Britain’s contribution to the European Touring Car Championship has rapidly increased in status in recent times and the six-hour event at Brands Hatch late in June had plenty of interest. As the Championships used to be for Group 2 saloon cars our own participation was once slight and few people bothered to travel to Snetterton. In 1968, however, Group 5 rules operated for the first time and rather to everyone’s surprise J. Ewer’s Ford Mustang won the 500 Km. race.
Suitably encouraged, the British Racing and Sports Car Club gave the event the VIP treatment this year. The date was changed from Easter to mid-summer, the venue from Snetterton to Brands Hatch (with the probability of more spectators going along, and 10,000 did pass through the gates), and the race distance was increased to six hours’ duration. Sponsorship was forthcoming from Guards Cigarettes.
Only 36 cars are allowed on the grid and the entry was so good that a separate two-hour race for saloons up to 1,000 c.c. was held the previous afternoon. “Pam”, the Italian Division 1 leader in a works Fiat-Abarth, retired with a flat battery and his teammate was beaten to second place by Rob Mason’s Don Moore tuned Mini Cooper S.
For the major event on Sunday B.M.W. sent a pair of special 2002 saloons, one to be shared by Championship leader Dieter Quester with Hubert Hahne. The cars have Kugelfischer petrol injection and a mild form of turbocharging by Bosch, and can be made to develop anything from 240 to 280 b.h.p. depending on the length of the event. The main opposition came from a privately-entered Porsche 911 driven by Stommelen and George Loos, and Ford Denmark’s Escort Twin-Cam managed by Alan Mann Racing and driven by Gardner and Belso.
The Quester/Hahne B.M.W. quickly established itself in the lead backed up by the sister-car driven by Basche/Craft, but soon after the two-hour mark the latter retired with damaged rocker gear. Also in trouble, with broken valve springs, was the Gardner/Belso Escort, so the main challenge now came from the Porsche, which stayed closely in touch so long as Stommelen was driving.
After four hours there was a new threat to the B.M.W., however, in the form of Ralph Broad’s 1.3-litre Ford Escort GT driven by Fitzpatrick/Trevor Taylor. The turbocharged B.M.W. had to make four pit stops (one unscheduled) but the Escort stopped only twice and was occasionally nudging into the lead. The Porsche eventually retired with a broken driveshaft, and the unequal contest between the B.M.W. and the Escort proved exciting until, with only 30 minutes of the race remaining, the German car forged ahead — despite the brakes deteriorating — to cross the line under eight seconds ahead.
The Munich company also won the 2-litre and 1.6-litre classes with B.M.W.-Alpha models and of course Board’s Escort won the 1.3-litre class.—M. L. C.