48 years ago… a six-wheeled Formula 1 car won a Grand Prix!

In 1976, Jody Scheckter won the Swedish Grand Prix with the Tyrell P34... a six-wheel single-seater! A first (and last) in the history of Formula 1.

Published on 13/06/2024 à 09:30

Yannis Duval

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48 years ago… a six-wheeled Formula 1 car won a Grand Prix!

Jody Scheckter winner of the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix with the Tyrell P34. ©DPPI

It is without a doubt one of the most unusual cars in history. Formula 1. The Tyrell P34, a car which has the particularity of having six wheels! In 1975, the British team Tyrell was no longer able to play at the forefront; THE Ferrari and McLaren box in another category. Derek Gardner, then technical director at Tyrell, will launch a pretty crazy prototype to try to bring his team back to the top.

His idea is to replace the two front wheels with four small steering casters in order to improve the grip and aerodynamics of the car. “I did some calculations and concluded that if I had a car with four small front wheels, contained within the width of the body, I could reduce the amount of lift normally generated by the front wheels,” noted Derek Gardner.

Tyrell P34

PHOTO: DPPI JODY SCHECKTER (SA) / TYRRELL FORD SIX WHEELS – ACTION

The glory day...

In 1976, the Tyrell P34 made a promising debut, including a double podium in Monaco. It was during the following round, in Sweden, that this atypical single-seater would make history. On the Anderstorp circuit, in Sweden, the two Tyrells of Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler are particularly competitive. During qualifying, the South African driver managed to take an incredible pole position ahead of Mario Andretti's Lotus. His teammate qualified 5th on the grid. Tyrell has never been this good on a weekend since the P34 debuted in competition. It's today or never.

At the start, Andretti took the advantage over Scheckter. The American driver managed the race masterfully and took off little by little. The race is very calm, there is little action on the track except for 3rd place where Depailler tries to keep his position against Chris Amon.

Suddenly, everything accelerated on the 46th lap when Mario Andretti's engine went up in smoke. Jody Scheckter rushes to regain the race lead. The two Tyrells are then 1st and 2nd a few laps from the finish and no one can stop them from signing the double.

After 1h46 of racing, victory for the six-wheeled Tyrell! Patrick Depailler retains his second position and the British team has the perfect weekend: pole position and one-two finish in the race. A page of history has just been written.

…and nothing more

After a very promising start and a victory in Sweden, we thought we could hold on to the new outsiders who will stand up to the monsters Ferrari and McLaren. Unfortunately, the Tyrell P34 will never be satisfactory again; it won a few podiums here and there, in 1976 and 1977, but above all it became a very unreliable car with a lot of mechanical breakdowns.

The project was finally abandoned in 1978. Tyrell returned to a more “standard” single-seater, which was not necessarily more successful…

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Yves-Henri RANDIER

13/06/2024 at 01:54 a.m.

A time when mechanical and aero grip was light years away from modern F1 with cars in controlled drift in the curves! A unique single-seater that the South African recently sold very well at auction...

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