World Endurance Championship

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Brands Hatch 1,000 kms – a hard race

The last World Endurance Championship race of 1985 to be held in Europe was also the best of the season, two works Porsches and two works Lancias locked in battle almost from start to finish. The large crowd, said to number 26,000, was swelled by those cheering for Tom Walkinshaw’s Jaguar team, but they had a disappointing afternoon as unrelated failures silenced the V12s.

Derek Bell has never won a championship of any sort in his 18-year professional career, but his victory with Hans Stuck virtually assures the two of them the WEC Drivers’ Championship (“You can always start with a World Championship and work your way back” said Stuck helpfully). They have an excellent rapport, having shared BMWs as long ago as 1974, and they fully, intend to share the 1985 title, vehemently rejecting suggestions that they might race against each other at Fuji to settle the issue, double or quits. Only if the Shah Alam race on December 1st is upgraded to Drivers’ Championship status could Mass and Ickx win the title, and that was only a mathematical possibility.

A clashing German Championship race at the Nürburgring claimed the attention of the Porsche teams run by Reinhold Joest, the Kremer brothers and Walter Brun, so after Spa the Brands Hatch race (not counting for Teams’ Championship points) had a threadbare look. The Richard Lloyd / Canon team was still rebuilding’ its 956B, though Jonathan Palmer was a spectator, on crutches, and John Fitzpatrick’s team hadn’t finished rebuilding its second 956 after the Le Mans accident, the number one car being saved for Fuji. The organising BRSCC was rather disappointed with the entry, but more than anything the teams wanted a trouble-free race, and that’s what they got.

Rothmans-Porsche’s third car, a 956 for Al Holbert and Vern Schuppan, was equipped with the experimental PDK twin­clutch, electronically controlled trans­mission. Apart from having a solenoid changed, losing the car ten laps in the pits, it ran well and was placed fifth at the finish. The transmission was first seen during practice at Kyalami in 1983, and at Imola last year where it didn’t even last the first lap, and since then the Weissach engineers have done a lot of development work. Stuck has covered 4,000 kilometres at the Weissach test circuit, and he and Schuppan also completed 1,800 kilometres at the Nürburgring without any problems.

The PDK box is some 35 kg heavier than a normal Porsche transmission, but can be made lighter. The priority was to get some .racing miles behind it, and the transmisson is, likely to appear on Holbert’s IMSA Porsche 962 next season, when the weight limit is going to be increased by 70 kg anyway. One of the two clutches is always engaged, allowing instant up-changes when the tiny gear lever is moved forwards, or down-changes when it is pulled back. The drivers are even able to change gear mid­corner without upsetting the car’s balance, and they were very positive about its advantages.

The Lancias of Riccardo Patrese and new recruit Andrea de Cesaris fairly dominated practice, being fastest in the untimed session on Friday and again in timed practice on Saturday morning. In fact within an hour they were both in their garages, having the high-boost, 800 bhp qualifying engines taken out, and replaced by 650 bhp race trim V8s. There was no way that anyone – namely, Hans Stuck – was going to match Patrese’s time of 1 min 14.66 sec, a speed of 126.02 mph. That was nearly three seconds quicker than Jonathan Palmer’s pole time of 1984, and de Cesaris quickly got used to the Lancia, recording 1 min 15.10 sec.

Porsche had no answer to this. Jochen Mass used a new Dunlop qualifying tyre, 166 compound, to record 1 min 16.89 sec, then Stuck took over the same set, still hot, to lap in 1 min 16.08 sec. The tyres had lasted only five corners on their second outing, but Stuck conceded that he could never have matched the Lancia’s times. Porsche have set the 3-litre engine development aside, and run the same 2.65-litre engines throughout each weekend, using 1.3 bar boost and perhaps 720 bhp to qualify.

Alan Jones and Jan Lammers, brought into the Jaguar team to replace Martin Brundle and Mike Thackwell, were consistently in the 1 min 19 sec bracket with their normally aspirated engines. The second timed session would be more indicative of race form, when Patrese, Mass and Stuck recorded identical times of 1 min 19.65 sec, Lammers 1 min 19.81 sec and Jones 1 min 19.87 sec. Baldi was close behind on 1 min 20.69 sec, followed by Schuppan on 1 min 20.90 sec.

The “second division” race was led by the Lee-Davey/Crang Tiga, powered by a 3.9-litre Cosworth DFL, followed by the two Aston Martin-powered cars, the EMKA and the Cheetah, and Cosmik Racing’s March­Porsche 84G. It was to be a bad day for the Tigas for, although Gordon Spice’s C2 championship-winning car was the quickest in class – and ahead of the Aston Martin­engined entries – he broke two rear suspension uprights early in the race, as did Lee­Davey’s car. Brands Hatch was showing up potential suspension weaknesses like no other circuit visited during the year.

The Lancias made the best of their front­row positions to lead the early laps, Stuck making contact with Wollek and spinning at Surtees which meant that he had to drive hard to make up lost ground. After half an hour the Rothmans-Porsches had estab­lished their usual 1-2 routine and the Lancias were losing about a second a lap, as the Michelin compound chosen for the race was rather soft to cope with unexpectedly warm weather. Alan Jones retired early from’: fifth place when the Jaguar’s throttle jammed wide open as the Australian was changing up, going towards Dingle Dell, and in an instant the V12 was badly damaged. Lammers had stopped early with a punctured tyre, going a lap down, and within two hours his engine was terminally sick, with water coming out of the exhaust pipes.

By that time the PDK transmission Porsche was losing time having a solenoid changed, the Aston Martins were on their way out (the EMKA with a water pump drive belt broken, the Cheetah with a front stub axle failure), and the Ecosse driven by Ray Mallock and Mike Wilds was getting the better of Finotto’s Carma-Alba, which lacked effective braking.

The Lancias attacked the Porsches for hour after hour, but the German cars seemed to have the edge on handling and tyre efficiency. The turning point, for Lancia, came in the fifth hour when de Cesaris wrested third position from Patrese by attacking his team-mate’s flank, two or three times, forcing Patrese to stop to have a loose exhaust pipe secured!

If the number 1 Porsche had a slight advantage, it was due to the tank having been filled too quickly at a mid-race stop. To compensate, team director Peter Falk had the car held an extra ten seconds at the final stop, so whereas Mass had led Stuck by nine seconds, Bell led Ickx by 24 seconds going into the final stint. That cushion was to prove decisive, as Bell gradually reduced speed and finished the race with the fuel reserve light firmly on. In a way, that made up for his car’s disqualification at Mugello, the first race of the season, when Stuck had run out of fuel five minutes before the end. – M.L.C.

Results

Shell Gemini Brands Hatch 1,000 kms, 8th round, World Endurance Championship for Drivers – 238 laps – Warm and sunny

1st: D. Bell / H. Stuck (2.6 t/c Rothmans-Porsche 962C) 5 hr 34 min 26.02 sec
2nd: J. Ickx / J. Mass (2.6 t/c Rothmans-Porsche 962C) 5 hr 34 min 38.01 sec
3rd: R. Wollek / M. Baldi / A. de Cesaris (3.0 t/c Lancia-Martini LC2/85) 237 laps
4th: R. Patrese / A. Nannini (3.0 t/c Lancia-Martini LC2/85) 233 laps
5th: A. Holbert / V. Schuppan (2.6 t/c Rothmans-Porsche 962C) 224 laps
6th: R. Mallock / M. Wilds (3.3 Ecosse-DFL C2) 219 laps

Fastest lap: de Cesaris, 1 min 19.11 sec (191.40 km/h)