Sportscars: Kyalami sprint

Last gasp

Racing on the 4.1-kilometre Kyalami track near Johannesburg for the last time, Jochen Mass won the non-championship Yellow Pages Sportscar Sprint on November 28 in the Richard Lloyd Racing Porsche 962C, sponsored for the event by Rothmans.

The first of two heats was won by Bob Wollek in Reinhold Joest’s Camel-sponsored Porsche 962C, but his engine died on the pace lap preceding the second heat. The Alsace driver carved through the field to second place, but the pace was too much for his fuel consumption; the yellow car hardly accelerated from the last corner of the race, thus losing the aggregate lead.

Work has already begun on constructing a new section of track which will cut out the long, swooping straight, Crowthorne and Barbeque corners which now pass into history. Sunset will be the first corner on the new track, followed by Clubhouse and the Essex, after which the track will turn sharply to the left to follow a course approximately parallel.

The northern part of the complex has been sold to a property developer, to pay off debts from the last Grand Prix in 1985 and to build the new section to Formula One standard. The present owners are in no hurry to organise another World Championship race, though. “We lost half our existing circuit due to the last Grand Prix held here, and we don’t want to lose the lot”, said motorsports director Eberhard Schulz.

The last major international event on the “old” track (followed, a week later, by a Group C2-only race) was an emotional occasion for many South Africans, and 46,000 spectators turned up to see Jochen Mass — who has a home in Capetown — take the trophy and garland. Kyalami was built in 1962, and has hosted many Grands Prix and sportscar races, notably the Nine-Hour race. Many Europeans, though, will recall it as the track on which Tom Pryce died so tragically. That long straight will be renamed the Kyalarni Highway, passing through the new housing estate.

Since this was not part of the World Championship, the Silk Cut Jaguar team did not enter, and nor did Walter Brun’s team, Sauber, Spice or Ecurie Ecosse. The Motor Racing Enterprises club organised what seemed to be a splendid Porsche Cup race, with no fewer than four cars from Reinhold Joest, two from Kremer Racing, and one each from Richard Lloyd, Jochen Dauer, Walter Lechner and the little known Swiss Antoine Salamin. Their opposition, such as it was, came from Gianni Mussato’s Lancia LC2, which did not perform as it had done as a works car, and Tim Lee-Davey’s Tiga-Cosworth turbo.

The two Joest Porsches of Klaus Ludwig and Wollek started from the front row of the grid and looked dominant in the first heat, which was slowed by the pace car for five laps when local driver Mike Briggs crashed the ADA C1 car heavily. Shortly after that Ludwig’s 3.2-litre engine blew up, enabling Wollek to take an easy victory 12.1 seconds ahead of Mass, whose soft-compound Goodyear tyres wilted in the heat. Third and fourth, nearly lapped, were Sarel van der Merwe and Frank Jelinski in Joest Porsches.

Running a harder tyre compound, Mass led the second heat from start to finish, but attention focussed on Wollek, whose engine had died on the pace lap— the Joest team had not warmed the engine, since that comes out of the fuel allocation and the Motronic system dialled a full rich mixture.

Wollek’s chase through thc field took him past Lechner and van der Merwe into second place before half distance, and a spin by Mass (avoiding a C2 car) reduced the deficit to 16 seconds. Wollek took the lead on aggregate times 12 laps from the end, but apparently misunderstood his pit signal and continued the chase, closing to 4.6 seconds on the penultimate lap. He was then 8 seconds ahead on aggregate, and paid a heavy penalty when his engine almost died coming out of the last corner, losing by 14.3 seconds.

The Spice marque took the top three places in the C2 class, Costas Los and Philippe de Henning finishing eighth overall in the World Championship-winning car (recently bought by the Greek) ahead of Nick Adams and Graham Duxbury in the Chamberlain Spice Hart turbo. MEC