Gulf Mirage 1968
GBRACING CARS FROM THE SIXTIES
When Ford of America decided to transfer manufacture of their Sports/ Prototype cars to America the plant at Slough in England was sold to J. W. Automotive Engineering, a company formed by John Wyer and John Willme nt, hence the initials. Wyer, the former Aston Martin team manager and manager of the Slough project was given the opportunity to buy the premises, together with a licence to build and maintain both road and racing Ford GT 40s, and was joined by Willment, a large Ford distributor who had previously run a big racing team in Britain.
As well as continuing to build the road going Mkl and MkIII GT40s, J.W. also sold racing versions to private owners and ran their own team. It soon became obvious that the standard GT 40 was uncompetitive with the big factory 7-litre MkII Fords and in an effort to get on terms with the Fords, not to mention the P3 Ferraris and Porsche 907S John Wyer built a very lightweight version of the G T 40 for the 1967 season powered by a 5.7-litre Ford V8 engine instead of the standard 4.7. This car was called the Mirage-Ford and differed from the GT 40 externally by having a very narrow roof section. This car was moderately successful, winning the Spa 1000 Kms race, but the bombshell dropped by the CSI for the 1968 season, when they lowered the engine capacity limit of Prototypes to 3 litres, spelled the end of the Mirage and the team cars were converted back to GT 40 specification to run as 5-litre Group 4 cars which were allowed under the 1968 rules.
Although angered by the short notice given by the CSI John Wyer commissioned Len Terry the former Lotus chief designer to design a new car to be powered by the 3-litre BRM engine. This was ready during the latter part of the 1968 season but by then the J. W. team were having such success with the 5-litre GT 40s, eventually winning the Championship, that the Mirage project was not pursued too seriously. Unfortunately for 1969 the CSI made further changes to Group 6 racing affecting the cockpit width, fuel tankage and all up weight which meant that the Mirage was out of date without turning a wheel in anger. Nevertheless the team persevered, reducing the weight where possible but in testing it was soon discovered that the V 12 BRM engine was nowhere near as powerful as was hoped, although a more powerful 4 valve per cylinder unit was in the pipeline. However, BRM were having considerable trouble in developing this unit and delivery was postponed frequently, the first 4-valve unit being delivered in late July 1969, too late for the season. The J. W. team had anticipated this delay and had ordered a V8 Cosworth Ford engine to fit into a modified chassis but this was not ready until June so the team carried on with their amazingly successful Gulf sponsored GT40s. .
The first run for the 375bhp two valve per cylinder BRM engined Mirage was at the Daytona 24-hour race where David Hobbs tested it for a considerable period but it was decided not to race it. The next outing was at the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch where it never got above seventh place in the hands of Jackie Ickx and Jackie Oliver before breaking a drive shaft and retiring. Two cars appeared at the Spa 1000 Kms but the Ickx/Oliver car retired with fuel starvation and the Hobbs/Hailwood car finished seventh, but neither car was handling well. The new Ford-engined Mirage appeared at the Nurburgring 1000 Kms race along with the BRM engined version fitted with four valve heads on loan from BRM, but neither car was particularly fast, the Ford engined car retiring with a broken wishbone and the BRM car with no fuel pressure. For the Watkins Glen 6-hour race the J.W. team took a single Ford engined car, having given up hope of receiving the BRM engines. The Ford car was considerably lightened by cutting off the roof and turning it into an open car but it was plagued by trouble and retired in the race with a broken engine. In the Austrian GP which concluded the Championship the open car led the race for a long while but eventually retired.
The chassis of the M2/300 BRM engined car and the M3/300 Ford engined car are basically identical, having an aluminium alloy central monocoque section with a tubular steel sub frame at the rear to carry the engine. The fuel tanks are carried in the side pontoons of the monocoque chassis, holding a total of 26t gallons. Front suspension is by double wishbones and coil spring/damp~r units and at the rear by single top links, lower parallel links and double radius arms. Steering is, by rack and. pinion and braking is by 11.95in Girling ventilated discs on all four wheels.
The V 12 BRM engine has a bore and stroke of 73.81mm x 57.15mm for a capacity of 2,999.5cc. With two valves per cylinder operated by four overhead chain driven camshafts and an 11.5 : I compression ratio the engine is claimed to give between 375 and 390bhp. With four valves per cylinder the output is claimed as 450bhp. The BRM engine drives through a German ZF' five-speed all synchromesh gearbox.
The Cosworth Ford V8 used by the J.W. team is exactly the same as that used by the Formula I teams except that the engine is not used as a stressed part of the chassis but is fitted into the tubular subframe. The V8 has a bore and stroke of 85.6mm x 64.8mm for a capacity of 2,995cc. The four overhead camshafts are chain driven and on Lucas fuel injection with a compression ratio of II : I the 1969 series 9 engine with modified exhaust system gives 430bhp at lo,ooorpm. The Ford engine drives through a Hewland DG300 gearbox.
More Le Mans Cars from the 60ies onwards
wheelbase 7ft 10 ins
front track 4 ft 10 ins
rear track 4 ft 9.5 ins
height 3 ft 1.5 ins