Bell tolls for Bellof's WEC title

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Porsche ace secures World Endurance glory with an emphatic victory in Oz

A win in the Australian final round of the World Endurance Championship on December 2 sealed the drivers’ title for Porsche ace Stefan Bellof. The German, ably backed up by Derek Bell, dominated the Sandown 1000, despite crashing his 956-83 in practice. He more than made up for this gaffe by qualifying nine-tenths of a second faster than next man Jochen Mass.

Predictably, Porsches dominated the entry list; the big surprise was seeing Sir Jack Brabham among the 956 pilots. After a 14-year lay-off, the three times Formula One champ was left wide-eyed by his first taste of ground effects but felt confident of “getting there at the end”. Also of interest to many European visitors were the AC-class cars run under a EISA waiver. These included Bap Romano’s eponymous Cosworth DFL powered sports-racer (very successful in local races), Frank Gardner’s glorious JPS-liveried Group 5-style BMW 320i built specially for this event, and the amazing Mercedes-Benz SLC coupe of local ace Bryan Thomson, powered by a twin-turbocharged small-block Chevy.

At the off Mass’s narcoleptic reaction to the lights saw Bellof surge into the lead, only for local hero Alan Jones to bludgeon his way through from the second row. The Australian placed his 956 inside Bellof’s at the first corner and stole the lead. Mass gave chase only to spin on oil freshly deposited by Nick Faure’s Porsche 930, which had holed a piston on the warm-up lap.

With no pressure from behind, Bellof enjoyed a clear run at Jones and moved ahead on the second lap, while Thierry Boutsen’s JER entry gradually closed in on the leading pair to take second. By lap 30 Bellof led Boutsen by 22sec and stayed in the car until just after the two-hour mark. As Mass, having retaken second place during the stops, handed over to Jacky Ickx, Boutsen’s team-mate David Hobbs went on the offensive and regained the position after monstering Ickx into a mistake. But he then parked the car with a burned-out ignition coil.

And so it continued to the end of the race, Bellof and Bell winning by three clear laps from Mass and Ickx, with the consistent RLR car of Jonathan Palmer/Jan Lammers in third.

Brabham, meanwhile, made the flag after umpteen punctures (four at once!); on average he was 4sec per lap slower than team-mate Johnny Dumfries. They weren’t classified in the final tally after endless visits to the pits.

Meanwhile, the Gordon Spice/Neil Crang Tiga-Cosworth won the C2 category — the latter’s fifth success of the year (although there wouldn’t be a world title until ’85) — after an early challenge by Frank Jelinksi’s Gebhardt faded. The Gardner BMW, meanwhile, survived several offs and eight punctures to take the AC honours in a depleted class field.