Motor Racing Legends Group C/GTP: Le Mans
Agg's Nissan blitzes Group C return
"This is what the cars were built for; the cars have come home," said Nigel James after climbing onto the Le Mans podium following the Motor Racing Legends Group C/GTP race on the morning of the classic 24-hour encounter.
Although his Porsche 962C was beaten to the chequer by the Nissan R9OCK of Charlie Agg, James spoke for all of the Group C racers when he enthused about the opportunity of realising the dream of every sportscar racer.
In all, 35 cars arrived at Le Mans for the 30-minute race on Saturday morning. Despite the range of cars and drivers on track, less than 2sec split the top three cars in qualifying on Thursday. Gary Pearson put his Jaguar XJR-11 on pole position by lapping just inside the 4min mark, with Agg and the Porsche 962C of Ralf Kelleners (who also raced in the 24 Hours) in close pursuit.
Pearson underlined his class by easing away in the race to build a useful lead. Sadly, he was denied victory when the Jaguar's transmission failed on the seventh and penultimate lap. It was a massive disappointment for the versatile racer, and opened the door for Agg to sweep to victory in a rare race outing for his 1990 Nissan.
Kelleners retired on the parade lap after losing turbo pressure, and without him the pace of the leading pair took them well clear of the rest. After an elated Agg took the flag, a whopping 80sec elapsed before James appeared.
The battle of the race raged in the closing stages between James and Simon Pullan, making his GpC debut in a Porsche 962. "The perfect baptism to Group C racing," reckoned Pullan after a mature drive. "Even though the first three laps were a complete disaster." However, things improved as he got used to the car and he stormed back up the order to chase James hard over the final two laps. Less than a fifth of a second split them at the finish.
Brian DeVries (Intrepid) and Jim Mullen (Spice GTP) claimed fourth and fifth, although DeVries accepted that the Intrepid was never built for such a high-speed circuit.
Mike Jankowski (Spice SE88C) made it three Americans in the top six, while Henry Pearman brought his Jaguar XJR-11 home in seventh.