Geoff Lees must qualify as one of the forgotten men of British motor racing. Despite a long and impressive career in the sport, which includes Formula Ford (33 wins out of 40 starts in the 1975 season), Formula Three, Formula Two (1981 European Champion and 1983 Champion of Japan), Formula One (Shadow, Theodore and Lotus) and extensive CanAm and Group C experience as well as success in the All-Japan Formula 3000 series, he is now generally ignored in his home country and probably quite unknown to some of the more recent converts to the sport.
This is undoubtedly because of his decision to marry Japanese and earn the bulk of his living as a working racing driver in the Orient rather than in Europe. In Japan he is as admired as he is forgotten at home, being a valued member of the Toyota works sports-prototype and saloon car campaigns. Only occasionally does this spill over into the European arena, for instance with the annual appearance at Le Mans of the Toyota-Dome Group C cars.
To remind us of this a recent 1/24-scale release by the Shizuoko-based Hasegawa concern will be of particular interest to British enthusiasts: a fine representation of this year’s 88C sports-car campaigned at the Sarthe and during the All-Japan Championship.
The all-plastic kit is a one-colour (white) moulding with rubber-like tyres and an excellent set of decals which allows you to build the Minolta-sponsored Team Tom’s run car as driven by Lees, Masanori Sekiya and Kaoru Suzuki. The body comes as a single-piece moulding and the engine bay is empty, this being another of Hasegawa’s “rolling chassis” models like the Jaguar XJR-8s which were featured in these pages last year (Motor Sport, June 1988).
Time saved in that area will be usefully idled away applying the decals, using vast amounts of Microsol and a hair-dryer to get the decorative contrasts to conform to the dumpy bodywork — very fiddly, to say the least.
Having done that, I would recommend a careful coat of spray varnish (not cellulose!)— don’t overdo it or you will find your white bodywork turning creamy-yellow, because most “clear” varnishes are not in fact clear at all.
Then comes the masking and painting of the black window surrounds, careful painting of the wheel rims (try Humbrol’s “Metal Cote” polished aluminium), and the other detail points which will make this car stand out in your display cabinet.
If you use the photographs in any of the standard works of reference available on the 1988 Le Mans race to complete decal placement, you will have a model of what is to my eyes nearly — but not quite — a perfect miniature of the car which finished 12th. Missing points are green-on-yellow “Groupe Dubois” stickers on the sides of the car (between the massive engine/transmission cooling-ducts and the rear wheel arches) and the two ACO technical verification certificates which were located on the top centre of the cabin roof.
Some artistic licence with a fine camel-hairbrush and a raid on left-over decals in your “bits box” can put this right, as can manufacturing the missing radio aerial on the roof by heating the plastic sprue over a candle flame and stretching it to the correct profile.
Companion release is the yellow Taka-Q sponsored sister chassis. Unfortunately there are too many differences in the decal provision to make this car a viable project for the true Le Mans enthusiast (for instance, secondary sponsorship came at Le Mans from NewMan, decals for which are missing and would be very difficult to “freehand” satisfactorily, and the drivers’ names on the cabin differ), but if you are just an admirer of fine-looking racing cars this will be a worthwhile buy.
Both come across the counter at the low price of £7.99 at most model and toy shops, and are distributed in this country by Arnerang.
Incidentally, if you would like to build a 1,24 mini-history of the marque, Fujima markets a fine model of the original Dome RL Group 6 contender (Motor Sport, July 1988), and still in the current Tamiya catalogue is an excellent release of the Toyota-Toms 84C, grandfather of the 88C. Both come with full engine detail and cost around £10. IB
The 1988 Toyota 88C Le Mans cars
Toyota announced its new 88C-V sports-prototype in the early part of 1988. It was to be powered by the new V8 R32V 3.2.1itre dohc 32-valve twin-turbo. and clothed in newly-designed sleeker bodywork. However, lack of development time on the engine precluded its use during the 1988 season.
In consequence, what had to be campaigned was the 88C — basically a development of the previous year’s 87C with identical coachwork, a strengthened and stiffened version of thc 87C carbon-fibre twin-turbo monocoque designed by Syunji Tsuchiya and built by the Dome Company. Motive force was supplied by the “old” Toyota 2140cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, dohc. single-turbo 3S-GTM power plant with Nippon Denso EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) engine management. which delivered through a Borg & Beck triple-plate clutch, a March five-speed transaxle and 19in Bridgestone rubber on the rear 17in on the front. Retardation was provided by Lockheed 14in vented discs front and rear. Coachwork was fabricated from a honeycomb and carbon-fibre sandwich. the whole thing supported on double wishbone outboard coil-spring front and double wishbone (rocking arm, inboard coil rear suspension.
At Le Mans chassis numbers 88C-008 (No 361 and 88C-007 (No 37) were raced. In practice Lees in the Minolta car gave people something to think about with his big-boost effort of 3min 25.39sec for the 13.528km circuit, giving his machine sixth position on the grid. During the same Wednesday evening session, Paulo Barilla achieved a time of 3min 26.57sec in the Taka-Q car.
The race was a rather more low key affair with a weather eye on preserving the cars and the fuel-allowance. On No 36 the only problems in an other wise smooth run to the line were some gear-linkage difficulties, and repairs to front and rear lights during the night; 12th place was the reward. No 37’s race was more fraught. with an excursion into the sand trap at the Dunlop Chicane and an argument with the barriers at Arnage both necessitating visits to the garages for repairs. A lot of time was lost also for repairs to a ruptured oil-catch-tank and a broken turbo wastegate, dropping the car to a hard earned 24th position at the finish.