Group C Sportscars

Kyalami 360 kms

Joest ahead.

Defying a boycott imposed by the French government, Bob Wollek drove his Joest Racing Porsche 962C to a fine victory at the new Kyalami circuit on November 26. He beat his team-mate Klaus Ludwig by 0.8 sec in the first 180 kilometre event, a race in which the two Joest drivers exchanged the lead nine times, but the second heat was run at a much higher speed, and after 15 laps Wollek’s Dunlop-tyred Porsche began to pull away from Ludwig’s Goodyear-tyred car. At the finish Wollek had a margin of 20 seconds, and as the Alsace driver said, “It’s a nice way to finish the season.”

Wollek may not drive in Group C next year, saying that a new contract with BF Goodrich for IMSA racing will be his main programme (“in Europe the Porsche teams will be racing for fifth place, fourth if they’re lucky, and I don’t want to do that”). He paid no heed to the ban on French teams and drivers participating in South Africa, a boycott announced a month ago by France’s black sports minister Roger Bambuck. Other teams took precautions. The ALD team was “taken over” by Guido Racing, managed by Englishman Brian Etteridge, and two well-known Frenchmen associated with Hugh Chamberlain’s Spice team became known as “John Romano” and “Claude Quentin”, driving both the Spice and Joest’s Camel-sponsored Porsche in the two heats.

Wollek, who races with a German licence, made no effort to hide his identity, and it was ironic that French sportsmen were, at the time, competing openly in a tennis tournament and in a boxing competition, and that President PW Botha arrived in a Puma helicopter to start the race, and watched a Mirage fighter flying display. Sarel van der Merwe summed up everyone’s feelings: “I think the world has gone mad!”.

It was the first international race to be held on the newly-built Kyalami circuit, a twisty 3.82 kilometre track which is faster than it looks; Klaus Ludwig’s pole position was established at 1 min 13.76 sec, a speed of 115.73 mph. The old top straight has now been broken up and prepared for estate building, and corners with names like Sunset, Barbecue and Crowthorne have gone. Instead there are “sponsored” corners like Yellow Pages (sponsors of the event), Wesbank, Continental and Panasonic.

Van der Merwe dislikes the new track. “They’ve torn up a perfectly good circuit to make this,” he says dismissively. There must be something he likes? “Yes, the hospitality areas are very good!”. Wayne Taylor, just made a Springbok for his services to sport, was kinder. “I like it, really . . . I wish it had a good straight though — overtaking is going to be a real problem.” Like the Neue Nurburgring, the new track suffers from being alongside the old one, and it is essentially a good safe circuit although the entry to, and exit from, the pits would need improvement before a World Championship race could be held.

The Motor Racing Enterprises club hopes to have a World Championship Group C race within a couple of years, followed by a Grand Prix. While French sports-car drivers can adopt pseudonyms, though, it is hard to imagine that Alain Prost could do so.

Seven Porsches made up the entire C1 entry, and of those the two blue, Sasol-sponsored Joest Racing Porsches were the class of the field. Frank Jelinski, due for promotion in Joest’s team, drove superbly in the single-car qualifying to put the Sachs-sponsored 962C on the front row at 1 min 14.41 sec, comfortably ahead of Wollek at 1 min 14.70 sec. Fourth was the English lawyer Tim Lee-Davey in his Porsche at 1 min 16.54 sec, and fifth was Wayne Taylor in Costas Los’ GP Motorsport Spice Cosworth at 1 min 18.31 sec.

Taylor was also to have driven Wollek’s Joest Porsche, and drove it in practice. Both Joest and Keith Greene intended the South African to drive in the first heat, while he was fresh in the 30°C temperature, since he was also due to drive in two heats of the Porsche 944 Turbo Challenge. Taylor drove the C2 class Spice in the first heat, the race won by Wollek, and Joest decided not to run Taylor in the second heat. Sixth on the grid was “Claude Quentin” (Ballot-Lena) in Joest’s fourth Porsche 962C, and seventh was Jochen Dauer who melted his Goodyear qualifiers on his first lap and had such excessive understeer that he drove the second lap slowly. Antoine Salamin was eighth, at 1 min 19.40 sec, a much more competitive driver now than when he first raced outside Europe, at Kyalami a year ago. In C2, Graham Duxbury was second quickest in the ADA Cosworth shared with Arthur Fouche, at 1 min 21.08 sec, ahead of “John Romano” (Jean-Louis Ricci) in the Chamberlain Spice Cosworth. Peter Fritsch’s Argo-Porsche qualified 11 th in C2 at 1 min 26.54 sec, and was driven in the first heat by Tony Martin, the third driver in the Kreepy Krauly March-Porsche that won the Daytona 24 Hours in 1984, with van der Merwe and Duxbury.

President Botha started the first heat, organisers clearly delighted by the government’s new-found interest in motor racing, and Ludwig went straight into the lead from pole position, with Wollek a few lengths behind. “John Winter” driving his career ending Group C race, ran third ahead of Lee-Davey and van der Merwe, the South African soon making a mistake at the Yellow Pages corner and spinning down to seventh. “Supervan” had to climb back through the order, and it took him 20 laps to get back to third place, the best he could expect.

Wollek led laps five and six, Ludwig laps seven and eight, Wollek lap nine, Ludwig 10 and 11, and so it went on. A fine race, though the Joest cars were nowhere near their limit. Wollek led most of the time, Ludwig again near the finish, but the two cars appeared to be speeding up as Wollek led the last four laps. It seemed that on the day, the Dunlops had lasted rather better. Van der Merwe took third place from Lee-Davey six laps from the end, the Englishman finishing with a holed piston which prevented him from taking part in the second heat, and “John Romano” was fifth. “Winter” touched a C2 car he was lapping and punctured his right-front tyre, and just passed Taylor’s C2 winning Spice-Cosworth for sixth place, a lap behind, before the end. Salamin, though, went over a kerb and displaced the nose panel on his Porsche, losing five laps.

The second heat was run to different rules, it seemed, in a time 94 seconds faster. Wollek and Ludwig would have covered an extra lap on a time basis, and although the German driver led laps two and three, Wollek was firmly in control of the race. He had Ludwig on his tail for ten laps but then the latter conceded, falling back rapidly . . . four seconds at 15 laps, eight seconds at 20 laps and 20 seconds at the finish. “We used harder compounds at the front but the car was understeering again, and there was nothing I could do,” said Ludwig. Frank Jelinski was third from start to finish, Jochen Dauer fourth with a flat-sounding engine in his Sabat (batteries) sponsored Porsche, which had lacked power all weekend. “Claude Quentin” (Ballot Lena) was lapped once, Salamin and Costas Los twice, but GP Motorsport’s C2 victory was made to look even better as “Romano” (Ricci), Vito Veninata’s Porto Kaleo Spice, Pierre-Alain Lombardi’s Spice and Richard Piper’s Argo were all lapped three nines. Louis Krages, once known as John Winter, said he had no regrets about retiring from racing “. . . except that I’d have liked to stop with a better result.” His place in the team has been offered to Jean-Louis Ricci, but Reinhold Joest still shakes his head, doubting that Krages has truly retired. Definitely finished, though, is Martino Finotto’s Carma FF team which dominated Group C Junior in 1983 and 1984, until Gordon Spice became prominent. The Italian team ran its IMSA Alba-Ferrari for the last time, Finotto finishing seventh in the first-heat C2 category, but Carlo Facetti had to retire in the second with a broken rear shock absorber. Facetti, designer of the Alba’s previous four-cylinder turbo engine, now assists Mauro Forghieri at Lamborghini. MLC