World Sportscar Championship: Norisring Cup

The Phoenix rises

Eight hours into the Le Mans 24-Hours the Liqui Moly Porsche was a smoking ruin, almost destroyed by fire after an oil line severed.

Nine days later the 962 was rebuilt by the Richard Lloyd/John Britten mechanics and was as good as new, and the point was proved when Jonathan Palmer and Mauro Baldi convincingly won the two-heat Norisring 360km ‘sprint’ race, beating a top-class field by three clear laps.

Baldi won the first heat after duelling with Bob Wollek, whose Joest Racing Porsche ran out of fuel within 100 metres of the flag, and Jonathan Palmer had no difficulty in finishing third in the second heat, to beat Klaus Ludwig and Frank Jelinski’s second Joest car by a lap on aggregate. In scrutineering, though, the latter was disqualified when the fuel tank was found to be oversized, at 101.4 litres, so everyone moved up a place.

Oscar Larrauri and Jochen Mass were thus placed second in a Brun Porsche, “John Winter” and Stanley Dickens third in a Joest Porsche, and Eddie Cheever with Raul Boesel fourth in the Silk Cut Jaguar, which had been delayed by a faulty fuel pressure regulator valve. The second Jaguar retired from the lead in the first heat, when the differential failed Jan Lammers.

Not all motor races are exciting, but the Norisring meeting was not dull for a minute. Mike Thackwell led the race in the Sauber Mercedes, but retired due to heat exhaustion. Hans Stuck led the first lap, but was hit by Oscar Larrauri’s Porsche. Derek Bell might still have won, if he could have pulled out more than six seconds on Jonathan Palmer, but the works Porsche then succumbed to low fuel pressure. Wollek ran out of fuel and could not be classified, Ludwig was disqualified after winning the second heat with consummate ease (as he might, with an oversize tank), and the official computer timing broke down after six laps and produced a highly debatable set of results 90 minutes after the first heat had ended.

Each heat of 77 laps around the 3.2km stadium circuit lasted about 65 minutes, the cars seeming to be on a noisy roundabout. Seven of the best were Porsches, two were Jaguars and one was the Sauber Mercedes, sponsored for this race by SAT oil additives and not by Kouros.

Mike Thackwell was stopped in each qualifying session by a broken driveshaft coupling, and Peter Sauber did not expect his race to last very long. The New Zealander was sent out to lead as many laps as he could, using plenty of boost, and overtook both Stuck and Wollek on the opening lap to head the field for 30 laps.

When Thackwell stopped, exhausted by the effort in cauldron conditions, Baldi led but was then passed by Jan Lammers, the Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-8 being fast enough to win, and ecconomical enough to raise no doubts about going the full distance on the maximum of 190 litres.

Cheever’s Jaguar faltered and lost seven laps with its fuel pressure problem, then Lammers’ run came to an end with a broken transmission, “the only problem I’ve had all weekend.” Baldi and Wollek then duelled for the lead, and it seemed that the Frenchman would win until his car ran out of fuel within sight of the chequered flag.

With Wollek’s car unclassified, Klaus Ludwig took Jelinski’s for the second heat and dominated, leading every lap and beating Raul Boesel’s Jaguar by 16 seconds, with Jonathan Palmer third in the Liqui Moly Porsche.

Palmer’s overall lead was perfectly safe when Bell lost fuel pressure and it seemed that Jelinski and Ludwig would be second overall, a lap behind, until their disqualification, Then, Larrauri and Mass were given second place in the Brun Porsche, delayed at the beginning in the Argentinian’s fracas with Stuck and three laps behind on aggregate. The race would have been tidier, and easier for the 80,000 spectators to understand, had it been a continuous 360km event with the usual refuelling arrangements. But the Norisring is not a permanent racing circuit; the pits are scaffolding, and local fire regulations prohibit refuelling in competitive conditions.

This might be a convenient cover for the MotorSportClub Nurnberg (MCN), which has made a huge success out of the first heat, the so-called “Money Race” with DM250,000 going to the Supercup competitors — the second race merely qualifying the first for World Championship status and better kept as as separate event, so far as the MCN is concerned. Spice Engineering and Swiftair Ecurie Ecosse resumed their battle in the C2 class and, for the fifth time in six races, victory went to Gordon Spice and his Spanish co-driver Fermin Velez. As usual Ray Mallock and David Leslie kept in touch, but they were 27 seconds behind on aggregate. The two cars sixth and seventh overall, a surprisingly good result for a race in which sixteen C1 cars started.

Third in C2 were Ray Bellm and Nick Adams in a brand-new Spice Pontiac DFL, 50kg lighter than Spice’s and now the replacement championship model, which is not a good omen for Ecurie Ecosse.

Martin Schanche’s Lucky Strike Argo-Zakspeed C2 team was back on form during qualifying, Will Hoy easily taking the class “pole position”, but soon fell back in the race with a broken nose-panel support. Schanche had high hopes for himself in the second heat, but an electrical problem cut the ignition regularly and he toured around to finish fifth in class, and twelfth overall. There are signs of improved reliability in C2, but no team has yet been able to challenge the superiority of Spice and Ecosse, whose preparation and finishing record even puts some C1 teams to shame. Both have ambitions to be in C1 next season, and should be worth watching. MLC