Three cars, 18 tyres: F1 six-wheelers at Goodwood

2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed

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March 2-4-0, Goodwood, 2012

There’s a trio of especially unusual F1 cars on display at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. They all have one thing in common – or, rather, two things: a pair of extra wheels.

The Tyrrell P34, Williams FW08D and March 2-4-0 are among the few F1 cars ever to be built with six wheels.

Tyrrell P34, Goodwood, 2012Of the trio, the Tyrrell was the only one which was ever raced. It was also unusual in that it had its extra pair of tiny wheels at the front of the car.

Tyrrell campaigned the P34 in 1976 and 1977. Although driver Jody Scheckter never liked the car, he did score its sole win in the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp. He took over the lead when Mario Andretti’s Lotus failed and led home team mate Patrick Depailler for a 12-wheeled one-two.

Tyrrell dropped the P34 after 1977, partly because of difficulty obtaining suitable tyres for the four tiny front wheels that were of similar specification to the latest rubber available to teams with conventional cars.

In its final race, the 1977 Japanese Grand Prix, Depailler finished third but team mate Ronnie Peterson was involved in a terrible crash with Gilles Villeneuve which killed two spectators.

Late in 1976 March seized on the six-wheeled concept but put the extra tyres at the back of the car, intending to improve traction. The resulting car, dubbed the 2-4-0, was tested by Howden Ganley.

A shortage of funds meant March never raced the car in Formula 1, but it did compete successfully in hillclimbs. The 2-4-0 is the only one of the trio being driven up the hill this weekend.

At least one other team experimented with a six-wheeled configuration around this time. In 1977 Ferrari bolted two pairs of front wheels onto either side of the rear axle of one of its F1 cars, calling it the 312T6, but never raced it.

Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann tested the car. The latter crashed it at Fiorano, the car bursting into flames. The design was most likely an exercise to evaluate the viability of the concept – in the configuration it was built it likely would have exceeded the maximum width restriction introduced in 1976.

Williams FW08C, Goodwood, 2012Williams seized on the ‘four at the rear’ idea and built two six-wheelers along these lines in the early eighties.

The first was based on the FW07 and the second, the FW08B, set some impressive times in testing. The team intended to race it in 1983 but the FIA introduced rules banning six-wheelers ahead of the season.

That the configuration is no longer allowed is probably for the best: having two extra tyres to contend with would reduce McLaren’s chances of completing a successful pit stop to zero.

Read more about these unusual creations here:

Six-wheeled F1 cars at the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed

Goodwood Festival of Speed

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Images ?? F1 Fanatic

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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40 comments on “Three cars, 18 tyres: F1 six-wheelers at Goodwood”

  1. this was a damn good article. really enjoyed reading it. thanks keith.

    1. And I loved the “sting in the tail” still laughing or should that be LOL.

  2. How come nobody ever tried an 8-wheeler? The aero advantage of smaller wheels at the front and extra traction at the back. The latter was especially beneficial in the wet, because the wheels on the rear axle could run slicks in the rain, because the wheels in front of it sucked away all the water.

    1. Too large a wheelbase?

      1. Makes sense.

      2. too heavy?

        1. probably that too – wasn’t one of the reasons Williams was only experimenting with it because the extra set of rear wheels added a lot of weight to the back?

          1. That’s the thing, doing it at the front as well balances it out. It would be up to the engineers to figure out whether the benefits outweigh the disadvantages (or to make it outweigh them), but I guess we’ll never know.

            Would be sweet to have more nimble 4-wheelers taking up 8-wheelers with a speed advantage, a bit like Holden vs. Ford at Bathurst in the 70s or the turbos vs. normally aspirated F1s in the early 80s.

        2. @fer-no65 – were there minimum weight limits in the 80’s when Williams were experimenting with the 6 wheel concept? Since most modern cars are manufactured about 100kg under the limit of 640kg then ballasted up, I imagine it would be a broadly similar situation during the time in which they were legal (if there was a minimum weight in the first place).

          1. @vettel1 there was. But having 4 wheels at each end of the car would make it a lot more challenging to build a car below (or even within) the weight limits so they can then add ballast wherever they need to.

            Maybe having 8 wheels wasn’t necesary. Maybe the increase in grip (as there would be 2 more wheels than a “normal” 6 wheeler) would detriment speed, as it works as downforce: too much, and it slows you down.

  3. That the configuration is no longer allowed is probably for the best: having two extra tyres to contend with would reduce McLaren’s chances of completing a successful pit stop to zero

    LOL! It may give Ferrari an even greater advantage however!

  4. Amazing creativity is born in F1.

    1. And is then buried by the FIA…

      1. @mike @beneboy To be fair, the six-wheelers could hardly be called competitive so the FIA were doing them a favour!

        1. @andrewtanner

          3rd in constructors including a race wi … wait…. was that sarcasm?

  5. It even extends to the chassis designation; 2-4-0 would have described the Williams wheel arrangement if it were a Steam Engine.

  6. That the configuration is no longer allowed is probably for the best: having two extra tyres to contend with would reduce McLaren’s chances of completing a successful pit stop to zero.


  7. The McLaren joke makes it the article of the month! Nice touch of humour @keithcollantine

    1. Very nice pic! Hope you stayed drier than I did…

      1. Weather or just too excited, @keithcollantine?

        1. @fer-no65 Very much the weather, as later photographs will attest…

      2. Thanks Keith. We sneaked in the grand stands. F1 lock up here for your viewing pleasure
        My fav pic of the day.

        1. Amazingly captured that lock up @nickfrog

  8. i just got back from Goodwood and the it was well worth it. I recommend it

  9. Every year around this time I think to myself: I should really visit the UK one year for a combined Goodwood and British GP visit, though I’m not sure I’ll be able to convince the wife and kids that it’ll be fun (or win the lottery to pay for it all). Mind you, both my daughters are making their F1 debut at Silverstone next week…

    1. C’mon Adrian, tell us more. You can’t leave us speculating, especially not now with sexism being the main talking point, apparently.

      1. @hohum, they’re both on Sebastian Vettel’s and Mark Webber’s cars as part of the wings for life charity.

  10. Great article, love these weird cars. Its great to see 3 of the most famous ones in one place, and I wish I could be there :/ Thanks Keith for the great article

  11. I really wish the 6 wheeler concept had caught on (at least for a few years) instead of being banned. I actually find the March and Williams versions to be quite beautiful.

    I also read an interesting piece on the williams a while back, where they said that the car was particularly suited to wet conditions. This was because they could run deeply-treaded wet weather tires on the middle axle, and then slicks on the rearmost axle. Apparently the wet weather tires dispersed the water enough that the closely-trailing slicks wouldnt aquaplane, in all but the rainiest of conditions.

    Oh and Keith, yet another superb article and gallery :-)

  12. Too bad it is the ugly late version of the P34, the original P34 was a fantastic car , one which changed the direction and focus of my life.

  13. 6, 8 or whatever wheels are cool for off-roading or heavy loads, but they’re totally not the answer to fast on-road cars.
    greater complexity, volume, sprung mass, unsprung mass, rotational mass at an extremity, cyclic rate, cost and i’m sure others – instead of making better use of the 4 wheels you already have.

    1. The original P34 believed that by having a more narrow track and tucking the front wheels behind a sportscar nose that they would punch a more efficient hole into the airstream and benefit by having an extra set of brakes at the front so in theory they should go deeper into corners than their rivals. What was unaccounted for was the fact that the car continually did the dance where oversteer and understeer were resultant from the little fronts and massive. Either the rears were hooked up or in constrast the fronts were usually not at the same time. Imagine that feeling…

      The 1976 P34 is one of the most superb looking Grand Prix Cars of all time

      1. the tyrrell is an icon, no doubt

  14. These cars never fail to look alien, even the more I see them.

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