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Demise of Team Thalgo

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In 1990 Thalgo Cosmetics signed a two year contract with Raider Motorsport for the 1991/92 Formula Brabham Championship.  Directly following the 1st round of the 91 Championship, held at Eastern Creek Raceway , Raider Motorsport Team Thalgo undertook a 5 day testing & development programme primarily to diagnose a directional stability problem occurring through the circuit’s ultra fast turn 1.  (The cause was eventually analysed as rack-lock, a phenomena caused when excessive down-force (upon front wings) pushes the chassis beyond the permissible angularity of the tie-rod joint, thus jamming horizontal movement of the rack).

On the last day of testing Mark McLaughlin recorded an unofficial 1m:21.47sec lap and on the proceeding lap McLaughlin put the inside rear wheel slightly up the ripple strip of turn 10 and the resultant loss of diffuser down-force caused a massive spin.  During the course of spinning the car turned 180° at which time to diffuser acted as wing lifting the car almost vertical before slamming back to earth on all four wheels.  Miraculously the car was unscathed and McLaughlin was sent directly back to work none the worse for his spectacular dance with destruction.  At completion of the programme both car and driver were some 2+ seconds quicker than our nearest rival (Mark Skiafe), so the team headed back to prepare for the fore coming round unaware that the fragile honeycomb monocoque had been severely compromised.

Immediately fastest on first day of practice, lap times soon deteriorated whilst everyone else’s improved.  The defining moment came when with every increase in front spring rate the times improved, momentarily, only to again recede.  At this juncture it became obvious that the chassis had become the ‘5th spring’, a term awarded to inferior chassis’ for their inherent weakness which allows them to perform like an additional spring.

Once the full extent of damage was known the team formulated a strategy to turn a deficit to benefit, organising to purchase a 1990 Minardi Formula 1 chassis.  Through the team’s personal contacts, a Formula Brabham V6 engine was to be air-freighted to the Minardi workshop where it would be married to a 1990 full carbon-fibre F1 composite chassis and in-house designed transaxle.  Yes the cost would be sizable, but with technical support from Minardi, Raider-Team Thalgo believed the advantages would soon out-weigh the cost.  More importantly however, was that the Spa Formula Brabham chassis was vary unique; designed by Gary Anderson and built to order by Spa Engineering (UK) for Raider-Team Thalgo and the 1991 championship, it would take several months to build a replacement and the championship almost over before the new chassis landed.

Shortly after putting the Minardi-Brabham plan into action word arrived from the Formula Brabham governing authority had decided that should Raider-Team Thalgo proceed with it’s planned introduction of the first composite chassis to the class, the governing body would act immediately to ban altogether the use of carbon-fibre chassis’.  The narrow-mindedness of this action was proffered in defence of keeping cost down, whereas in reality, Raider-Team Thalgo could have achieved the entire Minardi project for similar cost to purchasing a new Spa aluminium chassis, but within a 6 week time-frame.  Moreover, those responsible for inventing and administrating the category were also in the business of building chassis’, but only from aluminium construction, as were all other chassis builders in Australia.

Faced with pursuing the Minardi project and fighting a costly legal action, or, attempt repair of the damaged Spa chassis, financial consideration determined the outcome. For Raider-Team Thalgo, the now fragile Spa resulted in racing amounting to 5 laps of practice, 5 laps of official qualifying, and the two races per round.  In between races the team’s entire resources were spent stripping the car and re-gluing the fast delaminating chassis back together with sheet metal and epoxy resin.  Despite the ‘rubber-band’ like handicap, Raider Motorsport Team Thalgo managed to secure Mark McLaughlin second in the Australian Drivers Championship, an achievement made possible only by the speed, tenacity, and ability of its lead driver.

Thoroughly disgusted, Thalgo CEO Mr. Paul Brand elected not to continue in 1992 and Thalgo sponsorship has never since returned to Australian motor sport.

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