Group 5 Racing - Still in Good shape

Group 5 Racing—Still in Good Shape

LONG-DISTANCE sports car racing has enjoyed a chequered career to say the least since its great days in the early Fifties, but six months ago endurance racing for the Group 5 prototypes seemed set for its worst ever year in 1975. Yet the first two rounds of the World Championship for Makes to be run in Europe, at Mugello on March 23rd and at Dijon on April 6th, proved considerably better racing than has been seen in the series for a couple of years. Such is the expense of running a full works team in this championship, and such has been the dominance of just one manufacturer in any one year, that one by one the big factory teams have pulled out. When Matra announced their withdrawal at the end of 1974 it seemed a crashing blow for the Group 5 prototypes, following Alfa Romeo's apparent retirement earlier in the year. The situation was epitomised by the Daytona 24 Hours, scheduled as the first round of the World Championship for Makes at the end of January. The organisers abandoned the Group 5 prototype class entirely when they failed to achieve a decent-sized entry of reasonably competitive cars, and ran their race instead for sports cars complying with American national regulations, which didn't qualify them for FIA Championship points, and Group 4 GT cars, which did. The result was predictably silly with the car claiming maximum points in the FM Championship being a Porsche Carrera that finished fifth overall. In consequence of the decision to ban Group 5s the race may be excluded from the Championship. Yet hope springs eternal, and when the cars rolled out of their transporters at Mugello in March the field looked a lot better than could have been anticipated a few months earlier. Wealthy German enthusiast With Kauhsen had bought the Alfa Romeo works team, and three of their 3-litre 33TT12s turned up, one of them a brand-new chassis although little different to last year's cars. In fact, their presentation as a private effort is slightly illusory, for the cars are still

prepared by Autodelta, who looked after them in the days of direct factory support. Two of the Alfas were to race, for Jacky Ickx and local favourite Arturo Merzario in one and Derek Bell and Henri Pescaralo in the other. Their major opposition came from the lone works Alpine-Renault A442 of Gerard Larrousse and Jean-Pierre Jabouille, a car that extracts nearly 500 b.h.p. from a 2-litre V6 by use of a turbocharger. Three turbocharged Porsches 908/4s were on hand too, with similar power outputs, from their 2,143-c.c. six-cylinder engines, the maximum size permitted for turbocharged units. Basically five years old, the 908s were all private entries although the factory is giving limited back-door support. Gijs Van Lennep and Herbert Mueller shared the Martini car, Leo Kinnunen and Ben Heydrich had another with slightly later bodywork, and Reinhold Joest and Mario Casoni had a third 908/4. The other leading 3-litre prototype entries compared a pair of Gitanes-sponsored works Ligiers and a single Mirage, which was called a Gulf last year but has now been bought by Georg Loos. The French Ligiers looked similar to the 1974 Maserati-powered cars but now have Cosworth DFV engines inside the heavy coupe bodies; they were driven by Jean-Pierre Beltoise/Jean-Pierre Jarier and Francis Migault/Jean-Louis Lafosse. Driving the Mirage GR7, looking distinctive in its gaudy Gelo Racing livery, were Jochen Mass and Tim Schenken. Practice saw a tremendous battle for pole position fought out between the Alfa Romeo and the Alpine-Renault camps. In the end Merzario took it for Alfa and Italy at 1 min. 48.83 sec., just 0.06 sec. faster than Jabouille in the Alpine and a second quicker than Mueller in the best of the turbocharged Porsches. The race lost two of its star entries even before the start, however, for one of the Ligiers was withdrawn after untimed practice on the morning of the race when the oil pumps were failing to scavenge properly, and the Mirage got as far as the first


corner of the pace lap leading up to the roNMg start when it was struck down by electrical failure.

When the flag fell Merzario stole the lead, but the Alpine hung close to his tail, and by lap three Jabouille was in front. Merzario retaliated, and within another four laps he had retaken the lead and this time prised open a small gap on the Alpine. Gradually this distance between them increased, but Jabouille held it at around ten seconds all the way to his first scheduled pit stop after just under an hour's racing. When all the stops had been made, Ickx replacing Merzario and Larrousse supplanting Jabouille, the Alpine caught up and very briefly led the Alfa again, but Ickx soon regained the lead and pulled away once more. The Alfa seemed to have the race at its command with the Alpine a minute adrift after three hours. But then the Italian car made an unscheduled stop for new brake pads, one backing plate having welded itself to the caliper, and seven laps were lost before the car was circulating again.

Jabouille took the lead from Pescarolo/ Bell and Mueller/van Lennep, with Ickx/ Merzario now back to fourth place and driving forcefully. Joest's Porsche 908/4 had retired with turbocharger trouble and Kinnunen's also lost a lot of time having the turbocharger unit rebuilt. The Hine/Grob Chevron was duelling closely with the Beaumont/Lombardi Alpine-Renault for fifth place and the lead in the 2-litre class, and despite a lengthy stop for fresh tyres the Chevron took the class by a mere 15 sec. Results, MOND1ALE MARCHE MUGELLO World Championship for Makes, Round 2 150 laps (784 kms.) 1st : J-P. Jabouille/G. Larrousse (2.2 Alpine-Renault *A442 t/c.): 4 hr. 47 min. 34.7 sec.-164.15 k.p.h. 2nd : A. Merzario/J. Ickx (3.0 Alfa Romeo 33TT 12) 149 laps 1 3rd : H. Mueller/G. Van Lennep (2.2 I Porsche 908(4 t/c.) 149 „ 4th : H. Pescarolo/D. Bell (3.0 Alfa Romeo 33TT 12) 148 „ 5th : J. Hine/I. Grob (2.0 Chevron-Hart B31) 144 „ 6th: L. Lombardi/M-C Beaumont (2 Alpine-Repault A441) 144 „ 7th : J-P. Beltoise/J-P. Jarier (3.0 Ligier Ford DFV JS2) 139 „ 8th : J. Barth/E. Kraus (3.0 Porsche 908/3) 139 „ 8th: J. Fitzpatrick/T. Hezemans/M. Schutt' (3.0 Porsche Carters RSR)• 134 „ 10th: C. Schickentanz/R. Wisell (3.0 Porsche

Carters RSR) 134 , Fastest Lap : Larrousse, 1 min. 49.8 sec.-171.97 k.p. (new sports-car record).

• Class winner.

The Alpine-Renault turbo ran perfectly to the finish of its debut outing, Jabouine and Larrousse finishing only one lap ahead of the fast-recovering Ickx/Merzatio with Mueller/van Lennep third, also one lap behind the winners in the turbo-Porsche 908, and Pescarolo/Bell dropping back to fourth place two laps down in the Alfa Romeo which wasn't handling so well due, it turned out later, to misalignment of the wheels. That was the first-ever win for a turbocharged car in the World Championship for Makes, and incidentally the first important win for Michelin tyres, and the AlpineRenault started favourite to win the DijonPrenois 800 kms. a fortnight later. Held on the 2-mile, twisting track in Eastern France the race attracted much the same entry although Georg Loos did not enter the Mirage-DFV, concentrating on his Mitre Continued on page 468

Carreras. Again there was a terrific scrap for pole position, and 1 min. 00.9 sec. was recorded by the Alpine-Renault of Larrousse/ Jabouille and the Alfa Romeo of Pescarolo/ Bell; the French car did it first, started from the pole position, and led for the first hour of the race. The Dijon race looked like a repeat of Mugello with Jabouille, Merzario and Pescarolo scrapping headily for the lead, but Merzario spun in the Esses and continued some way back in third place, and then with an hour of the race run the Alpine turbo slowed and pulled off with a terminal water leak which cooked the engine. It looked as though the Alfa Romeos would sweep on to an easy 1-2 victory, hut with two hours of the race run the Bell/Pescarolo Alfa Romeo needed to have a front wheel bearing changed

and lost 20 minutes. From then on it was a straight run home for Merzario, partnered this time by his Formula One team-mate Laffite, seven laps ahead of the turbo Porsche 908/4 driven by jOeSt and Casoni. The Mueller/van Lennep Porsche suffered engine failure towards the end of the race, forfeiting second place, and third position was taken by the British 2-litre Chevron driven by Hine and Grob, who had again battled with the Lombardi/Beaumont Alpine-Renault until the French car's V6 engine failed. Guy Ligier's team was out of luck again, having one car retire early with valve trouble and the other fall back from a good placing when the alternator vibrated off its bracket.

Alfa Romeo's win was the first since Monza early last year and if, as expected, the Daytona points are discarded the Italian team took the lead in the World Championship points table.—J.C.T.