LOOKING BACK ON Piers Courage
LOOKING BACK ON Piers Courage IN the latter half of the sixties, a handful of…
Mosport 1,000 kms
Encouraging debut for TWR Jaguars
The Canadian round of the 1985 World Endurance Championship is one that will be remembered with mixed emotions. The Rothmans-Porsches took a predictable 1-2 victory, Derek Bell and Hans Stuck leading home Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass. Tom Walkinshaw’s Jaguars made an extremely promising debut, one of them leading the race for nine laps, the other finishing third. The event, however, was overshadowed by the tragic accident which claimed the life of popular Manfred Winkelhock, who collided almost head-on with a concrete retaining wall at the notorious Turn 2 and died 24 hours later after surgery.
Promoter Harvey Hudes, who worked closely with Oscar’s Chris Parsons, was illrewarded for his faith in Group C cars by a poor entry from Europe, seven C1 cars and seven C2s crossing the Atlantic to take part. Numbers were made up by five IMSA cars from the American circuit, the only notable one being Uli Bieri’s Sauber C7-Chevrolet which finished seventh.
When Oscar was formed earlier this year one of the main aims was to co-ordinate entries for races in far continents, guaranteeing a minimum of 20 cars from Europe. Lancia-Martini had never included Mosport, Fuji and Sandown Park, Australia, on its schedule, but the absence of the Reinhold Joest, Walter Brun, John Fitzpatrick and Richard Lloyd Porsche teams made a large dent in the potential entry. It would, in fact, have been cheaper for them to race in Canada than in some European rounds since the organisers bore the cost of flying the cars out, along with spare parts and two free air tickets, but it seems that unless sponsors made additional contributions the teams felt it wasn’t worth their while going. It seems a funny way to run a racing team, which still carries overheads even when lying idle back at base, and the World Endurance Championship (or World Sportscar Championship, as it will be called next year), cannot be regarded very seriously until the entrants fulfil their obligation to the race organisers.
But for the debut of the Jaguars the race would have been a bad advertisement for the WEC series, and crowd attendance was desperately poor. Hudes is unlikely to run the race next year unless a partner-circuit can be found to share the cost, with a twinned event… and no other North American promoter is likely to come forward unless an excellent entry can be guaranteed. IMSA racing, featuring leading American names, will continue to be more attractive, and less expensive too.
Having mentioned two works Porsthes, two Kremer Porsches, two TWR Jaguars and Costas Los’ March-Porsche, there’s nothing else to say about the C1 category. The C2 class did contain more variety, even though this is regarded as the province of the less wealthy entrants, and Gordon Spice’s team was able to capitalise on its dominance, returning to Europe almost sure of capturing the C2 Championship.
Martino Finotto’s Carma Alba team was out to defend the CZ title, and race sponsor Labatt’s brewery was backing the Gebhardt which Canadian John Graham shared with Frank Jelinski. The Grifo team’s AlbaDFL, John Bartlett’s Chevron-DFL 862, Roy Baker’s Tiga-Ford BDT and the Arthur Hough Pressings / Ark Racing Ceekar completed the serious entry list, which also included two ageing Porsche 911 RSR machines, a Chevrolet Camaro driven appallingly by two Americans, and a desperately slow Mazda RX7.
The Jaguars were not expected to be particularly competitive in qualifying, the 6-litre normally aspirated engines being no match for turbo engines which can be boosted to over 700 horsepower, but have fascinating prospects in race conditions. The two Tony Southgate-designed cars, with carbon-fibre monocoque chassis, were a little overweight at Mosport, having steel suspension components rather than titanium as an insurance on the bumpy track, and an extra water radiator. They were slightly under 900 kg, but should be on a more competitive 870 kg when they next race at Spa-Francorchamps on September 1st.
Walkinshaw will only say that the V12 engines give “over 600 bhp”, though 620 bhp – the same as the Porsche, with 1.1 bar boost for the races – seems most likely. The 4-valve cylinder heads have been put aside for the time being since economy, rather than power, is the principal requirement, and TWR’s own electronic engine management system can pre-determine the fuel flow, ignition timing and other characteristics to suit the circuit. No particular advantage is claimed against the Porsches so far as economy is concerned, since there is a relationship between engine output, lap times and fuel consumption. In the end, engine efficiency, car aerodynamics and driver abilities decide the outcome.
One Jaguar had done a considerable amount of testing, though not a six-hour duration test, the other hadn’t turned a wheel when it got to Canada. On Wednesday, in pre-practice, Mike Thackwell’s best time was 1 min 14.8 sec around the scenic, undulating 3.9 kilometre Ontario track, and the car looked very purposeful. Martin Brundle was slightly quicker in the untimed session on Friday and it seemed that the Jaguar was somewhere near its limit, some way short of Bellof’s qualifying time of 1 min 12.1 sec last year, but near enough to his lap record of 1 min 13.874 sec.
Brundle found something extra, though, on Saturday morning when he was clocked at 1 min 12.602 sec, on intermediate compound race tyres! His lap on qualifying Dunlops was hampered by traffic, and was slower at 1 min 12.9 sec. At this point the Jaguars were equipped with “wings” mounted on the front splitters, but they were of dubious value and were taken off for the afternoon’s session, and weren’t used in the race. Talking to people who know about these things, the wings pioneered by the Canon team at Brands Hatch last year have been a blind alley, interrupting the car’s inherent downforce, and can’t work effectively unless mounted so high that the driver couldn’t see out properly.
Hans Stuck was the star of qualifying, his pole position lap of 1 min 9. 775 sec on qualifying tyres including a spectacular moment out of turn 10, in front of the pits, when the Rothmans-Porsche seemed doomed to hit the wall in front of the TWR line-up. Only Stuck could have got the car so sideways, recovered with aplomb, and still recorded a time 1.5 sec quicker than Jacky Ickx.
Marc Surer’s time in the Barclay sponsored Kremer Porsche 962C was comparatively slow, at 1 min 13.71 sec. Manfred Winkelhock shared this car, but it was the Swiss who set the time in the car which had just been rebuilt after catching fire at Hockenheim, and he felt that the 962 wasn’t capable of going any quicker without further testing and development. JeanLouis Schlesser, driving the second TWR Jaguar for the first time, was fifth quickest at 1 min 14.782 sec while trying a different suspension set-up to cope with the bumps, and this proved not to be the answer, so the car was given the same settings as Brundle’s.
In the C2 class Spice, Jelinski and Facetti were closely matched with excellent times, Spice’s 1 min 18.98 sec being 3.5 sec quicker than last year’s best qualifying time. The fact that half the circuit, including most corners, had been resurfaced last October was obviously a contributing factor.
Brundle announced Jaguar’s arrival in the World Endurance Championship by outaccelerating Stuck on the run to turn 1, almost beating the starter’s flag. Last year Bellof accelerated too soon and forced a restart, and Brundle’s burst must have been touch-and-go too, but the red flag wasn’t produced and the challenger was on its way, a glorious sight in British Racing Green.
Stuck and Ickx were treated to the sight of the Jaguar’s booming exhaust pipes for nine laps before moving up, and after a dozen laps Brundle came to the pits, very late, with smoke pouring from the left-front corner. The wheel bearing had collapsed and the trip back to the pits had caused extensive damage to the upright and suspension, and the car was soon retired. Wider, taller tyres flown out to Canada on Friday might have provided an explanation: the understeer was under control, but the extra grip could have revealed a weakness.
Walkinshaw’s mission was to secure a finish, and Schlesser was brought in early to have the front suspension checked carefully before Brundle and Thackwell took over the driving duties in the number two car. Their instructions were to take it easy, to forget about the works Porsches which were in a class of their own, and to drive just fast enough to secure third place if possible. Times slipped to around 1 min 18 sec; safe enough since Surer had been delayed nine laps due to a collision with the Camaro, and had needed to have the right-rear suspension welded up.
In this race for third place, the second Kremer entry, the Pametex 956 of Kees Kroesemeijer, Ludwig Heimrath Senior and Ludwig Heimrath Junior, was within the range of the Jaguar, as was Costas Los’ March 84G Porsche (with a 956 engine, as at Le Mans), which had started from the back of the grid following a fuel leak which spoiled its practice.
Winkelhock’s accident at turn 2 was almost certainly caused by the sudden deflation of his front right tyre. The German was pressing on after the delay, and at turn 2, a very fast downhill left-hander, the 962C left the road and hit the retaining wall almost head-on. There were no skid marks, no other car was involved, the Porsche simply ran out of road at full speed and demolished the front of the car, 25 minutes elapsing before he could be removed from the wreckage. Winkelhock was unconscious, and failed to survive a threehour operation the following day.
Just short of half-distance the pace cars peeled off, and now the two RothmansPorsches were five laps ahead of the Jaguar and the Pametex 956, eight laps ahead of the Spice-Tiga, nine ahead of the MarchPorsche, and 11 ahead of the Jelinski / Graham Gebhardt and the Facetti / Finotto Carma Alba.
The Jaguar had a delay when brake fluid leaked from the front-left caliper, bringing Thackwell to the pits for 12 minutes while a new caliper was fitted. That dropped the Jaguar to fifth, but the Pametex Porsche was also delayed by loose bodywork, and the TWR car was able to make up ground before the end.
Meanwhile the two Rothmans-Porsches were having a ferocious duel for the lead, needing no other opposition to spur the drivers on. The World Championships for Teams and Drivers are now virtually the property of the works team, and Bell and Stuck were determined to extend their lead if possible; Ickx and Mass were equally determined to stop them. Stuck lowered the lap record to 1 min 12.915 sec (121.4 mph), the pace-car interlude ensuring that there was fuel to spare in this race.
Mass forfeited his chances when he ran wide out of turn 10, put two wheels over the kerb and slid out against the barrier, hitting the rear wheel hard enough to smash the rim and break the top suspension link. He was certainly angry with himself, puzzled that the car should have got away like that, but only three laps were lost as the works mechanics excelled themselves in repairing the damage. Bell slowed so much in the last hour that Ickx moved onto the same lap, inadvertently contributing to the Carma Alba’s demise. Facetti, so experienced, failed to see Ickx following Bell through, got into a spin and damaged the Italian car quite badly. He completed the last lap very slowly, but was then disqualified for taking too long over the final lap (Bell and Stuck were disqualified under the same rule at Mugello, when their Porsche ran out of fuel just before the end).
The resurfaced sections of track broke up quite badly, though the work had been done 10 months before the race, and one wonders now what sort of construction is needed to withstand 600 bhp, ground effect cars in hot weather. Jacky lckx, former Spa circuit manager, believes that road-laying technology may be lagging behind, which is worrying since, at some time, all circuits need repaving. After Sandown Park last year, and Spa in June, it’s easy to lay blame on the circuit owners, but perhaps unfair as well; maybe a new specification needs to be established, and laid down by FISA. It should be made clear that the track condition had no bearing on Winkelhock’s accident, though a bump right on the apex, and the location of the retaining wall, concerned all the professional drivers during practice. At another point, approaching turn 4, the cars plunge downhill, bearing left under a bridge, and catch-fencing on the outside looked just strong enough to slow the cars from 190 mph to 189 mph… not funny!
So ended a race with a poor entry, a poor crowd and a fatal accident to mar the proceedings. Only Rothmans-Porsche, TWR Jaguar and Spice-Tiga could find any satisfaction in the outcome. M.LC.
Mosport Budweiser 1,000 Kms, Canada, April 11th, 1985
253 laps, Weather – warm and sunny
1st: D. Bell/H. Stuck (2.6 t/c Rothmans-Porsche 962C) 5hr 55 min 41.9 sec (104.96 mph)
2nd: J. Ickx/J. Mass (2.6 t/c Rothmans-Porsche 962C) 5hr 57 min 06.5 sec
3rd: J-L. Schlesser/M. Brundle/M. Thackwell (6.0 TWR Jaguar XJR-6) 234 laps
4th: K. Kroosmeijer/L. Heimrath/L. Heimrath (2.6 t/c Pametex Kremer Porsche 962C) 234 laps
5th: G. Spice/R. Bellm (3.3 Spice-Tiga DFL C2) 231 laps
6th: F. Jelinski/J. Graham (3.3 Gebhardt DFL C2) 225 laps
Fastest lap: Stuck, 1 min 12.915 sec (121.407 mph)- record
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