Tom Walkinshaw’s Jaguar XJR-6 sportscar team has achieved much in the space of four months, and earned its best result in Selangor, Malaysia on December 1 when Mike Thackwell, John Nielsen and Jan Lammers finished second overall, on the same lap as the Rothmans-Porsche 962C of winners Jacky lckx and Jochen Mass.
Other than two or three minor setbacks during practice, usually attributable to the human element, the Jaguars were both quick and reliable through the weekend, though a tyre failure eliminated the better-placed car driven by Lammers early in the 500-mile race. It was a track that favoured the tremendous torque of the V12 engines, enabling them to spring, catlike, out of the slow corners where the turbo Porsches needed winding up, their drivers waiting for the boost to arrive.
The Tony Southgate-designed Jaguars were visibly harder-sprung, too, with massive ground effect having the green cars dancing over the rippled tarmac. Lammers, with adrenalin flowing on the first day’s practice, found some bumps off-line while outbraking the Ceekar and skittered to the outside edge of the track, nearly taking a surprised David Andrews off altogether. Raising the Jaguars’ ride height reduced the clashing noises, and after holing two radiators in off-course excursions the Dutch driver excelled himself in heading the time-sheets for the second non-qualifying practice session.
Typical high-boost, fingers-out efforts by Mass and Stuck put them onto the front row, as was almost inevitable. Mass claiming pole with a 1 min 21.33 sec and Stuck some 0.3 sec slower after breaking a driveshaft at the end of his quick lap. Newly crowned World Champion drivers Stuck and Derek Bell were assigned the 956 equipped with PDK transmission, Porsche’s interesting twinclutch, semi-automatic system which was also tested that week by Walter Rohrl’s Audi Quattro on the RAC Rally. After faltering starts at Kyalami in 1983, and at Imola last year, the PDK is now much closer to being a serious proposition, despite its weight penalty of 35 kg. Faster, stepless changes improve the acceleration and enable the drivers to change gear in the middle of a corner, if they wish, making the selection of correct ratios rather less critical. It also has the advantage of overcoming turbo lag. Other than the weight penalty, though, the whole transmission jars when upward changes are made, especially from first to second, and the drivers avoided using first gear out of the tight Rothmans Corner, leading onto the pits straight. Even so, Stuck had broken a driveshaft at Weissach, another on Saturday at Rothmans Corner, and would break two more during the race …most racing car designers would contend that drivers are leadfoot zombies but, given a clutch pedal, the endurance drivers really do know how to look after a transmission, and the PDK system has yet to learn the secret.
Mohammed Ali was renowned for his trick of dropping his hands and offering his chin to an opponent; in a way the works Porsche team did that, too, at Selangor, putting 35 kg of ballast in the front of the “Mix” 962C in order to have a direct comparison of performance and fuel consumption. This has to be remembered when evaluating the performance of the Jaguars, on a track that heavily favoured their particular characteristics, but Walkinshaw is certainly too canny to let himself be carried away by the result. “We’ve got a lot of work to do in the next four months” he said before the race. “We’re 50 kg overweight, and we want to develop the four-cam engine which has the power, but not the economy at the moment.” Atter the race he added to that list the need to do something about the low slung forward mounted radiators, vulnerable in combat and well placed to fry the drivers in unusually hot weather conditions (Malaysian temperatures were in the low 30 Centigrade bracket, but it was the humidity which caused the driver so much stress and discomfort. Put on three layers of Nomex, carry out an hour of strenuous exercise in a sauna, and you’ll know about their environment).
A shunt by Barilla’s Porsche 956 reduced the field to just 15 cars, not exactly a marvellous advertisement for endurance racing but in the circumstances enough to mitigate the promoter’s losses. Pre-event publicity for Malaysia’s first-ever World Championship motor race was impressively thorough, and the organisers talked of limiting ticket sales to 60,000 to avoid overcrowding. Unhappily the populace stayed away in their thousands, and it would be surprising if 6,000 people paid to watch a very entertaining motor race, at the end of which 11 cars were classified.
The Kremer brothers, Erwin and Manfred, did not after all bring two cars since a sponsorship deal fell through, and this was just as well since, four days before the race, FISA announced in Paris that the Kremer-Porsche team’s entrant licence would be withdrawn for non-payment of a $10.000 fine imposed by the stewards of the Mosport 1,000 kilometres. in August. In this supposedly compassionate, enlightened age the stewards penalised the Krerners because, when Manfred Winkelhock crashed fatally, their mechanics took control of the rescue operation (or “usurped the authority of the corner workers” as a spokesman put it to us) and borrowed the doctor’s car to get more equipment from the pits, while the pace cars were still out. Technically some rules may have been broken, and possibly a mild slap on someone’s wrist might have been justified, but only a rhinoceros could behave worse than the CASC and FISA in the handling of this affair. It is even claimed that the Kremer team received only a verbal notice of the fine, without written confirmation, and if this is correct then one can only wonder at the
crassness of the powers in control of the sport. We exclude Pierre Aumonier, president of FISA’s endurance commission, from that judgement for he had been asked to prepare a report for FISA’s December plenary meeting, and in Malaysia when the suspension was announced, he was as surprised as anyone. Invitations to the 1986 running of the Mosport 1,000 Kms, if ever issued, will be about as welcome by the teams as a summons to a midnight feast with Count Dracula.
But we digress. Oscar Larrauri excelled himself during the qualifying session to take third place on the grid in the Brun Motorsport team’s Torno Porsche 956 (the ex-Richard Lloyd Canon car). The Argentinian was visibly quick, weaving under hard braking, early on the power, and managed 1 min 21.88 sec despite a faint high-speed misfire which got bad, and worse and worst as the weekend went on. Massimo Sigala and the star German C2 driver, Frank Jelinski. shared the Tomb Porsche, while behind the Jaguars came Franz Konrad, with Australian Andrew Miedecke in John Fitzpatrick’s Porsche 956, and Christian Danner with Costes Los in the Cosmik Racing March’ Porsche 84G. Vern Schuppan and James Weaver were at the tail of the C1 entry in the Rothmans camera car. the 956;007 which Stefan Bellof crashed at the ‘Ring in 1983 and was subsequently rebuilt by Richard Lloyd Racing. Keith Greene managed the car and although it was a makeweight when compared with the visually similar works rnachines, it acquitted itself well; with mechanical injection it was not as economical as the other Porsches, all of which have Motronic engine management, and had to be raced accordingly.
The early laps of the sweltering race were true to practice form with Mass leading Stuck, Thackwell leading Lammers, and Larrauri in pursuit; Danner was doing a fine job in the overweight March-Porsche to hold sixth place for many laps holding off Schuppan and Konrad, then Dickens and Barberio were having a fine scrap for the C2 class lead. Neither was to keep up the pace, Dickens making two long pit stops in the Gebhardt with broken gear selector forks (it retired at half distance), and the Alba was suffering from a deceased clutch, soon to hand a decisive class lead to Harrower.
Stuck had a rare spin and needed to overhaul the Jaguars, and Thackwell was already feeling the effects of the heat, stopping for a driver change after 45 minutes. By that time the Lammers’ tyres. the left-rear at any rate, had felt the heat too and thrown its “tread”, the Dutchman choosing to spin onto the unforgiving run-off rather than hit the armco. The car was stuck fast, and Lammers walked back to be allocated the third (but most significant) drive in the Thackwell,Nielsen Jaguar.
At the three-hour mark, and thanks to a particularly good stint by Derek Bell, Stuck had a handy 33 second lead over Mass, the PDK transrnissioned car having led a race for the first time for a total of 50 laps. That was about its lot, though, as the left-hand drive shaft snapped in two and its replacement did so 95 minutes later. Since the shafts are longer than normal, and cannot be interchanged, Rothmans had to give up at this point lacking a further spare.
Mass and Ickx had a three-lap lead over the Jaguar and could gently wind the pace down all the way to the flag, taking good care of the 962C when two rainclouds let go over the track, one merely making the asphalt steam, the second making it necessary to stop for rain tyres. Lammers made a spectacular exit from the pits on “wets”, passing the Porsche pit at a good 100 mph and with a glorious V12 howl which, we believe, the Germans rather enjoyed. He went straight through the red light, too, but if clerk of course Pierre Aumonier saw anything he raised no objection.
The Malaysians were very much Jaguar fans, rising to their feet and cheering as loudly as any Silverstone crowd when Lammers got only the same lap as Mass, half an hour before the finish, but the German had only to hold station behind the Jaguar to be sure of his victory, a doddle for a former Grand Prix driver. Even so, you could say that the TWR Jaguar was only a puncture away from a sensational success, though Lammers could go no faster since he was low on fuel (just 1,100 cc of fuel, enough for half a lap at most remained in the tank).
Larrauri’s car dropped further and further back with various electrical problems, first in the ignition circuit, then in the distributor, and Konrad spun the Fitzpatrick Porsche into the barrier when being passed by Lammers, so Schuppan and Weaver had no problems in claiming third place. Danner ‘s fine drive was thwarted by starter motor problems, and Wallace’s efforts in the Roy Baker team Tiga by a dud alternator, leading to disqualification for changing a battery out on the course