Round 7: Circuit de Spa Francorchamps, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium September 17th, 1989

We are ready to get underway with the seventh event of the 1989 WSPC season, at the fabulous Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.  This race through the Ardennes forest will be for a total of 70 laps.  The top six places on the grid are taken up by familiar cars and driver teams.  Mercedes is on pole, with Jaguar on the outside of the front row.

  1. #61 Baldi/Acheson Sauber C9/88 Mercedes                        Team Sauber
  2. #1 Lammers/Tambay Jaguar XJR11                                      Silk Cut Jaguar
  3. #2 Nielsen/Wallace Jaguar XJR11                                          Silk Cut Jaguar
  4. #7 Wollek/Jelinski Porsche 962C                                           Joest Racing
  5. #37 Dumfries/Lees Toyota 89C-V                                          Toyota Tom’s
  6. #62 Schlesser/Mass Sauber C9/88 Mercedes                       Team Sauber

Those are your quickest qualifiers in a massive, 38 car field, here at Spa.  Julian Bailey and Mark Blundell in the Nissan are just outside the top six.  They will likely be a factor in this race, perhaps, along with the Jaguar’s, the quickest of the Toyota’s, and the Sauber Mercedes cars.  Eliseo Salazar and Ray Bellm have the quickest of the Spice SE89C’s up there towards the sharp end of the grid, and yes, we have a new driver to look out for, Roland Ratzenberger.  Yes, there is a driver, with that name.  He is sharing the Jagermeister Brun Porsche 962, car #16 with Oscar Larrauri, here at Spa.

Before the race even starts, drama for Harald Huysman in the #5 Hydro Aluminum sponsored Brun Porsche 962 he shares with Uwe Schafer!  There is trouble with the ECU, the engine control unit/engine management unit on that automobile.  He is being towed by the tow truck back to the grid.  Now, that could mean that he and Uwe Schafer could be disqualified from the race by the FIA stewards, without even having turned a lap yet.  So, we’ll keep an eye on that issue.  This massive field winds it way to the start of the race.  It will be a land rush towards La Source hairpin.

The safety car pulls off.  Red lights, on.  Green lights, on!  Away we go!  Mauro Baldi makes a good start but here comes Jan Lammers in the Jaguar!  Lammers is side by side with Baldi, squeezed against the fence!  They touch!  There’s argy bargy already!  Baldi in the silver Mercedes is holding the lead over the purple and white Jaguar.  Lammers is second, but Jean Louis Schlesser, the man was shot out of a cannon from his sixth place on the grid!  Both of the Sauber Mercedes’ run first and second as they climb the hill through the daunting Eau Rouge for the first time.

Jan Lammers is third, followed by Bob Wollek, Julian Bailey, and everyone else in this 37 car field.  Baldi and Mass thunder up the hill as the rest of the pack of Group C cars comes storming after them.  Toyota, Nissan, Spice, and Aston Martin, all of them are in this fight along with Mercedes, Jaguar, and Porsche.  Mercedes are 1-2 as we approach the downhill side of the circuit through Fangnes, Malmedy (a corner now called Piff Paff), and more of the legendary corners on this great speedway.  Nearly three wide for third spot, Jan Lammers loses out to Bob Wollek for third and will have to try his challenge again.

Johnny Dumfries, former team mate to Lammers at Jaguar, is fifth in the Toyota, as we have run ten laps of this motor race already.  Here’s the top eight.

  1. Baldi/Acheson Sauber Mercedes
  2. Schlesser/Mass Sauber Mercedes
  3. Wollek/Jelinski Joest Porsche
  4. Lammers/Tambay Silk Cut Jaguar
  5. Dumfries/Lees Toyota Team Tom’s
  6. Salazar/Bellm Spice Engineering
  7. Bailey/Blundell Nissan Motorsports
  8. Larrauri/Ratzenberger Brun Motorsports

Mazda leads the IMSA GTP class for the American spec endurance cars, and they have their car in the capable hands of David Kennedy from Ireland and hometown favorite, Belgian Pierre Dieudonne.  In C2, the current leader is the #171 Spice for Team Mako.  Canadian Robbie Stirling is sharing the car with Brit James Shead.  Fermin Velez and Nick Adams who lead the championship in C2, are moving up after starting from pit lane.  They have the #101 Chamberlain Engineering Spice Cosworth.

The Velez/Adams car had a fuel leak on the starting grid, which was fixed.  But, all they need to do is finish third or better in C2 to score the drivers’ world championship in the division.  Julian Bailey is giving the Nissan a good run before he hands the car over to Mark Blundell later on, and he wants to take care of the fuel consumption on the car, and push more towards the end of this motor race.  Bob Wollek maintains third spot in the Joest Porsche.  The Lammers/Tambay #1 Jaguar is still fourth, but closing on them all the time is Johnny Dumfries in the Toyota he shares with fellow Briton Geoff Lees.

Dumfries is all over Lammers as they steam up the Kemmel straightaway.  He’s weaving all over the road looking to make a move.  Nowadays, he can only make one move, without being penalized by the stewards, but no such rules were in place back in the day.    The Ardennes forest resounds to the thunder of the Mercedes V8.  Schlesser leads, but trouble is ahead!  Schlesser is all over the road here, look.  Jean Louis Schlesser and the throaty rumble of the Mercedes, may be silenced.  It appears to be game over for the Silver Arrow!  Now, he’s slid off on oil that seems to be put down by the Jaguar.  Could there be a seal or something on that V6 motor that has come loose, and thus the Jaguar is puking oil all over the road?  Jan Lammers is slowing down on the far end of the circuit.  It has to be game over for the boys from Coventry.

In the meantime, the plot thickens.  After Schlesser’s shemozzle, we see Mauro Baldi in the sister Mercedes giving it the welly and he’s pulled out a 23 second lead already!  Poor old Schlesser is a lucky bloke because he didn’t crunch the barriers, fortunately.  Schlesser is back on track, screaming towards the pit lane.  It’s not a good day for some of the lower placed teams.  The Lancia, run by Mussato team has been disqualified for receiving a push start on the grid.  It will be nil points for the Italian duo of Franco Scapini sharing with Formula 1 and sports car veteran, and countryman Bruno Giacomelli.  All of this happens, as Antoine Salamin the Swiss mobile chicane, he completes his pit stop in his privately entered Porsche 962 he shares with Moroccan racer Max Cohen-Olivar.

Meanwhile, there’s big smoke (very expensive smoke, from the motor), for Tiff Needell in the GTi Engineering Porsche, car #14.  He and Steven Andskar, the Swede, are out of this race.  The motor has gone bang.  Derek Bell, fortunately, never drove the car, or the five-time Le Mans winner would have been bitterly disappointed to retire.  Jaguar #1 is in the pit lane.  Reports indicated it was touring slowly on the far end of the circuit here at Spa.  It is undoubtedly game over for the Jaguar as well.  Baldi still leads Schlesser as the Jaguar is put away for the day.

Meanwhile, Frenchman Francois Wettling spins the very slow Louis Descartes entered ALD 06 with the BMW engine, the M88 3.5 liter straight six.  Wettling is unlucky, as the Frenchman was 40 seconds off the pace of the Mercedes pole time for this event.  Definitely an amateur racer, Wettling is sharing the car with countryman Thierry Lecerf.  Guess what, chaps?  He’s still spinning.  Come on Francois?  Get back on the circuit, lad.  19 laps now on the board, and Nissan are the first to blink and bring their car to pit lane.  Julian Bailey will hand over to Mark Blundell, a man who would go on to Formula 1 and still do occasional sports car races after his stint in F1 ended, most notably for MG in the early 2000s.

In fact, he and Julian Bailey would both drive for MG.  Nissan have taken great care to consolidate their fuel mileage so they can go quicker towards the end.  Mauro Baldi is confident, staying on course, showing he has fuel left in the tank.  Aston Martin is running well, with their best car, #19, ninth overall in the hands of David Leslie, and Irishman Michael Roe.  Leslie and Roe will partner at Aston Martin for the 1990 championship.  The Nissan rejoins the race, with the aforementioned Mark Blundell at the wheel of it.

Bob Wollek has made his way past the Toyota still in the hands of Johnny Dumfries.  So, here’s the running order after 20 laps.

  1. Baldi/Acheson Sauber Mercedes
  2. Schlesser/Mass Sauber Mercedes
  3. Wollek/Jelinski Joest Porsche
  4. Dumfries/Lees Toyota Team Tom’s
  5. Salazar/Bellm Spice Engineering
  6. Taylor/Thyrring Spice Engineering
  7. Brun/Pareja Repsol Brun Motorsport
  8. Ricci/Pescarolo Joest Porsche

Toyota pit from fourth overall.  There is a driver change as Johnny Dumfries is out, and Geoff Lees is in.  John Watson had been co-driving the Toyota earlier this year, but has left the Toyota squad.  Lees is British but lives in Japan and races in the Japanese national Formula 3000 championship, later to become known as Formula Nippon.  Both Mercedes, and the Joest Porsche have yet to pit.  Mauro Baldi, meanwhile has had another lucky escape on the far end of the track.  Baldi got caught out behind the composite chassis Porsche 962, which was a back marker.

The Team Davey Porsche spun, smashed the barrier big style, and is totally destroyed!  Baldi dives for pit lane after that incredible escape from danger.  He will hand the #62 Sauber Mercedes to co-driver Kenny Acheson.  New Michelin tires are on the car.  Unlike last year when they were having problems, Michelin has now become in partnership with Mercedes, the most successful WSPC tire brand.  Jean Louis Schlesser in the sister car takes the lead of the motor race.

He too will soon pit.  Dave Price, Mercedes team manager gives the signal.  “Start it, Kenny!” and Acheson races back into competition.  Wayne Taylor then pits from sixth overall in the #22 Spice Cosworth.  Nissan are checking their fuel consumption and they should be in good shape.  Walter Brun pits the Repsol Porsche for fuel and service.  Jean Louis Schlesser takes the lad.  Henri Pescarolo pits the second Joest Porsche, car #8.  The Le Mans veteran and four-time winner hands the car over to Jean Louis Ricci.

Pit stop time now, too, for Jean Louis Schlesser, bringing the Mercedes in from the lead.  This will need to be a quick stop.  Jochen Mass gets into the car and will be racing to catch team mate Kenny Acheson.  Acheson retakes the lead as team boss Max Welti looks on.  The sole remaining Jaguar is in the lane, ninth overall.  There’s trouble with the engine, pouring water into the radiators.  It’s game over for John Nielsen and Andy Wallace, the official listing of the retirement being an electrical failure.  A scrap ensues for third overall as Bob Wollek is being pursued hotly by Mark Blundell.

Toyota is also in this race, but Jaguar certainly isn’t.  The scrap ensues between Nissan and the Porsche, as Frank Jelinski has taken over the car.  Kenny Acheson is pushing like no tomorrow, and has 35 seconds in hand over team mate Jochen Mass.  Jean Louis Schlesser needs second place in order to win the World Driver’s Championship.  Wayne Taylor in the Spice continues to run well as we see a spin in La Source.  #34 is on the whirligig for the brothers Almeras, Jacques and Jean-Marie Almeras.  It is well and truly game over, for Jaguar.  #2 is pushed into the garage.

Jean Louis Schlesser still runs second as we watch the Brun Porsche and the Spice battle each other, with Thorkild Thyrring at the controls of the Spice at the moment.  Eliseo Salazar in the sister Spice was held up in the lane with starter motor failure.  He and Ray Bellm might be out of this race.  Well, check that.  They’ll get back into competition, but not before losing 19 minutes for repairs.  No worries for Kenny Acheson.  The Aston Martin was running eighth overall, but the big V8 has gone ka-blammo!  David Leslie and Michael Roe are out.

Their sister car, #18, in the hands of Brian Redman and Stanley Dickens, would ultimately finish seventh overall.  Porsche #7 pits and Bob Wollek takes over the driving chores.  Brian Redman is indeed still driving the sole remaining Aston Martin in this motor race.  Bob Wollek in the Joest Porsche runs third.  Meanwhile, there’s argy bargy and spinning!  Herve Regout and Ray Bellm touch, and both pirouette into the gravel trap.  Regout is at the wheel of the #13 Courage Competition Cougar C22S Porsche and the Belgian shares the car with France’s Pascal Fabre.  Ray Bellm re-fires the Spice, but Regout in the Cougar, it could be game over.

Seven laps to go, and more attrition.  Walter Brun in the Repsol Porsche, the engine has gone ka-blammo.  He’s out.  Wayne Taylor and Thorkild Thyrring in the surviving Spice will inherit sixth in the overall.  Sauber Mercedes are four minutes away from th drivers’ championship., although they are apprehensive about the fuel.  Mauro Baldi leads.  Bob Wollek, lapped, runs third in the Porsche.  Towards Eau Rouge, and up through Raidillon for the final time.  Baldi will be on for his third win of the season, winning also at Suzuka and Brands Hatch.  Jean Louis Schlesser will win the drivers’ championship.  He won Japan, Jarama, Nurburgring, and Donington.  Mauro Baldi and Kenny Acheson have driven better than anyonre here at Spa.

Bob Wollek unlaps himself and has to do one more lap.  But, Baldi and Acheson win Spa!  Max Welti is very happy.  Three different manhufacturers on the podium.  Mercedes, Porsche, Nissan.  The world driver’s championship is wide open and the calculations for the season-ender in Mexico are anyone’s guess.

Here are the driver’s points.

  1. Jean Louis Schlesser 107 points
  2. Mauro Baldi 102 points
  3. Kenny Acheson 97 points
  4. Jochen Mass 87 points
  5. Bob Wollek     72 points
  6. Frank Jelinski 72 points
  7. Oscar Larrauri 39 points
  8. Julian Bailey 27 points
  9. Mark Blundell 27 points

The calculations for the finale in Mexico are simple.  Whoever wins the race, is world champion.  We’ll see you down Mexico way, at the end of October, to decide the title.


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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