Cutting Class - 1988 Dallara 3087 Ford

Skipping classes isn't always smart.

4y ago

At the end of the manic horsepower-crazed 1986 Formula 1 season, the FISA announced a planned return to a naturally aspirated formula. During 1986 the only engines eligible for competition were the insanely boosted 1.5 turbocharged engines, which had bullied away the traditional 3.0L naturally aspirated units. The turbos were however deemed far too dangerous and expensive to be retained. Power figures had risen to highs of over 1350 estimated horsepower for the most powerful car of the bunch, the Benetton B186 BMW.

Further motivated by the unfortunate fatal testing accident of Brabham’s Elio de Angelis at Paul Ricard, the FISA split the F1 field into two categories for 1987: the 4.0 bar (58 psi) boost-restricted turbo cars, and the new enlarged displacement 3.5L naturally aspirated machines. The 3.5L cars would receive their own championship within a championship for the season, duking it out over the Jim Clark Trophy (drivers) and the Colin Chapman Trophy (constructors).

The mighty turbo engines were deemed too powerful, dangerous and expensive.

The mighty turbo engines were deemed too powerful, dangerous and expensive.

For 1988 the turbo cars were to be further restricted to 2.5 bar (34 psi) for their final year of competition. Power levels dropped from 900 horsepower in 1987 to a paltry 650. While major players like McLaren, Lotus and Ferrari soldiered on with boost for one more year, more and more teams were adapting to the new situation.

One such small outfit with F1 ambition was Brixia Motor Sport Scuderia Italia. Founded by Italian steel mogul Giuseppe Lucchini in 1983, the team had been involved in the Italian rally championship and the one-off 1987 World Touring Car Championship with Lancia and Alfa Romeo.

After Alfa Romeo pulled out halfway through the WTCC season, Lucchini was looking for a new challenge. The recent cost-cutting developments in Formula 1 attracted his attention, which lead him to form a plan.

BMS Scuderia Italia's Lancia 037, used from 1984-1986 in the Italian Rally Championship.

BMS Scuderia Italia's Lancia 037, used from 1984-1986 in the Italian Rally Championship.

Lucchini realized his organization had nowhere near the means to build a Formula 1 car themselves, so he contacted famous Italian chassis designer Gian Paolo Dallara, asking for his help. Dallara accepted the offer and started work on the new car together with his senior designer Sergio Rinland (ARG). The new 3.5L Ford-Cosworth DFZ V8, a derivation of the famous DFV, was taken as a starting point.

All was not going well for Lucchini however, as Dallara contacted him with some very bad news. The car would not be ready in time for the start of the first Grand Prix of the season in Brazil. This presented a major problem, as F1-teams were required to enter every single event of a given season. If BMS Scuderia Italia didn’t comply with this demand, they would face a hefty fine, further denting their very modest budget.

Marco Apicella, Dallara 3087, 1987 Birmingham Superprix F3000.

Marco Apicella, Dallara 3087, 1987 Birmingham Superprix F3000.

The solution to the dire situation came from Dallara. He suggested the team use an older Formula 3000 chassis. Dallara would modify the car to meet F1’s safety standards, and give it to BMS to enter into the Brazilian Grand Prix.

To this end the 3087 chassis was pulled into service. The car had been introduced the year prior in the International F3000 Championship. Using the car was not an encouraging prospect. During the 1987 season the car rarely even made the F3000 grid, and only scored a single point by finishing fifth at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Formula 3000 had been created in 1985 as a response to the total turbo domination in Formula 1. It allowed small teams with lesser funding to continue using 3.0L V8 engine designs, and also served as one of F1’s premier feeder series. The main engine used in F3000 was the venerable Ford-Cosworth DFV 3.0L V8, dating back all the way to 1967. Once a dominant force throughout the 1970’s and early 80’s, it was made obsolete by the advent of the flaming turbocharger.

Cosworth's Keith Duckworth, Colin Chapman, Jim Clark and Graham Hill admiring the new DFV, Zandvoort 1967.

Cosworth's Keith Duckworth, Colin Chapman, Jim Clark and Graham Hill admiring the new DFV, Zandvoort 1967.

It was glaringly obvious that the outdated engine in a sub-par F3000 chassis had not even the slightest chance of competing in F1. Still Dallara gave it their best shot. They adapted the carbon-fiber monocoque, strengthening it where necessary. Their next step was tinkering with the ancient engine.

In its heyday the DFV had produced around 500 horsepower, some 80 more than usual in F3000. This was a figure that was totally swell for 1978, but didn’t hold up terribly well in 1988. To get the detuned unit back to 1970s power levels, Dallara simply threw away the F3000-mandated 9000 rpm rev-limiter.

Even without the limiter this meant the 3087 was down at least 150-200 horsepower to the turbo cars, and about 80 horsepower to the DFZ and Judd CV V8 entries. BMS Scuderia Italia and Dallara were so pessimistic about their chances with the car that they didn’t even bother with an engine cover. Onlookers were free to admire the engine and Hewland FG400 5-speed manual gearbox. The missing engine cover did however help to bring the weight down to the 500 kg (1102 lbs) minimum.

Alex Caffi, 1988 Brazilian Grand Prix Pre-Qualifying

Alex Caffi, 1988 Brazilian Grand Prix Pre-Qualifying

Giuseppe Lucchini managed to sign Osella F1-driver Alex Caffi (ITA), who had just finished his first full season in F1. Knowing they wouldn’t get very far, the team set course for Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet, formerly known as Jacarepaguá. Their confidence was at such a low point they had already booked tickets back to Italy for Saturday evening.

As Dallara was a new team without points in F1, they were forced to enter pre-qualifying. The grid only had 26 places to fill, but there could be as much as 31 entries. Pre-qualifying was therefore designed to weed out any cars too slow to race.

Drivers hoping to enter the actual qualifying session had to finish at least fourth fastest in the session to be allowed to qualify for the race itself. With this in mind, Alex Caffi dutifully went out onto the track to try and set a worthy time. After diligently completing a few laps, he came in to find he’d finished dead last. His best time was a startling 18 seconds slower than Ayrton Senna’s pole position time.

The Dallara 3087 was a frantic botch-job thought up in a severely panicked state. Hastily pressed into service out of an uncompetitive life in F3000, the car was painfully slow. Guiseppe Lucchini and his staff couldn’t care less, as the wonky machine had fulfilled its sole purpose.

By entering the dim-witted abomination into the Brazilian Grand Prix, the team had fulfilled the FISA’s demands and avoided a major fine. Luckily, the new F188 was ready for action at the next race at Imola, San Marino. The comical series of events lead to the 3087 being the last ever non-F1 car to be entered into a Formula 1 event.

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Comments (1)

  • Man, I love this era: can you imagine this happening nowadays, Prema or Carlin or Trident upgrading to F1 with a half-naked former F2 car?

      2 years ago