W.S.C. - Norisring — short and sharp

As World Sportscar Championship events go, the Norisring 200 Meilen was unique. Much against the wishes of most entrants for this round of the Drivers’ Championship it was run as a single 79-lap race, all over and done with in 67 minutes, and for that afternoon’s work Klaus Ludwig collected 20 points, as many as he might have garnered at Le Mans.

It’s Just as well that OSCAR, the entrants’ organisation, and FISA’s Endurance Commission decided to change the title from Endurance Championship to Sports Prototype World Championship with such sprint races in mind. The so-called ‘Money Race’ at Nuremberg has always attracted huge crowds, up to 90.000. and many people believed that it should be part of the World series.

Pits refuelling is not permitted under local by-laws so there was never any question of the stadium race being more than about 180 kilometres in length, and in any case at 2.3 kms in length the circuit falls a long way short of FISA’s stipulated 3.7 kms minimum. So the race, a round of the German Supercup series, was provisionally in the calendar, officially out of it. and only recently reinstated.

The Endurance Commission has already decided that, in 1987, the minimum distance for a sprint race will be 360 kms and the MotorSport Club Nurnberg has already accepted that the race in 1987 will be run in two heats, so that two drivers will gather points. There is no question, though, of more than 24 cars starting, so the C2 teams will be at a serious disadvantage.

Hans Stuck was the last man to win the race in anything but a Porsche, steering a BMW CSL to victory back in 1974. He started from pole position this year in the factory’s Blaupunkt sponsored Porsche 962C with PDK semi-automatic transmission, with last year’s winner Klaus Ludwig alongside in Reinhold Joest’s Blaupunkt sponsored Porsche 956, both well inside the existing lap record at 46.54 sec and 47.11 sec respectively.

Into the lion’s den went three Jaguars, entered by Tom Walkinshaw for Eddie Cheever, Derek Warwick and Jean-Louis Schlesser. Gallahers’ Silk Cul cigarette advertising had to be removed from the livery, under German law, and the mauve and white cars were back to their highdownforce form. In fact the wide but ultrabumpy circuit would not allow them to get much benefit from their superior ground effects since it consists of a 300 kph straight past the pits, two slow hairpin corners and a chicane. the lap average being little more than 177 kph.

Ingredients for success include good acceleration out of the corners, good fuel consumption, and long-lasting brakes to cope with the hairpins. The down-to-weight Jaguars certainly have acceleration this year, are good on consumption (although the allocation of 100 litres was generous for the distance, the turbo teams can be relied upon to use every drop that’s available), and used water cooling for the front disc brakes for the first time Walkinshaw used water to cool the brakes on his successful Jaguar XJ-S Coupes in 1984, and AP came up with a similar system for the Group C cars, better than the twin-disc system tested before the start of the season. Twenty litres of water are carried on-board and lets are squirted into the brake cooling ducts each time the brakes are applied, a couple of seconds after the pedal is depressed and continuing for a couple of seconds afterwards. The system actually cools the brakes by 100-degrees C, a powerful ‘secret weapon’ in the quest to vanquish the German cars.

Cheever was the quickest of the three Jaguar drivers throughout the weekend, a little happier with his car than Warwick or Schlesser, and was the only one to break 48 sec during practice, lining up alongside Bob Wollek in Richard Lloyd’s Liqui Moly sponsored Porsche 956B.

The other Porsche from Silverstone, John Fitzpatrick’s 956. was driven by World Champion Derek Bell who found he needed In race with a private team in order to gather any points to defend his title. Neither he nor Stuck were happy with the one-driver situation but the German, at least, had the advantage of a works car provided for the Supercup series. Bell was struggling with suspension settings, and an overheating engine, throughout practice, finding out again “how the other half lives”. Happier, though, was James Weaver who has found a regular drive in the Kremer Porsche team, qualifying tenth quickest ahead of teammate Franz Konrad.

Weaver had the only real incident of practice when he hit a big bump exiting the last corner, selected second gear instead of fifth and damaged the Kremer team’s best 3litre qualifying engine; He had a 2.6 litre engine installed for the Saturday morning qualifying session, though a variety of engine sizes were to be found many teams used a wider-bore 2.8 litre rather than the “standard” 2.65 litre engine supplied by the factory, while Stuck’s car was equipped with a 3-litre fully water-cooled unit and Ludwig’s with a Joest built 3-litre air-cooled unit.

The Joest team’s second and third cars were a 956 driven by ‘John Winter’ and the IMSA specification 962C, with a 2.8 litre single-turbo engine, for Danny Ongais, while Walter Brun’s all-Porsche team comprised a 2.8 litre 956 for Thierry Boutsen, a 3-litre 962C for Brun and a 2.6 litre 962C for Frank Jelinski. The entry list also included an exworks Lancia LC2/85, purchased by Gianni Musatto and driven by Bruno Giacomelli, two elderly Ford C1005s now entered as Zakspeed C1/8, Ernst Schuster’s Porsche 936C and Costes Los’ Cosrnik Racing March-Porsche 84G.

There were only four cars in the C2 category and all four finished, Stanley Dickens from Sweden claiming ‘pole’ in the works Gebhardt-DFL from Thorkild Thyrring in a Ford turbo Baker Tiga. John Sheldon drove the second Tiga, and Martin Schanche gave his Zakspeed turbo powered Argo an outing, the Lucky Strike cigarette advertising changed to Lucky Martin. And, after two short-lived outings, the rallycross expert did indeed reach the finish, 18th overall and third in class.

When the red Porsche 959 pace car pulled off the sprint to the first corner, the hairpin left at the southern end of the stadium, would be vital, and Ludwig was ahead of Stuck as they powered their way up to the chicane — white Blaupunkt leading black Blaupunkt followed by Wollek. the Jaguars of Cheever and Warwick, then Boutsen, Brun, Jelinski and Weaver.

The train of cars crossed the line time and again in a blur, but the order rarely changed for opportunities to overtake were limited Cheever got the better of Bousen and moved into third place after ten laps but Warwick fell back for a while, down to seventh and unhappy with his hard-sprung suspension settings.

Stuck forced his way into the lead on the 12th of 79 laps, the PDK transmission allowing instant gear-changes as he tore through the stadium. It was a thoroughly impressive sight and sound, perhaps a glimpse of motor racing in the future the PDK transmission may be 25 kg overweight at the moment, though that penalty will be reduced, but the Porsche people firmly believe that it solves many problems of racing car transmissions, enabling the driver for instance to make instant gearchanges in the middle of corners, so that the choice of ratios is less critical.

Even now PDK is not totally reliable and after leading for a dozen laps Stuck slowed, having lost fifth gear, then stopped to have a terminal plug changed on the electrical gear selector circuit. He lost eight laps, and would finish out of the points in 15th place, after setting a new lap record at 48.28 secs.

At around half-distance, 38 laps, Wollek snatched second place from Cheever’s Jaguar but his pace wasn’t quick enough, and Ludwig increased his lead from two to nine seconds in the next ten laps, pulling away smoothly. Boutsen was heavily challenged by Warwick now, the Brunentered Jagermeister car going better than the Belgian had expected (in practice the Michelins had afforded little grip, and the brakes had been only so-so after 20 laps). Jelinski, until now one of the quickest C2 drivers, was holding an excellent sixth place ahead of Weaver and Brun, while in tenth place Giacomelli was having electrical problems with the Lancia; at first it would not rev past 7.500 rpm, then 6,500 rpm, and eventually the Ferrari-based V8 lapsed onto four cylinders, so the Italian retired before the engine was damaged.

Schlesser had been running strongly until the throttle slide jammed, giving him a fright at the chicane, and he had to stop again to have damaged bodywork taped up. All wasn’t well with the front-runners, though. as the nose of Wollek’s car was run over by Ongais on lap 54, and Boutsen collected a puncture on lap 62. Wollek got himself disqualified after passing the black flag, while his bodywork was knocked upwards, and Boutsen was badly delayed because the pit crew ran out of servicable air bottles to work the hammer!

Ten laps from the finish Ludwig had a 12 second cushion to Cheever, and Warwick, the only other driver on the some lap, had dropped back after a spin at the chicane flatspotted all four tyres. Nearly half of Ludwig’s margin was used up at the end of the race, when his Porsche engine coughed at the last corner and the car coasted to the line completely out of fuel.

The Jaguars had been quick and reliable, but didn’t find the last ounce of speed needed to beat Ludwig’s Porsche on that particular track — Brands Hatch may be another matter, though. There, Bell and Stuck will have been partners in a Joest Porsche, and neither scored any points in Germany as the Englishman had to work hard, with poor suspension settings to finish 11th.

Dickens won the C2 class at a canter from Thyrring, the Dane having to reduce boost as his engine overheated Schanche was third in class despite stopping to have a wiring problem sorted out as the cockpit filled with smoke and, like many others, the Norwegian was so exhausted by the heat that he slowed right down at the end.

As a sprint race the Nurnberg track provided an excellent spectacle, but there were many anomalies to the weekend’s events, and problems to be resolved before the finishing touches are put to next year’s sportscar calendar — M.L.C.