A 3.5-litre class is to be introduced to the World Sports-Prototype Championship for 1989, in preparation for 1991 when the series will become the exclusive preserve of these two-seater Formula One cars.
By announcing the new formula at its General Assembly in Paris on October 10-12, FISA has rejected pleas for stability from Jaguar, whose boss Sir John Egan has already announced his disinterest in competing with purpose-built racing engines.
Indeed, in an amazing snub, Jean Marie Balestre has excluded the British marque from representation on the manufacturers’ commission, in favour of Mercedes, Nissan, and newly-interested parties Peugeot and Alfa Romeo.
The 3.5-litre entries will be subject to a 750kg minimum weight and a limited fuel-tankage of 100 litres. Their fuel supply will be unlimited, but refuelling will be restricted to a rate of 60 litres per minute, so although the new cars may prove faster on the road than Group C cars (which must weigh 900kg) time lost in the pits may even up the contest.
A second major change is the scrapping of the 1000km format for sports-car racing. Other than Le Mans, all World Championship rounds from 1989 onwards will be 400-500km long, probably lasting less than three hours, which most entrants appear to support as a means of increasing spectator-appeal.
Further decisions of the General Assembly include the adoption of prequalifying sessions one or more weeks in advance of each Grand Prix to pare down the large entries anticipated, a 40mm restrictor for supercharged engines in World Championship rallies, and the abolition of the European Touring Can Championship.
Intriguingly, FISA’s communiques made no mention at all of its heavily-promoted but ill-supported Procar series for F1-engined saloon cars. Renewed support for Group C, both from FISA and manufacturers such as Alfa Romeo, is presumed to indicate that the scheme has been dropped, leaving Alfa’s V10-engined 164 prototype a museum piece, less than a month after its public unveiling!