Life Racing Engines

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Life Racing Engines

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:37 pm

Life was a Formula One constructor from Modena, Italy. The company was named for its founder, Ernesto Vita ("Vita" is Italian for "Life").[1] Life first emerged on the Formula One scene in 1990, trying to market their unconventional W12 3.5-litre engine.[1]
The team had a disastrous single season,[1] and failed to make the grid in all 14 attempted starts during the 1990 season, often clocking in laps many seconds slower than their next competitor.


The W12 adventure

Life's W12 machine had been designed by the former Ferrari engineer Franco Rocchi,[1] who had been responsible for, among others, Ferrari's famous 3-litre V8 for the 1970s 308 GTB and GTS. Rocchi's W12 plans dated back to a 1967 single-module W3 of 500cc as a prototype for a 3-litre W18 Ferrari engine of a planned 480 hp.[1] After his dismissal in 1980, Rocchi worked privately on an engine in a W12 configuration.

According to his concept, the engine had three banks of four cylinders; hence it was short like a V8 but taller than a regular V-banked engine. In France, Guy Nègre from Moteurs Guy Nègre worked on a similar machine that saw the light of day in 1989 before being tested privately in an out-dated AGS JH22, chassis. Apart from the W12 configuration, both engines bore no other similarities, nor were there any links between their designers.
Franco Rocchi's W12 was ready in the first half of the 1989 Formula One season. It was the time when turbocharged engines were no longer legal in Formula One and the rules required a normally aspirated motor. New engine manufacturers entered Formula One (such as Ilmor, Judd and Yamaha), and new ideas broke through. Carlo Chiti's Motori Moderni unsuccessfully tried to revive flat-12 engines, badged as Subarus and used by the Coloni team, whilst Renault and Honda developed V10 engines, used successfully by Williams and McLaren.
In this situation, the Italian businessman Vita hoped for fast money. He bought the rights to the W12 from Franco Rocchi and tried to supply the engine to a well-funded Formula One team. During 1989, he searched for a partner without any success. Finally, he gave up his search and decided to run the engine on his own in the 1990 Formula One season.



An old chassis

Therefore, he founded the "Life"-Team, life being the English translation of his family name. The team's headquarters were originally split between the technical offices in Reggio Emilia, and the factory in Formigine, near Modena, then regrouped under the same roof in Formigine. While not having state of the art facilities, the factory was equipped with a "Borghi e Severi" dyno bench and related AVL datalogging computers, which was used for the development of the W12 motor, standard toolshop machines, and a warehouse. Life was not able to build a car on its own. Instead, the team bought the still-born Formula One chassis from First Racing that had been designed by Richard Divila for Lamberto Leoni´s Formula 3000 team. The car had been built up by January 1989 but the promising project was abandoned soon after an initial test with Gabriele Tarquini had taken place. In late 1989, Vita purchased the single chassis and fitted his W12 engine. The major engineering work had been done by Gianni Marelli, another former Ferrari man. The car - now dubbed Life L190 - was ready by February 1990, and tested briefly at Vallelunga and Monza.



1990 Season

When the new season came,the team had one chassis, one engine, and few if any spare parts. The W12 turned out to be the least powerful engine of the year: its output was 480 hp while others produced 600 to 700 hp. At the same time, the ex-First L190 chassis was one of the heaviest cars in the field at 530 kg. Handling was bad and reliability was poor. As a result, the Life was no faster than a Formula 3 car. Even in Formula 3000, it would have been outclassed.[citation needed]
Initially Sir Jack Brabham's son Gary Brabham was signed to drive but when he failed to pre-qualify twice he left the team for good. In the second of his two races the car coasted to a halt after 400 yards with the mechanics on strike revealing they never put oil in the engine.[citation needed] Bruno Giacomelli, an Italian veteran who had last raced in Formula One in 1983, was then signed by the team. The car never managed to run more than eight laps without technical problems. At 1990 San Marino Grand Prix Giacomelli said that he was scared he might be struck from behind as his car was so slow. For the Portuguese Grand Prix, the team replaced their own engine with a more conventional Judd CV V8, but then found that the engine cover did not fit; it flew off the car on its first lap of Estoril.[citation needed] They withdrew before the final two Grands Prix.


After F1

The single Life L190 was fully restored in 2009 and ran at the 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed with its original W12 engine back in place. The picture shows Arturo Merzario driving the car. Currently the car is owned by a well-known car tuner from Emilia.

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Re: Life Racing Engines

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:38 pm

Life L190 the horror descendant of FIRST F1 effort

In the pantheon of F1 team infamy, outfits like Andrea Moda earn pride of place for their antics on and off the track, and MasterCard Lola for their diabolical and ill-fated rush-job to get onto the 1997 entry list. But when it comes to sheer embarrassment value and pointlessly uncompetitive ineptitude, nothing in recent times can hold a candle to the Life Racing Engines team from Modena in Italy, the brainchild of Ernesto Vita, from whose surname the team's title was derived. Their one-off season in 1990 goes down as perhaps the most outrageously pathetic on record. Actually, Life's life story goes back to the 1988-89 off-season. At that time, the FIRST team run by ex-F1 driver Lamberto Leoni, which campaigned quite successfully in F3000 with drivers such as Pierluigi Martini and Marco Apicella, had intended to enter F1. They put together an engine deal to run Judd motors, and commissioned a chassis design. The experienced Brazilian Richard Divila drew up an initial layout based around the somewhat diminutive dimensions of Martini and Apicella, and the March 88B they had been piloting in F3000.

But since Divila was soon off to the Ligier F1 team for 1989 anyway, and the March 88B had some fundamental design problems, the final design of the FIRST chassis was subcontracted out to a Milan design studio where it was handled by an ex-Ferrari and Zakspeed engineer. Gabriele Tarquini had been signed to drive the car, and by the end of 1988 the initial FIRST machine was built, in time for a run at the Attilio Bettega Memorial events. These were the annual show-races held in memory of the late rally ace, in conjunction with the Bologna Motor Show. The whole effort was under-financed and it showed. When Divila had a look at the finished product, he was alarmed by the gearbox castings, some serious flaws on the suspension pick-up points, a chassis mould that had clearly been overcooked, and a steering column that was downright unsafe. In his own words, the car was good for nothing other than as an "interesting flowerpot". He told the FIRST team management that the car was a time-bomb, warned prospective drivers against stepping into it, and took legal action to stop his name from being mentioned in connection with the deathtrap.

Brabham and the W12 don't last long in Phoenix

Divila was soon to be proved utterly correct when the FIRST failed the FIA's compulsory crash test and was not allowed to compete in the 1989 World Championship. But to the Brazilian's horror, come 1990 Vita's Life Racing Engines team appeared on the entry list, with Australian Gary Brabham as the driver, and a deal to use Goodyear tyres. More to the point, the old FIRST chassis was now dubbed the Life L190 and was modified to take the team's in-house W12 engine, as Ben Lowe has reminded us, meaning that Life had joined Ferrari as the only teams with their own chassis and engine. A W12 engine? Instead of two rows of 6 cylinders, the Franco Rocchi-designed Life F35 motor (with a badge that looked suspiciously like an upturned Ferrari logo) had three rows of four cylinders in what was known as an arrow-engine design. Potentially this could make the engine as compact as a V8 whilst generating the power of a V12. That was the concept, at least; and on paper it is an idea much admired by engine designers. Indeed, as Tom Prankerd tells us, the main emphasis of the whole Life effort was to showcase the engine so that some major team would decide to take it on.

The Life L190 featured extra air intakes on either side of the driver's shoulders, distinctly low side-pods, and particularly shallow cockpit sides that left the driver horribly exposed. In other words, it was still as unsafe as the old FIRST had been, and Divila actually warned Brabham about the dangers of driving it, especially since the W12 could theoretically push the car up to 220kph. A not insubstantial figure, especially if you were to have an accident or a mechanical breakage at that speed, but feeble by F1 standards. And that rather summed up the Life effort: a slow car with the fragility of tissue paper. And so it proved. As 1990 dragged on, Life never had any more than one chassis and two W12 engines, and hardly any spares. The car never managed more than a lap or two, if that, before something broke. At Phoenix for the season opener, Brabham recorded a time of 2:07.147 in pre-qualifying after a misfire in the engine, although Bertrand Gachot in the equally raw Coloni-Subaru had a time of over five minutes next to his name! The Aussie was almost 30 seconds behind the next slowest pre-qualifier, Claudio Langes' EuroBrun, and almost 38 seconds slower than the eventual pole time.

Giacomelli and Judd can't save sinking ship

In Brazil, Brabham was forced to park the Life having driven no more than 400 metres out of the pits, and recorded no time. That was enough as far as he was concerned, and he did the wise thing and left the sinking ship. In came jovial Italian Bruno Giacomelli, the former works Alfa Romeo F1 driver who had been in the wilderness for several years, but who was testing for the Leyton House team in 1990, and was happy to waste some race weekends trying to coax the Life along. Rumours had it Franco Scapini was part of the farce too, as Life's 'official test and reserve driver'. He may even have driven the car once, at Monza. With Giacomelli at the wheel, the Life staggered on from race to race with no sign of improvement. At Imola, he was timed at 7:16.212, a mere 424 seconds off the eventual pole time. Monaco was slightly more promising, Bruno's time of 1:41.187 only 13 seconds off pre-qualifying pace, but in Canada he was over 20 seconds away from the slowest pre-qualifer. Then in Mexico he found himself crawling around the Hermanos Rodriguez track in a time of 4:07.475, before stopping on the track in France on his out-lap and failing to record a time.

These startling performances got little better. There was yet again a small ray of hope at Silverstone when the car was only 14 seconds off the time set by Olivier Grouillard's Osella, the fourth fastest pre-qualifer, but in Germany Giacomelli's time of 2:10.786 meant that he drifted back out to over 20 seconds off pre-qualifying pace, let alone qualifying speed. After being 18 seconds away from pre-qualifying in Hungary, the car was 20 seconds off in Belgium and over 27 at home in Italy. Rumours were rife that the team was ready to ditch the awful W12 experiment. When the team showed up in Portugal they indeed had a Judd V8, but to no-one's surprise for this amateurish outfit, now the engine cover wouldn't fit. Giacomelli recorded an automatic DNPQ by not participating in pre-qualifying. When the car did get on track in Spain, it was still 18 seconds off pre-qualifying pace, and the team wisely didn't make the trip to Japan and Australia. All it could do was pull out of F1, the W12 engine having caught nobody's eye for the right reasons, and with few taking much notice of them any more. And perhaps thankfully, we have never heard of Life Racing Engines ever again.

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