One of the most extreme innovations Formula 1 has ever seen was the Tyrrell P34. In a bid to maximise performance while still adhering to tyre regulations, Tyrrell decided to go down the rather interesting route of a six-wheeled car. The F1 regulations were changed in the mid-1970s, reducing the maximum width front wing to 1.5 metres. This meant the front tyres would be poking outside, disturbing airflow and harming the car’s performance.
Video: Thrashing a Tyrrell six‑wheeler at Imola | GRR
The solution was to reduce the size of the tyre so that it would fit neatly behind the front wing, but in order to maintain the level of grip provided by the normal larger tyres, they decided to double down and have four front wheels. They would provide the same contact patch with the ground, and therefore similar levels of grip. It was an unprecedented concept never before seen in F1, imagine the faces of their competitors as Tyrrell arrived at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1976 with 50 per cent more tyres.
This innovation could have been a disaster, but early results were strong. Jody Scheckter led home a 1-2 finish for the team at the Swedish Grand Prix – the six-wheeler’s fourth race, while the P34 and later P34B would go on achieve 14 podiums in total over the course of two seasons. Tyrrell would eventually scrap the idea at the end of 1977.
Seeing the car in period must have been quite the shock, but it hasn’t lost any of its impact when seeing the car lap Imola today. As soon as you see the V8 Ford engine exposed at the rear of the car, you know you’re about to witness something special. Take a listen to the special P34B having its legs stretched around the San Marino circuit.
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