The main topic of conversation in the paddock at the Norisring Cup on June 28 was Porsche’s announcement that the factory team would be withdrawn from the World Sportscar Championship for the remainder of the season.
This put World Champion Derek Bell and Hans Stuck out of work, though they have already been signed to contest the Brands Hatch 1000km on July 26 in a Joest Racing Porsche 962. Further outings for the team are likely, since the drivers retain their Rothmans, Shell and Autoglass sponsorship. Jaguar was officially “disappointed”, Tom Walkinshaw was distinctly upset, and the German press gave Porsche quite a roasting, accusing them of giving up after four defeats at the hands of the Silk Cut team.
Until last December the Weissach competitions department did not even have a 1987 Group C programme, but a lower-key agreement was reached with Rothmans and the factory announced that one or two cars would be entered in most races until the Nurburgring in August, after which the CART Indycar programme would take priority.
Only at Monza in April, when Porsche went down for the third time, chief excecutive Peter Schutz made a bravo statement that the factory team would step up its effort, seemingly without checking with those who actually do the work.
The factory duly won at Le Mans (its first World Championship success since the 1986 24-hour event) but by then the CART single-seater project was at least two weeks behind schedule, and the decision was taken to pull out of Group C for the remainder of the Year. There is good news too, since factory Prepared, full 3-litre water cooled engines will be made available to the four competitive private teams, those of Richard Lloyd, Walter Brun, Reinhold Joest and the Kremer brothers. So opposition to the Jaguars will actually be increased at Brand Hatch and in subsequent races. Each team will have only one engine, and Joest might have to choose whether to give it to his contracted driver, Klaus Ludwig, or to Bell and Stuck.
New saloon racing formula
FISA has produced a set of radical plans designed to dramatically alter the face of international saloon car racing over the next few years.
For the 1989 season, Group A is to be replaced by a new production car championship for which a car will only be eligible when 25,000 models have been manufacured. Body shape may not be altered in any way, there is a wheel and tyre maximum width of 12in, engines used must be made by the same manufacturer as the body and, for normally aspirated cars, maximum capacity will be 3.5 litres. Turbo engine limitations have yet to be finalised.
More worryingly, not only is the championship for manufacturers only, but each car must carry the logos of the championship sponsor and no other commercial backer — only the manufacturer’s name may be displayed. It is not a formula which, at present, looks overwhelmingly attractive to most car makers!
Amongst the Ferrari GTOs at Reims was one of the two Bugatti 251s which appeared in 1956. This unsuccessful GP car was unusual in having a 2.5-litre straight eight fitted transversly behind the driver, but proved uncompetitive in both speed and handling.
Maurice Trintignant practiced both cars at the 1956 French Grand Prix at Reims, and raced the car shown below in front of the derelict pits, but it lasted only a few laps, and the cars ended up in the Schumpf Museum.
Last month’s Ferrari GTO bash in France (Motor Sport July) had its mechanical casualties, but it was not until after sprinting back to England that we heard the tale of Nick Mason’s rapid repairs.
After Nick’s prop-shaft broke in Paris, the part was flown back to England where it was repaired by Bob Houghton, who looks after Mason’s cars. While the Ferrari followed the cavalcade in a service truck, the shaft was then flown back to Reims, where it was installed during the evening, just after we had left in our Lotus Esprit Turbo. Total delay: less than 36 hours.
St John’s centenary
All motorsports enthusiasts cannot fail to be aware of the essential part played by the St John Ambulance Brigade at every race. This is the centenary year of the Brigade, and an ambitious appeal has been launched to garner £10m towards its future. There will be a variety of special public events, but racegoers can help at any meeting by contributing something when the usual collection comes around.