|Configuration||flat 180º Boxer|
|Number of cylinders||12|
|Number of valves||60|
(213.4 cu. in.)
|Horsepower||> 620 @ 12,500 rpm|
|Ignition||double Magneti Marelli|
|Number of gears||6|
The Subaru Coloni C3B still required preparation when it arrived for the first F1 race of the 1990 season in Phoenix.
The 1990 F1 season was one of the battlegrounds for the legendary rivalry between Ayrton Senna (driving for McLaren) and Alain Prost (driving for Ferrari). Although Senna won the 1990 championship, he did so by only seven points.
Besides showcasing spirited driving, 1990 was the second season of F1’s change to non-turbocharged (“all atmospheric”) engines. Besides the established engine manufacturers of the time – Ferrari, Lamborghini, Honda, Renault, Ford, and Judd among them – a number of others tested the waters of F1. Among them was Subaru.
Fielding a competitive F1 team involves a highly coordinated effort, with the right team members, the most contemporary yet reliable engine and chassis technology, and some good fortune. Even then, results don’t always equal that effort.
Complicating matters was an overabundance of cars showing up for F1 races in the 1990 season. Thirty-nine cars vied for 26 starting positions, with smaller teams forced to “pre-qualify” for the last four spots. Among them were Euro Brun, AGS, Life, Larrousse, and Subaru Coloni.
The story of Subaru in F1 involves a number of players. Among them were:
Director of the 12-cylinder F1 engine project for Subaru, Takaoka was no stranger to motorsports. He was a rally racer until 1985 and had scored the best results to date for a Japanese driver in the World Rally Championship, finishing 5th overall and winning in Group A in the 1983 East African Safari Rally.
A team owner since 1987, Coloni also had been a professional driver, when he had the nickname, “The Wolf.” Winning the Formula 3 Italian Championship was part of his resume. Then, as a Formula 3/Formula 3000 team manager, he also won the European championships.
When F1’s sanctioning body announced that turbochargers were to be banned starting in 1989, Coloni chose to enter the fray with the Enzo Coloni Racing Car Systems team. From 1987 through 1989, Coloni attempted to compete in 82 F1 races, but only qualified for competition in 14 of them.
When Fuji bought the team, Coloni continued as vice president.
In the early 1950s, Carlo Chiti began his career working for Alfa Romeo in its competition department. Involved with competition cars and engines, Chiti’s resume also included Ferrari, Autodelta (which prepared competition cars), and the F1 team Minardi. In 1984, Minardi helped fund Motori Moderni SpA (which employed Chiti) as the engine builder for its team and others, but Motori Moderni had limited success.
In 1988, Chiti began designing an engine that followed the rules change in F1 requiring normally aspirated engines. It was a Boxer 12-cylinder, commissioned by Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (Subaru).
Twenty-seven years old, Belgian Bertrand Gachot seemed to be an up-and-coming F1 driver. He began racing in the Marlboro Europe Challenge in 1984, then competed in the English Formula Ford 1600 Championship in 1985. He also drove successfully in British Formula 3 and Formula 3000.
In 1989, Gachot drove for the Onyx-Ford team in five grands prix, finishing as high as 12th.
Subaru had specific goals when it began development of the Subaru-MM 3.5-liter, 12-cylinder F1 racing engine in cooperation with Motori Moderni of Italy. It intended to create the ultimate horizontally opposed Boxer engine through F1 competition.
Ready for testing by summer of 1989, the engine lacked enough horsepower to be competitive in F1. As development continued, Subaru Tecnica Europe (a subsidiary of Subaru Tecnica International) invested in 50 percent of the Coloni F1 team, which was then officially known as Subaru Coloni Racing SRL (a limited company in Italy).
The team’s first step: a one-car entry for the 1990 season. The first event planned by the team was the U.S. Grand Prix, held in Phoenix March 9-11, 1990.
Knowing the engine was down on power when compared to the engines of other teams, Subaru and Chiti started another engine that would be ready in the summer of 1990. Meanwhile, the 3.5-liter Boxer was to be fitted to the previous year’s Coloni chassis for the start of the season.
The resulting Subaru Coloni C3B was assembled for the first time in the pits for the Phoenix F1 race. A short practice session was arranged at Firebird International Raceway, and then the car was brought back to the track for prequalification day.
The team suffered from a number of disadvantages: Its engine developed as much as 100 fewer horsepower than the front-running F1 engines, and its chassis weighed as much as 300 pounds more than competitors’ chassis.
At Phoenix and subsequent venues, mechanical problems (gear linkages, clutches, and oil leaks) as well as crashes prevented Gachot from qualifying for a single race. In July, Subaru sold back its share of the team to Coloni.
Instead of Formula 1, Subaru went on to emphasize participation in the World Rally Championship.
But, oh, such a beautiful 12-cylinder engine, with such a sweet sound!