Group C at Brands Hatch 1982

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Alex Harmer

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Now that the first year of the new World Endurance Championship has come to a close, it’s a good time to look back at the beginning of another era of sports car racing.

This year, no one was surprised by Audi winning the championship, but those dismayed by Peugeot’s withdrawal will have been buoyed by Toyota’s challenge. The Japanese manufacturer won three races in an unexpectedly strong year and gave Audi something to think about. Thirty years ago, the dominant team of the time was also under threat.

1982 was the first season of Group C, the now infamous class of prototypes that contested the championship throughout the decade and into the early ’90s. It was also the first season for Porsche’s all-conquering 956.

Coming into the last round, the 1000 km race at Brands Hatch, the works Porsche and Lancia teams had taken three victories apiece. Lancia’s LC1 was actually a Group 6 car, but because 1982 was a transitional year they were exempt of the fuel restrictions on the Group C cars, meaning they could run flat out for the entire race. They were however excluded from the Manufacturers’ Championship.

The drivers’ title was between Porsche’s Jacky Ickx and Lancia’s Riccardo Patrese. Ickx was already one of the sport’s all time greats by this stage of his career, having won dozens of races in an incredible array of machines. But here he was looking for his first world title, backed up by longtime co-driver and fellow sports car legend Derek Bell. Patrese on the other hand was still making his way in top flight motor sport, having scored his first Grand Prix win at Monaco earlier that year. Along with another up-and-comer – Teo Fabi – he had worked the regulations in his favour, bringing the championship down to the last lap of the season.

The video here begins during the final round of pit stops at Brands Hatch. Patrese hands over to Fabi, then watching nervously from the pits; Bell hands over to Ickx, who sets off on a spectacular recovery drive. Earlier on, the race was stopped after two Fords collided. After the restart, the Porsche needed to be within 6.3 seconds of the Lancia for Ickx to win the championship. But as you’ll see, it wasn’t as easy as simply catching the other car.

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