Eifelland

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Last updated: 17-August-2003


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• Caravans the basis of Henerici and Stommelen's F1 tilt
Chief editor of the 8W web-site Mattijs Diepraam once wrote, "The first metaphysical law of race car design reads thus: 'If it looks right, it will go fast.'" But then again, beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder. Over the years, in the search for The Unfair Advantage, Formula One designers have often resorted to the unconventional. Some will love the look of it, others will hate it, but in the end it's the pragmatic effectiveness that matters. There's no point winning the beauty contest if you can't bring home the bacon on the track.

Before the more tightly-controlled regulations of the 1980s and beyond, the 1970s were the decade when teams came up with the weird and the wonderful, the lovely and the not-so-lovely, the ingenious and the insane. For example, there was the March 711 with its 'dinner plate' front wing. Gigantic airboxes appeared behind the driver's head from 1973 to early 1976. Tyrrell showed up with its P34 six-wheeler. Brabham developed the BT46B 'fan car' in 1978. Lotus discovered skirts and ground effects. And to top it off, the futuristic Arrows A2 'buzz-bomb' of 1979 looked like it had come straight out of NASA.

But tucked away in the annals of unorthodoxy, confined to the isolation ward, was the Eifelland Type 21 of 1972. As many readers might realise, the Eifelland Wohnwagenbau company has been a well-known caravan manufacturer in Germany for several decades. In 1970, the man in charge of this profitable business was Günther Henerici, who thought he would put his money to good use and began sponsoring F2 and F3 teams, as well as backing up-and-coming German racer Rolf Stommelen, an established and versatile sportscar driver who had put in some promising drives in F1 in 1970 and 1971.

After an unfulfilling season at Surtees in 1971, Henerici decided to use his Eifelland sponsorship to run a concerted tilt for Stommelen for 1972. But what about a chassis? After attempts to commission a design from Austrian Jo Karasek fell through, Henerici and his team manager Heinz Koblitschek were advised to approach Swiss designer Luigi Colani. Although the Swiss have a reputation more for being staid than stylish, Colani must have been the exception. A self-proclaimed visionary who thought that curves were the natural way of life, he became the guru for designing all things round.

Luigi Colani, Swiss design guru: "My world is round!" Luigi Colani, Swiss design guru: My world is round!
• Design virtuoso creating the music of the spheres
Let us sample Colani's philosophy: "The earth is round, all the heavenly bodies are round; they all move on round or elliptical orbits. This same image of circular globe-shaped mini worlds orbiting around each other follows us right down to the microcosmos. We are even aroused by round forms in species propagation related eroticism. Why should I join the straying mass who want to make everything angular? I am going to pursue Galileo Galilei's philosophy: my world is also round." Enough said. Perhaps that explains his curly hair and moustache? But we digress ...

Over the years, he has penned Fiats, the Colani Alfa (the first sports car to lap the old Nurburgring in under 10 minutes), the BMW 700 (the first monocoque sports car), the Colani GT kit car (of which 1700 were made), and most recently the Mazda Miata MX-5. Apart from that, he has designed racing catamarans, furniture, a teapot called 'Drop', a plastic sports aeroplane, the Canon T-90 camera, pens, Sony headphones, Swissair uniforms, frames, jewellery, a computer mouse, cosmetics, glasses, computers, pianos, microscopes, and even bathroom showers. All with hardly a straight line to be seen!

So, back in 1972, Colani turned his mind to F1 bodywork design, guided more by sci-fi and instinct than technical know-how. What he conjured up was something to behold. It featured a spectacular, swooping one-piece rear wing, a one-piece cockpit incorporating an airbox at the front, and an imaginative, all-embracing one-piece front wing with additional cooling ducts. But, most noticeably, sticking out like a sore thumb was a one-piece (yes, there seems to be a trend here ...) periscope-inspired mirror rising up smack-bang in front of the cockpit.

Inspired aerodynamics or flawed fantasy? Well, in truth, that was just the bodywork; beneath the skin lay a rather uncharming beast. In actual fact, it was a March 721 with a Cosworth V8 and Goodyear tyres, which had been produced for the works March team and for their customers, Henerici's Eifelland team and none other than Frank Williams. Quite early on, works drivers Ronnie Peterson and Niki Lauda discovered that the 721 was hopeless, and not as good as the previous 711. The revised 721X was even worse, and subsequently the more basic 721G didn't improve their fortunes much either.

The pre-season Eifelland with its sail-like one-curve rear-wing. The pre-season Eifelland with its sail-like one-curve rear-wing.
• The bodywork normalised - but the periscope remained
Nevertheless, when the Eifelland was launched unusually in front of the German tabloid press, Colani strutted his stuff, proclaiming that other designs knew nothing about aerodynamics. But while in initial tests the car proved fast, it became apparent that it was Colani's design that was not generating enough downforce. Franco Varani tells us that the front and rear wings were also causing overheating problems. Functionality quickly took over, and when the Eifelland Type 21 appeared at the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, it was sprouting a conventional rear wing and a less-encasing front wing.

The Race of Champions featured both F1 and F5000 machines, and Stommelen qualified 12th in the field of 19, but finished 11th, a lap down, behind even Alan Rollinson's F5000 Lola. There was now no question of experimenting with the extravagant bodywork any longer. But as the year went on, and slowly all that remained of Colani's original flight of fancy was the cockpit bodywork and the periscope mirror, the Eifelland showed that it could occasionally give the works March drivers a run for their money. That was not entirely surprising, given that Lauda described the March 721X as the worst car he ever drove.

When the Eifelland turned up in South Africa for the second round of the 1972 World Championship in its all-white livery, gone was any trace of Colani's original front wing, and in its place the March 711-style tea-tray. No doubt that would have brought Colani to the verge of apoplexy, but in a solid performance Stommelen qualified the car in 25th place, 3.4 seconds off Jackie Stewart's pole time but only 1.5 seconds behind Lauda's works 721, and 1.4s and 0.1s respectively behind the Williams-run Marches of Henri Pescarolo and Carlos Pace. The German finished, too, in 13th place, 2 laps down.

But come Jarama for the Spanish GP, the Eifelland now featured a predominantly blue colour scheme, a single-plane rear wing, additional small side-pods, and a chisel-style nosecone with small front wings, and it would be in this configuration that the Type 21 competed for the rest of its season. Jacky Ickx took pole in his Ferrari, with Stommelen a respectable 17th and 2.61s away, just behind Pace but ahead of Pescarolo and clearly ahead of Lauda, who was 25th and bog last. But an accident put the Eifelland out after just 15 laps when it had moved up to 16th position.

The Eifelland appeared in Kyalami with a tea-tray front wing! The Eifelland appeared in Kyalami with a tea-tray front wing!
• Couple of top-10 finishes before the moolah dries up
At Monaco, the Type 21's handling deficiencies meant that Stommelen was 25th and last of the entrants, a full 8.1 seconds off the pace set by Emerson Fittipaldi's Lotus. But in a race remembered for Jean-Pierre Beltoise's surprise maiden win in the atrocious rain, Rolf came home 10th, 3 laps adrift, but ahead of both works machines. The team then backed up this encouraging performance at Nivelles for the Belgian GP, where Stommelen started 20th (once again ahead of Lauda who was last) and finished 11th and 2 laps down, but on the same lap as Peterson who was 9th.

Then at the daunting 8km Clermont-Ferrand track in France, Stommelen continued to impress, qualifying 15th having recorded the same time as Patrick Depailler's Tyrrell. A pit stop for a puncture saw him drop to an eventual 16th, a lap down, but that wasn't too shabby in view of the next round at Brands Hatch, where the Eifelland started 25th out of 26, and came home 10th but a massive 5 laps behind Fittipaldi's victorious Lotus. The Nurburgring then saw the Eifelland's first mechanical failure, when electrical problems ended Stommelen's run after 6 of the 14 laps, after Rolf had started an excellent 14th.

But trouble was brewing in the background. Henerici's heavy investment had not reaped any tangible rewards, and in turn he sold the caravan business to someone with no interest in racing whatsoever. The funds to run the team were beginning to dry up. The motley crew with the funny cockpit bodywork and weird periscope mirror still went to Austria under the 'Team Stommelen' banner, where Rolf qualified 17th. After a pit stop to make bodywork alterations, he had completed 48 of the 54 laps when he stopped with engine problems, teetering of the brink of being classified 15th.

There were still three rounds of the championship still to run, but with no money and no interest from the new boss, the team forfeited the rest of the year, and the imaginative Type 21 experiment was seen no more, relegated to the history books. At the same time as the F1 effort, Eifelland had also run Type 23 F3 cars based on the March 723, but these were sold and appeared as late as 1974 and 1975, when badged as Rheinlands. The infrastructure of the team was passed to Hexagon Racing which subsequently competed in a number of non-championship events.

Brands Hatch saw Stommelen qualify second last and finish 5 laps down. Brands Hatch saw Stommelen qualify second last and finish 5 laps down.

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