduced. A signal from the steering wheel paddle would rotate the gear selection barrel to the next gear via a Moog valve and electronics to raise or lower engine revs and retrying selection until the gear is found. This was worth at least half a second per lap. The hand-shift blister on the tub was kept in case the new change didn't work.

Drivers for 1994 would be Johnny Herbert and Pedro Lamy with Alex Zanardi as its test driver.

Ben's 107C Lotus has been restored as a non-running rolling chassis, Ben has most history including setup and development sheets, the car was raced in F1 up until the 1994 British Grand Prix.

The Races
At the Brazil and Aida races, Herbert's 107C (01 chassis) is slow but reliable finishing just outside the points. The Mugen engine by 1994 standards is heavy with a high centre of gravity, extra cooling with heat exchangers and oil radiators adding to the weight issue. Traction out of corners is a big problem increasing downforce with wing angle making little difference but robbing the car of speed down the straights.

Imola arrived and Herbert's car has clutch failure in final practice so chassis 01 gets promoted to race car. At the start an unsighted Lamy connects with JJ Lehto's Benetton, the collision wrecks both cars.

With debris all over the track the safety car was brought out to clear the damaged cars and wreckage. Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger's sad deaths are well documented and start a safety crusade within the sport.

At the next event, Monaco, the FIA imposes significant and immediate car changes upon teams in order to make F1 safer. However the teams were angered by the FIA's timescales and the costs. Virtually every team's car designer complained they were not consulted about these FIA proposals announced at Monaco 1994.

They therefore felt cutting back significant on downforce, without any corresponding reduction on power output, would create more, not less, safety problems for F1.

Lamy and Lehto's accident during the fateful 1994 Imola race. It subsequently brought out the safety car, an Opel Vectra. Did this contribute to Senna's fatal crash?  

Lamy's Silverstone Test and Accident
To the gauge the effects of the FIA-mandated car changes, hurriedly introduced at Monaco 1994, Lamy's 01 race chassis from Monaco had the undertray cut back further than the axle line to remove all of the diffuser downforce.

While testing this solution, the rear wing suddenly failed when approaching a 150 mph corner. It led to one of F1's most violent accidents. Indeed, Lamy's car struck the barrier with enough force it vaulted OVER a 10 foot debris fence there to protect spectators.

Because it was a private test, fortunately no one was in that area at the time of Lamy's crash. But had it been a grand prix meeting, there would have been hundreds of spectators in the vicinity! In fact Lamy's Lotus eventually ended up in a pedestrian walkway underneath the circuit.

Herbert, the first man on the scene, was horrified by all of the wreckage and initially feared the worst for his team-mate. When asked about this incident afterwards the Englishman later said: "I had been following Pedro, about 100 yards behind, when his car spun. There was lots of dust and it just took off. I stopped my car and jumped out but at first I couldn't find him.

"Then I could see the tub had been thrown on to the other side of the fence. I couldn't believe it, he was half-way down the tunnel.

"The back end of the car was on fire. Even his helmet was steaming. The marshals soon appeared and I helped them put out the fire. I didn't really want to go in there but I had to. I feared the worst after what's happened recently.

"He was unconscious when I got to him but he gradually came to. He was breathing heavily and obviously in pain. They put his legs in splints and carried him to the helicopter to be taken to hospital. It was as horrifying as any as the recent accidents we've had." (source: https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/motor-racing-lamy-in-horrifying-crash-at-silverstone-lotus-driver-breaks-kneecaps-and-thigh-as-car-1438481.html)
As bad as the crash was, the 22-year-old Lotus-Mugen Honda driver broke both kneecaps and a thigh, it could have been much worse for Lamy. Fortunately he made a full recovery and was back in a F1 car by the end of the season.

Meanwhile a fierce debate raged over whether the FIA-mandated car changes, hastily imposed on teams following Imola 1994, might have anything to do with this particular incident? All of which led to some interesting politics later, between Benetton team boss Flavio Briatore and the FIA President Max Mosley.

The subsequent fallout and politics resulting from Lamy's Silverstone testing accident (not pictured above) is detailed within the book: 1994 The Untold Story of a Tragic and Controversial F1 Season

According to Ben, the actual failure causing Lamy's crash was fatigue of two studs connecting the gearbox to the rear wing mounting. Ben believes this was caused by the vibration of the rear wing allowed by the removal of the rear wing links to the undertray.

Wire stays are introduced along with a small gearbox bracket to solve the problem. The 01 chassis is stripped of undamaged spares and placed on the windtunnel roof.

At Team Lotus
1995 and the rebuild (Written by Ben Green)
Having visited Team Lotus as a supplier earlier in 1994 I had seen the damaged chassis sitting twenty feet up and upon returning in 1995 with the receiver in place I negotiated the purchase of the damaged tub along with a spare, undertray, wheels, a gearbox case set and radiators.

Team creditors were glad to recover some money so supplied a fully decaled engine cover, rear wing and nose. The final receiver auction later in the year in Brighton supplied a full set of dampers linkages, A frames and other spares. Ebay providing all the Tony James wiring looms, enough for several cars in fact.

Due to the damage to the tub and engine mountings, it was decided to rebuild this as a show car. Only four pins hold the complete rear engine gearbox and suspension to the chassis tub, they had all failed as designed in the crash.

Fuel hoses had dry break connectors, the fire damage was from a refuelling port leak and the ATL fuel cell remained intact. The largest item missing was the engine, because all the Mugen Honda units were returned to Japan not for resale.

Initially the 01 tub was designed back in 1992 for the Judd GV V10 engine but then the Cosworth HB substituted. A nonworking installation engine from a Tyrrell was acquired from engine developments at Rugby, so we now had a rolling chassis with a F1 V10 engine. A carbon Honda inlet tray was located but not the variable inlet system that moves with engine speed.

Very little Information on the installation and layout are available other than photos. Team Lotus supplied chassis 01 history sheets with set-up details, test results and development progression. Back in 1994 a full-size layered drawing was made to check plumbing, wiring loom runs and clearances.  This was mounted on a wall but looks to have gone missing; this would be very useful.

The suspension A frames manufactured from steel extrusions then welded are coated with a crack detection paint that is not resistant to corrosion. In fact all the steel fixtures and fittings have had to be lightly over painted, the magnesium gearbox parts have been lacquered to prevent the white oxide appearing.

The original wheels and tyres have been injected with a sealant that looks to have solved the leaking air issue we had and hold pressure for weeks. The next project is to get the brakes working; it has original AP Racing calipers but no pads that fit.

The original dashboard is unusual for the time in having a full-liquid crystal display but all warning lights. The gear number and other information is available by scrolling by the driver, again a Honda item and surprisingly heavy with its separate driver unit and cabling.

The steering wheel had a buckle from the crash (not surprising) and shows the pushback through the system when a wheel impacts; this was gently straitened with a hydraulic press maybe this should have been left buckled rather than restored.

But at least all the buttons and paddles work.

If you enjoyed reading about this little bit of Team Lotus history, then you'll enjoy the newly released audiobook: Team Lotus, Struggling Beyond The Post Colin Chapman Era. It is now available to buy in audio book format or e book format here. A free sample is contained within those links.

The book contains masses of detail and research and will provide excellent value for readers. You also can click here to listen to a free sample and get more details of this book.

I am hoping to be involved in future books detailing the complete Team Lotus Downfall story. Other books planned may cover the periods between 1978-1983 and 1990-1995.

You also can receive future Lotus book updates here: http://www.1994f1.com/contact/

Support future books here (while getting your hands on more exclusive research like shown in this blog): https://www.patreon.com/newbook

Thanks to Ben Green for helping with this blog and for providing some photos. The other photos were courtesy of http://www.passionea300allora.it/forum/topic/60806-03-gran-premio-di-san-marino-1994/ and http://www.ayrton-senna.net/david-brabham-imola-1994/ and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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