Arrows A18 Yamaha
The A18 represented a new start for Arrows. It was a brand new car, driven by the reigning champion Damon Hill and designed by a new team of engineers as Tom Walkinshaw took over the operations. At its new base in Leafield (previously at Milton Keynes), Tom Walkinshaw put together a team that could hardly be named as such. It consisted of a group of people that stayed at Arrows, people recruited from various TWR operations, some who had left Ligier with Walkinshaw and other new hires from outside the company altogether.
Soon it became clear that the Frank Dernie designed car was not up to it as it was terribly unreliable. It is said that the required parts were late or unfinished and so that the car was initially fitted with parts the team's designers didn't really want in the first place.
"We didn't want a complex car," says Tom Walkinshaw. "It is conventional but it is also a little bit innovative because the chassis continues over the top of the engine cover structure of the car and goes right back to the gearbox. This means there is a lot more beam strength in the car and it spreads the loads to try and stop - or help reduce - the twisting of the engine from the loads it has to carry."
As everyone was quickly aware of the problems with the car, Walkinshaw reset the team's aspirations mainly to the second half of the season.
"I think we have to aspire to have a car which is capable of finishing in the top three reasonably consistently in the second half of the year. If we can do that there is no reason at all why Damon could not win one or two races. If we didn't have a tyre advantage I wouldn't be saying that we could win races in our first season in Grands Prix. I haven't got stardust in my eyes or rose colored glasses. I'm being very analytical. We have one technical aspect of our car which should give us a significant advantage over the opposition in 25% of the races. It is up to us to put a reliable car under Damon to enable him to take full advantage of that."
His targets were still closer matched than one could have thought before. After 6 consecutive DNF's in the first races of the season, Damon Hill managed to finish his first race of the season at Canada while Diniz saw the checkered flag for the second time that season.
The Canadian GP also marked the departure of Frank Dernie and arrival of John Barnard at the team after he was released from Ferrari. The team managed to finally do some testing and make the car more reliable. Even so that after the Canadian GP, Hill almost finished every race. At silverstone the team adopted a new way of setting up the car and it proved to be a major step forward. Hill managed to get a point and 2 races later even finished second in Hungary. He led the race dominantly for 62 laps thanks to the superior Bridgestone tyres at the hot venue. He would have easily won the first ever race for Arrows had he not suffered a hydraulic problem 3 laps from the finish.
On the engine side, Walkinshaw signed a deal with Yamaha. Their small, no-compromise OX11A engine had been new and impressive at its introduction in 1996 but it proved to be troublesome in terms of reliability. The engine was being prepared by John Judd's Engine Developments company in Rugby, England. As for Arrows one year later, TWR had its own engine departement led by former Cosworth engineer Geoff Goddard.
"We were asked to put some of our designers with Engine Developments and Yamaha to review the engine with them and establish an evolution engine," explains Walkinshaw at the car's launch. "The work is being done by Yamaha in Japan and by Engine Developments. I think we have identified what was going wrong and we are working flat out to remedy that. It's a good light little engine. Probably they went a little too far trying to save weight and that is what caused them some of the problems. So we have put on a little bit of weight and I think that should solve a lot of the problems. There is a huge effort going on in Japan and at Engine Developments to improve the engine and the performance but an engine is not an easy thing to change. There are long lead-time items. We will be doing three stages of evolution in the course of the year. The first evolution engine will test just before Melbourne. That will have all the modifications designed for reliability and that should be run in Melbourne. We will have the first major evolution for Imola, which will be a performance improvement and it is planned that we should have a further performance boost by the British GP."
Frank Dernie added: "It's a conventional car but it is all new, although we have got something on the car which no-one has ever done before. That was my idea. The engines have got lower and lower. That is good because it gives the car a lower centre of gravity. That also means that the top engine mounts end up being halfway up the chassis rather than in each corner. I decided to make the top section of the rear bodywork structural. If you look at it is an obvious thing to do so I decided to do it. Obviously the smaller the engine is in section the less stiff it will be and the more it will twist in the chassis. When you are building an engine it is very difficult to know how stiff is stiff enough. I thought that if we built a cantilever at the top and attached the engine to it that would make the package stiffer and reduce the twisting and at the same time would take a lot of the loading out of the engine which will hopefully mean that the engine will be able to produce more horsepower."
"The car was designed in the Arrows windtunnel as it was - although we did do some modifications to the facility so that we could run the tunnel faster than it had been run in the past. We are now upgrading the tunnel in terms of the instrumentation which will bring it right up to state-of-the-art performance. We bought all the new equipment and it arrived about six weeks ago but we felt we should not install it because it would have required the tunnel to be stripped out and we would have to have stopped work on the A18 and so we finished the car with the old equipment. That has all been ripped out now and the new equipment is going in now. We've got three people in the aerodynamics department Simon Jennings and Eric Lacotte having been joined by a new guy from Bristol University."
We have done all the composite work in-house at Leafield. WE have our own brand new composite shop which is really a superb facility so we have down pretty well all the stuff ourselves. We do have access to Tom's Astec composite company in Derby - which is part of the TWR Group. Tom owns it but we tend to treat that like any other sub-contractor. They have helped us with bits and pieces but it is a separate company.
"We are going to have a completely new team of race engineers in 1997. Allen McDonald (who engineered Jos Verstappen last year) has gone to the PacWest Indycar team and Rod Nelson (who worked with Ricardo Rosset) has moved to Benetton. We have hired Vincent Gaillardot from Renault. He is going to be Damon's chief race engineer. He worked with Damon as a motor engineer when they were together in the Williams test team back in 1991 and 1992 and Vincent has worked as a motor engineer with Renault ever since but he started out as a chassis engineer with ORECA and DAMS in Formula 3 and Formula 3000 so he will be able to do the chassis work while also being able to understand what is going on with the engine."
"The other race engineer will be Steve Clark, who worked with Pedro Diniz at Ligier and has been working on the Bridgestone development programme in recent months."
Front suspension: Double wishbones, pushrod
Gearbox: Arrows/Xtrac six-speed longitudinal semi-automatic
Wheelbase: 118.1 in/3000 mm
Designation: Yamaha OX11A/C and OX11A/D
Cars of 2013