Round 1: Jerez 800 Kilometers, Circuito de Jerez, Jerez de la Frontera, Andalusia, Spain, March 6th, 1988

For the 1988 season, it is once again, a battle between Jaguar, Mercedes, and Porsche for who will come out on top in Group C.  It is also, a year of some change, as there will be sprint races blended in with a lot of the endurance events, and there will be fewer 1,000 kilometer races on the calendar, but the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans still remains the centerpiece of the championship series itself.  1988 will see a two way fight, really, between the Silk Cut Jaguar squad, and Switzerland’s AEG Sauber Mercedes team.

It is a revival of sorts of the World Sports Car Championship.  For eight months, and eleven races, it is going to be a dogfight between Silk Cut Jaguar and AEG Sauber Mercedes.  It all begins, in Spain, in Andalusia at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit.  Sauber Mercedes look to be the team to beat even before a wheel has turned at Jerez.  Frenchman Jean Louis Schlesser, will share the car with Italy’s Mauro Baldi, and former Porsche factory driver, from West Germany, Jochen Mass, who is now signed on with Mercedes Benz.  Mass describes the car, with it’s 5.0 liter turbocharged V8 engine, connected to a Hewland transmission, and the fuel tank will carry 100 liters in most races.

Mercedes has a new braking system on the car, and the big V8 only revs to a redline between 6,800 and 7,000 RPM.  They have a low boost turbocharger on the car, and there is a push to pass button to increase the boost for five to ten seconds.  The top speed of the car is anywhere from 320-380 kilometers (200-240 miles per hour).  Jean Louis Schlesser and Jochen Mass have pole position, and are two seconds quicker, at least than their nearest rival, the #1 V12 powered Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-9 in the hands of Martin Brundle, from England, and American, Eddie Cheever.

Brundle says that the race is more important to Jaguar than qualifying.  Brundle is happy to race at Jerez even though it is a very demanding track.  TWR Jaguar is taking the challenge from Mercedes very seriously.  We have 800 kilometers (500 miles) ahead.  23 cars will start the race and here are the top qualifiers, including not only the C1 machines, but the first couple of the quickest C2 entrants.

  1. #61 Schlesser/Baldi/Mass Sauber C9/88 Mercedes  Team Sauber Mercedes
  2. #1 Brundle/Cheever Jaguar XJR9 Silk Cut Jaguar
  3. #2 Lammers/Dumfries Jaguar XJR9 Silk Cut Jaguar
  4. #3 Nielsen/Watson/Wallace Jaguar XJR9 Silk Cut Jaguar
  5. #7 Ludwig/Wollek Porsche 962C Joest Racing
  6. #6 Pareja/Brun Porsche 962C Brun Motorsport
  7. #14 Weaver/Bell Porsche 962C GTi Richard Lloyd Racing
  8. #8 Jelinski/Winter Porsche 962C Joest Racing
  9. #111 Spice/Bellm Spice SE88C Ford Cosworth  Spice Engineering
  10. #4 Sigala/Larrauri Porsche 962C Brun Motorsport

Oh dear.  We’ve got drama even before the race starts!  Jean Pierre Frey at the wheel of the #101 Dollop Racing Argo Motori Moderni has spun!  This car is powered by a small, turbocharged 2.0 liter V6 engine.  Switzerland’s Jean-Pierre Frey has spun off the circuit.  His co-driver for this race is Italian Nicola Marozzo.  This isn’t an issue, as the lights flash green.  Jean Louis Schlesser powers into the lead in the Mercedes, ahead of the Jaguar’s. What we can already see is that the all-conquering dominance of the Porsche’s, that has been present for years and years, it might be about to have a serious challenge, because the Mercedes and the Jaguar’s are already whistling off into the distance.

Now that there is no official factory Porsche team, Porsche’s hopes rest on Reinhold Joest’s team with cars #7 and #8.  Klaus Ludwig and Bob Wollek share #7, and in #8 is the tandem of Frank Jelinski and John Winter.  Derek Bell and James Weaver have the modified Richard Lloyd Racing Porsche 962, which is an unknown quantity at this stage.  Will the 962C GTi move it’s way into contention to challenge the Joest cars, the Jaguars, and the Mercedes?  Martin Brundle, for years a Formula 1 driver, has planned to go full on in sports cars driving for Jaguar in 1988.  Whoops!  We have a spinner, and it’s Jesus Pareja, the Spaniard in the #6 Repsol oil Porsche 962.

Meanwhile, look at Brundle!  He’s all over the Mercedes, squeezing inside the black bullet, onto the grass to go for the lead of the motor race here at Jerez!  In C2, it’s the usual story that is beginning to write another chapter, and that is, Spice is dominating the category so far here in Spain.  Pit stop time, and Mercedes are indeed into pit lane for fuel etc.  Jochen Mass continues to chase the Jaguar’s for the lead of the motor race as Gordon Spice and Ray Bellm are reinvigorated in the C2 class.  It’s hot work for the drivers, as Mauro Baldi, after his stint in the Mercedes, needs a cool drink and a bit of a rest.  Running second in C2 is our old pal, Costas Los, the Greek driver, piloting the #121 GP Motorsport Spice Cosworth, alongside Frenchman, Philippe de Henning.

The scrap at the front goes on, with the Mercedes as the meat in a Jaguar sandwich.  Or, if you prefer, it is the sausage within a bun, but topped with hot English mustard.  Well, hot English mustard ought to be blended into the Jaguar’s fuel if these chaps are going to catch the Mercedes today.  All is not well for the Coventry squad as the #3 XJR9, the Neilsen/Watson/Wallace entry, was barged off the road by a C2 machine.  Then compounding their misery, the gearbox packed up in the #2 Jan Lammers/Johnny Dumfries Silk Cut racer.  Jaguar’s misfortune is good news for Brun Porsche, and particularly the #4 entry of Walter Brun and Massimo Sigala.

Porsche reliability could be on the side of the Giuffanti liveried machine.  Mercedes goes to P1, flipping the script on Jaguar.  Oh dear.  More troubles for Jaguar!  We saw Lammers and Dumfries retire earlier.  Well, it’s now game over for Martin Brundle and Eddie Cheever.  Ditto for Lammers and Dumfries!  They’ve stopped on track.  Wow.  Jaguar will want to erase the 1988 season opener at Jerez from their memory bank!  They still have one bullet in the gun, and that’s the #3 John Watson, Andy Wallace, John Nielsen car.  Mercedes dominates!  They win, in Spain!

Here are the results.

  1. #61 Schlesser/Baldi/Mass Sauber C9/88 Mercedes      Team Sauber Mercedes
  2. #3 Nielsen/Watson/Wallace Jaguar XJR9                       Silk Cut Jaguar
  3. #7 Ludwig/Wollek Porsche 962C                                     Joest Racing
  4. #14 Weaver/Bell Porsche 962C GTi                                 Richard Lloyd Racing
  5. #8 Jelinski/Winter Porsche 962C                                     Joest Racing
  6. #5 Reuter/Schafer Porsche 962C                                     Brun Motorsport
  7. #111 Spice/Bellm Spice SE88C Ford Cosworth             Spice Engineering*
  8. #121 Los/de Hennning Spice SE87C Ford Cosworth   GP Motorsport
  9. #40 Salamin/Calderari Porsche 962C                             Swiss Team Salamin
  10. #107 Ballot-Lena/Ricci Spice SE88C Ford Cosworth    Chamberlain Engineering

The first race of ’88 is done and dusted.  Next up, in a week’s time, we stay in Spain and head for the Jarama circuit in San Sebastian, Spain.

Published by

the braking zone

International racing fan for over 20 years. I follow Formula One, Indycars, sports cars, touring cars and other varied forms of racing within and outside the U.S. I am a recent college graduate and have been following the world of car racing since childhood.

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