Dirty Air - 1990 EuroBrun ER190 Neotech
Even a wind turbine can prove to be unsustainable.
The world of Formula One has never been too kind to its inhabitants. Every single team, engine supplier, driver, designer and mechanic needs to be at their absolute best to survive in what is understood to be the pinnacle of motorsport.
However, without the funds, not even your best is good enough. Even the biggest, most successful teams depend on massive sponsorship deals and sometimes even manufacturer support to keep the ball rolling.
Without big money behind them, most teams were relegated to fighting for their survival instead of positions.
Even in the late 1980s, starting out from nothing and climbing to the top unaided was seen as virtually impossible. Despite this, there was a seemingly unstoppable tidal wave of tiny French, British and predominantly Italian teams looking to reach for the stars after the ban on the expensive, complicated and flat out dangerous turbo engines.
The hopefuls had been attracted by the return of the 1970's 'kit car'-concept: build a chassis, fix some rudimentary bodywork and suspension to it, lease a gearbox from Hewland and a 3.5L V8 from Judd or Cosworth, and go on your merry way off to do some Formula 1.
The start of the 3.5L era saw some very basic designs take part.
More often than not, the new teams were F3000 outfits who simple decided to take it up a notch, sometimes irrespective of a lack of success in lower formulae. For two experienced figures in the world of racing however, this approach was deemed unacceptable.
The dynamic duo consisted of Swiss slot machine magnate Walter Brun and Gianpaolo Pavanello, head of the Euroracing organization. Though very different on face value, the two men shared a common passion: motorsport.
Walter Brun (left) and Gianpaolo Pavanello.
Brun was an accomplished endurance racer who'd taken the 1986 World Sportscar Championship with his private Porsche 962, beating out all the factory teams of Lancia, Nissan, Jaguar, Toyota and Porsche themselves.
The underfunded and underdeveloped Euroracing Alfa Romeos never had a chance.
Pavanello on the other hand had run a successful operation in Formula Three, winning the European title in 1982. The following year, Euroracing was hired to run the ailing Alfa Romeo Formula One team, as the cash-strapped Italian manufacturer was looking to reduce its involvement in the increasingly expensive sport. By 1985, the project had run aground. Cutting their losses, Euroracing moved to Formula 300 for 1987.
The ER188 was a very rough first draft.
Brun and Pavanello elected to combine their forces into the new EuroBrun organization. The outfit planned a debut for the 1988 season, the last in which turbo and atmo cars would share the stage.
Using the kit car-approach, the very basic Cosworth-powered ER188-chassis barely scraped by in the hands of Oscar Larrauri and Stefano Modena. Former Alfa Romeo-driver Eddie Cheever even accused it of simply being a reworked version of the Alfa Romeo 184T he drove four years prior.
With ten failures to finish, nine failures to qualify, five failures to pre-qualify, one non-classified finish and a grand total seven actual finishes in 32 entries, 1988 wasn't exactly considered a success for EuroBrun. A best finish of 11th for Stefano Modeno in Hungary netted the team exactly zero points.
The ER189 never even raced at all.
However, the squad's sophomore season turned out to be even worse. A late start to development and dwindling budget saw EuroBrun downsize to a single entry. Despite a chassis update and a switch to Judd CV V8-power, Swiss driver Gregor Foitek failed to qualify for the first race in Brazil.
More worryingly, he followed up that disappointment by failing to even pre-qualify eleven races in a row. Even the mid-season arrival of the new ER189, clad in an evocative Jägermeister-orange, couldn't turn the tide for Foitek. In his defense, his replacement Oscar Larrauri fared no better, scoring five consecutive DNPQs.
The expenses of turning up at races around the world without every even reaching the grid took their toll on the team during 1989. With Pavanello and the 'Euro' part of EuroBrun leaving the sport altogether, Walter Brun announced an entry in 1990 would not be possible without funds from a major new sponsor.
In the closing stages of 1989, Brun managed to bring good news into the world. Somehow he'd found favor with a wealthy investor in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, though a specific name, company or location associated with the deal wasn't mentioned.
Using the cash injection, Brun set out to rid his team of the kit car-curse which terrorized the bottom of the entry list in Formula One..
A V10 or V12 was the only way to progress according to Walter Brun.
Seeing the switch to multi-cylinder engines by top level teams such as McLaren, Ferrari and Williams in 1989, Walter Brun decided his cars needed more than a cheap and easy V8 to get back on the grid.
With the 45 million Swiss francs worth of UAE-money in his back pocket, Brun travelled to the Styrian mountains of Austria.
As luck would have it, a small team of dedicated engineers in the town of Eisenerz had already been working on a bespoke 3.5L V12 for F1-use since 1987.
The 'Neotech V12' had been commissioned by a firm by the name of Villas-Styria, which - bizarrely - was a producer of wind turbines. The rising popularity of Formula One had apparently convinced the bigwigs at the company to invest in a totally unrelated and very expensive project just to show the world what they were capable of.
The 70-degree design was the work of former BMW F1-engineer Rolf Peter Marlow, partially responsible for the legendary M12/13 four cylinder turbo that won the 1983 title with Nelson Piquet. Assisting Marlow were engineers Harald and Manfred Pehr of parent company Pehr Holding Group.
True to its name, the Neotech sported a novel and unique layout compared to the Ferrari and Lamborghini twelve cylinders already in use in F1. The Vee-angle of 70 degrees was wider than the Ferrari (65) and narrower than the Lamborghini (80), helping to strike a balance between compact dimensions and a low center of gravity.
Rolf Peter Marlow claimed 650 horsepower at 12.400 rpm, thirty more than the Lamborghini 3512 and about on par with the Ferrari 035/5 V12 (660 hp), Renault RS1 V10 (660 hp) and Honda RA109-E V10 (675 hp). The strangest feature however, was where the power was actually coming from.
Like the flat-twelve in the back of the legendary Porsche 917, the Neotech fed its power to the gearbox from the center of the crankcase. In the Porsche's case, this was done because the Type 912-engine was actually a combination of two flat sixes fitted end to end.
In essence then, the Neotech was two V6-engines working in unison. This layout seems to suggest the engine is derived from an existing V6-design, but the exact reasoning behind the unusual power takeoff was never made clear. In any case, the overall design made for an impressively compact and light engine considering its layout.
The V12 was much narrower, slightly shorter and at 137 kg fully dressed even 12 kg lighter than the Cosworth DFR V8. With the potential to rev up to 14.400 rpm, the diminutive Austrian powerhouse packed a real punch.
Impressed with a prototype after a six hour test at dyno specialists AVL, Walter Brun struck a deal for a supply of at least twenty Neotech engines for the 1990 season.
Shortly afterwards, Brun instructed his designer George Ryton to adapt the planned ER190-chassis to the V12's dimensions.
The Neotech V12 was set to double as the powerplant for Brun's new Group C-racer.
Aside from the F1-project, Brun made plans to implement the engine in a new Group C-prototype. His beloved and trusty Porsche 962 had been outlawed for 1991, with the FIA instead mandating 3.5 liter naturally aspirated engines of identical spec to F1.
With Porsche showing no sings of adopting the new regulations, using the Neotech for a car of his own would be the perfect way to recoup his investment.
The mildly modified ER189B was pressed into service when the bottom fell out on Brun's plans.
Sadly, none of these hopeful prospects would be realized. In April of 1990, Walter Brun was forced to admit the dreamed sponsorship money from the UAE would never actually reach his bank account.
Apparently, the unnamed investor had been put off by much higher amounts than he was expecting when the deal was agreed. Without the necessary cash, Brun cancelled the engine deal with Villas-Styria and halted development of the EuroBrun ER190. Instead, the ER189 was pressed into service as a B-spec chassis for a long and troublesome 1990.
With his sportscar program still underway, Brun wanted to know what the Neotech could actually do. To this end, he headed to Austria in March of 1990 to fit one of the three completed prototype engines to a disused Porsche 962C chassis.
With the Neotech-Porsche, Brun completed a short test at the Osterreichring, now known as the Red Bull Ring. The results of the run were never revealed, but Brun elected against using the engine in the C91. Instead, he would once again turn to Judd V8-power.
With both projects effectively canned on their end, Villas-Styria never made an attempt to sell the Neotech engine to other teams in Formula 1, nor the revamped World Sports Prototype Championship. In fact, the innovative V12 would never be seen in active motorsport.
Students of HTL Steyr with one of three Neotech V12s.
Seventeen years after its failed attempt to make the grid, the engine ended up as a research object for students of local technical university HTL Steyr.
In concurrence with the start of the 2007 Formula One season, the university kicked off a case study of the Neotech V12 under the name 'Projekt Formel 1'. Sadly, this was all the engine would ever be: an exotic engineering oddity from a totally unexpected source, made in a bygone era..