Controversy in East Midlands

Smoke pours from the vast, fat power station towers on the horizon between Nottingham and Derby, and although the gathering gloom concealed the fact at Donington Park, a smoke cloud of equal proportions rose above Tom Walkinshaw’s motorhome. The Silk Cut Jaguars had been excluded from the results of the seventh round of the World Sports-Prototype Championship, on a track that might fairly be described as ‘home’ (it’s nearer than Silverstone to Coventry), and all but a few spectators had gone home believing in Martin Brundle’s inspired drive to third place.

Was it an act of vengeance? Did the stewards judge harshly to make up for the exclusion of Jochen Mass’ Mercedes at Silverstone? Almost certainly not. We have already expressed our own views about FISA’s zealous use of an over-large rule book, but this was no vendetta. To over-fuel one car could be a sheer accident, but to over-fuel another immediately afterwards is sheer carelessness.

In a typically robust statement, Walkinshaw blamed the throng of photographers and film crew around the pits, but these are the people that all the manufacturers and sponsors most want to greet, in the interests of popularising the rather sickly Group C World Championship.

As Martin Brundle said next day, if the team had short-changed him of 0.8 litres, and he’d run out on the last lap, there’d have been hell to pay; last year Jean-Louis Schlesser nearly lost his World Champion title just because his Mercedes was short-changed at the last stop at Spa. Truly, the line between right and wrong is very thin, but it has a very sharp edge.

Once an offence is established the stewards have to inflict the punishment, just as if the police chose to prosecute a motorist for doing 71 mph on a motorway, and the case was proved, the magistrates would have to penalise. Spice team manager Jeff Hazell was quite within his rights to go to the stewards, though he didn’t have to protest Jaguar because the matter was already in hand.

HazeII points out: “Recently the IMSA organisation fined a competitor $2000 for having an oversize fuel tank, I asked, what’s the fine for going 20 litres oversize, because we’ll pay!” It’s all to do with gaining an unfair advantage, deliberate or not doesn’t matter, and Oscar Larrauri, who covered the last kilometre on his Porsche’s starter motor, would have had a strong grievance if Jaguar had ‘got away with it’.

It was surely distressing for Walkinshaw, and the whole team, to face two disqualifications, but it was pointless to blame the media. The pit-lane at Le Mans is always ten times more crowded, and well-drilled refuellers shouldn’t make mistakes like that.

Having covered the point, though, we can ruminate on the absurdity of the fuel consumption formula, which thankfully will reach its conclusion in Mexico on October 7 (except for those teams which must continue with turbocharged engines in the short-term, though not contenders for the podiums).

There are several ways of restricting the performances of different engines: by limiting the engine size, the engine speed, the consumption of fuel, or the consumption of air. Back in 1981, when fuel was in a ‘precious’ phase, it seemed such a good idea to introduce a formula by which manufacturers could come up with any type or size of engine, so long as it didn’t use more than 60 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.

The drivers hated it, of course, none more vociferously than Derek Bell at Silverstone in May 1982. Perforce they learned new driving techniques, and some circuits are easier on fuel than others, but even now competitors tend to run short, or worse, run out of fuel on the last lap, and this means nothing but disappointment for all concerned.

FISA missed a golden opportunity to ration the air in 1984/5 when a rapprochement was reached with the IMSA organisation. The love affair was shortlived and afterwards the air-restrictor idea went with the bathwater down the plughole. The IMSA drivers lived happily ever after, and the FISA drivers continued to struggle with the fuel gauge.

Next year it will all be different. New cars will come from Mercedes, Jaguar, Peugeot, Spice-Lamborghini, Brun-Judd (or Neotech), March and Lola, and later from Toyota, Nissan and Alfa Romeo. There will be no limit on power or consumption but, unless FISA acts quickly, there will be controversy about ‘mad chemists’ as Cosworth’s chief engine designer Geoff Goddard calls them, creating new brews of steroid fuel that can pump the power up by an extra 50-60 horsepower. Formula 1 doesn’t need these alchemists, Group C needs them even less.

Spice’s V12 sighted

The wraps came off the first of next year’s challengers at Donington, the Chrysler-Lamborghini-powered Spice SE91C. The beautifully crafted little 3 1/2-litre, V12 engine, so small that it makes a DFZ look like something out of a MAN truck, was designed by Mauro Forghieri but it was his partner, Daniele Audetto, who attended the launch. With him was Heini Mader, the famed Swiss tuner, who will look after the V12s during the test programme, having prepared two different specifications.

The lower powered has around 600 bhp with massive low-down torque, the other some 625 bhp produced higher up the range suitable, no doubt, for tracks like Monza and Spa. “It just shows how small we’ll have to make our next car,” observed Spice Engineering director Ray BeIlm, peering down into the engine bay. There might be one proviso, though, BeIlm himself is over six-foot tall and built like a rugby forward, and no doubt he’ll be wanting to test the car himself!

Credit Due

Back in March a Swede called Per Arwidsson, unknown to most people in Group C racing, named a Scotsman, Anthony Reid, to share the driving of his new Porsche 962C with Anders Olofsson, of whom we had all heard. The car would be owned and sponsored by Arwidsson’s company, Convector, in estate and not in heating as many supposed.

Reid’s light burned only briefly back in 1985 when he was Maurizio Sandro Sala’s team-mate in the short-lived Madgwick Racing Reynard-Saab. After that he became resigned to a living just above the level of clubbies, earning his crust by instructing at the Jim Russell Racing Schools.

Team manager Bo Strandell somehow remembered Reid’s name and put it on his shortlist, along with those of Harri Toivonen and Bengt Tragardh, but Reid had to beat those drivers in tests at Monza to secure the drive.

Even then it was difficult to make a name, the Porsche being only one of those hopelessly outclassed this season, but Reid’s third place at Le Mans, in the Alpha Racing entry with Tiff Needell and David Sears, made everyone note his name carefully.

Most of the Porsche teams have special chassis nowadays, honeycombs or composites, and the top ones have 3.2-litre engines as well. A ‘straight from the box’ factory built 962, with a normal customer 3-litre engine, is hardly rated a mention . . . . except at Donington, where Reid was the fastest Porsche driver on race day! He made the eighth quickest time of the race, at lm 25.128s, and was three-tenths faster than Oscar Larrauri’s honeycomb chassis, 3.2-litre Brun Porsche, four-tenths faster than Jonathan Palmer’s 3.2-litre ‘works’ Porsche, and 1.2 secs faster than Bob Wollek’s ditto.

“Tyres” they’ll all say, it’s all to do with the tyres. Of course, Reid was running his boring Porsche on unfashionable Dunlops, not the made-to-measure Michelins, Goodyears or Yokohamas. We think Bo Strandell and Anthony Reid should take a bow. MLC