Fine Prospects for 3 1/2 litre formula

Careful checking with all the manufacturers represented at Suzuka, and with Max Mosley to fill in some gaps, reveals just how competitive the new 3 1/2-litre formula is going to be. Mugen is expected to be a debutant team in 1991 with a Honda V10-powered sports car, its chassis designed and built in Japan. Lamborghini is expected to announce a tie-up with Spice Engineering (a deal that has been on the cards since the ill-fated Spice engineered Tiga-Lamborghini appeared briefly in 1986) but Nissan, Jaguar and the Porsche teams are expected to soldier on with their existing turbo cars for another season.

“Our contract with Gallahers extends to the end of next season, and we will honour it,” confirms Jaguar’s Ron Elkins. More than that he cannot say, but in Coventry and Kidlington there are people waiting anxiously for a decision from Jaguar’s Ford-placed management, Bill Hayden and John Grant, concerning the development of a 3 1/2-litre engine.

Mosley confirms that FISA’s attitude is to penalise the turbo teams in 1991 with air restrictors, IMSA style, as well as with the continued limitation of fuel allocations. “We can police the formula properly with restrictors, and they’ll handicap the turbo cars in qualifying as well the races,” says Mosley. “If they look like being faster than the 3 1/2-litre cars we’ll be able to handicap them further at short notice.”

Tom Walkinshaw, clearly in the turbo camp for another year, is adamant that FISA must not require Jaguar, Porsche and anyone else to do more development work to stay competitive. “They asked us to carry on because they couldn’t get full grids, so they shouldn’t set out to penalise us,” he asserts. “The best thing they can do is to reduce the weight limit for 3 1/2-litre cars to 700 kg. That would be their advantage.”

Responds Mosley: “The turbo teams asked us for another year. Certain manufacturers couldn’t get their 3 1/2-litre cars ready in time, but they needn’t expect any favour from us.” He raises the intriguing possibility that Mazda will be allowed to re-introduce the quad-rotor 767C model in 1991, on giving an undertaking to run in the 3 1/2-litre class in 1992.

Toyota, we understand, is experimenting with a V10 and a V12 and will make a decision soon. Either way, the car should be ready in time for the outset of the new formula in 1991.

There were 17 Porsche 962Cs on the grid at Suzuka, 48% of the entry, and although they were heavily outclassed they will surely be needed to make up the numbers next season. The only possible source of customer cars, at the moment, is Spice, and Jeff Hazell was doubtful that Spice Engineering will make more than a handful of Group C customer cars to fill the gap.

Putting together all the pieces of the jigsaw, the picture for 1991 and 1992 may be as follows:

1991 World Sports Car Championship

Mercedes 291 3 1/2 litre V12
Peugeot 908 3 1/2 litre V10
Toyota 91C-V 3 1/2 litre V10 or V12
Brun-Neotech 3 1/2 litre V12
Lamborghini-Spice 3 1/2 litre V12
Spice-Cosworth 3 1/2 litre V8
Alba-Subaru 3 1/2 litre V12
Mugen (Honda) 3 1/2 litre V10
Plus existing turbo cars from Jaguar, Nissan and Porsche.

1992 World Sports Car Championship

Above 3 1/2 litre cars, plus:
Nissan R92C
Alfa Romeo V12
Porsche V12
Mazda V12
? Jaguar XJR V12