Jaguars reign in Spain
A winter of intensive development on the Silk Cut Jaguar Group C cars paid off with two fine victories in the opening rounds of the World Sports Championship at Jarama and Jerez late in March.
John Watson and Jan Lammers won the first, their XJR-8 beating the Derek Bell/Hans Stuck Rothmans-Porsche 962C by 1.6sec at the end of the 360km `sprint’, and a week later Eddie Cheever and Raul Boesel won the Jerez six-hour race (nominally of 1000km), one of the toughest in recent memory.
Both Rothmans-Porsches suffered PDK transmission problems, and only eight cars were classified at the finish, but Bell and Stuck remained firmly in the championship race by finishing third, lacking fourth gear.
The Joest Porsche and Kouros Sauber Mercedes teams had yet to make their 1987 debuts, and the Kremer’s “junior team”, Kris Nissen and Volker Weidler, firmly established themselves in the formula by finishing fourth at Jarama and second at Jerez.
The results placed the Silk Cut Jaguar team at the head of the Teams Championship with 40pts, trailed by Rothmans-Porsche on 27, Kremer Porsche Racing on 25 and World Champions Brun Motorsport on 14. The standings in the Drivers Championship are closer, with Cheever and Boesel on 32pts, Stuck and Bell on 27, Nissen and Weidler on 25, and Watson and Lammers on 20.
Britain’s leading C2 Division teams, Spice Engineering and Swiftair Ecurie Ecosse, dominated both races and were, in fact, the only C2 teams to finish at Jerez, splendidly taking fourth and fifth places overall.
What concerns the privately run Porsche teams now is the pace of development by the factory teams, which in Spain were four or five seconds a lap faster. There were, in effect, two races, with Silk Cut Jaguar and Rothmans-Porsche fighting for the lead, and Kremer, Brun Motorsport and Liqui Moly racing for the lower places. For the past four years the factory and customer teams have been closely matched, and Joest, Kremer and Richard Lloyd Racing have been able to win on occasions, but that era may now be ended.
Silk Cut Jaguar, run by Tom Walkinshaw, has carried out 64 changes to the Tony Southgate-designed car, changing the designation from XJR-6 to XJR-8. The carbon fibre/Kevlar chassis has been changed in detail, the inboard suspensions have been heavily revised, and the cars now run with 6.9-litre V12 engines giving 700bhp in race trim. The bodywork has been refined too, and the sum total is designed to make the cars more reliable, faster with good economy, and more comfortable for the drivers.
The driver line-up has been changed too, retaining Eddie Cheever (as team leader) and Jan Lammers, and bringing in John Watson and Brazilian Raul Boesel. John Nielsen is Cheever’s deputy when the American is competing in Formula One races.
The V12-powered Jaguars remain at the minimum weight of 850kg, and the newly built works Porsche 962Cs are on the limit too, despite the use of PDK semi-automauc transmission. The gearbox has been lightened by 8kg, new bodywork saves 20kg, and the cars have such features as smaller oil tanks and lighter batteries.
The works cars are powered by fully water-cooled 3-litre flat-six engines with twin turbochargers, as they were last year, and on seeing substantial improvements in lap times the customers are now urgently requesting similar power units; their norm is a 2.8-litre engine with air-cooled cylinder barrels. The factory engines are, perhaps,marginally more powerful without imparIng economy, but greater factors are at work: the factory’s preparation, the car’s lightness, the PDK’s full-power gearchanging, the latest in Dunlop Denloc tyres with Kevlar belts, and of course the Hans Stuck factor when it comes to qualifying!
Porsche’s driver team is unchanged, although Jochen Mass and Bob Wollek made prior commitments with IMSA teams before the factory’s programme was decided and will miss several races, including the first and third at Jarama and Monza.
In Jaguar’s favour is FISA’s new ruling that competitors must use commercially available fuel, banning the toluene additives which ‘pack’ the fuel density and favour teams with turbochargers. Porsche’s Peter Falk and Brun’s Peter Reinisch thought they had lost 30bhp as a result, claiming a mere 640bhp, but there was absolutely no evidence of this in qualifying.
New Dunlop tyres, which are lighter and have better consistency through their life, are supplied to the factory Jaguar and Porsche teams. The Silverstone-based Liqui Moly Equipe was Goodyear’s only representative in Spain; Kremer Porsche Racing has a contract with Yokohama (which part sponsors the team); and Brun Motorsport came close to signing a Goodyear contract in February, until Michelin made the Swiss an offer they could not refuse. The delay cost Brun’s three cars competitive tyres in Spain, but new rubber was being made available for Monza.
Brun Racing’s new factory-supplied Porsches were not ready to race in Spain, while Kremer and Brun had made progress in safety but not in speed. They use honeycomb aluminium monocoques, made by John Thompson in England, which are believed to be safer in a severe accident (Kremer had the cars built after losing Manfred Winkelhock and Jo Gartner within a year). They are stiffer —”it feels more like a proper racing car” says Brun’s co-driver Frank Jelinski — although perhaps 10-15kg heavier.
The Liqui Moly team also has a honeycomb chassis, updated to 962C specification, with a longer wheelbase, and driven by Jonathan Palmer and Mauro Baldi. They have taken special steps to reduce weight, including an entirely new rear body section with a separate wing, and needs ballast to achieve the 850kg weight limit, to become the most competitive non-factory Porsche team.
The two Spanish races were run on difficult, twisty circuits, with averages below 100mph, and indicated that Jaguar has met most of its objectives. The XJR-8s are fully competitive and the driver team is superb; but reliability is still not 100%, as it will need to be at Le Mans when Rothmans-Porsche concentrates on cars with normal five-speed transmissions.
Jaguars had never been on pole position before, but at Jarama they dominated the front row of the grid with Cheever quickest at 1m 14.541sec and Lamrners second on 1min 14.71 14.698sec. Stuck was extremely close at 1min 14.710s, declaring that “except for the Le Mans car, this is the best Porsche I have ever driven.”
Mauro Baldi was the quickest private team driver in 1min 16.372sec, and in the 1 min 17sec bracket were the Brun team drivers Oscar Larrauri (with Jesus Pareja), and Frank Jelinski. Kremer’s Nissen and Weidler were seventh fastest at 1min 17.427sec, and Gianfranco Brancatelli (with Massimo Sigala, in the third Brun Porsche) was eighth.
Stuck made a bad start in the Jarama race, needing to enrich the fuel mixture to start the pace lap; that was all the encouragement Cheever and Lammers needed and they pulled away from the rest by eight seconds in six laps. Stuck carved through the field, taking third place from Baldi after four laps, and his task looked a little easier when Cheever stopped early, on lap 45, with the Jaguar’s oil pressure warning light flashing. Fuel and oil were added and Boesel continued (behind Baldi) while Lammers led Stuck.
Boesel took the lead midway through the race, but an extra stop was scheduled for his Jaguar, since it had not been able to take on the full 90 litres needed to complete the distance. So the key to the race now was the battle between Bell, who led after refuelling, and Watson.
The two drivers are great friends, neighbours in Bognor Regis, and both hold an MBE. But could Watson, with all his Formula One experience, manage to pass the sportscar World Champion? After following for ten laps he took his chance under braking for the Le Mans curve, and then pulled away while Bell concentrated on his fuel consumption. It was great racing, and a proud day for Britain. Boesel came back strongly after the Jaguar’s second stop and attacked Bell for most of the last 20 laps, but unlike Watson was unable to pass. Once he hit the back of the Porsche, sending it sideways out of the Bugatti turn, and that spurred Bell to increase his revs and pull away; Boesel was then handicapped by poor engine pick-up due son faulty fad pump.
Watson was badly delayed by Palmer two laps from the end, and seconds after a heavy collison the Liqui Moly Porsche’s left-front tyre exploded on the main straight. Palmer kept control and drove round slowly to wait for the chequered flag, falling from fifth to eight place. The Kremer Porsche was fourth, three laps down, and the three Brun cars took the next places with drivers unhappy with their tyres and engine power.
Walkinshaw was absolutely delighted with his drivers and the cars. After the trip south to Jerez the cause of the oil leaks (the T-car had also been affected during practice) was traced to faulty breathers on the tanks, and the Jaguar team was in a confident mood.
This was another slow track, with 16 corners in 4.2km. Walkinshaw protested the length of the race, since no-one could possibly run 1000km within the six-hour limit, but this was rejected by the stewards; the Scotsman’s contention was that the turbo teams could gain an advantage by raising their boost to burn their full allocation of fuel, but the fear proved unfounded.
With Mass and Wollek joining Rothmans Porsche the contest with Jaguar was evened up, and Stuck got his revenge by claiming pole position at 1min 29.19sec. Cheever was second fastest at 1min 29.38sec but then found himself disqualified from the meeting for failing to sign-on! On appeal he was allowed to race, but was fined $5000 and his practice time was disallowed.
Lammers moved up to the front row with a time of 1min 29.94sec followed by Mass on 1min 30.82sec, while Cheever’s Jaguar was qualified by Boesel at 1min 32.93sec on race compound tyres.
Overtaking is difficult at Jerez, and for the first half-hour the four leaders went by like a train, Stuck leading Lammers, Mass and Cheever. They were fighting hard and made a wonderful show for the spectators.
Lammers was the first to fail when the front-right stub axle broke, the Jaguar arriving at the pits on three wheels. Nearly ten minutes later the Dutchman continued, but after 65 laps the XJR-8 failed Watson with a broken driveshaft. At the beginning of the race Palmer had kept with the leaders for four laps but then dropped back to a respectful distance, and his Liqui Moly car was an early retirement lacking drive to the wheels.
Cheever took the lead briefly after the second fuel stops, but with Mass chasing hard he was pushed over a kerbstone by Frey’s C2-class Alba, and the front body supports were damaged. The Jaguar dropped back, but kept second place as Bell’s Porsche was now misfiring badly at high revs. Within a few minutes of taking over, Boesel made an unscheduled stop to have the nose section secured better with bungey straps and went a lap down on the Rothmans-Porsches, which now looked very secure. Nissen and Weidler were three laps behind, and content to run for a good place at the end.
Porsche’s PDK transmission has never won a full-distance race, and at three-and-a-half hours Bell stopped in the pits lane without any gears. Thirteen minutes later he was sent out in fifth place, with all the gears except fourth, so he too was driving to finish. An hour later Wollek was in dire gearbox trouble too, and the leading Porsche retired.
Cheever and Boesel now had the race in their hands, the Kremer and Rothmans Porsches presenting no threat at all at three and six laps distance, and the race speed dropped sharply in the last 90 minutes. The two surviving Brun cars were in trouble too, Brancatelli’s delayed by a fuel leak and a broken spacer in the rear suspension, and Larrauri’s by a broken top link which allowed the left rear wheel to emerge from the bodywork. Emilio de Villota’s Kremer Porsche lost a good contest with the Danone-sponsored Spice C2 car then stopped to have a broken driveshaft changed, and ran the last two laps without water in the engine to finish eighth and last.
Fourth and fifth overall were the Spice and Swiftair Ecurie Ecosse teams, separated by just 35sec after six hours of duelling. Gordon Spice and Fermin Velez were marginally quicker on the track, but lost perhaps half minute to Ray Mallock and David Leslie at each pit stop, due to a faulty starter motor. Despite the arrival of new or improved C1 teams (those of Martin Schanche and Thorkild Thyrring) Spice Engineering and the Swiftair-sponsored Ecurie Ecosse look as hard as ever to beat. In professional style they ran through both races without any difficulty, Spice assisted by the Spanish driver Fermin Velez (the only man who looks up to Jan Lammers!), who brought Danone sponsorship and enabled the Silverstone team to start the season with the full quota of 40 points.
Ecurie Ecosse’s World C2 Championship in 1986 with the rally-bred Metro V6 engine proved that the Ford Cosworth 3.3-litre DFL is not invincible, but the V8 has been honed to perfection for sportscar racing and is the choice of Ecurie Ecosse this year. The DFL’s reliability is near enough absolute when properly prepared, and economy (with a Lucas management system) is good enough for the cars to run at least 90% of the overall winner’s distance on 60% of the fuel allocation.
The leading turbo teams are very competitive in practice, as Schanche and Thyrring have shown, and may eventually beat Spice and Ecosse, but the blend of speed and economy is difficult to achieve in a full race distance. Schanche’s co-driver Will Hoy claimed the C2 pole at both Spanish tracks. The Lucky Strike Argo JM19B is a much improved version of last year’s JM19, weighing 709k, empty, which is 130kg lighter. That sort of improvement makes a vital difference in a formula controlled by fuel economy, but a faulty consumption gauge dropped the Argo back at Jarama and towards the finish Schanche had an unfortunate collision with Nissen’s Porsche, the Argo being badly damaged in a long journey across the infield and over a ditch.
In the space of five days the Lucky Strike team took the Argo back to Jo Marquart’s factory at Snetterton, had it repaired and drove to Jerez, a round trip of 2000 miles. The repair, which took 48 hours, involved reskinning the floor of the monocoque, making and fitting new suspensions, undercar venturi, a rear subframe, and repairing the bodywork.
The Argo arrived at Jerez just as the morning practice began, and in the afternoon Hoy made the fastest time — although the car wasn’t properly balanced, he had never driven on the track before, and Goodyear doesn’t supply qualifying tyres to its only C2 representative! But in the race Schanche had another unfortunate accident, moving into the path of Pareja’s Porsche, and then the Zakspeed turbo four-cylinder engine failed.
Thorkild Thyrring has put together an excellent C2 team, with Leif Lindstrom driving. The Dane has the latest Tiga GC287 chassis, looked after by constructor Howden Ganley and powered by the latest Ford-Hart BDT-E 2.1-litre turbo engine. At Jarama the car was third in the C2 class, running out ot fuel as it crossed the finishing line, and at Jerez the Tiga showed itself to be fast and economical until the gearbox broke.
The C2 category is becoming better supported, and certainly more varied, than the main Cl class. Ecurie Ecosse will run a second car at Silverstone for Mike Wilds and Nick Adams, ADA’s new car should appear, Hugh Chamberlain will run his new Spice Hart, Duncan Bain his new Tiga-‘Metro’ V6, John Bartlett his Bardon with Saab turbo power, and the French ALD team is building a new car with Audi Quattro turbo power. The Midlands Ark Racing team is due to appear again with a DFL engine after a year’s absence, and Charles Ivey’s Porsche 956 powered Tiga will resurface too.
An increasing number of teams, apprehensive of the cost of C1 racing, find the C2 category very attractive, and it now fulfils the role intended for it. The C1 class may be more precarious than it looks, as the factory Porsches and Jaguars race away over the horizon leaving disgruntled Porsche customers (and few others) in their wake. Public support is growing steadily, but is still not at a level which would allow Group C to become a ‘big money’ category like Formula One. The rise of C2 is something to pay attention to. MLC