Forgotten F1 Friday: Footwork FA12

18 October 2019 - 16:44 By Motoring Reporter
The striking Footwork FA12 was let down by an uncharacteristically poor Porsche engine.
The striking Footwork FA12 was let down by an uncharacteristically poor Porsche engine.
Image: WikiMedia Commons

The early 1990s was an exciting time in Formula 1.

With those expensive and overly complicated turbocharged motors of the 1980s replaced by naturally aspirated 3.5-litre engines, the top tier of international motorsport was once again a semi-affordable arena for privateer teams to play in.

One of these teams was Arrows – a UK-based outfit that had been lining up on the grid since 1977. In 1990, Japanese businessman Wataru Ohashi, who was the then president of Footwork Express, a prosperous Japanese logistics company, invested heavily in the team and by 1991 the outfit was renamed Footwork.

This extra financial backing helped Footwork seal an engine deal with motorsport gurus Porsche – a marque that had helped McLaren win no less than three Formula 1 constructors championships on the trot (1984-1986). Things were looking rosy.

The hideously unreliable Porsche 3512 3.5 V12.
The hideously unreliable Porsche 3512 3.5 V12.
Image: Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images

Unfortunately for Footwork, the engine Porsche supplied them for the 1991 campaign proved to be an absolute dog. Basically two V6 motors fused together, the Hans Mezger-designed 3512 V12 was heavy at 189kg, complex and – as the team was soon to find out – notoriously unreliable.

It was also underpowered, which meant that even when it wasn't imploding the attractive FA12 with its innovative semi-raised nose could be found straggling away at very back of the pack – or simply failing to qualify for the actual race. 

Fed-up with frustration, Footwork dumped Porsche before the midpoint of the season and replaced the fragile V12 with a more conventional Ford-Cosworth DFR 3.5 litre V8. With it the FA12C at least managed to finish three out of the year's 10 remaining races.

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