1976 Tyrrell P34 Formula One
The Tyrrell P34 (Project 34), otherwise known as the ‘six-wheeler,’ is the brainchild of Tyrrell’s visionary chief designer, Derek Gardner.
Knowing they would be down on horsepower to the competition, Tyrrell was looking for an “unfair advantage.” That was found in using four specially manufactured 10-inch wheels at the front of the car. Contrary to popular belief, the idea of the smaller front tires was not to reduce drag with a smaller frontal area, but instead it reduces lift. Large, exposed tires create lift. By shielding the smaller tires they could run less downforce on the front wing, equal to a gain of 40-50 horsepower.
This reduction in downforce gave the P34 significant straight line speed, and at one point it was the fastest F1 car in the world. Other benefits arose from the design including a 20% increase in front contact patch, and its four 8” front brakes created a greater swept area on the discs.
The P34 was statistically one of the most successful new F1 cars ever built. The car suffered in its second season due to a lack of tire development from Goodyear. By mid-77 the front tires were significantly slower than the rears. If Goodyear had delivered 10” tires as fast as the rears all F1 cars today might have six-wheels.
Chassis P34/2 was the first all new Tyrrell P34, and one of the six P34 cars built for the 1976/77 Formula 1 seasons. Driven by Patrick Depailler in 1976, the car was not ready until the fourth race of that year. In the final 12 races Chassis 2 had four podium finishes. Its most notable being a 2nd place at the Swedish Grand Prix where the Tyrrell team finished 1-2, taking the only win for a 6-wheel Grand Prix car.
For 1977 the car was upgraded with a new, more aerodynamic body, increased brake cooling, and two oil coolers in the front wing. Chassis 2 was used in two Grand Prix before becoming a test car for the rest of the season.
After its active racing career P34/2 was acquired by The Donington Grand Prix Collection in England, where it remained until 2010, when it was treated to a no expense spared restoration by WDK Motorsport.
The car has since raced competitively in FIA Historic Formula One, as well as at Goodwood and Monaco. For P34/2 to return to racing after 34 years and prove itself successfully against relatively more modern machinery shows the potential the car possessed in its day.
P34/2 currently sits in its 1977 livery and racing configuration.