Suzuka 480km

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Schlesser’s car did not go out, but Derek Bell reminded us that he is an outstanding wet weather driver by taking a provisional pole position in the Richard Lloyd Racing/PCGB Porsche 962, admitting that it was “bloody dangerous” out there, but grinning as he said it. Unfortunately the new car lacked the downforce it needed to perform well in the dry and had an obscure day on Sunday, finishing 19th after making two unscheduled stops for new tyres.

The afternoon session was abandoned as conditions became even worse (although it stopped raining as soon as the decision was announced) and the second session was held on Sunday morning, to Richard Lloyd’s disgust, but it was a case of force majeure since a large number of drivers had not been timed at all. Even with race engines the Toyotas were planted securely at the front, while Kenny Acheson in the Sauber was given a slot on the tenth row after Mauro Baldi, who had qualified the car well, transferred to Schlesser’s. Schlesser had the cabin fire extinguisher go off in his face, and was hampered by an electrical misfire, so the Swiss/German team was anything but confident before the start. The Silk Cut team, in fact, looked in better shape as Jan Lammers had surpassed himself in qualifying and claimed third place.

The Spice Engineering team returned to Silverstone in a disappointed frame of mind, both the cars in the new 31/2-litre class failing to reach half distance (Alain Ferte and Henri Pescarolo, in the Prototeam’s Spice-Cosworth DFZ, blew their engine on Sunday morning and did not get to the start, so the new category was not represented in the classification). The “works” cars have Nicholson-tuned Cosworth DFZs and the package has been outstandingly reliable in the past four seasons of C2 racing, but on Sunday morning Thorkild Thyrring’s car stopped with an electrical failure which recurred in the race. At the time the Dane had worked up to third place overall, as he stopped for fuel after the pukka C1 cars. Thyrring had finished his qualifying in Ray Bellm’s car but spun and damaged the front end, as a result of which a water pipe fractured early in the race and damaged the engine.

At 750kg the Spices are certainly light and nimble, with astonishing cornering power, and should be formidable at Brands Hatch and Donington. At Suzuka though, the team missed the special luck that Gordon Spice, four times World C2 Champion, takes along in his hand baggage. Spice is not a regular member of the team and did not travel to Japan, where Bellm said he had not plucked up the courage to explore the cornering limits.

Hugh Chamberlain’s Spice-Hart, driven by Nick Adams and Fermin Velez, won the C2 category without any problems, in fact the only classified finisher in the class, and thus became the first turbocharged car to win in C2 since August 1984!

There were plenty of new FISA faces at Suzuka, notably those of Max Mosley and series co-ordinator John Macdonald, but Bernie Ecclestone has yet to see his first World Championship sports-car race. What was, by sports-car “endurance” standards an excellent event, and not a moment too short at 480km, disappointed Macdonald who hoped that Dijon would be better. The fact that there were six different leaders and eleven lead changes, far more than in the entire 1988 Grand Prix season, did not seem to carry much weight. Give them time … MLC