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1991-1992 Benetton-Ford B191/191b F1 CarPosted by WindingRoad about 5 years ago
Location: Monte Carlo
(This vehicle is being sold without reserve at the Bonham's auction in Monte Carlo on May 13th. Price reflects auctioneer's estimate.)
Here we are delighted to offer this running-order, on-the-button, impeccably well-presented example of a modern-era 3.5-litre Formula 1 Benetton-Ford dating from the 1991-92 World Championship racing seasons. This individual car provided landmark performances in the careers of three great drivers who campaigned it then...
Three-times Formula 1 World Champion Driver Nelson Piquet completed his last Grand Prix race in it, in the Australian round on the beautiful Adelaide street and parkland circuit at the end of the 1991 season. Present-day Formula 1 TV commentator and highly-respected pundit Martin Brundle drove this self-same car upon his Benetton team debut in the 1992 South African GP, and the great seven-times Formula 1 World Champion Driver Michael Schumacher scored the very first 'podium' finish of his glittering pinnacle-level career using this car, in the 1992 Mexican Grand Prix at Mexico City.
The Benetton Formula 1 team's B191-Ford design for 1991 was master-minded by John Barnard – regarded very much in period with the same kind of admiration more recently accorded to Adrian Newey of Williams, McLaren and Red Bull Racing fame. The Benetton Formula organization consolidated its position as Ford's works partner team during 1991. Exclusively to facilitate its installation within the B191 design, the Series V Ford HB V8 engine was fitted with specially-designed cam covers using a series of lugs on the leading edge which, in conjunction with four corresponding lugs of the cylinder block base, allowed it to be rigidly bolted to the back of the monocoque fuselage.
Chassis 'B191-06' offered here in its updated 1992 'B'-specification form, actually made its racing debut in the 1991 Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring outside Budapest on August 11 that year. Nelson Piquet drove the car, qualifying 11th out of 34 entries on the starting grid but being forced out of the race due to gearbox failure.
Nelson Piquet drove chassis '06' again in the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril on September 22, again having qualified 11th fastest but this time he finished fifth to score World Championship points.
The Spanish Grand Prix followed on September 29 at Barcelona, Nelson Piquet qualifying 10th but finishing 11th after a troubled race. Fortunes then improved for him in the Japanese Grand Prix at the mighty Suzuka on October 20; qualifying '06' 10th and finishing the gruelling race in seventh place.
The Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide on November 3 was to witness Nelson Piquet's swansong Formula 1 appearance. The race was shortened by torrential rain, but Piquet's celebrated wet-weather driving skills surfaced as he was classified fourth after the race had been red-flagged to a halt – earning half points for its well-placed participants.
The Benetton team retained its B191 cars updated into B191B specification for the early 'fly-away' races of the following season, the Ford HB engine having been developed from 1991 Series V specification into pneumatic-valve Series VI form. On March 1, 1992, chassis 'B191B-06' offered here was entrusted to new team driver Martin Brundle for the South African GP at Kyalami. After qualifying the car eighth on the starting grid the Englishman was forced to retire on race day following clutch failure.
On March 22, 1992, chassis '06' was then allocated to the fast-developing young German star driver, Michael Schumacher...
He promptly qualified third fastest of the 30 entries and tore round to score his first-ever Formula 1 'podium' finish, with third place. The car today is liveried in the same specification to this historic race. He then followed up that performance in this now beautifully presented Benetton-Ford by qualifying fifth fastest in it for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, and again finishing third for the second top-three finish of his now legendary Formula 1 career. The car was then retired from active service.
This Benetton B191B is powered by the 72-degree Ford HB V8, bore and stroke dimensions 95.0mm x 61.6mm, cubic capacity 3,494cc. With a compression ratio of 12.0:1 the engine revved to an ear-splitting 13,800rpm and developed a rated 730bhp. This power unit drove through a Benetton-made six-speed gearbox. The moulded carbon-composite construction monocoque chassis weighs just 38kg – 83.7lbs – and carries pushrod-actuated all independent suspension, front and rear. Wheelbase length is 2,880mm – front track width 1818mm and rear track width 1720mm. Fuel tank capacity within the fuselage is 204 litres.
John Barnard, the renowned British design engineer, master-minded such innovative and hugely successful single-seater racing cars as the Indianapolis '500'-dominating Chaparral 2K, the pioneering carbon-composite construction McLaren MP4/1 and MP4/2-family of World Championship-winning machines, the 'paddle-change' Ferraris and these Benettons which so notably projected Michael Schumacher onto the world stage.
Of the Benetton-Ford B191/B191B-series John Barnard would recall: "When it first came out, everyone was jumping up and down about the nose... It was similar in concept to that of the Tyrrell 019 – very swept up at the front to improve the aerodynamics. However, I didn't think it needed the gull-wing arrangement used by Tyrrell, so we built a model and tested in the wind tunnel and it worked well. We had curved mounting pylons, which freed up the middle of the wing and made a more solid mounting point.
"The Benetton team were in a state of flux when I started with them, so I didn't want to do a car that was too way out because we had enough on our plates with everything else. That said, the chassis was interesting; for the most part it was conventionally moulded from the outside, but the front third was moulded from the inside, allowing us to mount things like the pedals directly onto the monocoque without complicated machining. We then bonded a thin aerodynamic skin to the outside.
"The gearbox was transversely mounted and we were going to have a paddle shift – but unfortunately we couldn't handle the software and electrics for it, so we went back to a normal gearshift. I think it was the last car I designed with a gear lever.
"Nelson Piquet took first place in the Canadian Grand Prix of 1991 driving the B191, which was very pleasing. Every car I had designed up to that point had won in its first season – and Piquet maintained that record. I left the team at about that time, so I missed out on Michael Schumacher's arrival, though he did drive my car in the last five races of '91 and the first three of '92..."
It took a good car to replace the highly successful B191/B191B offered here, and Benetton's replacement B192 was designed by another Formula 1 star in the making – the team's new chief engineer, Ross Brawn...
This beautiful 3.5-litre V8-powered Formula 1 car is relatively uncomplicated and easy to run. Its current connoisseur collector has maintained the Benetton in fine fettle via his specialist race preparation company and we recommend it highly to a new owner/driver... With its multiple connections to ten Formula 1 World Championship titles and its significance within the Michael Schumacher story, it is an historic artefact of true stature.