It’s hard to believe it’s 30 years since world-class endurance racing virtually died on its feet. Only eight FIA World Sportscar Championship rounds were run in 1991, and in general this entirely noble form of racing was being strangled by the near-total pre-eminence of Formula 1.
Back at the end of 1988, new 3.5-litre naturally-aspirated engine rules had been announced for the category, despite doubts amongst manufacturers of how attractive such a prospect might be. The governing FISA body extended the life of the preceding turbocharged cars to bolster grids. But a turbocharged-car weight penalty of 100kg – added to the preceding weight limit of 900 – caused alarm. FISA later allowed Porsches to run at 950kg everywhere except Le Mans, while any other previous-Formula cars had to observe the 1000kg demand.
In contrast the new 3.5-litre ‘atmo’ cars could weigh just 750kg. They were also allowed to use Formula 1 fuel brews instead of the race organisers’ standard pump grades. Their pitstops were speeded by gravity-feed refuelling and (remarkably) were guaranteed the top 10 starting-grid places – probably for promotional photographic purposes (to bury the old makeweight junk behind).