Round four of the championship takes place on the brand new short course at the Nurburgring. The midsummer rains have come to the Eiffel Mountains as practice gets underway. The new Nurburgring might fit 80,000 people to come and watch a sports car race, but the mystique and challenge of the old Nordschleife has gone by the wayside in the Group C era. Vern Schuppan is teaming with Germany’s Christian Danner in the camera car, the #16 Richard Lloyd Canon Porsche 956. But, in the rain, Schuppan got caught out, plowing through the gravel trap, damaging the right front corner of the car. Schuppan and Danner, were scratched from the field. Game over, before the race even begins.
Stefan Bellof has pole in the Rothman’s Porsche, and 42 cars overall, will take the start here at the new Nurburgring. OK. The cars are set to roll for the start of the race. Stefan Bellof leads the way with Hans Stuck alongside in the #9 Schiesser sponsored Brun Porsche 956 he is sharing with fellow German, Harald Grohs. Go! It’s a clean start, and Bellof leads away from Hans Stuck, and then comes the #14 Canon Porsche 956. Christian Danner, after his accident with the sister car, has joined as a third driver in #14 alongside Jonathan Palmer and Jan Lammers.
Bellof and Stuck are getting after it early in this motor race, while, with a ringside seat, it’s the aforementioned Canon car, with Jan Lammers at the wheel of it. For several early laps, these three Porsche 956’s were glued together. Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass follow in fourth spot in Rothmans Porsche #1, while one of the Lancia’s is fifth overall. It’s the #4 of Bob Wollek and Riccardo Patrese, being followed by the sister car (#5), of Alessandro Nannini, and Paolo Barilla, the all-Italian squad. Stuck gets past Bellof, and now, Bellof has his hands full with Johnny Palmer. Hey Stefan, here’s Johnny! So, these two blokes are content to play cat and mouse for a bit.
The privateer Porsche’s are doing extremely well running with the factory prepared machines. Stuck draws away, but Palmer decides “I want second spot”, and goes three wide with a couple of back markers to get it! Boy oh boy! Mechanical troubles for Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass, benefit the #33 Skoal Bandit Porsche 956 for John Fitzpatrick and David Hobbs, moving them to fourth overall. In the meantime, Rupert Keegan in the sister Skoal Bandit Porsche, the #55, has gone dancing with Oscar Larrauri. Keegan probably thinks, “hey Oscar, are you dancing with two left feet or what? Why did you spin me out?”
Somehow I wonder if these two blokes exchanged Christmas cards after the season. I can’t imagine Larrauri was on Keegan’s list after this little shemozzle. No wonder Larrauri is known as a wild man. Play it cool, Oscar. Meanwhile, both Rothmans Porsche’s hit pit lane at the same time. Hans Stuck is in the lane as well for full service, and a driver change, handing the car to Harald Grohs. The lead battle between Rothmans and Canon Porsche is boiling. They lap past the C2 leaders, the #70 Spice Tiga Ford Cosworth being shared by Gordon Spice, Ray Bellm, and Neil Crang. There’s more competition through the top five, as Harald Grohs is holding off challenges from both Jacky Ickx and Thierry Boutsen.
It really is anyone’s race so far, here at the Nurburgring. The Spice Tiga is in another zip code in the C2 class. No one can touch these blokes. They’ll go on to win. But, there’s a change for the lead. The #14 Canon Porsche, has passed Stefan Bellof in the #2 Rothmans Porsche. Palmer, Lammers, and Danner (sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?), are setting sail in the mid-point of this motor race. The skies are darkening, and rain showers could be on the horizon. The #19 Schiesser Porsche passes one of the two GTX class Porsche 935’s in the field. This is the #64 car driven by Italian’s “Victor” (we don’t know his full name), and Gianni Giudicci, along with Angelo Pallavicini from Switzerland.
The Ickx/Mass Porsche is having trouble, and so is the Lancia squad, as the electronics are playing up on the LC2 prototypes. Lucky for the Nannini/Barilla pairing, they still run in the top six. Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass could see their points lead in the driver’s championship evaporate. They are experiencing brake issues on the #1 Porsche. Rain has come to the Nurburgring. Not an unusual sight at all. Now, with the rain tires, the Skoal Bandit team are running Goodyear tires and the rest of the frontrunners are on Dunlop rubber. What does this mean? The Goodyear skins have superior durability and traction as compared to the Dunlop’s.
The track is getting wetter, as we have one of the Group B production cars off the road. This is the #101 BMW M1 with car owner Jens Winther sharing with fellow Dane Lars-Viggo Jensen, and Brit David Mercer. More trouble on the slick track as the #14 Porsche is off the road! That car was in the lead! Well, not anymore. The Canon crew finally decides to bring the car in, changing from slick tires to wets. They’ve lost gobs of time after that small mishap on track. It’s game over for the Brun Porsche. “Rainmesiter” Hans Stuck, didn’t live up to the nickname, spun off, and incurred crash damage, expiring from the race with a crunched Porsche 956.
Thierry Boutsen in the #33 Skoal Bandit Porsche inherits the race lead, sharing with David Hobbs. The #2 Stefan Bellof and Derek Bell 956 Porsche had a spin, and allowed the Skoal car to go by. The Tiga Ford still leads C2, with Ray Bellm at the controls. The conditions are still slippery. Manfred Winkelhock spins the #10 Kremer Porsche 956 he shares with Switzerland’s Marc Surer, after some argy bargy with the #18 Obermaier Racing Porsche 956 of David Sutherland. Sutherland is sharing with Germany’s Jurgen Lassig, and New Zealander Mike Thackwell, a veteran of Group C and also single seater racing.
Finally, the track begins to dry, and Thierry Boutsen has now driven for the maximum allotted race time of four hours. Here at the Nurburgring, we won’t break the 1,000 kilometer distance, and instead, the race will run to its 6 hour time limit, and the rule states, the official result is based on whichever one, time or distance, comes first. The battle for the lead is between the factory Rothmans Porsche and the Skoal Bandit privateer team owned by John Fitzpatrick. Jacky Ickx into the pit lane for routine service and a driver change, as Jochen Mass will take over. But, the #1 team continues to have recurring brake issues.
The Rothmans #1 will finish seventh. We have only six laps left before this race is over. It’s a battle royal between Hobbs and Bellof. Hobbs is the rabbit, and Bellof is the hound. Bellof catches David Hobbs, and goes on to win it, with a mere 15 seconds, the margin of victory! How close do you like it? So, here are the results.
- #2 Bellof/Bell Rothmans Porsche Porsche 956
- #33 Boutsen/Hobbs Skoal Bandit Porsche Team Porsche 956
- #5 Nannini/Barilla Martini Racing Lancia LC2/84
- #14 Palmer/Lammers Canon Porsche Porsche 956
- #10 Surer/Winkelhock Porsche Kremer Racing Porsche 956
- #19 Larrauri/Sigala Team Gaggia Porsche Porsche 956
Next up, a return to England, and the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent, in two weeks time.