Since its first race in the ’50s, Formula One has been a premier racing championship worldwide. One of the official Formula One racing teams was Tyrrell Racing Organizations, also known as Tyrrell Racing. The team was founded by Ken Tyrrell, a veteran of the Royal Air Force who served during World War II. He started the team, fully intending to be the driver, but soon realized he was not very good, so he became the team’s manager instead. The team started racing in ’58 in lower-level leagues and were finally able to advance to the Formula One races in 1968 with the help of the French auto manufacturer Matra and driver Jackie Stewart. Stewart, also known as “The Flying Scot” was discovered and contracted by Tyrrell. The 1970s was the team’s most successful period. They won three drivers championships, one constructor’s championship and started building their own cars. The team ceased to exist in ’98, after it was bought out the previous year.
The ’70s was the best decade the team had ever seen, so no one was surprised when Ken Tyrrell and Derek Gardner, a designer on the team, introduced a new concept race car. Ken and his team designed a six-wheeled race car with four wheels in the front. They called it the Tyrrell P34. This was considered “the most radical entries to ever succeed in Formula One races and has been called the most recognizable design in history of world motorsports.” (Newatlas 2003). The car was such a well-kept secret, not even the car’s driver knew about its existence until it was introduced to the world in ’75 as the Tyrrell P34. The car made its first appearance on the track in ’76. There was little competition in Formula One races since pretty much every car was built the same using the same equipment, so it was a welcome addition to the racing world.
The Tyrrell P34 was driven and tested by many: Jody Scheckter, Ronnie Peterson and Patrick Depailler were the most memorable racers though.
Jody Scheckter was not a fan of the car. He stated in an interview that “The braking was supposed to be better: well, it was when you were braking in a straight line, but as soon as you turned in, the little wheels slid and you had to come off the pedal, so there was no advantage there… It only really worked on very smooth surfaces and, back then, there just weren’t many of those around.” (Motor Sport 2008).
Ronnie Peterson, Tyrrell P34 driver in ’77 didn’t seem to like the car either, since he only drove it one season.
Patrick Depailler, however, is credited with several wins in the Tyrrell P34. He had eight podium appearances over a two year span.
Since it was successful, other teams, like March Engineering, Williams and Scuderia Ferrari started to design their own versions of a six-wheeled race car. The main difference between the Tyrrell P34 and the competitors’ versions was that their four wheels were in the back, while Tyrrell’s four wheels were in the front.
Unfortunately the cars were eventually banned from Formula One, since race cars are only allowed to have four wheels total. The Tyrrell P34 was abandoned by Ken Tyrrell in ’78. It now serves along with the other similar projects as museum pieces and will at times make an appearance at historic racing events.
Here are some images of the Tyrell P34 and the respective drivers:
And here are the other six-wheeled race cars:
Ferrari 312T6 IMAGE
March 2-4-0 IMAGE
Today the Tyrrell P34 remains the only six-wheeled race car to have raced and won with more than four wheels.