44 cars would enter this race, and the field was reduced to 37 for practice, and 33 for the actual race itself. Many Group C cars are entered, and sprinkled into the field are a couple Group B cars, and a fair number from the GT Japan championship. This is the penultimate race of the 1983 FIA World Endurance Championship. Geoff Lees was shocked after crashing his Dome Toyota, and the car was set on fire. Lees, thankfully, was rescued from the blaze, but the car, was totally written off, as was the Porsche 956 of John Fitzpatrick who also wrecked in a separate incident.
A blown tire sent Fitzpatrick reeling into the wall on the fastest corner of the circuit. This was Fitzpatrick’s last race as a driver, and soon he would make a safer decision. Step out of the race car, and manage the team. Two major wrecks and more would come as the marshal’s briefing takes place. Two worlds collide as we are ready to contest Japan’s annual endurance race. Nissan and Toyota are set to race against March and Porsche. Witness the #23 March 83G Nissan, for Hoshino Racing. This is the car powered by the 2.0 liter LZ20B four cylinder turbocharged motor, in the hands of Kazuyoshi Hoshino, and Akira Hagiwara.
Nissan has entered a Group C car known as the Fairlady which resembles a Lola. This is actually the LM03C model for Central 20 Racing Team, to be shared by Haruhito Yanagida, and Takao Wada. Two Porsche 956’s run regularly in Japan, are in this race. #6 is the Trust Racing Team entry for Australia’s Vern Schuppan, who we saw win Le Mans with Rothman’s Porsche earlier in the year, and Japan’s Naohiro Fujita. Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass are reunited once more for this race. Also, be on the lookout for car #48. This one is a dark horse. The U.S. based #48 Alpha Racing Porsche 956 for Preston Henn, John Paul Jr., and Kunimitsu Takahashi.
In the non-Porsche contingent, a top runner is the #7 Autobacs Dome from Japan. It’s the Dome RC83 powered by the double overhead cam 4.0 liter Cosworth Ford DFV engine for Tiff Needell from England, and Eje Elgh from Sweden. Walter Brun’s Porsche will be sponsored by the Advan tire brand from Yokohama. Japan’s Kenji Takahashi is sharing with Claus Schickentanz. Joest and New Man are back for car #12, Bob Wollek, sharing with Volkert Merl and Hans Heyer.
We also have the #3 Matsuda Collection Porsche 956, for Thierry Boutsen, and Henri Pescarolo, and in addition, Mazda are here for their home race. Would you believe, this will be the only race for the Matsuda Porsche? That’s right. After the race, it will reside in the collection itself. There are numerous GT Japan class entered Mazda RX-7’s, and the #16 Mazda 717C for Mazdaspeed. Yojiro Terada and Takashi Yorino, are the two Japanese factory drivers, sharing with Belgian Mazda factory driver, Pierre Dieudonne. Toyota and Nissan are also well represented in Groups B and C. One of the favorites is the #17 Tom’s Toyota Dome with power from a 2.0 liter turbo 4 cylinder. It is being shared by Keiji Matsumoto, Kaoru Hoshino, and Masanori Sekiya.
Stefan Bellof and Derek Bell set the pace in qualifying. The race will have good weather. Derek Bell and team boss Klaus Bischoff discuss the track conditions. Jochen Mass is second, for a Rothman’s Porsche front row. Jochen Mass and Jacky Ickx will start from pole. Henri Pescarolo and Thierry Boutsen are using a Porsche 956 from a museum in Japan, which will run it’s first, and only race, ever, today. The aforementioned Bob Wollek and Hans Heyer, start fourth on the grid. New Man Japan importers Taka-Q sponsor the car. Schuppan and Fujita will roll off in fifth place. Look out, too, as mentioned, for the Advan Porsche of Claus Schickentanz and Kenji Takahashi.
Another Yokohama Porsche is the Preston Henn owned #48 mentioned above. Champion windsurfer Ricky Shiba will take ownership of the car after this race is over. As the skies over Fuji Speedway darken, both Rothmans Porsche’s set out to turn more laps and improve their qualifying times. Tiff Needell sets himself up to qualify in tenth in the Autobacs Dome Ford. Qualifying in eighth is the sister Dome, #17. That’s the Matsumoto/Hoshino/Sekiya car, mentioned earlier. Nissan runs one place better, with car #23. That is the aforementioned March Nissan for Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Akira Hagiwara. After changing tires, Tiff Needell hands car #7 to Eje Elgh to try his luck in qualifying for the Fuji 1,000 Kilometers.
Hmmm. One of the cars in the Fuji event is what you’d call a “Mickey Mouse” racer, with Disney Japan sponsorship and Mickey Mouse on the front. This is the #46 factory car for Sauber from Switzerland. Swiss driver Max Welti will share with Italy’s Fulvio Ballabio, and a third driver is listed who wouldn’t start the race… Venezuela’s Johnny Cecotto. Mickey Mouse is the same in any language. East meets West at Fuji. Two more contenders to look out for are the aforementioned Central 20 Nissan Fairlady and the #21 Porsche Kremer Racing 956. Franz Konrad was also due to start the car, but in the race, it will be shared by Stefan Johansson and Philippe Alliot.
Qualifying is now done and dusted. Kremer Porsche isn’t so lucky. Alliot crashes at 150 miles an hour. He flips the car over the guardrail. A marshal is hurt, but Alliot is OK. Much work for Kremer and company to do if they want to race on Sunday. Manfred Kremer is told by his sponsors, “race the car at Fuji, or else…” The thrash will begin. 18 hours to rebuild a demolished Porsche 956. No Japanese hospitality or sleep, for the Kremer crew tonight. Sunday beckons, and it’s race time. Good fortune, as Mount Fuji shows her pretty face, for the first time all week, which is a sign of good things for the race to come, hopefully.
The grandstands are packed. 80,000 fans are ready, to go sports car racing. 34 cars will start, and it’s a miracle! Moments before the race begins, the Kremer Porsche, reemerges, ready, put back together, to join the fight! The cars snake their way through the autumn forests in Japan, looking for a start. 33 cars, start this event, and one is scratched. That’s the #102 RoGroup B Nissan 240RS for Tomei Jidousha. One of the drivers is sick, and can’t race. So, there will be no action for Eiji Shibuya and Fumio Aiba.
Here then, is the full 33 car grid.
- #2 Bellof/Bell Porsche 956 Rothman’s Porsche Team
- #1 Mass/Ickx Porsche 956 Rothman’s Porsche Team
- #3 Boutsen/Pescarolo Porsche 956 Matsuda Collection
- #12 Wollek/Merl/Heyer Porsche 956 Joest Racing
- #6 Schuppan/Fujita Porsche 956 Trust Racing Team
- #8 Takahashi/Schickentanz Porsche 956 Brun Speedbox Motorsport
- #23 Hoshino/Hagiwara March 83 Nissan Hoshino Racing
- #17 Matsumoto/Hoshino/Sekiya Tom’s Dome 83C Toyota Tom’s
- #48 Henn/Takahashi/Paul Jr. Porsche 956 Alpha Racing
- #7 Elgh/Needell Dome RC83 Ford Autobacs Dome Motorsport
- #20 Yanagida/Wada Nissan Fairlady LM03C Central 20 Racing Team
- #63 Finotto/Facetti Alba AR2 Giannini Carma Scuderia Jolly Club
- #62 Totani/Akaike MCS Guppy Renoma 83C Mazda Alpha Cubic Racing Team
- #21 Alliot/Johansson Porsche Kremer Racing Porsche 956
- #65 Lotterschmid/Nagasaka/Suzuki Auto Beaurex Motorsport Lotec M1C BMW
- #10 Hasemi/Tohira Hasemi Motorsport Nissan Skyline Turbo C
- #16 Terada/Yorino/Dieudonne Mazdaspeed Mazda 717C
- #88 Motohashi/Suzuki Panasport Japan MCS Guppy Panasport C
- #46 Balabio/Welti Sauber Racing Switzerland Sauber C7 BMW
- #81 Misaki/Nakamura Misaki Speed MCS Guppy Misaki Speed C Toyota
21. #121 Oguchi/Fujimura Yours Sport Racing Team Mazda RX7 254
22. #181 Seino/Kitagawa Mazda Sport Car Club Mazda RX7 254i
23. #120 Okada/Morimoto/Okada Yours Sport Racing Team Mazda RX7 254
24. #180 Shiratori/Suzuki/Ihara Shizumaz Racing Mazda RX7
25. #182 Arai/Hagiwara Mazda Sport Car Club Mazda RX7
26. #123 Ooya/Katsuki/Ishikawa ERC Racing Mazda RX7
27. #130 Itabashi/Tabada TRS Itabashi Mazda RX7 253i
28. #126 Sawada/Okamoto/Sugiyama Mishima Auto Racing Mazda RX7
29. #133 Kusano/Isozaki/Furusawa Team No. 3 Racing Mazda RX7
30. #125 Shimegi/Ogura Sansyou Kogyou Racing Team Mazda RX7 825
31. #122 Mitomi/Koma Trust Racing Team Toyota Celica
32. #136 Nagata/Miyagawa Gontazaka Enterprise Nissan Fairlady 280Z
33. #171 Jitsukawa/Sekine Tomei Jidousha Nissan Sunny LZ14
That’s the grid, with Group C and C Junior heading the dozen GT Japan entries. Some of the best drivers are ready to race on a great circuit, and it’s a miracle… the Kremer Porsche makes it to the grid! Philippe Alliot and Stefan Johansson will start the race! Bell and Ickx lead the field, as the cars serpent their way through the Japanese countryside. Now, we’re set. It’s go! The Mount Fuji 1,000 Kilometers is on! Stefan Bellof leads Jochen Mass. These two will have a definite war, even though they are on the same team. The cars make their way around carefully. Bellof and Mass pull away from Naohiro Fujita, who starts the #6 Trust Racing Team Porsche and shares with Vern Schuppan.
The March Nissan, car #23 is holding station where it started, in seventh. Kazuyoshi Hoshino at the wheel of it. He is overtaken by the #20, the LM 03C Nissan Fairlady, Haruhito Yanagida at the controls. Rothman’s Porsche leads, with Stefan Bellof in P1, Jochen Mass in P2. Stefan Johansson in the #21 Kremer Porsche, is mounting a challenge and wants to pass both Hoshino and Yanagida. The scrap ensues. Hoshino vs. Yanagida vs. Johansson. In the meantime, Naohiro Fujita and Bob Wollek race each other. Wollek goes inside, and Fujita passes on the outside saying, “no you don’t, sunshine.” Thierry Boutsen watches this battle, from fifth.
Boutsen is driving in the #3 Matsuda Porsche 956 with Henri Pescarolo of course. Stefan Bellof opens a lead up over Jochen Mass. Stefan Johansson is eighth, and passes the Nissan Fairlady for seventh place. Wollek pulls clear of Fujita as well, but Fujita isn’t done yet. Once again, the C Junior class is led by the #63 Martino Finotto and Carlo Facetti Alba. In the back half of the top ten, Eje Elgh is trying to stay ahead of Keiji Matsumoto. It’s the battle of the Dome cars, except one is Ford powered, and the other, has Toyota propulsion. The leaders are working their way through load of lapped traffic now. Keep in mind, the Group C drivers are also in a battle with the Japan GT production based cars.
Fujita finally passes Boutsen, as Bob Wollek retains third, and Stefan Johansson has made it to six. The #16 Mazda is running well. That’s the Terada/Yorino/Dieudonne driven car. Kunimitsu Takahashi is giving Preston Henn’s Porsche a good run. Bellof and Mass have not ceased and desisted in their battle for the race lead. It’s still as hot as ever. Ditto for the Fujita and Boutsen fight. Bob Wollek is still just riding along in third before he hands the #12 Porsche to Hans Heyer. Stefan and Jochen both will have to watch how much fuel they use, because they are limited to only five pit stops for fuel, in this motor race.
It’s a hotly contested battle in the Japan GT section of this race, and still in sixth is the #21 Porsche, with Johansson at the wheel. The #6 Schuppan/Fujita Porsche is continuing to hold down fourth spot. Jochen Mass is right in Stefan Bellof’s slipstream now. A change for the lead, as Jochen Mass goes into the lead. The Rothman’s Porsche boys are setting a torrid pace here at Fuji so far. Oh boy! Three wide! The two Rothman’s cars had to get around a slower driven Japanese Group C car! OK, folks. You haven’t missed anything at the front. Rothman’s Porsche still runs 1-2. No team orders for Rothman’s Porsche, as Joest, and Matsuda follow. Ah. More lead changes and more lapped traffic. Bellof leads Mass, and the two Rothman’s cars are the only ones now on the lead lap.
It’s pit stop time for Porsche #12. Hans Heyer will take over from Bob Wollek. #2 is also in the lane. Have they used too much fuel? Derek Bell should get into the car. Jochen Mass will inherit the race lead and second will be the Trust Porsche of Naohiro Fujita. We see now too that one of the Japan GT cars, which is actually entered in Group C, is breaking into the top ten. It’s Masahiro Hasemi in the #10 Nissan Skyline Turbo C he is sharing with Kenji Tohira. The Nissan Fairlady is seventh in the overall. The Japanese run cars are running very well. Kremer, Joest, and Rothman’s Porsche’s have all pitted. Jacky Ickx takes over from Jochen Mass in car #1, and Derek Bell takes over from Stefan Bellof in car #2. #1 is a lap up on #2 right now. Not much changed. It is a Rothman’s 1-2. Bell leads Ickx. Haruhito Yanagida has crash damage, so, he’s gotten into some argy bargy somewhere out on track. The nose of the Fairlady is more than crumpled.
It’s still Bell and Ickx 1-2. The Kremer Porsche, #21 is fifth, as Philippe Alliot has taken over from Stefan Johansson. No changes at the sharp end. You’ve missed nothing. Grab a drink and keep enjoying our review of Group C, 1983. The Kremer Porsche is fourth, and Jacky Ickx proceeds to put a lap on it. Oh boy. We have a spin for one of the Japan GT cars. It looks like one of the Toyota Celica’s has gone off the road! Now, if you’ve gotten that cold, refreshing drink I mentioned, you may want to swallow what you have now, before Kenji Takahashi goes off the road, on a downhill section of the course. He’s autocrossing here, look. He’s doing that Porsche 956 no good.
Mr. Takahashi, you are driving a quarter million dollar Group C Porsche, not a rallycross car! Be careful out there, sunshine! The whole left front fender of that 956 is gone. Car owner Preston Henn will want to have a word with you, Mr. Takahashi and ask you, “what did you do to my Porsche?” The Trust Porsche runs well, with Vern Schuppan now at the wheel of it. Schuppan is fourth in the overall. Ickx and Bell continue to fight up front. No changes there. Meanwhile, we revisit the travails of Porsche #48. Kunimitsu Takahashi is still struggling to get that Porsche back to pit lane. The Dome is running well, as the leaders and some of the Japan Group C machines work their way through the sea of GT racers.
Derek Bell, into pit lane, and there will be routine service and a driver change, as he hands the car back to Stefan Bellof. Porsche #2 must be understeering because they are using tires are a much quicker rate than their sister car. There’s blistering on that Dunlop tire as the mechanic undoes the center wheel nut and replaces that left front tire with a new one. A long pit stop for #2 as #1 hits the lane. Jochen Mass will take over from Jacky Ickx. #1 reassumes the lead after a very quick stop. Porsche #3, the Matsuda Collection car also pits. Boutsen and Pescarolo are having a good race.
#1 leads, but whatever issues #2 had, they are resolved. Stefan Bellof is right back into the fight. The marshals are doing a wonderful job keeping the fast cars and slow cars from running into each other. The fans are enjoying the racing, and also, the best Japanese cuisine has to offer. You’ve got to have good track food, and it seems that the Fuji Speedway does indeed. Some of the Japanese drivers are having a tough go of it in their home race, and one car attesting to this is the March, in the C Junior division. Now, there’s another swap for the lead as Stefan Bellof makes a pass on Jochen Mass. Bell actually had to pit on lap 131 with a punctured tire.
We also have a problem as the Nissan Fairlady 280Z blows it’s V6 engine to bits! Ka-blammo! It’s game over for Gontazaka Enterprise and drivers Yoshio Nagata and Hiroyuki Miyagawa. More worries for Rothman’s as Jochen Mass has a blown tire! The right rear tire had mistakenly been mounted on the left side stub axle. So, the tire destroyed itself, and took the bodywork with it, ripping off the side skirt of the 956 revealing the housing for the turbo on the flat 6 engine. #2 back into the lead despite handling concerns voiced by Derek Bell. #1 is going to trudge on even with the damage. Once again the #12 New Man Porsche has been in the wars, having a collision with a backmarker, and bear bond all over the left hand corner of that automobile. They’ve recovered to fifth in the overall. Game over for the Kremer Porsche, car #21. An oil leak has ended their race. Philippe Alliot and Stefan Johansson, out. Also, game over for the Nissan Fairlady. The turbo has cried, enough.
The #7 Autobacs Dome with the Ford engine is also in a bit of mechanical distress. Not a good sign for Eje Elgh and Tiff Needell. The car won’t even be classified as a finisher. Game over, for another. The Preston Henn Porsche is back in the pits to be worked on with its front nose damage after the autocross shenanigans we saw earlier. But, there are no spares after the shemozzle. So, another car bites the dust. Game over for Alpha Racing. Stefan Bellof leads Jochen Mass who took over Porsche #1 that is still second overall. The Trust Porsche #6 is third, followed by Thierry Boutsen in the #3 Matsuda Collection Porsche, and next is the #12, the New Man Porsche with Hans Heyer aboard.
The leader pits for the final time, including a brake pad change to get to the end. Jacky Ickx will finish out the race in car #1. If Jacky Ickx finishes second, he’ll maintain the points lead with one race to go in 1983. The running order is Bell, Ickx, Schuppan, Boutsen, and Heyer. Five laps left in the race. But, there’s a massive accident! We have carnage on the front straight! It’s one of the Dome’s that has had a colossal shunt! It’s the #17 Tom’s Dome Toyota with Keiji Matsumoto driving!
Four laps to go and this race is red flagged. Stop the cars. Stop, stop, stop. A rear tire let go at 200 miles an hour, and Keiji Matsumoto, was a helpless passenger as his Group C racer, careered into the Armco. There was fear the car would catch fire. The marshals doused the car with the fire extinguisher and Keiji Matsumoto emerged unhurt. The race is over. Derek Bell and Stefan Bellof are your winners!
Now, there’s one race to go in the 1983 season. Europe wins the battle. Japan will have to regroup for next year. Let’s look at the results of the Fuji 1,000 Kilometers.
- #2 Bell/Bellof Porsche 956 Rothman’s Porsche Team
- #1 Ickx/Mass Porsche 956 Rothman’s Porsche Team
- #6 Schuppan/Fujita Porsche 956 Trust Racing Team
That’s your podium. Jacky Ickx leads Derek Bell by 11 points 85-74 with one race left. Jochen Massa, Bob Wollek, Stefan Bellof, and Thierry Boutsen, round out the top six in the points. See you for the finale, in South Africa on December 10th. But, before we get to Kyalami, stay tuned for a brief, additional post on two more races that took place, coming up, tomorrow.