Le Mans in Jeopardy!
Most devastating news of the month came through as we were about to close for press that FISA has declared the Sarthe circuit at Le Mans unsafe and will not therefore be renewing its track licence when it expires at the end of December. As is well known FISA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest have had their differences which saw the 24 Hour race last June exluded from the World Sports-Prototype Championship to no obvious detrimental effect on the event. As negotiations proceeded between the two organisations to bring it back into the fold for this year, it was generally recognised that agreement was not far away with the ACO acceding to all the demands made over television rights, timing equipment, press pass allocation and the entry list. Out of the blue, though, the governing body, with President Balestre as the driving motor, threw a spanner in the works by issuing a demand that no international circuit can have a straight more than two kilometres long. The Mulsanne Straight is over six! The Mulsanne Straight is also part of a Route Nationale when not in use as part of a race track! The ACO does not have the authority to alter it by adding permament chicanes, the only solution to cutting down the length of the famous Straight.
The race now has the noose around its neck. Before it’s pulled tight and killed off, we want your views. MOTOR SPORT will do all it can to save this important and historic race, but we need your support. For further information and views, turn to page 72 for Cotton on . . .
At the Porsche Cup prize giving on December 8, it was confirmed that official factory support of Reinhold Joest’s team will be increased in 1990, and that his drivers will be Hans Stuck, Bob Wollek, Frank Jelinski and Jonathan Palmer.
Pentti Airikkala, winner of the recent RAC Rally, and Malcolm Wilson, are joining the Ford “works” rally team this year. The Englishman will contest the whole of the Open Championship in an AndrewsSykes/Mike Little Ford as well as the 1000 Lakes, Sanremo and the RAC Rallies in a Q8 car. On the three rounds of the World Championship, he will be joined by the Finn and Italy’s Franco Cunico.
Having won eight Formula 3 races this year in his Jewson Ralt RT33 Volkswagen, David Brabham, the youngest son of Sir Jack, is joining Middlebridge Racing to contest the International Formula 3000 Championship. Bringing Jewson with him as personal backing, he will be driving a Cosworth-powered Reynard 90D and is very optimistic of a successful year.
The championship features 11 races in six different European countries including three in Britain.The season begins at Silverstone on April 8 with additional races at Brands Hatch (August 19) and the Birmingham Superprix (August 27).
A powerful line-up of 22 drivers, including Andrew Cowan and Jean-Louis Schlesser, and co-drivers, divided into 11 cars (six T3 prototypes, two T2s, one PX33 and two fast service vehicles), five service trucks, 24 mechanics and six supervisors and co-ordinators, has been set-up by the Sonauto-Mitsubishi team with the objective of winning the 12th Paris-TripoliDakar from December 25-January 16.
Application forms for 1990 Competition Licences are now available from the RAC MSA Ltd and will be sent automatically to all current licence holders. An important change for 1990 is that Race Licences will be valid for entering Speed events of up to Restricted status.
Allowing ourselves just a little indulgence MOTOR SPORT may quietly pat itself on the back. Gordon Cruickshank, deputy editor, has been awarded the Rootes Gold Cup in recognition of his success in co-driving the winning Jaguar on the Pirelli Marathon event.
The trophy is awarded annually by the Guild of Motoring Writers, and the announcement at the annual dinner, at the Royal Automobile Club on December 6, was the most popular of the evening. Subsequently injured in a road accident, as a passenger, GC continues to regain his strength at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury. On behalf of the Guild’s committee, Eric Tobitt announced that he had visited him that day to present the award.
The Timo Makinen Award was presented to Michael Cotton (MLC) in recognition of his reportage of World Championship sportscar racing.
The ACO announced in Paris on Monday, December 11 that it would go over the heads of the FIA and FISA and petition the National Assembly for permission to hold the 24 Hour race. M. Robert Jane, the mayor of Le Mans, and a number of parliamentary deputies were at the conference, and the issue should be debated in January.
In response, M. Balestre issued a megalomaniac statement blaming the ACO for mounting a public attack against himself and the Motor Sport Council “at the very moment when most of the national sporting authorities are organising the celebrations for their deserving drivers.”
On the subject of safety, Balestre has this to say: “Certain French drivers declared that this year, on the Straight, they were terrorised by the speed as they were no longer in control of their cars.” He also claimed that in 1990 speeds would rise to “more than 420 kph (261 mph) unless something is done to prevent the increase.