The ball is in Mercedes’ court, here, at Donington Park. They can clinch the teams’ championship today, which has practically had their name on it since the season opener in Japan. Mercedes have been beaten just once this year. In qualifying at Donington, Jean Louis Schlesser sets a fast lap time of 1:19.19, which seems safe for pole. Baldi squeaked by, at the last possible second, with a 1:19.12! No matter, it is an all Mercedes front row, here at Donington, as we look towards the race on Sunday afternoon. Here are the top qualifying positions, in a field that will include 33 cars.
- #61 Baldi/Acheson Sauber C9/88 Mercedes Sauber Mercedes
- #62 Schlesser/Mass Sauber C9/88 Mercedes Sauber Mercedes
- #23 Bailey/Blundell Nissan R89C Nissan Motorsports International
- #37 Dumfries/Watson Toyota 89C-V Toyota Team Tom’s
- #1 Lammers/Tambay Jaguar XJR11 Silk Cut Jaguar
- #2 Wallace/Ferte Jaguar XJR11 Silk Cut Jaguar
The weather for this sixth of eight races in 1989 is hot, overcast, and dry. Two hours, or, 120 laps from now, Sauber Mercedes could indeed be the teams’ champions in the 1989 World Sports Prototype Championship. Jean Louis Schlesser, driving the #62 Mercedes wants to score the drivers’ championship. But, Nissan, Mercedes’ closest rivals, they will stop at nothing to take the glory away from the silver cars. They want victory. Before we start this race, it is important to review some of the rules pertaining to the new Group C. Nissan and Mercedes operate under the same regulations.
Turbocharged cars operate under unlimited engine capacity, but they are heavily restricted in terms of fuel consumption. Two classes race, C1 and C2 with different minimum weights and fuel limits. We have not really had the chance to touch on the C2 entrants this year, because the battle for the top spot in C1 has been so, so compelling. Normally aspirated cars have no fuel consumption restrictions, but the engine capacity limit is drawn at 3.5 liters in displacement. The fuel consumption restrictions mean the race here at Donington, is going to force drivers to really be aware of how much fuel they are using in addition to battling each other on track.
Jan Lammers for Jaguar believes they can finish, but they want to finish in front and go ahead and win if they can. In seventh place on the grid, is old #7, the Joest Porsche 962C of Bob Wollek and Frank Jelinski. They are the only team that has been able to one up Sauber Mercedes in 1989 so far. Look out too, for the Brun Porsche’s, especially the car in the hands of Oscar Larrauri, the #5 Hydro Aluminum 962C he shares with Belgian Harald Huysman. 2.5 miles of race track, for 120 laps, means a 300 mile race, with 30+ cars out there doing battle.
The fuel mathematics are half a liter per kilometer, which over the scheduled distance works out to 241 liters of fuel in total. The C1 cars have 100 liter fuel tanks, and the fueling rigs in pit lane are restricted to 60 liters per minute on the pit stops. This guarantees two pit stops of 100 seconds duration, each time. Mercedes on the front row followed by Nissan, Toyota, Mercedes, Jaguar, Porsche, and Aston Martin. The team cars for Spice in C2 are the quickest in the class. Wayne Taylor and Thorkild Thyrring are in the lead Spice, with team mates Eliseo Salazar from Chile, and Britain’s Tim Harvey, driving. C2 cars have no fuel limits.
The C1 cars might struggle a bit compared to the C2’s. All eyes are on Mercedes as they are going for that championship. The safety car pulls off, and we’re ready for a start. We’ve got the green light, and we’re off and racing at Donington Park! Mauro Baldi jumps into the lead with Jean Louis Schlesser mounting a challenge on the outside. Baldi and Schlesser lead, with Jaguar running third. The rest of the field files in behind. Mauro Baldi, leading Jean Louis Schlesser, and Jan Lammers. The Nissan is in the battle and so are Oscar Larrauri and Johnny Dumfries. Alain Ferte in the sister Jaguar is behind Dumfries in the Toyota, followed by a brace of Porsche 962s.
Mercedes makes their customary clean getaway and are now opening a cushion on everyone else. Lammers outbrakes Jean Louis Schlesser into the hairpin and makes the move stick! How about that! Lammers continues holding Schlesser at bay. Next in line it’s Julian Bailey, Oscar Larrauri, Johnny Dumfries, Alain Ferte, and Derek Bell in the RLR Porsche. Mauro Baldi continues opening a lead over Jan Lammers as they negotiate the dips, twists, and turns, here at Donington. Baldi is whistling off into the distance. Lammers has his hands full with Schlesser in the second Mercedes. Schlesser looks to make his move on Lammers on the back straight. He looks inside, but no dice.
The fight is still in the Dutchman! He tries again. Ah yes. He gets by Schlesser at the Melbourne hairpin. Mercedes is the bread, and Jaguar is the meat in the sandwich as we’ve completed ten laps of this race already. Julian Bailey is much closer to the leaders, in the Nissan, than is fifth place man Oscar Larrauri. Johnny Dumfries continues to run sixth overall. Here comes Jean Louis Schlesser, shot out of a cannon! He’s passed his team mate, and dives inside Jan Lammers! Jean Louis Schlesser, snatches the lead, taking two cars in one corner! Yikes! The leaders have caught the lapped traffic at the back end of the field, so slower C1 and C2 cars are there for them to contend with.
Give a call to Wayne Taylor in the yellow Spice, having started 11th he is working his way steadily through the field. Taylor has taken sixth place away from the Toyota with Johnny Dumfries still at the wheel of it. Also, we see that Julian Bailey is finally able to clear Mauro Baldi. Mercedes, Jaguar, Nissan, Mercedes, are the top four in the running order as the positions have been shuffling lap after lap. Oscar Larrauri has Wayne Taylor in the Spice all over him. Taylor has the advantage of no fuel restrictions because of the normally aspirated 3.5 liter Cosworth V8 in the back of the Spice chassis. Jan Lammers has caught Jean Louis Schlesser and a game of cat and mouse ensues.
Lammers ducks inside Schlesser to take the lead back! Wow! If you take your eyes off this race for one second, you’ll miss something. Up to the esses they go. Schlesser tries sticking his nose under Lammers, but he isn’t close enough yet to make the move. Through the sharp left hand turn at Goddard’s corner. Schlesser is right on top of the Jaguar now, look. Making the pass, Schlesser turns on the horsepower from the turbo V8. But Lammers uses all the oomph of the turbo V6 to come right back! The new engine for Jaguar seems to be very effective. They are wheel to wheel! Lammers defends his lead through Craner curves down to the Old Hairpin.
Schlesser is going for it, and Lammers turns it on, trying to make the pass, but no. Schlesser has slammed the door in the Dutchman’s face. The shark is in the water, chasing the minnow once again, as Julian Bailey in the Nissan is closing on the Jaguar hand over fist! No question, the V8 Mercedes does have more power than the 3.5 liter V6. It proves the old saying, there is no substitute for cubic inches. Spice #22, the Taylor/Thyrring car, sets fastest lap of the race at 1:25.126, and a speed of 273.5 kilometers an hour/170 miles per hour! The Group C cars are flying around Donington this afternoon! Wayne Taylor is having the drive of his life.
Taylor pulls out to make a pass on Julian Bailey in the Nissan. He’s looking inside into Melbourne hairpin, and just like that, Taylor makes the pass! Third spot for the Spice has to be the highest placing occupied by a non turbo Group C car this year. Incredible. Whoops! We have ourselves some argy bargy through the esses! The #29 Lancia LC2/89 of Franco Scapini gets tipped into a spin! Scapini is sharing this latest evolution of a car that has been around for about six years (having debuted in 1983), with fellow Italian Bruno Giacomelli, driving for the Mussato Action Car team.
The one’s who get the worst of that deal, are Uwe Schafer and Stanley Dickens, driving the #16 Brun Motorsport Porsche 962C, with sponsorship for this race, from FATurbo Express, Hydro, and Eterna Watches. Holy cow! Wayne Taylor ought to win the Driver of the Day award here. He’s gotten his second place and is bearing down on the Mercedes! He’s at his favorite overtaking spot, on the outside into Melbourne hairpin! Wayne Taylor goes for it, but no! Schlesser slams the door in his face! Wayne Taylor only wanted to lead for a lap, but now has to hit the pit lane for service.
Wow! What a battle! That one sent your commentator’s heart racing! What a brilliant scrap for the lead! Taylor is in for the first of two pit stops for the car, and will hand it over to Danish co-driver Thorkild Thyrring. Jean Louis Schlesser continues to lead this motor race, but once again, the scrap resumes as both Nissan and Jaguar can smell blood. Julian Bailey is going to give Schlesser a run for the lead, look. Melbourne hairpin is the preferred passing spot here at Donington and it seems to work every single time. Bailey clears Schlesser. The Nissan’s brakes are glowing cherry red at the front. Outbraking a competitor makes the brakes work very hard.
Through the first corner at Red Gate, the leaders have lapped cars to deal with. It’s pit stop time now for the second Spice being shared by Tim Harvey and Eliseo Salazar. Johnny Dumfries pits the Toyota as well, handing the driving duties to John Watson, the five-time Formula 1 race winner from Northern Ireland. This is by no means Watson’s first outing in a sports car. We’ve seen him featured in races throughout this Group C retrospective series. New tires on the Toyota, and of course, the drivers have their own individual form fitting seat inserts.
Jan Lammers pits and it looks like Mercedes has the edge on fuel as they try to build an advantage. Jean Louis Schlesser hopes to pit after Julian Bailey in the Nissan does so. Thorkild Thyrring has the Cosworth powered Spice running 15th in the overall. Frank Jelinski has taken over the controls of the #7 Joest Raacing Porsche 962. Jochen Mass is chasing, going after sixth place where Jelinski is now. Both Aston Martin AMR1’s are running quite well, fifth and sixth in the overall. Brian Redman is sharing with fellow Brit David Sears in the #18 car, and the #19 has David Leslie sharing with Irishman Michael Roe. Nissan meanwhile, lead the motor race, after Mark Blundell took over the wheel from Julian Bailey.
Yikes! John Watson locks the brakes on the Toyota, going off the road briefly, and Kenny Acheson has a grandstand seat in the Mercedes, watching all this action. We’ve made it to the halfway point, and 150 miles into the race. 60 laps completed. Derek Bell and Tiff Needell have the RLR Porsche running well. This is the T car, the spare car, as the primary car blew a motor in the morning warmup. We’ve completed 77 laps so far. Harald Huysman has made his way to third spot. Jochen Mass is still second in the second Mercedes. He is aiming to lap the Nissan, as Kenny Acheson has clear sailing around Goddard’s onto the start/finish straight toward Red Gate. But, Mark Blundell is still leading Acheson by six seconds.
Both of the aforementioned Aston Martins are fifth and sixth overall, despite running a lap down to the leaders. After earlier troubles, John Watson and Johnny Dumfries in the Toyota, they are buried in 12th overall. Joest Porsche pits car #7 as Frank Jelinski hops out and Bob Wollek resumes in the race for his stint. Normally flamboyant and on the edge, Jelinski and Wollek, have run a very conservative, laid back race today at Donington. They are out for a Sunday drive it seems. Aston Martin #19 is in the lane as well. Kudos to them! They are doing so well in front of their home crowd. Jochen Mass is still on track, waiting to the last possible moment to make their move into the pit lane.
The sister Aston Martin is in for service, and so, David Sears hands the car back to the legend, Brian Redman. Fresh tires and the V8 monster will thunder out of the pit lane. The braking problems suffered by some teams and cars early on this year, seem to have cleared up. Kenny Acheson has a close moment as John Watson dives inside and overcooks the corner! Egad! That was so, so close! Acheson passes Watson as they drive downhill towards Melbourne hairpin another time. Finally, Kenny Acheson will make the long awaited pit stop for Mercedes, and hand the car over to Mauro Baldi to take it to the finish.
No worries about brakes for Mercedes. They have far more reliability with the steel brakes than they did experimenting with the new carbon discs. Over the last 30 years since these wonderful races happened that we are covering here on the blog, brake technology has come leaps and bounds. Now, there’s some confusion at timing and scoring, because Mark Blundell in the Nissan has presumably moved ahead on the pit stop rotation. Harald Huysman has moved to second at the wheel of the #5 Brun Hydro Aluminum Porsche 962, and Kenny Acheson in the Mercedes is now in third spot. The #18 and #19 Aston Martin’s follow.
This is the order before the pit stops. Mauro Baldi is back on track as Nissan are in the lane for their stop. Mark Blundell handing the car to Julian Bailey as predicted. Mercedes also pits, and now, it is truly a battle of the pit crews. Whoever exits pit lane first, and has the quickest pit stop, will resume in the lead of this motor race. The battle for the lead is on in pit lane, a la Formula 1. Jean Louis Schlesser takes over the Mercedes. Team boss for Nissan Keith Green holds the car. Schlesser has gone around Bailey. Julian Bailey is being left behind, and for the first time in ’89, the lead has changed during a pit stop. Mark Blundell says the Nissan is running real well, and might win.
Blundell tells pit reporter Brian Kreisky, the fuel load will be very close and that he hopes Julian Bailey, his team mate, can bring home a win for the Nissan boys. Bailey must catch Schlesser. Catching is one thing, passing is another. Does Julian Bailey have sufficient fuel to reel in the Mercedes? Does the Mercedes of Schlesser have the fuel to hold off the challenge from Nissan? Everyone has to drive on the limit, and save fuel, two things that are hard to do at the same time. Mercedes are driving to a game plan.
Julian Bailey, however, is in a conundrum, because of the traffic. The more time he spends trying to pass by the lapped cars, the more fuel will be burned off. Nissan team manager Keith Green says their fuel calculations are spot on for this very moment in the race. They are dead on the fuel strategy they planned. Julian Bailey still runs second behind Schlesser as the pit crew are poring over the data. 100 laps, 250 miles down here at Brands Hatch. We are getting very, very close to the end of this race and the Nissan is now 37 seconds in-arrears of the Mercedes. Oscar Larrauri runs in third place. Mauro Baldi in the second Mercedes is fourth, followed by the two Aston Martin’s.
Jean Louis Schlesser can claim the championship for constructors, for Mercedes at the end of this race. Mercedes team manager Max Welti is positive about their fuel mileage. There should be no issues, but don’t tell Nissan any secrets. Mauro Baldi runs fourth in the overall. Alain Ferte and Andy Wallace are still running consistently in the #2 Jaguar as Mauro Baldi makes a clean pass on Oscar Larrauri for position. Uh oh. We have drama out on the circuit. Richard Piper is ablaze in the #111 Texas liveried PC Automotive Spice Cosworth C2 car he is sharing with American Olindo Iacobelli. So, the race is run for the British/American duo. Game over indeed.
Surely Piper is aware the automobile is on fire. He’s trying to drive it to a corner station so the marshals can put out the blaze. That car is burning significantly. Get out of there, Richard. Dear me, this is a bad one. Marshals attack the fire with the foam from the extinguishers. Piper clambers out and sprints to safety through all the noxious smoke. Piper is indeed OK. So, we return to the sharp end of the field, and Mauro Baldi is booking it as he’s gone around Julian Bailey in the Nissan. This gives Mercedes a 1-2 and if they maintain it, they’ll have the teams’ title in their back pocket after Donington, going into the last two races of the year for 1989.
It’s the 120th and final lap. Jean Louis Schlesser will win the world championship for Sauber Mercedes! Through Craner Curves, the Old Hairpin, and Coppice, down the straight, and Mercedes can celebrate once Schlesser gets through Melbourne and Goddard’s. He does! Schlesser wins the race and wins the title! Max Welti gives Peter Sauber a kiss on the head, that is how happy these chaps are! Schlesser leads team mate Baldi in the driver’s standings by 17 markers, 107 points to 90 points, a then, Mas and Acheson follow on 87 and 85 respectively. The Mercedes boys realistically are the only ones in contention for the drivers’ cup.
The points standings in the drivers’ cup after Donington look like this.
- Jean Louis Schlesser 107 points
- Mauro Baldi 90 points
- Jochen Mass 87 points
- Kenny Acheson 85 points
- Bob Wollek 57 points
- Frank Jelinski 57 points
- Oscar Larrauri 29 points
In the teams’ championship, Sauber Mercedes are your winners. They have double the points of their nearest rivals from Joest Racing and Porsche. They’ve signed it, sealed it, wrapped it with a bow, and delivered it.
- Sauber Mercedes 115 points
- Joest Racing 57 points
- Repsol Brun 41 points
- TWR Jaguar 39 points
- Nissan Motorsport 25 points
- Toyota Tom’s 22 points
- Aston Martin 19 points
Mercedes has easily wrapped the title up, but Jean Louis Schlesser still believes it was a close fight. Now, Mercedes, like everyone else, can focus on the penultimate race of the year, at Spa Francorchamps, in Belgium, coming up in two weeks.