Monthly Archives: August 2012

McLaren’s Porsche-designed, TAG-Turbo engine, 1983-1987, an annotated bibliography

Annotated bibliography for the TAG-Turbo engine that Porsche designed for the McLaren Formula 1 team. TAG put up the money for the design work, Porsche were subcontractors. McLaren/Project 4 engineer John Barnard specified what he wanted and explored tradeoffs with Porsche, but he was the customer and they had to make him happy. The result was an engine that won three world championships in the 4 years and a bit that it was used. Won a crushing 12 of 16 races in one year. Delivered dependable power and to the decimal point fuel economy. And might have been a contender in a 5th year if the Honda of similar size hadn’t come with Ayrton Senna, as a package.

 The Autocourse History of the Grand Prix Car 1966-91 /116618Ae by Doug Nye
This is the best single reference I’ve found. Nye’s encyclopedic followup to Setrights’s earlier “History of the Grand Prix Car” volumes is technical journalism at its best. He give the year by year narrative, but also digs deep for topics like “The Remarkable Mclaren TAG Turbo MP4/2s 1984-86” From pages 148 to 159, and “TAG Turbo” in the “Racing Engines” run down, all of page 214 and 3 lines on 215. If you’re limited to one book, this is it.

 The Anatomy and Development of the Formula 1 Racing Car from 1975 by Sal Incandela
Incandela has the nuts and bolts stories a gearhead wants with almost as much detail as Nye, and both different biases and possibly different sources. The narrative history for 1984-86, pages 49 to 84, includes 10 items important enough to be indexed under “Porsche”. 9 other entries, in other parts of the book, are also indexed “Porsche”. The McLaren TAG MP4/2s don’t get a detailed run down, but he covers the Renault RE-20 and Brabham-BMW BT-52 in some depth, for perspective. Besides photos, this book includes useful, detailed, black and white line drawings from the Italian motoring press.
My copy is the third edition, presumably some material was added or revised.

 Turbo Years: Grand Prix Racing’s Battle for Power by Alan Henry
Henry has a regular job covering Formula 1 races for the automotive press. In this book he puts together an overall narrative of how engine technology and engine related politics changed F1. Its a nice perspective if you’re particularly interested in one engine or another, since the engines, and the cars, are the center of the story. Drivers, teams, sponsors, FOCA vs FIA, all secondary. The text is presented in chapter-per-season, and he doubtless uses his own practice and race-day coverage as a starting point, but the engine story gets more than typical weight. Chapters “1984”, “1985” and “1986” are pages 164-232.

Here’s the gold standard of race-by-race, season-by-season Formula 1 coverage. Not cheap when new, this is for the hardcore fan, with ads by car makers, car part makers fuel and oil companies… The season’s winner writes the introduction each year, So Lauda gets his third and last, and he, in an MP4/2, is the front cover photo. Broad drivers, cars, teams, engines and technology coverage. Everything from soap opera to lock-washers may be covered. For the engines topic, page 33 has tables of publicly known specs on every engine used that season, to compare and contrast. Doug Nye has a technical run-down on pages 44, 45 and 46. The treat is independent engine maker Brian Hart writing about racing engines, pages 62-64,68 and 72. 2 page photo spread of a TAG Turbo in or near racing condition, not a car show prop, on pages 62 and 63.

 AUTOCOURSE 1985-86 by Maurice (Editor) Williams
And here’s a second year of the gold standard. Alain Prost gets to write his first introduction. The engine spec tables are on page 34. A lovely exploded view of the MP4/2B on Page 46. Lots of story / trivia / blow-by-blow description for each race too. Something to take notes on while you read.

 AUTOCOURSE 1986-87 by Motorbooks International
Here’s Prof. Prost’s second championship year, on the trot after his first. That’s some rare talent, and having a great engine, great team and well understood car doesn’t hurt. Only Michael Shoemacher has exceeded Prost’s total of 41 F1 victories, with Ayrton Senna in 3rd place with 31, Lauda tying Stewart tying Clark at 27. I don’t have this volume myself, after the two previous years’ coverage, I didn’t really need to add more information. But if you’re shopping, this is definitely one to be interested in. People put crazy prices on these books – if you can get 1984 for $250 and 1986 for $25 you’d be foolish not to go for 1986.

 The new Formula One: A turbo age by Niki Lauda
Now we’re at the “interesting” rather than “required” titles – Niki Lauda wrote this book before the 1984 season, so he knew what he was talking about, but the really interesting stuff for the TAG Turbo fan hadn’t happened yet. The chapter on engines goes from page 66 to page 128 and discusses turbo and “atmo” engines up to the break between the 1983 and 1984 season. Its a wide ranging discussion at the most fascinating level – a world famous racing and development driver covering technicalities, personalities and companies he knows well. And hopes to show himself the best user of. No-one could have forecast the fairy-tale season he and Prost were about to have. Or the convergence of rotten luck, for Lauda, that would follow in his final year.

 McLaren: Grand Prix, Can-Am and Indy Cars by Doug Nye
This is a useful and business-like book, and if your interest in McLaren ends in 1983, everything you need is here. So the TAG Turbo is covered, in the MP4/1e development form. Like Lauda’s book, this one wraps up just BEFORE the amazing 1984 season. The longest and most thorough McLaren corporate evolution coverage is here, really important because John Barnard was a principal of Project4 and came on board at McLaren when McLaren Cars and Project 4 merged as McLaren International. With car’s named “MP4” as in McLaren / Project 4. So the development story is here, again. But given that you’ve read Nye’s, “History of the Grand Prix Car” and possibly the 1984 Autocourse, you may start noticing repetition.