Bell’s race, Ickx’s title
For the first time since 1974 the Sports Car Club of South Africa was allocated a championship endurance race, the Kyalami 1,000 Kms event on December 10th being the seventh and final round of the 1983 World Endurance Championship. Run a full two months after the previous round, at Fuji, the South African event attracted a top-class entry, 25 cars from Europe including three works Porsches, two works Lancias and a full supporting cast of Group C, Junior and Group B cars.
Porsche secured the Makes title as far back as Le Mans, having no effective opposition, but the Driver’s Championship offered Derek Bell a mathematical chance of snatching the title from Jacky Ickx, if he could win the race with the Belgian placed no higher than fifth.
Lancia prepared a new LC2/83, chassis 005, for Riccardo Patrese and Alessandro Nannini, with Alboreto no longer available due to his Ferrari contract, never mind that Ferrari and Lancia are in the same group! The second entry, crated up the day after the Mugello European Endurance race in October, was assigned to Piercarlo Ghinzani, Hans Heyer, and Giorgio Pianta.
Two Rothmans-Porsche 956s were prepared as usual for Ickx / Jochen Mass and Bell / Stefan Bellof, but the third car for Al Holbert and Vern Schuppan differed in having a new twin clutch gearbox which Porsche designed about 12 years ago, but have had under development for two years. The mainshaft has two clutches, one of which is always engaged, and the gearchanging is controlled by a series of micro switches and valves. The advantage is that power is applied constantly, the driver keeping his foot hard on the throttle through the gearchanges, and the two drivers felt that it was significantly faster . . . when it was working properly. During three days of testing and practice the transmission would function properly for a couple of laps then get too hot and start misbehaving, so a normal gearbox was fitted for the race. At the end of the 1982 season Bosch’s new Motronic engine management system was developed on Bell’s race car, and that caused a few problems at first but has been the works team’s greatest single advantage during 1983. The technicians gained a wealth of experience with the twin-clutch gearbox, which is likely to arouse interest throughout the motor racing world when it starts winning events.
The leading private Porsche teams included John Fitzpatrick’s two 956s for David Hobbs / Thierry Boutsen / Desire Wilson and the South Africans Sarel van der Merwe, Graham Duxbury and Tony Martin. Reinhold Joest’s pair of 956s was handled by Bob Wollek / Stefan Johansson / Chico Serra and by Dieter Schornstein / John Winter, the old 936C also lined up to be driven by Prince Leopold von Bayern! Siggi Brunn. The Swiss, Walter Brun, entered his 956 for himself, Hans Stuck and Massimo Sigala, and Richard Lloyd’s 956, usually in Canon colours, now switched to Gunston cigarettes livery for Jan Lanuners and Dr. Jonathan Palmer.
The Junior class was headed by two Giannini-Albas, the 1.9-litre turbocharged models which have dominated the class all year. The team is financed and run by Martino Finotto, the first driver, and the engines are designed and built by Carlo Facetti, the second driver. Since Le Mans the units have been equipped with water injection, like the Ferrari Fl cars, to cool the pistons, but no announcement was made by this private team until FISA’s ruling was announced on the legality of the system. The second car, for Finotto / Facetti, was a new carbon fibre chassis reducing the car’s weight to 707 kg, close to the minimum. Though it’s hot at Kyalami in December, with temperatures around 25 degrees, violent storms have a tendency to sweep across the area each afternoon, and these had a bearing on practising and on the race itself. Qualifying was arranged for Thursday morning and afternoon with untimed practice on Friday, prior to Saturday’s race which is against the trend, but made life more pleasant for the “captive” teams in South Africa.
Thursday morning’s all important qualifying session was dominated by the first and second works Porsches. With qualifying Dunlop Denloc tyres fitted Bellof lapped the 4.1 kilometre circuit in 1 min 10.88 sec, an average of 208.4 kph, and the 956 was timed through the speed trap on the long downhill straight at 306.33 kph (190.3 mph), which is impressive on a track which is 6,000 feet above sea level. Jochen Mass was only fractionally slower at 1 min 11.63 sec, and the nearest that any private team could get was 1 min 13.97 sec, a time set by Hans Stuck.
Thierry Boutsen in Fitzpatrick’s first entry, and Jan Lammers in the Gunston 956, were timed at 1 min 14.04 sec and 1 min 14.13 sec respectively, and Riccardo Patrese put the Lancia-Martini into sixth place on the grid at 1 min 14.64 sec.
Throughout the year the Italians have been unable to prove their real speed since the LC2/83 was designed to run on Pirelli’s radial ply tyres, and although they started on pole position in the first race of the season at Monza, tyre failures forced the team to switch to Dunlop from the third race, at the Nurburgring. Dunlop’s crossply tyres do not suit the cars, and are in fact those used for the Porsche 935s, Lancia reckoning that they are two or three seconds slower per lap. With Pirelli now out of endurance racing, Lancia hope to sign a contract with Dunlop or with Goodyear for 1984 to have more suitable tyres developed during the winter, no that we can see the true potential of the team. Ghinzani’s engine ran its bearings 50 minutes into the morning session when he had posted the eighth fastest time of 1 min 15.98 sec, but as the engine had run the Mugello race and was due to be changed, this was not a real setback.
The South Africans van der Merwe, Duxbury and Martin had no difficulties adapting to the turbocharged 956s, the first-named being seventh fastest on 1 min 15.57 sec, Holbert and Schuppan languishing in 12th place while the Porsche technicians played with their gearbox, changing one programme with another in an effort to keep it working properly when it was hot. During the untimed session next day, in fact, Holbert was clocked at 1 min 16 sec on race tyres, which would have been the third fastest lap of the race if repeated the next day, but the decision was taken to fit the normal five-speed gearbox for the race.
Bob Wollek, normally a front runner, was slow in the first practice session due to a down-on-power engine, being tenth fastest, and just as the cars were being readied for the second timed session a sub-tropical rainstorm swept across the circuit and flooded the track in places, ruling out any chance of improved times.
The race ran to an entirely predictable pattern for the first hour, with Bellof and Mass romping away to open up a lead of a minute by the time the first refuelling stops were due. Third position was a memorable scrap between the Lancias driven by Patrese and Ghinzani, Lanuners, Boutsen, Stuck and Wollek with van der Merwe and Holbert keeping up close. The drivers were really hard at it, raising clouds of brown dust as they came out of the corners with one or two wheels off the road, and it looked more like a British Formula 3 race than a 1,000 kilometre, fuel consumption orientated endurance event at times.
Lammers and Wollek banged wheels hard in the opening laps, and the Dutchman was the first to make a pit stop after 32 laps with the left front wheel missing, the latest in a sequence of 956 wheels falling off during the season. Wollek had by this time secured third place, more or less, from Paves, and Ghinzani was up with them when he stopped early for a fresh set of tyres, Boutsen also stopping with a blistered left rear tyre.
On schedule Bellof handed over to Bell, and Mass to Ida, and the leader was handed an advantage when Ickx’s engine wouldn’t start up, losing the Belgian a minute. Nannini took over the third-placed Lancia, Serra the fourth-placed Joest Porsche and Heyer was going well in the fifth-placed Lancia which had stopped early for tyres.
Another rainstorm then changed the complexion of the race. It was not as torrential anon the previous days, but the 15 min downpour drenched the track and flooded the Esses, where nine cars left the track. Jacky Ickx spun and damaged the underside of his car, ruining the ground effects, Chico Serra spun the Joest Porsche 956, and promptly had David Hobbs collide heavily with the front of his car, penetrating the windscreen. Massimo Sigala went off in Stuck’s Porsche, retiring with the nose panel and mounting points wiped off, and several of the saloon car entries also left the road. Fortunately no drivers were hurt in these incidents.
Bell was in his element in the bad conditions, power sliding his car from corner to corner, and was a lap ahead of the rest as the track dried. Nannini was then second in the Lancia, Heyer third in the other Lancia, Ickx fourth but two laps behind, Schuppan fifth and Graham Danbury sixth, both three laps down.
The Lancias kept pressure on Porsche all the time, making the race more interesting than most we have seen this season. The Ghinzani / Nannini car had two short delays, first when the driver’s door flew off along the main straight and had to be replaced, then when a fuse failed in the fuel pressure system. These incidents allowed Bell and Bend to increase their lead to four laps, and they could hardly fail to win providing the car didn’t break down.
Schuppan’s works Porsche retired on the circuit when the engine cut out, and though the Australian changed the ignition pack the motor could not be coaxed back to life.
Then Heyer had a nasty accident in the third-placed Lancia when the front suspension, or steering, broke and sent the car headlong into the armco at Sunset Bend. The car was badly damaged, but Heyer suffered nothing worse than bruising from the seatbelts.
Four hours into the race Bell / Bellof led on 168 laps, Patrese / Nannini had covered 164 laps, Ickx / Mass 162 laps in a car that handled atrociously as the bodywork broke up, Merwe / Danbury / Martin were fourth op 160 laps, Bob Wollek moved across to the fifth-placed 956 with Schornstein and Winter, and Lammers / Palmer were sixth. The Facetti / Finotto Giatmini-Alba easily led the Group C Junior class, though delayed first by a water leak then by front-left wheel pegs shearing through, and the Jens Winter / Lars Jensen BMW M1 was going impressively well to lead the Group B category.
Fate had one more trick to play, choosing the South African trio in Fitzpatrick’s 956, when a cooling fan belt came off. It took five minutes to fit a new one which promptly snapped, forcing another stop which put the car back two places in the final results.
Victory for Bell and Bellof made them the most successful partnership of the season with three wins to their credit, but Ickx only needed his third place to win the driver’s championship for the second year in succession. The most encouraging feature of the race, though, was Lancia’s return to form. — M. L.C.
Castrol Kyalami 1.000 KILOMETRES — 244 laps — 7th round. World Endurance Championship December 10th
1st:D. Bell, S. Bello! (2.6 t/c Porsche 956)
5 hr 44 min 06,4 sec (174,59 kph)
2nd: R. Patrese/A. Nannini (2.6 t/c Lancia LC2/83) 240 laps
3rd:J. Ickx/J.Mass (2.6 t/c Porsche 956) 236 laps
4th:D. Schornstein/J. Winter/ R. Wollek (2.6 t/c Porsche 956) 228 laps
5th:J. Lammers/ J. Palmer (2.6 t/c Porsche 956) 225 laps
6th:S. v. d. Merwe/ G. Duxbury/ T. Martin (2.6 t/c Porsche 956) 224 laps
7th:L. von Bayern/ S. Brun (2.6 t/c Porsche 936) 217 laps
8th:J. Winther/L. Jensen (3.5 BMW M1 GpB) 200 laps
9th:K. Kroesemeijer/ G. Fouche/ F. Konrad (2.8 t/c Porsche-Kremer CK5) 196 laps
10th:T. Wiren/ K. Leim (3.3 t/c Porsche 911 Turbo GpB) 193 laps
13th:M. Finotto/C. Facetti/M. Faraci (1.9 t/c Giannini-Alba GpC Junior) 190 laps
Fastest lap: S. Bellof, 1 min 15.59 sec – 195.4 kph (record)