The 43rd RAC Tourist Trophy

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Silverstone, September 16th

It didn’t need much of an expert to predict the winner of this year’s Tourist Trophy, sponsored on this occasion by Pentax; with three obsolete BMW 3.2CSLs at the front of the grid and nothing else capable of challenging them on sheer performance, it was pretty obvious that we were in for a re-enactment of the three previous TTs. Sure enough, victory fell to the Jolly Club car of Italian veterans Martino Finotto and Carlo Facetti after the other CSLs of Grano/Joosen and Xhenceval/Dieudonne/Van Hove expired, doubtless tried of yet another one-marque race, well ahead of a straggling field. The winning car, ex-Alpina, won the 1977 text driven by Quester and Walkinshaw.

It will be a relief when the CSL’s homologation expired at the end of this year and an alternative has to be found to these remarkable, all-conquering Group 2 saloons. Fresh blood, instead of museum pieces, might help to put back some of the interest and prestige into the European Touring Car Championship, of which the Tourist Trophy was the penultimate round of 1979. It was the fourth win in the series for the Finotto/Facetti car.

At least the 44 car grid had variety, with a good entry of Group 2 cars from the continent and a massive phalanx of British Group 1 cars. Finotto/Facetti took pole position from the other two CSLs, a 530i driven by Austrians Werginz, Neger and Loibnegger and the two quick 1.8-litre Zakspeed Escorts of Heyer/Denzel and Niedzwiedz/Muller. The fastest British drivers in practice were Stuart Graham and Tiff Needell who put their Group 2 Brut Capri 3-litre on the fourth row, alongside the Walkinshaw/Tippet/Palmer Mazda RX-7.

Facetti put the CSL into an immediate lead, but Joosen forced his way past into the chicane on the second lap and began to pull away, holding the lead until the camshaft lost its drive on the sixteenth lap. That left Facetti a clear leader, for Xhenceval’s CSL retired with valve problems, Facetti/Finotto had no serious challengers and were left to run to the end of the 107 lap race at their own pace.

As the hours ticked away slowly for the thin groups of spectators the race continued to take its toll. The Craft/Spice/Clark Group 1 Capri had endless problems with fiery rear brakes, through it persevered to the finish; the trio’s Group 2 car was less troublesome, taking up a chase off Graham/Needell. Brodie/Matthews blew their Group 1 Capri’s engine and the class leading Dolomite Sprint of Gerry Marshall and rally ace Roger Clark was disqualified for receiving a push start. The motor racing debut of motorcycle star Barrie Sheene in a Group 1 VW Golf GTi ended when the fly-wheel came adrift, but not before Sheene had impressed with his skill on four wheels. Derek Bell’s Group 2 Golf expired early in the race with an oil leak.

With eighteen laps to go the two Zakspeed Escorts livened up proceedings as Niedzwiesz hauled in Denzel and took second place, one lap behind the leading BMW.

When the flag fell after 3 hour. 01 min. 0.85 sec. and 504.83 kilometres only 23 cars were still running, of which only 15 qualified within the distance ruling.

Historic Race

Willie Green clinched the Lloyds and Scottish Historic Championship with another run-away win in the JCB Ferrari Dino 246 Grand Prix car. But the race saw a heart-stopping dice for second place between Bruce Halford’s Lotus 16 and Richard Bond’s Aston Martin DBR4. So close were the pair at times that Halford dented the Aston’s tail into the chicane. Halford led Bond of the last of the ten laps, but the Aston driver fought back to cross the line ahead by a length. – C.R.

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