World Sportscar Championship: Brands Hatch 1000kms

Lloyd does it again

Last September Bob Wollek and Mauro Baldi won then first World Sportscar Championship race together, but there was no pleasure on their faces as they received the garlands at Spa; their Lancia had won a race shortened by the death of Stefan Bellof and celebrations were cancelled. At Brands Hatch in July there was nothing to mar the victory they achieved in the Liqui Moly Porsche 956B prepared by Richard Lloyd Racing, the Silverstone based team repeating its success at Brands Hatch in 1984.

With Keith Greene as manager, it's fair to say that theirs is the team to beat at Brands Hatch, the car's superior downforce assisted, on this occasion, by a bodywork extension rear "wing" that balanced the 956B perfectly. The Liqui Moly Porsche beat World Champions Derek Bell and Hans Stuck handsomely, in the Rothmans sponsored Joest Racing Porsche 956, while in third place was the ex-Lloyd team 956, now in Walter Brun's stable and driven by Thierry Boutsen and Frank Jelinski.

The Silk Cut Jaguars had a disappointing weekend, claiming fourth and sixth places after qualifying well. It took Lancia three seasons to beat the Porsches, of course, and it may be that Jaguar's victory at Silverstone in May came too soon, good as it was, because so much is now expected of the Tom Walkinshaw prepared XJR-6s. It needs only a minor problem, such as a loose wheel bearing on Eddie Cheever's car, or a trace of foam from the fuel tank blocking a filter in Derek Warwick's, to end any hopes of victory. There's no doubt at all that the Tony Southgate designed cars are superior in chassis design, the V12 engines are nearly powerful enough, with the correct economy, but it takes a long time, and a great deal of experience, not only to eradicate any shortcomings but to weed out isolated failures such as the team experienced at Brands Hatch . . . as the Porsche factory knows only too well. Unlike Lancia, the Jaguar team is highly disciplined and strongly led, and the Silk Cut team will probably win another race or two this year, having the Nürburgring race in August as a prime target.

Warwick and Cheever drove different cars at Brands Hatch, the Englishman saying: "If I stay with Eddie I've got nothing to go for this season, I'll always be three points behind." Cheever, of course, would have been happy to keep Warwick as his partner, maintaining the advantage that came from the Norisring result, but Walkinshaw conceded to Warwick's request and paired him with Jean-Louis Schlesser, partnering Cheever with Gianfranco Brancatelli. The American commented, without malice, "I have one more thing to worry about now, the Porsches and my team-mate," but he did not sound concerned as his car was working beautifully at the Kentish circuit, and Cheever was even contemplating pole position, against turbocharged Porsche and Lancia opposition.

Cheever never got a clear run, though, recording 1 min 16.5 sec on race tyres and 1 min 16.44 sec on qualifiers, always hampered by heavy traffic.  The experienced sportscar drivers such as Bell and Stuck are better at predicting the movements of the C2 category drivers, who outnumbered the C1's by two-to one, but the Jaguars were driven to their limits during qualifying and, as Cheever said, "I've had to make about 10 decisions this morning, and they've all been wrong," The Jaguar pit-front looked more like a putting green as the grass was swept up, the XJR-6 being an extremely expensive device to use as a lawn mower.

By contrast Warwick was in a bad mood, his Jaguar refusing to handle properly no matter what changes were made. Towards the end of the morning qualifying session he switched to the team's spare car and immediately went 1.5 secs quicker, to close up on Cheever at 1 min 16.53 sec. The car was a revelation, and Warwick became his usual amiable self again.

Neither claimed pole position as Stuck was in his usual scintillating form, recording a best time of 1 min 16.27 sec. He and Bell were highly enthusiastic about the famous Joest Porsche 956, number 117, that they had duelled with at Le Mans. "It's a superb car. Now we know what to beat," said Stuck, and Bell agreed, believing that the Goodyear radial tyres contributed to the car's excellent stability.

Three more cars were in the 1 min 16 sec bracket promising a fine race with a closer grid, at the front, than for some recent Grands Prix. Thierry Boutsen, with Frank Jelinski, was on 1 min 16.55 sec in the Brun team's Jägermeister Porsche 956, now with 20 mm wider Michelins at the front to reduce understeer.  "But we still lack grip," said the Belgian, nursing a stiff neck after his start-line accident in the Grand Prix.

Lacking the 800 bhp qualifying engine used by the factory, Andrea de Cesaris made Gianni Mussato's Sponsor Geest Lancia LC2 go well at 1 min 16.58 sec, the car improved since the Norisring with a wider front track, and rear exhausts feeding into the ground effect ducting. Bob Wollek was timed at 1 min 16.97 secs in the Liqui Moly car, pleased with the chassis and not quite sure why he couldn't go a second faster. All the leading Porsche teams now use the "customer" 2.8 litre flat-six engines, little more powerful than the 2.6 but with superior torque.

Race day started with a bang when Emilio de Villota lost control of the John Fitzpatrick Racing/Danone Porsche 956 during the morning warm-up, chancing slick tyres on a damp track and paying the price with a large accident that started at Clearways and ended near the start-finish line. The Spaniard had a sprained ankle, and Fitz's team had a lot of work to do before the race at Jerez.

Several aspects of the BRSCC's organisation left a lot be desired, and the programme was running 50 minutes late when Stuck stormed into the lead of the race pursued by the two Jaguars.

Warwick and Cheever kept the pressure up strongly, but after 17 laps the American fell back appreciably as his car's handling went to pieces.  New tyres didn't help, and it was a couple of pit stops later when the loose rear wheel bearing was discovered by which time the car was six laps behind, well out of contention. But Warwick and Schlesser, de Cesaris and Giacomelli, and Wollek and Baldi were chasing hard all taking turns in the lead.

The second hour of the race was run entirely behind the pace cars following three separate accidents. First Evan Clements, in Ian Harrower's ADA Engineering Gebhardt, was knocked off the track by Oscar Larrauri while being lapped, and the Le Mans class winning car was badly damaged.  No sooner had the pace picked up again than Jacques Heuclin's ALD-BMW shed a wheel and rolled, then Frenchman Lionel Robert crashed Richard Cleare's March-Porsche 85G. None of the drivers was hurt, but the three private teams saw their whole existence in ruins.

More bad aspects of the organisation came to light, for the officials did not understand the rules about pace car tactics, nor about allowing cars out of the pits when pace cars were circulating and, worst of all, the crashed cars were left at the roadside despite the competitors being under strict control. The professional drivers were angry and upset . . especially those who knew Herbert Müeller, the talented Swiss who died five years ago when he went off the road at the Nürburgring and hit a retired car with fatal results. Perhaps the BRSCC had forgotten Martin Raymond, too, mown down in this race a few years ago while at the side of the track.

Of the 20 C2 cars in the race, the Spice Engineering "Pontiac Fiero",  the Austin Rover V6 powered Ecosse and the works Gebhardt came to the fore, though Hugh Chamberlain's team's Tiga-Hart turbo was well up while Will Hoy was driving (he lost the belt to the fuel metering unit when leading the class), and Roy Baker's team looked good while Thorkild Thyrring was going (first a spark plug electrode broke, then the clutch failed).

The Ecosse moved into the class lead on lap 49, when Ray Mallock handed over to David Leslie while Ray Bellm was still installing Gordon Spice, and later the Spice broke a rear suspension top link, falling back to finish third in class. The ARG V6 was able to score its first World Championship victory, a very good one indicating a new role for the engine which now has little future in rallies.

Both the Joest Porsches started misfiring quite early in the race forcing the drivers to reduce the boost and in addition the front anti-roll bar had broken on Stuck's car during the first hour.  The World Champion drivers kept the pressure up for five hours despite their handicaps, but Wollek and Baldi had complete control of the race during the second half.

Warwick's Jaguar slowed at half distance with its blocked fuel filter, losing four laps, and at about the same time the Lancia fell back as a faulty rear brake caliper needed changing, and finally the differential failed 90 minutes from the end.

Despite running low boost pressure and low revs for much of the race, Stuck had a serious fuel consumption problem towards the end, slowing six laps from the flag and then stopping short of the line for a minute to finish four laps behind Baldi. Third, Boutsen fended off a late charge by Warwick by a mere 3.5 seconds, while in fifth place Klaus Ludwig, Paolo Barilla and ''John Winter" saw their Joest Porsche home just 10 seconds ahead of Cheever.

The Gebhardt of Stanley Dickens/Nick Adams/Max Payne crashed near the end, due to a broken driveshaft, and Pareja spun Larrauri's Porsche and stalled the engine, so the class-winning Ecosse was classified in seventh place, something else for the 40,000 strong crowd to cheer about.  The spectators had come to see a Jaguar victory but since that wasn't possible they warmly applauded the fine success achieved by the Liqui Moly team from Silverstone, and the Ecosse team from Roade.  -- M.L.C.

***

Results (top five),  Shell Gemini 1000 Kms of Brands Hatch  -- Fifth round, World Sportscar Championship for drivers, July 20

1. R. Wolleck/M.Baldi (2.8 t/c Liqui Moly Porsche 965B) --  236 laps in 5hr 53min 44.43sec (104.62mph)

2.  D.Bell/H.Stuck/K.Ludwig (2.8 t/c Joest Rothmans Porsche 956  --  232 laps

3.  T.Boutsen/F.Jelinski (2.8 t/c Brun Porsche 956)  --  231 laps

4.  D.Warwick/JL Schlesser (6.0 Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-6)  --  231 laps

5.  K.Ludwig/P.Barilla/"J.Winter" (2.8 t/c Joest Porsche 956)  --  230 laps 

Fastest lap: Wollek, 1min 18.68sec (119.58mph)  -- record