Perhaps one of the best looking – and ultimately pioneering – Formula 1 cars of the last century is expected to fetch over £250,000 when it goes up for auction next month.
The piece of history in question is the Benetton B191, which was run over the 1991-2 Formula 1 seasons and piloted by no less an esteemed quartet than Nelson Piquet, Roberto Moreno, Michael Schumacher and Martin Brundle.
It was the last car raced by three-time World Champion Piquet, and the first car in which future seven-time World Champion Schumacher would score his inaugural visit to the podium. That was a feat he would achieve a further 154 times over his record-breaking career.
Co-designed by John Barnard and Mike Coughlan, the B191 was powered by Ford’s HBA5 3.5-litre V8 engine. It was the first car to make the ‘raised nose’ concept a mainstream part of Formula 1 design, taking a leaf out of the anhedral design pioneered by the Tyrrell team the year before.
“When it first came out, everyone was jumping up and down about the nose… It was similar in concept to that of the Tyrrell 019 – very swept up at the front to improve the aerodynamics,” Barnard later recalled.
“However, I didn’t think it needed the gull-wing arrangement used by Tyrrell, so we built a model and tested in the wind tunnel and it worked well. We had curved mounting pylons, which freed up the middle of the wing and made a more solid mounting point.”
The car made its debut at the 1991 San Marino Grand Prix and competed in the rest of the 1991 season. Piquet claimed his final career win – and the car’s only win – at the Canadian Grand Prix after Nigel Mansell’s Williams stuttered to a halt with a gearbox problem on the final lap of the race, just a few hundred metres from the finish line.
“”Nelson Piquet took first place in the Canadian Grand Prix of 1991 driving the B191, which was very pleasing. Every car I had designed up to that point had won in its first season – and Piquet maintained that record. I left the team at about that time, so I missed out on Michael Schumacher’s arrival, though he did drive my car in the last five races of ’91 and the first three of ’92…” Barnard added.
The car – featuring updated bodywork and suspension – also contested the first three races of the 1992 season in a ‘B’ spec designation – the chassis being auctioned is the one raced by Piquet in the final Grand Prix of his career in Australia in 1991 before Brundle had his maiden race for the team the following year in 1992. The chassis was then handed to Schumacher, who claimed his maiden podium finish at the Mexican Grand Prix just two races later.
The car will be auctioned by the Bonhams auction house on May in Monaco. Perhaps unusually, the car is completely race-ready, having been lovingly maintained by its selling owner. The car comes fitted with one of the 72-degree Ford V8 engines which still produces some 730bhp and can rev to almost 14,000rpm.
Images via Bonhams
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