Endurance racing survey

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Porsche’s absolute domination of this year’s World Championship for Makes remained not merely unbroken, but totally unchallenged, in the three latest rounds of the World’s so-called premier contest for production-based racing cars. To recap on the story so far, as they say in less illustrious journals, a Georg Loos-entered Porsche won the first two rounds of the Championship (at Daytona and Mugello), Porsche owned by the Kremer brothers took the honours at Dijon, and the works Martini Porsche led from start to finish at Silverstone. Then came Nurburgring, and the biggest Group 5 entry of the season.

For the first time in history, the ADAC ran its traditional 1,000-kilometre race at the ‘Ring as a two-part event, split into two 22-lap “Heats”. Such an idea is hardly in accordance with the traditionalist view of long-distance racing, and it seemed to swell the crowd not a jot, but in retrospect it can be said to have added a degree of extra Interest for the spectators. At the start of heat one, Bob WoIlek grasped an immediate lead in his Kremer-run Porsche 935 at the first corner and proceeded to extend his advantage over the best placed Gelo Porsches with every lap of the 14-mile circuit. The lead did not look like changing until Wolick’s team-mate Henri Pescarolo slid off and brushed the barriers directly after the Karussel, after braking in mid-corner to avoid a slow back-marker. The Incident forced the battered Kremer Porsche down to 11th place, and cost it an almost certain victory. It also allowed the Loos-entered car driven by German Klaus Ludwig and Hans Heyer to take a half-minute victory in the first heat over the Max Moritz prepared Porsche of Manfred Schurti and Jacky lckx. Driving brilliantly during the final laps,Wollek recovered to a fine fifth place, despite the damage to his car. Georg Loos’ other two Porsches had meanwhile both retired, John Fitzpatrick dropping out with a blown head gasket and Toine Hezemans crashing at the Aremberg hairpin after colliding with a slower car.

The second heat of the race witnessed another battle between the Kremer and Gelo teams. Hezemans being switched into the car that won heat one in order to bolster its chances. While Wollek was in the Kremer car and Ludwig was in the Gelo machine, the former was very much faster. When the battle pitched Pescarolo against Hezemans, the roles were dramatically reversed, for the Dutchman was up to ten seconds a lap faster than the Frenchmen. In the end, Wollek’s superior driving prevailed and he won the second heat by 44 seconds. On aggregate times from the two parts, however, the race represented another tour de force for Georg Loos’ stable, as Ludwig/Heyer/Hezeman defeated Schurti and Ickx by almost exactly a minute and the Wollek/Pescarolo Porsche by over five minutes. As usual the 2-litre class was a BMW benefit, the 320i shared by Hans Stuck and Markus Hoettinger comfortably beating the similar machine of Ronnie Peterson and Dieter Quester.

The Kremer team had been unlucky at Nurburgring, but they avenged their defeat in the sixth round of the Champlonship, at Misano.

The opening laps round the twisty little autodrome near Rimini saw a splendid fight for the lead between Wollek in the Kremer Porsche, Hezemans and Fitzpatrick in the Gelo Porsches, and Carlo Facetti at the wheel of the older Porsche 935 owned by Martino Finotto. The battle, alas did not last long. Having relieved Hezemans of the lead during the fourth lap, Wollek gradually eased away into a lead he and his partner Pescarolo kept intact to the end of the six-hour grind. Facetti lost time in the first of three off-course excursions and Fitzpatrick was an early caller to the pits because of high oil temperature and then found himself stranded out on the circuit when his car’s reserve tank refused to deliver its fuel.

Hezemans was eventually excluded from second place for obviously excessive and colossally smokey oil consumption. The result was that Wollek and Pescarolo won by four laps from It heroes Vittorio Coggiola and Piero Monticone, whose old single-turbo Porsche 935 ran such huge distances between refuelling stops that rival teams suspected it had illegally large luel tanks. The 2 -litre class went to the BMW 320i of Harald Grohs and Patrick Neve.

The seventh round of the World Championship for Makes, at Watkins Glen, produced the best race of the series. The Kremer team didn’t go, and Georg Loos sent over only one car, but there was some stern opposition from a number of Amencan-owned Porsche 935s. At the start the race was led by Danny Ongais in Ted Field’s Porsche, and the Gelo car of Hezemans/Fitzpatrick was under fierce attack from the rival Porsche Turbos of George Follmer and Rolf Stommelen. By the 18th lap, however, torrential rain was drenching the circuit, and a few minutes later the event had to be halted for the best part of an hour because of a flooded track.

When the weather abated, allowing the event to restart, Ongais again took an initial lead, only to fall from contention when electrical troubles intervened. The Dick Barbour Porsche driven by Stommelen, Manfred Schurti and Barbour himself had meanwhile engaged the Gelo car shared by Hezemans,Fitzpatrick and Peter Gregg in an epic tussle that kept them less than a lap apart throughout the six hours.

With 50 minutes to go, Stommelen took over Barbour’s car for the dash to the line, only 8.5 sec, ahead of Fitzpatrick. The Englishman closed at once, for Stommelen’s car was in trouble with dirt in its fuel filter. Yet Fitzpatrick had problems too, his driver’s door blew off in the middle of the main straight after giving trouble during the final change-over of drivers, and by the finish his car’s fuel tanks were close to exhaustion. But Fitzpatrick was unstoppable, and with only pints of petrol left in his tanks “Fitz” took the chequered flag 40 sec. before Stommelen to give the Georg Loos team yet another victory. This time the 2-litre “BMW” class fell to Hans Stuck and Dieter Quester, naturally in a 320i.

With the cancellation of scheduled races at Mosport, Estoril and Osterreichring, it seems likely that only one more round of the World Championship’ for Makes will actually take place this year. That is at Valelunga, near Rome, in early September. Having had no effective opposition all year, Porsche will inevitable capture the champion’s crown, just as BMW must equally inevitably finish a close runner-up after winning the 2-litre class in every rouod but one to date. However you look at it, it has not been a good year for World Championship long distance racing. J.C.T.