Round 9: Spa 1,000 Kilometers, Circuit de Spa Francorchamps, Spa, Francorchamps, Belgium, September 18th, 1988

Welcome to southern Belgium (the Ardennes forest and the Francorchamps, Malmedy, Stavelot triangle), and the mighty Spa Francorchamps circuit that has been around in one form or another since the 1920s.  The race is organized by the RACB, the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium.  This sweeping circuit that winds its way through the Ardennes mountains and forest is 6.9 kilometers, 4.3 miles long.  Jaguar can clinch both the drivers’ and the manufacturers’ championships today, at Spa, if everything goes in their favor.

Mercedes is still in with a shout for the driver’s crown.  It’s a duel between Martin Brundle from England, for Jaguar, and Frenchman Jean Louis Schlesser for Mercedes Benz.  A plethora, a flotilla of Porsche 962’s will be out there, as ever, to spoil the Jaguar and/or Mercedes party, however.  Joest has their two Blaupunkt Porsche’s and we cannot forget the modified Porsche 962 GTi for Richard Lloyd Racing in the hands of Derek Bell and Martin Donnelly.  Donnelly is a Formula 3000 single seater driver.  Can Mercedes have an advantage in the rain at Spa?  It seems unlikely, as Jaguar might just have the edge on setup.

Jean Louis Schlesser is not confident Mercedes can beat Jaguar in the treams championship.  Spa is a lovely circuit in the dry, but in the wet, it is a bugaboo, according to Eddie Cheever, Martin Brundle’s team mate.  Brundle can choose to drive the #1 or #2 car.  Jaguar has made progress on their V12 engines.  But, there are still some teething troubles, and yet, Jaguar has had their first real success in qualifying.  The weather is looking grim.

Mauro Baldi is the pole man, sharing with Stefan Johansson, who is still learning the Sauber Mercedes.  Jan Lammers and Martin Brundle have Jaguar #2 next up.  Johnny Dumfries will be teamed in the #1 Jaguar with Eddie Cheever, as Jaguar changes up their driver lineups. Bob Wollek has the quickest of the Porsche’s in the Joest entry, car #7, that pesky #7 that seems to always be in contention to try and mess with the Jaguars and Mercedes’.    Costas Los has the Spice quickest in C2.  Let’s look at the grid before this race gets underway.

  1. #62 Baldi/Johansson Sauber C9/88 Mercedes                               Team Sauber Mercedes
  2. #2 Lammers/Brundle Jaguar XJR9                                         Silk Cut Jaguar
  3. #61 Schlesser/Mass Sauber C9/88 Mercedes                               Team Sauber Mercedes
  4. #1 Cheever/Dumfries Jaguar XJR9                                         Silk Cut Jaguar
  5. #7 Wollek/Barilla Porsche 962C                                     Blaupunkt Joest Racing
  6. #5 Larrauri/Reuter Porsche 962C                                     Brun Motorsport
  7. #8 Winter/Jelinski Porsche 962C                                     Joest Racing GmBH
  8. #14 Bell/Donnelly Porsche 962C GTi                             Richard Lloyd Racing
  9. #4 Brun/Larrauri/Reuter Porsche 962C                                  Brun Motorsport
  10. #35 Lechner/Franzmaier/Dauer Porsche 962C                   Walter Lechner Racing School
  11. #20 Lee-Davey/Dodd-Noble Porsche 962C                          Team Davey
  12. #121 Los/Taylor Spice SE87C Ford Cosworth         P. Motorsport
  13. #40 Salamin/Lavaggi/Yver Porsch 962C                                  Swiss Team Salamin
  14. #103 Thyrring/Coppelli Spice SE88C Ford Cosworth         Spice Engineering
  15. #111 Spice/Bellm Spice SE88C Ford Cosworth         Spice Engineering
  16. #127 Jones/Adams/Williams Spice SE86C Hart                    Chamberlain Engineering
  17. #117 Sheldon/Chauvet/Smith Argo JM19C Ford Cosworth  Team Lucky Strike Schanche
  18. #107 Ricci/Ballot-Lena Spice SE88C Ford Cosworth         Chamberlain Engineering
  19. #109 Randaccio/Taverna/Gellini Tiga GC288 Ford Cosworth  Kelmar Racing Cars
  20. #106 Barberio/Veinanta/Sebastiani Tiga GC288 Ford Cosworth  Kelmar Racing Cars
  21. #151 Lombardi/Sotty/Lecerf Spice SE86C Ford Cosworth  Lombardi, Pierre-Alain
  22. #191 Piper/Iacobelli Argo JM19C Ford Cosworth  PC Automotive
  23. #177 Lacaud/Descartes/Heuclin ALD 04 BMW    Descartes, Louis
  24. #124 Rousselot/Messaoudi Argo JM19 Ford Cosworth  MT Sport Racing
  25. #125 Oudet/Ferrarin/Witmeur Tiga GC85 Ford Cosworth  Patrick Oudet Vetir Racing
  26. #198 Hynes/Cohen-Olivar/Musetti Tiga GC286 Ford Cosworth  Roy Baker Racing
  27. #178 Tremblay/Mecer ALD 03 BMW  Descartes, Louis

27 cars are set to take the start, here at Spa.  The track is wet, as the cars set off on the formation lap behind the safety car.  The cream of the cream in sports cars is here.  All the VIP’s from the automotive world and the major makes represented in Group C are here to watch the action from the suites around the track.  Green lights, on, and we’re off and racing in the rain, at Spa!  As the race gets underway, we can see Jaguar taking the fight to Mercedes already.  They know they can clinch the championship today, so they are undoubtedly taking advantage of that opportunity.

Jaguar doesn’t necessarily have to win, well, how should yours truly say this.  They still have to finish in the top two, but a better way to put it is, it does not matter which of their cars crosses the finish line first at the end of the 1,000 kilometers.  Jan Lammers is leading.  Martin Brundle is waiting in the wings to see which of the lead Jaguar’s he’ll team up with.  Will it be car #1 or car #2?  Jean Louis Schlesser is in a similar situation for Mercedes.  You want to have your strongest bullet in the gun, when it comes to crunch time in this motor race.

Once again, even in the rain, this is a two horse race.  Porsche seems to not have the speed to keep up with Jaguar and Mercedes as we’ve discussed before, numerous times during this 1988 WSC campaign.  The conditions here at Spa are atrocious.  There’s fog, and rain, everywhere, and at Spa, it is one of those circuits where, when it rains, it pours.  Jaguar’s strategy has gone a tad pear shaped.  Poor old Jan Lammers is in the lane already with a puncture.  This gives the lead, gift wrapped in a bow, to Mauro Baldi and Mercedes.  It’s a Mercedes 1-2.  Jochen Mass has recovered well in the sister Sauber Mercedes, clawing his way back past another of the Jaguars and the Brun Jagermeister Porsche, the Larrauri/Reuter entry.

Into the pits from the race lead is car #62.  Mauro Baldi will hand the wheel to Stefan Johansson for the next stint in the race as tires are changed and the fuel tank is filled.  Meanwhile, Jean Louis Schlesser will share the sister #61 Mercedes with Jochen Mass.  Bob Wollek was hopeful of a good race here in the Ardennes.  But, it’s game over for Joest Porsche as old #7 retires with handling issues.  Bob Wollek and Paolo Barilla just couldn’t find a setup on the Porsche to make it drivable in the race.  So, now the plot thickens just a little bit.  It seems that the normally aspirated, massive 7.0 liter V12 in the back of the Jaguar has the legs in the wet.

Not so fast.  It is instead, the booming 5.0 liter turbo V8 Mercedes that is putting the cat among the pigeons here at Spa.  Jean Louis Schlesser and Stefan Johansson run 1-2 and they are putting on a clinic out there in the wet.  Jan Lammers put the #2 Jaguar into third, and of course, he will now have Martin Brundle co-driving the car.  Jean Louis Schlesser is on a Sunday cruise here at Spa.  But, it’s game over for Jaguar #1.  There was a fuel pickup issue on car #1.  It practically ran out of gas, and so, there was no way for the pickup in the tank to distribute fuel into the massive V12 motor, and the car stopped dead stick on the circuit.

Don’t count your chickens until they hatch.  After dominating, we see problems for Jean Louis Schlesser and Mercedes!  The car he shares with Jochen Mass has a broken suspension, and repairs on this issue in the pit lane, will demote them from the lead to third overall.  For Jean Louis Schlesser, he is none too happy as he sees his chances of a world championship evaporate right in front of his eyes.  It’s not all gloom for Mercedes, though, because the sister #62 car of Mauro Baldi and Stefan Johansson has taken the lead here at Spa.

Martin Brundle and Jan Lammers have gone to second place as the Chairman of Jaguar cars, Sir John Egan, looks on.  Jan Lammers is catching the Mercedes at a rate of knots.  Mercedes, though, is going to win the battle here at a soggy Spa Francorchamps.  So, they have something to celebrate, but the war is won by Jaguar!  They take the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships in Group C, 1988!  Jan Lammers says Jaguar has so far accomplished everything they’ve wanted to.  “We’ve won Daytona, we’ve won Le Mans, we’ve won the manufacturers’ championship.  We still want to win the drivers’ title”, says Lammers.  So, let’s look at the results from Spa.

  1. #62 Baldi/Johansson Sauber C9/88 Mercedes                               Team Sauber Mercedes
  2. #2 Lammers/Brundle Jaguar XJR9                                         Silk Cut Jaguar
  3. #61 Schlesser/Mass Sauber C9/88 Mercedes                               Team Sauber Mercedes
  4. #5 Larrauri/Reuter Porsche 962C                                     Brun Motorsport
  5. #103 Thyrring/Coppelli Spice SE88C Ford Cosworth          Spice Engineering*
  6. #111 Spice/Bellm Spice SE88C Ford Cosworth         Spice Engineering
  7. #40 Salamin/Lavaggi Porsche 962C                                     Swiss Team Salamin
  8. #20 Lee-Davey/Dpdd-Noble Porsche 962C                          Team Davey
  9. #127 Jones/Adams/Williams Spice SE86C Hart                    Chamberlain Engineering
  10. #117 Sheldon/Chauvet/Smith Argo JM19C Ford Cosworth  Team Lucky Strike Schanche

Spice Engineering wins in C2 WITH Thorkild Thyrring from Denmark and Almo Coppelli from Italy driving, and the Spice chassis takes the top two places in C2.  Time is of the essence.  The European World Sports Car season is complete.  Two races now remain.  The next event is the penultimate round of the year at Mount Fuji Speedway in Fuji, Japan, in three weeks.

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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