MARCH FORD 721 X WITH DRAWING BY PETER RUEMMLER AND TEXT & GRAPHICS BY RESEARCHRACING MEDIA
In 1971 the STP Oil Treatment backed Grand Prix team of March Engineering Ltd. was able to make Ronnie Peterson become vice champion behind superior Tyrrell Ford driver Jackie Stewart in the Tyrrell Ford; the constructors theirselves finished third place that year. The March 711 was powered by the traditional Ford Cosworth engine or the Alfa Romeo V8, known from the Alfa Romeo 33 sportscar. The carīs design had been created by Robin Herd added by aerodynamics of Frank Costin, who had worked for Vanwall before also being the originator of the Costin Protos Formula 2 car. Typical for the 711, that was driven by Ronnie Peterson, Alex-Soler Roig, Andrea de Adamich, Nanni Galli, Mike Beuttler and Niki Lauda that year, was the front wing in the shape of a surfboard. For 1972 Herd first created a revised version of the 711 with some 50 modifications, now named 721. The works drivers were again Ronnie Peterson and Niki Lauda, two further 721s were sold to Frank Williams Racing Cars for French driver Henri Pescarolo and Eifelland Caravans to be driven by Rolf Stommelen using special aerodynamics created by Italian-German industrial designer Luigi Colani. But the 721 only was intended to be an interim model for the works team with Robin Herd already had the revolutionary 721 X on his drawing board. While the rival constructors tried to put a lot of weight into the back of their cars, it was Herd`s intention to concentrate all heavy elements in the centre of the pretty compact vehicle for the most possible neutral handling. For this reason instead of the usual Hewland FG400 an Alfa Romeo gearbox was installed in front of the rear axle, connected with a very special rear suspension. The lateral radiators on both sides on the cockpit, first seen at the Lotus Ford 72 in 1970, were added by the sportscar-like nose section originally presented by Tyrrell in 1971. Two cars of the 721 X model were built for Peterson and Lauda, while private driver Mike Beuttler entered a 721 G version, that had got it`s base on the 722 Formula 2 car design of that year. The 721 X gave it`s debut at the 1972 Race of Champions at Brands with Ronnie Peterson in the cockpit while the first Grand Prix entry for both works driver happened at the very narrow Jarama circuit in Spain at the beginning of the European season. Peterson was a brilliant driver of extraordinary talent, but despite being an original technician as an elevator mechanic in civil life, he did not find out, that the expected advantages of the 721 X design only existed in theoratical imagination and not in reality. The lap times were a lot behind the expectations and did not become better. When Peterson was not able to find a competitive set up (or being not willing to do so), Robin Herd and Max Mosley ordered Niki Lauda for testing the 721 X to explore the difficulties. Lauda diagnosed fundamental problems of the basic design not to be cured by set up changes or even by bigger modifications; his final judgement was defeating. The testing of the 721 X made Lauda not only learn a lot on Grand Prix technology, but also was the base for his legendary reputation as a test and development driver starting some two years later at Ferrari. At that state of the 1972 season March had the choice between returning to the meanwhile pretty old-fashioned normal 721 (being only a modified 711) or also to switch to the 721 G. After testing Mike Beuttler`s car Lauda recommended the works team to join to the last opportinity, what Bicester really did from the Clermont Ferrand held French Grand Prix on.
CLIPPINGS FROM GERMAN OLDTIMER MARKT MAGAZINE OF THE YEAR 2005
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