We are all aware of the Tyrrell P34 six wheeler, which raced for two seasons in the Formula One and even won races. Probably the most of you remember the Williams FW07C and the FW08D from the early 80s. Similar to the March 2-4-0, and some of you recall the Ferrari 312T6, Ferrari’s six wheeler tested by Niki Lauda. However, are you aware of the Fittipaldi six wheeler that was originally planned for 1978?
To be fair, neither did I know that a Fittipaldi six wheeler was planned to start with. Only a few days ago a follower on twitter told me about it. You can read that little conversation over here. So what is the story about it? Well it was hard to uncover information about this project. So this is what I could uncover about it.
A bit of history, in 1976 Fittipaldi Automotive, better known as Copersucar Fittipaldi, the team scored their first points in the Formula One as constructor. The FD03 and the FD04 were good for three points, in the hands of Emerson Fittipaldi. For 1977, the team would appear with an updated FD04 and the newly designed F5 by Giacomo Caliri, which showed to be a game changer. The information I could uncover is that the Fittipaldi Six Wheeler would be based on the Fittipaldi F5.
The story goes that Wilson Fittipaldi considered the idea to appear on the grid in 1978 with a Fittipaldi six wheeler. Not that strange to think of, as Tyrrell booked some great success with their P34. As well Ferrari and March testing their own six-wheeler concepts. There were more teams rumoured to work or at least have a study for the six-wheeler concept. Any way Wilson Fittipaldi is said to have asked Shahab Ahmed if he could design this Fittipaldi six wheeler.
Shahab worked for several Formula One teams between 1970 and 1979. Oldracecars.com states that he worked for Tyrrell, Surtees and Ensign Team during the 1970s. As well with the Fittipaldi team. His last design would have been the Ensign N179 in 1979.
While a photo circulates on the internet of a Fittipaldi six wheeler, which is a Photoshop made by a Fittipaldi fan. The Six wheeler would not be based on the FD04 though rather on the FD05. The story goes that Shahab moved to Sao Paulo in 1976 to work, in all secret, on the six-wheeler. As he worked with Derek Gardner, the brains behind the P34, for Tyrrell he was known with the concept and what was needed to design such a car. As said the original plan was to appear with the car in 1978 on the grid.
There are a few theories about the Fittipaldi six wheeler. Some state that the design was similar to the Tyrrell P34. With four smaller front wheels. Another theory is that the design would been similar to the March 2-4-0. However, it is more plausible that they would use the Tyrrell concept for the car.
While Shahab quietly designed the Fittipaldi six wheeler during the 1977 season the FIA would implement some new rules in the Formula One that would reduce the use of the six wheelers. This would eventually resolve in the cancellation the project. It is said that Shahab completed or nearly completed the design. As well, rumours stated in an old article that the team was already looking to manufacture some of the parts for the car.
Whatever the whereabouts are of the blueprints of the Fittipaldi six wheeler is unknown. Most likely Shahab, who lives now in the UK at the age of 84, still has the design of the car. It could also be that the designs are in the archive of the Fittipaldi’s. Hopefully one day the design will appear on the web!
Eventually Fittipaldi Automotive would experience their best season in 1978 with a second place during the Brazilian Grand Prix. In addition, several 4th and 5th places during the season. The team would end up seventh in the teams’ championship with 17 points.