The Tyrrell P34
In 1976, the Tyrrell racing team added an extra set of wheels to take on the reigning champion, Niki Lauda. They literally made a six wheeler. That’s motorsports in the 1970s: crazy engineering and dangerously brave drivers. Seriously, what were these engineers thinking? Can you imagine what the Tyrrell drivers thought when first saw this thing? I wouldn’t have the guts to test drive it, nonetheless race it. A six wheeled Grand Prix car sounds pretty idiotic, but it was actually kind of genius.
The engineers aren’t total psychopaths, there is a reason for six wheels. Besides the entertainment factor, there were some incredible benefits that the P34 brought to the track. The extra tires dramatically helped the grip, while the leaner front end and reduced drag gave it super speed on the straights. The four front wheels were only 10 inches, and yet the grip entering a corner was out of this world. The additional axel gave the six wheeler impressive handling, and the tiny front wheels meant that the entire front end could be way smaller, which gave the P34 a huge aerodynamic advantage. All of this combined makes the P34 seem like the perfect F1 car. However, it wasn’t. First off, the P34 was very difficult to drive. It was made to have incredible handling, but the drivers simply weren’t used to it. Then came the brakes. As you would expect, small wheels mean small brakes and small brakes mean try your best not to die. You simply can’t drive a race car with weak, little brakes. The P34 also weighed way too much for an F1 car and the front wheels locked up very often. The P34 was fast, but it just wasn’t reliable. The Tyrrell P34 had a lot of flaws, but I still won’t call it a failure.
I try not to be completely biased or say anything too controversial, but I think the P34 is one of the greatest Formula One cars ever made. You probably think I’m joking. Well, I’m not. I really think it’s one of the best. It’s so hilarious, yet it actually works. The Tyrrell P34 maintained 3rd place for 25 laps in its first race, until lap 26 when it crashed due to a braking problem. Keep in mind that was the P34’s first race. Third place for 25 laps is pretty great. It’s also quite the eye catcher. The attention this car got was insane! The P34 completely stole the show from Emerson Fittipaldi and the other F1 legends at the time. I would’ve definitely bought a ticket to go see a six wheeler race against a bunch of Grand Prix cars. Also, some of the coolest drivers ever, such as Jody Scheckter raced in the P34. Just imagine watching this six wheeled wedge fly around Monza with Jody Scheckter behind the wheel. You also got to give the P34 some credit considering the other cars of that era. Some of the teams at the time like Lotus and McLaren had remarkably fast cars, and somehow, the Tyrrell P34 had some way better laps.
Back to the main topic, are six wheels faster than 4? The Tyrrell P34 got multiple fastest lap times and incredible qualifying laps. The P34 was often seen near the front of the pack, occasionally finishing 2nd. It even won the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix. In fact, a P34 finished 1st and 2nd place that race. The statistics don’t lie. The answer is yes, 6 wheels could (with a lot of work) be faster than 4. The car might be junk, but it’s a piece of motoring history. So I’m going to end this article here with a quote from the movie Dazed and Confused and say “alright, alright, alright”.
^ Here’s an image of Jody Scheckter driving the P34 in the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix which he happened to win.
Fun Fact: The P34 wasn’t the only 6 wheeled F1 car. Both McLaren and Ferrari attempted it, but theirs never actually raced.
The Tyrrell P34 forever changed Formula One, especially considering how they only allow four wheels now.
Jody Scheckter even thought the car was junk, but it was a remarkable design that did considerably well.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post, it’s just me talking about a cool F1 car.
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Have a great day and be safe.