A brief history of Porsche Formula One before TAG-PO1 McLaren-Porsche Formula One
Porsche 718 RSK, Porsche 718 RSK Mittellenker, and Porsche 718 2 Formula One
FIA (Federation Internationale de I’Automobile) changed their regulations for Formula Two events to allow racing cars with enveloping bodywork to compete in Formula One racing events in 1957 season and onwards.
For 1958 racing season, Porsche unveiled their Porsche 718 RSK Mittellenker, a car with a single seat in the middle of the car. Jean Marie Behra drove the car to win at the F2 event at Reims, and Wilfried Edgar Barth placed sixth overall and second of his class at the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. Masten Gregory drove a Porsche 718 RSK Mittellenker to win both the heat and first place in the F2 class at the Berlin Grand Prix.
Porsche 718/2 featured the same mechanical componets derived from Porsche 718 RSK Mittellenker. It was developed to compete in Formula Two events. FIA revised its regulations for the 1961 season and onwards, allowing Formula Two cars to compete in the Formula One cars. Also the Formula One was now limited to 1.5-liter engine.
Three Porsche 718 cars driven by Dan Gurney, Hans Hermann, and Jo Bonnier made their debut at the 1961 racing season. Dan Gurney won three-second places, qualifying for the fourth-place in the FIA Driver’s Championship.
After much development and testing, the Formula One race car reemerged at the French Rouen track on July 8 to take the Porsche team driver Dan Gurney to the victory. At the Solitude track at Stuttgart, the Porsche 804 was driven by Dan Gurney to the victory of a non-championship race.
The Porsche 804 was again used to compete at the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring in August, Dan Gurney started from the pole position and he and his fellow Porsche driver Jo Bonnier pressed on to keep their lead while driving in rain. While he was leading on a twisted course, his Porsche 804 car’s battery came loose in the cockpit, forcing him to struggle to brace it with his left knee, losing two positions in the meantime. He finished in third place.
Jo Bonnier finished sixth at the final European Formula One Grand Prix in Monza. Dan Gurney retired without finishing the event.
After that race, Porsche decided to give up on Formula One after comparing the cost of their campaigning of two cars during the 1963 season against those of finishing development on the successor of the Porsche 356, finally deciding to abandon Formula One. He was also aware that his company had little to no chance at selling Formula One car to customers. This was why he decided not to enter Formula One events again.
1979 Porsche turbocharged six-cylinder engine for Ted Field
In early 197, Ted Field, an American racer who used the Porsche 935 for competition, contacted Porsche headquarters about the possible development of the engines he could use to power a race car for the 1980 season that could compete in the Indy 500 as United States Auto Club (USAC) season.
Ted Field, being a successful Hollywood producer as well as an entrepreneur Field also backed the construction of an Interscope chassis for the Indianapolis 500. This was intended to be equipped with a turbocharged six-cylinder Porsche engine but a last-minute decision change within the USAC committee over turbo-boost meant the program was abandoned. The car was eventually fitted with a conventional Ford Cosworth DFX engine and entered for racing in the 1981 Indy 500. Danny Ongais led the race but crashed and was critically injured. In 1982, Danny Ongais tried to give the car one last start at the Indy 500, but that too ended badly for him and the car.
Despite the last-minute setback due to the unexpected decision change of the USAC committee, Porsche engineers at Weissach were still working constantly to improve their cars and their performance figures.
1984 TAG-PO1 McLaren-Porsche Formula One
In August 1981, John Barnard, the chief designer of McLaren and the managing director of McLaren, Ron Dennis asked Porsche if it could make an engine to compete in Formula One racing events.
Hans Mezger, Porsche’s chief engine engineer came with a new proposal for a V6 engine within a month. The proposal came with a time schedule of six months for designing and developing the engine. Ron Dennis wanted it as soon as possible, but he also insisted that the Porsche must split the development cost with McLaren since it was also getting many benefits in terms of innovation. Porsche declined both requests and the deal fell through.
Mansour Ojjeh, a French entrepreneur born in Saudi Arabia and the co-owner of Techniques d’ Avant-Garde (TAG) stepped in to save the day. In a matter of days, McLaren announced that it has a contract with Porsche for the development of a turbocharged 1500cc V6 engine. It was expected that their McLaren F1 cars will be equipped with Porsche engines for the late 1982 and 1983 F1 seasons.
John Barnard, the chief designer of McLaren, had created a carbon fiber monocoque ground effects chassis called the MP4/1. For the 1981 season, it was powered using a normally aspirated Cosworth V8. Hans Mezger was told by John Barnard that he will not completely redesign the car to accommodate the new engine, so the new engine had to be able to fit the chassis without the need for such modifications. These packaging limitations mean that the 80 degrees V6 Porsche engine had to fit within 2 cubic feet including the block and cylinder heads.
Hans Mezger developed an aluminum dual overhead camshaft cylinder heads, two intake, and exhaust valves per cylinder. Valentin Schaffer used his experience regarding the Bosch MP 1.2 electronic engine management system on the Porsche 956 engine, applied the same system for the 1499cc Formula One engine. This engine was internally designated as the TAG-PO1.
Hans Mezger ran tests of the engine equipped with two KKK turbochargers, intercoolers, and all ancillary systems on the Weissach’s dynamometers.
Cosworth’s engines delivered 535hp and this forced John Barnard to upgrade his chassis to comply with additional power and torque. He also had to upgrade the chassis in a way that it was capable of meeting higher cornering forces and breaks to improve cornering and braking prowess.
When TAG-PO1 was unveiled in August 1983 at the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort. Hans Mezger’s engine now delivered 630hp at 11,500rpm at 2.5 bar boost. Further tuning conducted by McLaren and Porsche resulted in an impressive 700hp at 12,000rpmwith 3 bar-boost.
FIA previously came up with the fuel consumption regulations for the 1982 season onwards and replaced Group 4 with Group B and Group 5, Group 6 events with Group C. These classes also had strict fuel consumption restrictions. Following their experience on fuel restrictions, the FIA ruled out fuel consumption regulations on Formula One as well. Now a Formula One car had limited access to 58.1 gallons of fuel and no fuel stops.
Challenges like this would cripple the spirit and soul of any manufacturer or racing team, but not Porsche nor McLaren. Porsche’s chief engine engineer, Hans Mezger fiddled with the Motronic engine management system to its extremely lean settings, right on the verge of engine explosion, but without suffering a turbine wheel meltdown or a piston chamber meltdown. Now the power delivery was measured at 750hp at 12,000rpm with a 3.2 bar boost.
Armed with the TAG-PO1 Formula One car, McLaren team drivers Niki Lauda and Alain Prost went on to win twelve of the sixteen Formula One races in 1984. The McLaren team won the World Formula One championship.
Hans Mezger being a perfectionist wasn’t pleased and continuously worked on new oil formulas and tuning the engine. Now the power delivery was measured at 800hp at 12,500rpm with 3.3 bar boost pressure.
This allowed the McLaren team to win the 1985 Formula One World Championship consecutively for the second year. Alain Prost went on to win the World Driver’s Championship that year.
For the 1986 racing season, the Porsche engine was further tuned to deliver 850hp at 12,800rpm. This power output was nowhere enough to compete with BMW and Honda-powered cars. BMW inline-four engine developed 900hp for racing events and 1000hp while dyno testing in qualifying mode. Honda took second place in overall scores behind BMW. This meant that the Porsche-powered cars were in third place in terms of results with McLaren winning only four races in 1986. Alain Prost still managed to retain the World Driver’s Championship title.
In 1987, FIA regulations got revised again, now limiting the boost to 4 bars. Now the Hans Mezger developed engine delivered 900hp for racing events and 1025hp while dyno testing in qualifying mode.
John Barnard had left McLaren by then to manage the Ferrari Formula One cars design and engineering, other teams also continuously worked on advancing their cars in performance terms by tweaking the aerodynamics and engines. Steve Nichols was chosen to fill the void created with the departure of John Barnard.
Steve Nichols kept working on the aging McLaren chassis to make it more compatible with the Porsche engine, but the engine itself has become too weak in comparison to the higher output engines of the competitors.
For the 1988 racing season, McLaren hired Gordon Murray as their new technical director and Steve Nichols joined Honda.
TAG-PO1 retired from Formula One due to its inability to keep up with the competing cars.
John Barnard and Ron Dennis always thought that Porsche will indirectly benefit from the project by investigating other uses for the engine. And they were right about it.
Norbert Singer and Hans Hezger took a Porsche 956 racer and equipped it with this Formula One engine. When carried out testing at their Weissach test facilities and test track, they concluded that its useful engine range was too high in revolutions for any track with tight turns.
Horst Marchart ordered his engineers to equip the engine in a production Carrera body, but the lack of torque in the lower rev range and the limited range of power convinced them that the engine wasn’t good for a track-oriented sports car or a daily driven sports car. According to Horst Marchart, they needed a ten-speed gearbox to get enough power and torque from the engine.
Past repeated itself again. In 1961, Ferry Porsche decided to withdraw from Formula One due to the extra costs and what it yields.
Formula One racing events provide huge publicity for the manufacturer, but he had to measure the costs of racing Formula One cars against its engineering applications to his sports cars. He was right about Formula One and Porsche engineers again had to remember the wisdom of Ferry Porsche and his strong decision-making skills.