John Ward on the Toyota Eagle MkIII

Many thanks to John Ward
It seemed that I always wanted to be involved in racing.  As early as I can remember, my dad and I listened to the Indy 500 on radio.  Later on, when I was 12 years old, I saw a cutaway drawing of an ATS formula one car.  That was magic! While it was not a good car, the cutaway caught my imagination. From that moment on, everything that I did was focused on building and racing cars.  In High School in Tucson, AZ., I built a fiberglass monocoque sports car! I read all that I could about fiberglass and the Chaparral cars.  I never got around to the bodywork but we did drive it around a bit. I went on to get my degree from the University of Arizona.  After that I designed, built, and raced my own Super Vee in the early 70’s until the cost got out of hand.  My first real racing job was at All American Racers as a Design Engineer working under Gary Wheeler.

The Toyota MKIII project was my 3rd tour of duty at AAR.  I was the Chief Designer, Hiro Fujimori was the Aerodynamics Designer, and Jim Hamilton was the Race Engineer and Vehicle Dynamics Guru.  Dan himself was of course involved as well as Drino Miller (at TRD then).

When I started on this project, AAR had a MKII car that they were running, and they got it to win some races, but it was a very difficult car to tune.  As with anything else, we benefited from what went before. It was clear that the MKII lacked front downforce, which was a common problem with all of those cars. Most cars at the time used the “European Style” underbody, i.e. one long underbody starting at the front of the nose and continuing back to the diffusers and on back.  This was the way that the MKII was also. I came in with the advantage of a fresh look and a strong formula car background. What we ended up with was a separate nose diffuser, followed by a more or less formula car type underbody. The front tires helped pull air under the nose, and like magic, the nose was firmly pulled down.  Hiro did a great job in the tunnel (1/10th scale moving road!) and Jim did a great job tuning the chassis.  The car was very good from the beginning. Rocky Moran drove it first at a little track in N. Las Vegas.  He knew right away that this was going to be a good car.

The wind tunnel used was the same 1/10th scale tunnel that we used to design the 1981 Pepsi car for Indy.  It was built for a very low budget (we didn’t have any money!), and yet was a very good tool.  It had a rolling road and a vacuum system, all pretty much like we have now, just a much more modest scale.  It just goes to show you what can be done if you just bear down and get on with it.  Later on we had a chance to build larger scale models of the car and run them in Japan at the Dome facility.  There were no real surprises, which speaks well for Hiro and his test methods.

The MKIII aero seems to be in use in most of the good closed wheel cars today.  It really does work!  We got most of the good ideas into the car, including Dan’s “Flip-Flop”, a name we gave to his idea of flipping the water and air radiators from side to side.  This shortened the plumbing, thus improving the throttle response, and we were able to get rid of the air intake snorkel.  Thus the engine air intake as well as all of the radiators and front brakes intake came in thru the one nose intake scoop.  Very simple and neat!

The Toyota Eagle MkIII generated over 10,000 pounds of downforce at 200 MPH!  This was better than the MKII by maybe 4000 pounds (not sure, so check with Hiro).

The tub was our first all composite tub.  Once again, we had to improvise a bit.  We didn’t have an autoclave, so the tub was built using vacuum bag (1 atmosphere) tooling.  I don’t remember any stiffness numbers, but it was quite good.  The tub proved to be trouble free.  There was a separate undertray.

The Toyota engine was not intended to be a structural member, but we did gain some beam strength from a special oil pan and cylinder head mount.

I stayed on with he team all through the racing of the MKIII and worked with Jim Hamilton at the races.  He was in charge of the tuning and did a great job.  He was instrumental in many discoveries of the best way to run this car.  He works for Gannassi racing and remains a great friend to this day.

I think that it is important to always look forward to see where you are going, but if I indulge for a moment, that was a very good racing series.  There were major manufacturers involved and the formula made for a very potent car.  I always enjoyed formula cars, but when I first saw these cars run at Del Mar, I was hooked!  They were obviously powerful.  I doubt that we will ever see those days come back, but I wish that they would.  Designing a closed cockpit car was a great challenge.  There is so much more involved, with defrosters, windshield wipers, doors, windshield, etc.  Drino Miller risked a lot to bring success on this project.  The engines were made with standard off the shelf blocks, which were always causing problems. He pushed to the absolute limit!   Working with Dan was always great (he provides great leadership and inspiration), and I count him as one of my friends.  Dan risked a lot for this project and always provided what we needed.  Dan is the real racer!

John Ward
February 2002

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ęCopyright 2002, Michael J. Fuller