Touring Car Championship: TT Trophy

Denny Hulme’s fourth TT win

Two small pieces of motor racing history were made at Silverstone on September 7th. The first was the fact that it was the fiftieth occasion on which the world’s oldest motor race had been run, which was celebrated by a parade of some past winning cars. The second was that Denny Hulme won his fourth TT. Since 21 years span Hulme’s first and latest win, this may constitute a record.

Following the Spa 24 Hours, the TCC contestants had a month’s breather before a tight schedule of races to end of the season, the TT being the first of five remaining rounds all crammed into seven weeks. The result of qualifying was an all-Rover front row, the team’s Dunlops working well in qualifying in marked contract to the Pirelli qualifiers used by most runners.

Armin Hahne stole pole position from his boss, Tom Walkinshaw, with behind, and a little surprisingly, Allan Grice’s Holden Commodore.  Fourth on the grid was Andy Rouse’s Ford Sierra XR4Ti,  the remarkable driver/engineer quietly making a point and putting the official Ford Motorsport-Eggenberger team in its place. It was fastest in the race-day warm-up session too. Jeff Allam was fifth in the third Rover, this one sponsored by the race sponsor, Istel, a computer systems and software company which is part of Rover Group plc. Then came Steve Soper’s Eggenburger Ford, the quickest Pirelli user, Emanuele Pirro’s Team Schnitzer BMW 635 CSi and Pierre Dieudonne’s Eggenburger Ford.

What of the Volvos? Ulf Granberg was tenth on the grid, behind Vince Woodman’s Holden and just ahead of his team-mate, Johnny Cecotto. And clearly underlining the rapid change in fortunes which has been occuring in Group A, Dave Brodie’s Colt Stance (shared with Barry Sheene) which last year took pole position was down in 14th place.

Still qualifying is one thing, racing another, and with five different makes of car in contention for an outright win the series is nothing if not varied.

It is not only Division Three in which changes have been made. Last year, Richard Longman’s Escort RS Turbo was ninth on the grid, quicker than all the BMWs, not to mention the rest of Division Two;  this year it was 20th, just behind the BMW 325i of Winni Vogt and Markus Ostreich.

Division Two used to be the preserve of the Alfa Romeo GTV6, but looks like now becoming a straight contest between BMW and Mercedes-Benz The Alfa Romeo 75 is well-represented but, though reliable, has yet to find the outright pace of the German cars and its fortunes are not likely to be improved with the arrival next year of the BMW M3 homologation special.

In Division One, the entry is now dominated by rear wheel drive Toyota Corollas and it was the example of Chris Hodgetts and Alex Moss which made the running during qualifying and the race.

Silverstone regulars were a little disorientated by a big, hot, yellow ball in the sky and the entire event was run in mellow late-summer weather. Just before 3 pm, the pace car led the field around on the warm-up lap, though the Starion was missing, having an engine change.

As soon as the pace car drew off, the Rovers set off at a furious pace and at the end of lap one it was Hahne from Walkinshaw and Allam, with Grice’s Holden fourth, then Soper, Rouse, Pirro, Dieudonne, Cecotto, Woodman and Granberg.

In the early stages, everyone was driving as if in a ten lap sprint and by the end of lap four the order had changed to read: Soper, Allam, Hahne, Rouse, Grince, Walkinshaw, Cecotto, Pirro and Granberg. Then Rouse became the first of many front-runners to call in at the pits. apparently with a puncture but also to sort out the gearbox. It was a lengthy stop and though the car reappeared and went on the pace, it was out of contention. The Ostreich/Vogt BMW led Division Two and the Moss/Hodgetts Toyota, Division One, and each car went on to win its class.

Dieudonne was an early caller at the pits, following a collision with Pirro’s BMW which removed a tyre valve, while the Grice Holden joined it following a spin. Then Quester and Rossi collided at Club (the early stages were a panel beater’s dream) and the incident left Rossi stranded on the racing line so the pace car was called out while the car was removed.

Several laps behind the pace car closed the field up and allowed the turbo cars just a little extra fuel to play with before the mid-race pit stop. Once everything was under way again, Soper still led from Allam and Hahne but by lap 20 Cecotto and Granberg had their Volvos just behind.

The pace was still furious and the leaders still close together, indeed, by one-fifth distance the first eight were close enough for pit stops to be able to reverse the order. Soper was comfortable, though, and steadily drawing out a longer lead.

On lap 25, however, the Hahne Rover went out with rear axle trouble.  Pirro’s car followed four laps later with a terminal oil leak.

By lap 40 Soper seemed to have a comfortable lead from Allam, Cecotto, Granberg, Walkinshaw and Dieudonne. Granberg was the first in to changeover, Lindstrom taking the car out to start lap 45 by which time Quester had been making steady progress to sixth place. Then Walkinshaw handed over to Win Percy and on lap 50 Cecotto blew a front tyre and limped to the pits.

By lap 60 the order read: Niedwiedz/Soper, Hulme/Allam, Lindstrom/Granberg, Muller/Dieudonne, Ravaglia/Quester. But on the following lap, cruel luck, the leading car was out with a blown engine.

Denny Hulme therefore led, driving beautifully smoothly, but the fastest man on the circuit was Roberto Ravaglia who was very gradually hauling in Sigi Muller’s second-placed Ford. The race settled down but Lindstrom suffered a puncture on lap 90 which delayed him and five laps later Muller had a longish stop with gearbox problems which allowed Ravaglia up to second. Win Percy, in third place appeared to be catching the BMW but there was insufficient time besides he had to make a late, very quick, stop for fuel, though without losing third. Lindstrom was meanwhile holding fourth with a mole wrench acting as a gear lever!

As the final laps were reeled oft, Jeff Allam could not bear to watch as the former World Champion completed his run and gave them both their first FIA Championship win, one which was extremely popular with the crowd. — M. L.


Results (top six)  — Touring Car Championship, TT Trophy —  Silverstone, 7 September

1.  Jeff Allam/Denny Hulme  (Rover Vitesse)  –3hr 01min 56.72 sec (103.45mph)

2.  Dieter Quester/Roberto Ravaglia  (BMW 635CSi)  –3hr 02min 43.83sec

3.  Tom Walkinshaw/Win Percy  (Rover Vitesse)  — 3hr 03min 24.78sec

4.  Ulf Granberg/Thomas Lindstrom  (Volvo 240T)  —  106 laps

5.  Pierre Dieudonne/Sigi Muller Jr.  (Ford Sierra XR4Ti)  — 105 laps

6.  Fabien Giroix/René Metge  (BMW 635SCi)  —  105 laps

Class winners: Winni Vogt/Markus Ostreich, BMW 325i, 104 laps, 8th overall;  Chris Hodgetts/Alex Moss, Toyota Corolla, 98 laps, 17th overall.