Silverstone 1,000 Kms

Works Porsche lucky

Two factors have conspired to reduce the apparent advantage of the factory Rothmans-Porsches this year and both were in play at Silverstone on May 13th when Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass were a shade lucky to win the World Endurance Championship 1,000 Kilometre race. The works cars are no longer appreciably lighter than the customer Porsche 956s, thanks to the new minimum weight limit of 850 kilogrammes, and their power units were detuned for the race with lower compression pistons in order to avoid the worrying crop of engine failures. So Ickx and Mass had to struggle to establish their customary superiority while Bell and Bellof were delayed by a host of problems.

The Lancia-Martini entries have been getting better for the past 12 months and, with new Speedline wheels at the back to accept Dunlop's Denloc tyres, were fully competitive at Silverstone as Riccardo Patrese proved by taking pole position with a time of 1 mm 13.84 sec. This was a shade slower than Bellof's stunning qualifying time last year but clearly established the speed of the Italian cars, though the second entry for Mauro Baldi / Paolo BariIla was afflicted by a misfire all weekend and never showed its pace. Bob Wollek, partnered with Patrese, thought there was more to come from the Lancia as it was suffering from a touch of oversteer on the turn-in to the fast, sweeping corners of the Grand Prix circuit.

Ickx and Mass were second quickest overall at 1 min 14.17 sec but only after suffering two piston-related engine problems, while at the end of qualifying Bellof snatched the third fastest time from Jonathan Palmer, who was going remarkably well in the Canon Porsche 956. Bell and Bellof also had two engines in trouble, and overnight before the race new 8.0:1 compression pistons were flown from Stuttgart, replacing the 8.5;1 pistons used by everyone else.

The works Porsches were down on power, by 20 bhp perhaps, and this was quite evident in the race. Patrese led the opening laps with Palmer overtaking Ickx to take up the chase. Bell couldn't keep up in fourth place, and Thierry Boutsen and Rupert Keegan filled the next positions in John Fitzpatrick's Skoal sponsored Porsches. The next competitive cars were Klaus Ludwig's Joest entered 956, Baldi's off-form Lancia, the Jolly Club Lancia LC2/83 of Pierluigi Martini / Beppe Gabbiani and the Gaggia sponsored 956 of Oscar Larrauri / Massimo Sigala.

Aston Martin had a new development for Silverstone, in preparation for Le Mans, in the form of a Tickford turbocharged engine for the Viscount Downe entered, Bovis sponsored Nimrod driven by Ray Mallock and American Drake Olson. When the Garrett turbocharged V8 gave 710 bhp on the test bed everyone got quite excited, but once installed the engine gave little more power, if any, than the normally aspirated 570 bhp engine in the Nimrod handled by Mike Salmon, John Sheldon and Richard Attwood. Mallock had all his work cut out keeping ahead of the C2 class battle, and after 40 laps the car was withdrawn as it had used up most of its oil. Much later the other Nimrod went out with a dropped valve after an inauspicious outing, and Aston Martin enthusiasts can only hope that the cars are in better fettle for Le Mans this month. The C2 class is gathering strength and interest all the time this year, and several debutants were performing well. Gordon Spice led the class initially in the new Cosworth DFL powered Tiga, until black-flagged for having the left-side door partly open. Martino Finotto's Giannini-Alba soon went out with gearbox trouble, leaving two more Gianninis to battle with the fleet little Ecosse, the revised factory Mazda 727C, the new Ceekar-BDX, Edward Arundel's new Scorpion Racing Arundel-DFV C200, and Roy Baker's Tiga which was powered by Ford's new hush-hush BDT 1.7-litre engine, T standing for Turbo. This engine will power Ford's new RS1700T rally car when it appears, but in Baker's Tiga it seemed to lack power and the car eventually retired with a wheel bearing failure. Lancia still have difficulty in getting their act together, though the expertise is certainly there as the rally programme proves. After 28 laps in the lead Patrese headed for the pits to report a loss of power, and after a series of pit stops the car retired with an oil pump failure in the turbocharger scavenge.

From this point on Palmer and Lammers began to dominate the race, well clear of the Ickx / Mass Porsche. Bell's 956 dropped away to an eventual tenth place with a series of problems, first a loose wheel after a pit stop, then a faulty oil cooler which had to be changed, and finally a misfire cured by changing the Motronic control box. Franz Konrad, in the Kremer Porsche, was delayed after a collision with the Jolly Club Lancia at the Woodcote chicane, an incident which left the Lancia with a burst rear tyre and a lot of ground to make up. Vern Schuppan, out for the first time in Walter Brun's new 956, had a wheel fall off at Stowe but was able to carry on after having the corner changed.

It all looked so good for the Canon team . . . until a plume of smoke forced Palmer into the pits. Not a piston this time, but a faulty oil union in a very inaccessible part of the engine. The repair took 20 minutes, the equivalent of 13 laps, allowing the old firm of "Mix" to dominate the second half of the race. The fact that the Canon team was classified fifth, nine laps behind the winners, is an indication of Richard Lloyd's potential as entrant of the car, which is likely to be a front runner at Le Mans in the absence of the works team.

The Boutsen / Hobbs 956 lost time with a faulty gear linkage, as did Spice's rapid Tiga-DFL, and Ludwig / Pescarolo became the nearest challengers to the Rothmans-Porsche. In the C2 class the Mazda went out with an oil leak and the Ecosse with a defective clutch just ten laps from the end, leaving the Albas to clean up the class. — M.L.C.

Results
Silverstone 1,000kms, 2nd round, World Endurance Championship, 212 laps of the 2.93-mile Grand Prix circuit.
1st : J. Ickx / J. Mass.......................................(2.6 t/c Rothmans-Porsche 956)............5 hr 5 min 21.20 sec ( 196.55 kph )
2nd : K. Ludwig / H. Pescarolo........................(2.6 t/c Joest Porsche 956)....................210 laps
3rd : G. Edwards / R. Keegan..........................(2.6 t/c Skoal Porsche 956)...................207 laps
4th : M. Baldi / P. Barilla...................................(2.6 t/c Lancia-Martini LC2/84)..............206 laps
5th : J. Palmer / J. Lammers.............................(2.6 t/c Canon Porsche 956).................203 laps
6th : F. Konrad / D. Sutherland.........................(2.6 t/c Kremer Porsche 956)................202 laps
7th : P. Martini / B. Gabbiani.............................(2.6 t/c Jolly Club Lancia LC2/83).........201 laps
8th : T. Boutsen / D. Hobbs...............................(2.6 t/c Skoal Porsche 956)..................199 laps
9th : D. Schornstein / J. Winter / V. Merl...........(2.6 t/c Porsche 956).............................198 laps
10th : D. Bell / S. Bellof.....................................(2.6 t/c Rothmans-Porsche 956)............195 laps
Fastest lap: J. Mass, 1 min 16.76 sec (221.28 kph)