This year dawned as the start of a bright new world for touring car racing. A world series was organised, massive television coverage promised, and major manufacturer interest was rife around the world.
Then, it fell to pieces. Bernie Ecclestone took over promotion of all FISA events, changed the marketing and levied huge registration fees on the teams. Interest bombed as the teams could not afford the fees, and the first race, at Monza in March, started off on a down-beat. That race proved the dominance of BMW’s M3 model, the German manufacturer rewriting the saloon rules by producing an out-and-out racer for the road. The cars took the top six places, with Johnny Cecotto and Riccardo Patrese winning. In the scrutineering bay though, they were all excluded for bodywork irregularities. So Allan Moffat’s Holden Commodore, which had finished a lowly seventh on the road, was now the winner!
Matters improved by the next round at Jarama in Spain. The M3s were now legal, as were the works Ford RS Cosworths which were excluded before Monza. BMW won again, Emanuele Piero and Roberto Ravaglia triumphing easily in the Schnitzer-sponsored works car. Alfa Romeo’s efforts with the Evoluzione 75 Turbo were vastly improved, with Jacques Laffite joining the driving staff, but Maserati hit more problems with its Biturbos and failed to qualify. Andy Rouse’s British effort with the RS Cosworth had trouble in the race but took fastest lap, while the Eggenberger team’s Fords were fourth and fifth on their debuts.
In early May the scene moved to the sweeping Dijon circuit in France, Cecotto and Gainfranco Brancatelli winning a confusing, rainstorm-shortened race as the BMW M3s dominated again. Only the Fords, in third, fourth and fifth places, were able to challenge the massed M3 ranks. The good news, though, is that with each meeting the racing is more competitive, interest keeps growing and the World Touring Car Championship is pulling itself clear of those early season problems. GD.