World Endurance Championship

Controversy mars the Monza 1,000 Kms

Endurance racing has been fairly free of politics for some years, but the World Endurance Championship for 1984 got off to a had start at Monza on April 23rd when the winning Porsche and the third-placed Lancia were disqualified at post-race scnnineering for being marginally below the new 850 kilogramme minimum weight limit. The series is already clouded by controversy over FISA’s abrupt climbdown over the fuel consumption restriction, and virtual adoption of the American IMSA regulations, imposed upon the teams little more than a month before the first race.

The two works Rothmans-Porsches for Jacky Ickx / Jochen Mass and Derek Bell / Stefan Bellof were to the latest specification, with further use of titanium in the suspension parts, and were thought to weigh no more than 810 kg, so 40 kg of lead weights were placed in the “passenger” footwell. Little had been done to the 2.65-litre, twin-turbo 956 engines which, with Motronic engine management, were still said to develop 630 bhp, though that seems to be on the conservative side.

Of the nine privately owned Porsche 956s, all but two were equipped with Motronic for the first time and should, in theory, have been fully competitive with the works cars. John Fitzpatrick Racing entered three, two of them with Skoal tobacco sponsorship for David Hobbs / Thierry Boutsen and Guy Edwards / Rupert Keegan, and the third for Giorgio Francia / Renzo Zorzi. The first pairing had a brand-new chassis with the appropriate amount of ballast, the 1984 specification car costing around £160,000 “though they didn’t charge us for the lead”, Fitzpatrick commented wryly.

Richard Lloyd’s Silverstone-based Canon/GTi Engineering 956 was in the hands of Dr Jonathan Palmer and Jan Lammers as usual, and is now managed by the experienced Keith Greene. Reinhold Joest’s team pulled off a surprise victory last year, outsmarting the factory both on speed and fuel management, but was destined this year for a miserable Easter weekend. Last year’s car, to the latest specification, was driven by Klaus Ludwig with Stefan Johansson and Henri Pescarolo. The wealthy Swiss entrant, Walter Brun, had two cars at Monza, one for himself, Hans Stuck and Harald Grohs, the second, with Gaggia sponsorship, for Oscar Larrauri and Massimo Sigala. Dieter Schornstein’s steadily driven 956 was handled by the owner and Volkert Merl, while the Obermaier Racing 956 was driven by Juergen Laessig, Axel Plankenhorn and the young South African driver, George Fouche. In theory, Lancia should have been able to win the Monza race, having claimed pole position last year and led briefly until the Pirelli tyres went bang. Now with a Dunlop contract and the latest Denloc tyres to make them competitive on grip, the Lancias have higher compression ratios which raise the power to some 670 bhp. The Italian firm felt it had no need to ballast the LC2/84 models (inferring that they were heavier last year than everyone believed), the two Martini-backed cars driven by new signing Bob Wollek with Riccardo Patrese, and Mauro Baldi / Paolo Barilla. The Mirabella team back-up car won’t be seen this year, through lack of finance, but its place was taken by a Jolly Club entry for Pierluigi Martini / Beppe Gabbiani with sponsorship from Totip, the Italian horse racing tote. Yves Courage’s Cougar-Cosworth DFL from France non-started after the camshaft lobes wore away during practice, the Sehcar-Porsche from Switzerland damaged its valve-gear during practice and also non-started, the team not having a spare unit, while the Charles Ivey-run Grid-Porsche owned by Dudley Wood non-started as Wood went down with a virulent case of food poisoning as soon as he arrived in Italy, depriving John Cooper of his shared drive. These happenings thinned out the GpC class, the only competitive car remaining being the Rondeau-Cosworth DFV of Pierre Yver / Bernard de Dryver.

The C2 (Junior) class looked much better than it did last year despite the withdrawal of three Howden Ganley-built Tigas, which were not ready in time. Two BF Goodrich sponsored 2.6 Lola-Mazda T616 examples are now based in England and were driven by Jim Busby / Rick Knoop and by Boy Hayje / Dieter Quester. Also British-based is the Gebhardt Motorsport Gebhardt C842, powered by a Formula 2 BMW engine, driven by Frank Jelinski and Cliff Hansen. A neat little débutant was the Ecosse C284, entered by a revived Ecurie Ecosse team which had the car designed and built by Ray Mallock, loosely based on a de Cadenet chassis. Mallock was one of the drivers, with Scotsman David Duffield and Mike Wilds.

The competitive C2 entry was rounded off by the two Carlo Facetti / Giorgio Stirano designed Alba-Giannini cars, with 380 bhp 1.9-litre turbo engines which have water injection as one of the advanced features. Facetti drove one with team owner Martino Finotto, and Italians Almo Coppelli / Davide Pavia the other. Stirano, like a number of other people, was annoyed that the fuel tankage has been raised to 100-litres at short notice, because although this confers an advantage on the C2 entries it’s not easy to redesign the car to accept a tank almost double the size of last year’s (55-litre) tanks within a month; the Facetti / Finotto car had an 86-litre tank, the biggest that would fit the space . . . but one wonders if there was not some gamesmanship here, since the car must stop three times to make full use of its 330-litre allocation, and can do the job just as well with a tank of around 85-litres!

The opening event was remarkable in one respect, that the leading teams agreed not to use qualifying tyres during the practice sessions. This involved agreement between the Rothmans-Porsche and Lancia-Martini teams, both on Dunlops as were most of the privately run Porsches, and the Fitzpatrick team on Japanese Yokohama rubber.

Perhaps it was not so surprising, then, that Stefan Bellof beat last year’s qualifying time of 1 min 35.86 sec (Ghinzani, Lancia) by a mere 100th of a second to claim pole position this year. What was surprising was the amount of mechanical carnage in the C1 class, following months of preparation for the first race. The Ickx / Mass 956 blew an engine and was only eighth quickest overall; Ludwig’s Porsche blew an engine and was 10th fastest; Hobbs / Boutsen blew an engine but borrowed one from the works team, and pulsed up to fifth fastest overall; the Sehcar blew its Porsche 956 engine and was withdrawn; the Zorzi / Francia 956 blew an engine and was 12th quickest, and the Sigala / Larrauri 956 also blew an engine, qualifying seventh quickest.

Up to now, the Porsche 24-valve engines have been extremely reliable, and there was a lot of head-scratching in the paddock. Some teams blamed the new Motronic engine management system, but it seemed more likely that the fuel, which for most teams came from a central source to help the metering to each car, was to blame. The organisers had a fresh batch of fuel put in for the event, but even so there were two more engine failures quite early in the race, involving Klaus Ludwig and Renzo Zorzi, making a total of nine very expensive rebuilds in just three days.

The Lancias were in trouble too. They still seemed to lack pre-season testing, and Cesare Fiorio’s team spent all day on Saturday changing springs, dampers and roll bars. Eventually they reached the point where the cars were grounding at various points around the track (the Totip car wore out its undertray in just five laps on Sunday), but the biggest setback came when Patrese shot off the road on Sunday morning, damaging the side of his LC2. The cause of this mishap was the breakage of a new type of Speedline wheel so serious that the team had no option but to revert to last year’s wheels and last year’s tyres, which were nowhere near as effective. Both Baldi and Patrese took a chance on Sunday afternoon, using the newer Speedlines with Denloc tyres to qualify the cars and earned themselves second and fourth positions on the grid, though well adrift of Bellof’s time at 1 min 37.18 sec and 1 min 37.49 sec.

This year’s regulations do not permit a substitution of car during practice, so Lancia had to practise some subterfuge on Sunday afternoon so that Patrese could qualify the spare car, the chassis plate on the damaged machine being taped over! Sandwiched between the two Lancias was the Canon 956 of Palmer and Lammers, the Englishman having lapped impressively at 1 min 37.27 sec to take third fastest time overall.

Bell and Bellof were running one of the few Porsches which didn’t give trouble during practice, or through the race for that matter. At the start, Bellof simply lit up and took off, leading Baldi’s Lancia-Martini by 12 seconds after only three laps. The young German was already through the first chicane by the time Baldi and Palmer came into sight around the Parabolica curve before the pits and, with thirteen laps run, Palmer and Ickx had pushed the Lancia down to fourth.

Ludwig retired from ninth place with another engine failure, Francia from 12th position with an engine failure, and Larrauri inadvisedly tried to overtake Boutsen at the first chicane, which had the Gaggia sponsored 956 astride the Armco in no time at all. Stuck made a quick stop to have the windscreen cleaned after collecting oil from the IMSA class 935 and Patrese made an equally quick stop to have the turbo boost increased, then setting the fastest lap of the race at 1 min 38.0 sec as he caught up, actually to lead briefly when the Porsches made their pit stops.

Palmer also led the race for two laps by out-distancing the works Porsches on a tank of fuel, and it became clear that the blue-and-white cars would make six stops rather than five. This year’s rules allow the teams to make as many stops as they like within a total allocation of 600 litres, which means effectively that they can use up more than before. Hitherto, if they had six litres in the tank at each of the five stops that fuel could not be used up, so they could actually burn only about 570 litres.

After a pretty shaky start to the weekend the Rothmans-Porsches assumed complete command of the race, the Ickx / Mass car running about a minute behind the Bell / Bellof car. This gap dwindled a little when Bell had to cope with a slow puncture, but there was no doubt that Bellof was on top form and could keep the sister car at bay.

Lancia’s challenge went dreadfully wrong at the half-distance point. The Baldi / Barilla car couldn’t be restarted after a routine pit stop, and needed a new battery, and exactly the same thing happened to the Wollek / Patrese Lancia a few minutes later. Then the Totip Lancia went missing, Martini finding that the throttle was jammed open at the Ascari chicane. He switched off and stopped on the grass, safely enough, but with no thought of struggling back to the pits on the ignition switch.

Patrese had new pads fitted at the rear, and immediately went off the road at the first chicane, damaging the front of the car quite badly as he rode over a kerbstone. That cost 11 laps and, not much later, the oil feed to a turbo broke and set the back of the car alight, Patrese stopping at his pit to bale out. From afar it looked as though a refuelling had gone wrong as black smoke, mingling with white powder, belched across the pit-lane but the fire marshals dealt with the situation efficiently.

The second half of the race was a formality for the works Porsches, Bell and Bellof finishing 23 seconds ahead of their team-mates. Baldi and Barilla were third on the road, six laps behind after turning down the boost, with Stuck / Grohs / Brun fourth. The Canon Porsche was a rather distant fifth having had a rear suspension rocker break, a repeat of the failure on the works Porsche at the Nürburgring last year.

None of Fitzpatrick’s Porsches finished, one retiring with engine failure, Boutsen’s with a seized gearbox (the oil pump may not have been working) and Edwards’ with a breakage on the right rear brake assembly which pitched the car off the road at the second chicane. The rate of attrition among the Porsches was surprisingly high compared with last year, when seven 956s took the first seven places.

Among the C2s, the BFG Mazda-Lola of Busby / Knoop won the class having finished eighth on the road, and the Ecosse made a splendid début to finish tenth on the road, with no more delay than the replacement of an ignition pack. The Gebhardt, too had a good run spoilt only by an exhaust pipe fracture to finish 12th on the road.

The final sting in the tail was the disqualification of the first and third placed cars because the scrutineers declared them under weight, the Bell / Bellof Porsche by 2kg and the Balki / Barilla Lancia by 6 kg. Porsche’s team manager Peter Falk was extremely distressed, since the car had been checked at 855 kg after practice (with an empty tank) and, since the organisers could not produce a certificate for the accuracy of the scales, he has protested the disqualification. It was an unhappy ending for a weekend that many teams will prefer to forget – M.L.C.
Monza 1,000 Kilometres 1st round – World Endurance Championship – 173 laps (1,003.4 kms) – April 23rd – Weather, warm and sunny
1st : J. Ickx / J. Mass……………………………..(2.6 t/c Rothmans-Porsche 956)…5hr 06min 39.5sec (195.9kph)
2nd : H. Stuck / H. Grohs / W. Brun………..(2.6 t/c Porsche 956)……………………167 laps
3rd : J. Palmer / J. Lammers…………………..(2.6 t/c Canon Porsche 956)…………159 laps
4th : D. Schornstein / V. Merl………………..(2.6 t/c Porsche 956)……………………155 laps
5th : P. Yver / B. De Dryver……………………(3.0 Ford-Rondeau M382)…………….152 laps
6th : J. Busby / R. Knoop……………………….(2.6 Mazda-Lola T616 C2)……………..145 laps
7th : J. Winth / L. Jensener……………………(3.5 BMW M1 GpB)………………………144 laps
8th : R. Mallock / M. Wilds / D. Duffield…(3.0 Ford-Ecosse C284)…………………..141 laps
9th : M. Finotto / C. Facetti…………………..(1.9 t/c Alba-Giannini C2)………………140 laps
10th: F. Jelinski / C. Hansen……………………(2.0 BMW-Gebhardt C843 C2)……….136 laps
Fastest lap: R. Patrese (2.6 t/c Lancia-Martini LC2/84), 1 min 38.0 sec (213.061 kph)