Around and about, June 1991

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Correction

We regret that in the feature “The Things they say. . .” in last month’s issue, we attributed a false reference to the ex-Mrs EM Thomas 328 BMW to Coys of Kensington, whereas the incorrect statement did not emanate from their auction catalogue, but from another source. Our apologies to Coys. — WB

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Historic Silverstone

Silverstone Circuits and sponsors of the meeting Christies are intending to build upon the success of the inaugural historic festival last year with another weekend of motor racing nostalgia.

New for the 27/28th July weekend is a two-part race for pre-1932 Le Mans cars which will feature two drivers per car and include a compulsory pit stop. The full works Roesch Talbot team from 1931 has been promised as has an equipe of SSK Mercedes.

Almost all the other races are also two-parters, one race on the Saturday followed by another on the Sunday, and will feature the Steigenberger International Supersports Cup for CanAm McLarens, Porsches, Lola T70s and Chevrons, the HGPCA pre ’65 Grand Prix cars race, the pre ’57 Grand Prix cars race and the Christie’s Cup for pre-war sports cars. There is also a race for International Sports Prototypes and another for Historic Touring Cars.

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Countdown to the Big Race

Fears that this year’s 24-Hours of Le Mans might be a non-event can be set aside, thanks to a late rally by Porsche customers that could put 16 or more 962Cs on the grid. As FISA prepared the final list in Paris it seemed that the entry might reach 40, a figure that would be welcomed by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest.

Jaguar and Mercedes are the principal teams, with several private Porsche teams, and Mazda, playing a strong supporting role. This year should be the last for the old breed of consumption-controlled cars, and one of them will almost certainly win.

Jean Todt, Peugeot’s sporting director, makes it plain that his V10-engined cars won’t go the distance but looks to next year when the 3.5-litre cars should predominate.

Le Mans has been run outside the World Championship since 1988. . . . the exile proved painful when FISA ordered the ACO to instal two chicanes on the Mulsanne Straight, and re-entry wasn’t easy either as the organising club had to sign away its television rights, and other money-spinners besides.

The centre-piece of the circuit, the pits and paddock area, has changed almost out of recognition. In place of the cramped, smelly old pits built in 1956 we will see an extended, modern tower block of garages, hospitality suites and viewing galleries rising approximately 90 feet into the sky.

Tom Walkinshaw’s Silk Cut Jaguar team won the big race in 1988 and again in 1990 with the V12-powered XJR Group C cars, and prepares to enter four cars on June 22/23. The main development is an increase from 7.0 to 7.4 litre capacity for the stock-block engines, through a wider bore and longer stroke, and the power could rise from a quoted 730 bhp last year to more than 750 bhp.

Jaguar’s driver line-up will include Derek Warwick, Bob Wollek and Andy Wallace, Teo Fabi, Kenny Acheson and David Leslie, John Nielsen, Davy Jones and Raul Boesel, and Jeff Krosnoff, Mauro Martini and Michel Ferte. Pairings will be announced later but there is a possible predictability…

Bob Wollek is a surprising addition to the team, indicating a split with Joest Porsche. He is the Jaguar dealer in Strasbourg and offered his services to TWR once before, and the one-off arrangement means that Wollek has driven factory cars for Lancia, Porsche and Jaguar within the past six years.

He won the Daytona 24-Hours in February, and hopes that the recent tendency for Daytona winners to succeed at Le Mans will be continued. Walkinshaw, too, will hope that Wollek’s presence can bring that sort of luck! The fourth car for Krosnoff and Martini is part of a TWR and Jaguar deal with the Suntec team in Japan, Suntec having taken delivery of an XJR-11 turbo for the Japanese Sportscar Championship.

The Sauber Mercedes team will put its main effort into a trio of C11s, looking to repeat the 1989 Le Mans victory. That 1-2-5 success was achieved with the C9 model, which was rather less complex than the C11, and the 24-hour test at Ricard earlier in the year did throw up a few problems with the C11. The championship winning car is a rather different proposition at 1000 kg, and the team’s main concern is brake cooling.

Jean-Louis Schlesser and Jochen Mass lead the Mercedes team, with Michael Schumacher and Karl Wendlinger in the junior role visiting Le Mans for the first time (they hoped to drive the C291, but on recent form it just isn’t ready for the 24-hour race).

Jonathan Palmer joins Mercedes for the race, along with Alain Ferte, Stanley Dickens, Kurt Thiim and Fritz Kreuzpointner, so four of Peter Sauber’s nine drivers haven’t taken part in the race before.

Porsche 962C teams taking part include those of Walter Brun, the Kremer brothers, Antoine Salamin and Franz Konrad, all of whom are registered for the championship, and taking advantage of their entries will be Reinhold Joest, Vern Schuppan, the Alpha and Trust teams from Japan, Obermaier and the Almeras brothers.

At Le Mans, as everywhere else, the first ten places on the grid will be reserved for the new, normally aspirated machines and pole position is there for the taking.

There will be two Peugeots at the start for Keke Rosberg, Mauro Baldi, Philippe Alliot, Yannick Dalmas, Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Pierre-Henri Raphanel. There should be at least four privately owned Spices, one of them the Euro Racing entry from Holland and one, perhaps, with a Ferrari Dino engine from Martino Finotto’s American IMSA team.

Chuck Graemiger’s new SRG-Cosworth is expected to make its world debut with Pascal Fabre and Bernard Thuner on strength, entered by Fred Stalder’s ROC organisations which has supported Le Mans for many years.

Last year the Sauber Mercedes team was missing from the line-up at Le Mans, for political reasons connected with the event being outside the World Championship. . . . this year the Nissan team is missing for political reasons connected with the event being inside the World Championship!

There will be regrets that this year’s race is the last for the “unlimited” class crs and we still can’t get the leading makes to the same grid, but still Le Mans remains the biggest and best sports car race of the year.

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Marathon Plans

Some of rallying’s biggest names will be on Tower Bridge on June 23rd for the start of the 4th Pirelli Classic Marathon. Walter Röhrl in a Lotus-Cortina and Sandro Munari (Alfa Romeo GTA) face names from a previous generation like John Sprinzel, an Alpine veteran in his Sebring-spec Sprite, and Stirling Moss who has built a Healey 3000 to aim for victory. He has recruited navigator Zoë Heritage, becoming famed for her prowess on regularity sections, in an effort to become the only man to win a Marathon Gold Cup as well as an Alpine Gold.

A Marathon first is the loose surface stage in Bavaria while ever more mountain sections include a night run over Coppa Dolomiti roads.

The Ladies cup is under siege from Anne Hall and Val Morley exchanging their Anglia for a Sunbeam Tiger.

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First Time

On display for the first time on 22/23 June will be the John Young classic car collection, 30 sporting cars including a Maserati 250F, D-type, and Delage D8. The aim is to boost the restoration fund for Findon church, near Worthing. For information, phone 0903 830 447.

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