We All Have A Dark Side or The World Touring Car Championship Lives

November 15, 1987

Fuji Speedway, Oyama, Japan

It was a year that had exceeded all expectations....even if it hadn't always been smooth. Bathurst had been chaotic, for example. But the first season for Group A Touring Cars in their own world Championship, no longer playing second fiddle to the World Sports Car Championship or the massive-money Formula One World Championship, could hardly not be called a success. It was clear that some cars had been born for this - the Ford Sierra Cosworth had spawned the even-more-scary-powerful Sierra RS500, The BMW M3 and Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo had proven competitive and there was more on the horizon with cars like the Mercedes-Benz 190 Cosworth on deck and the monstrous Australian Holden Commodores, with their five-liter V8 engines and road movie exhaust notes, were obvious fan favorites everywhere they went.

The FIA was not liking the championship from the start, though - and so, their outrageous formula of silhouette cars with F1 engines hadn't gotten anywhere. But there was about to be a surprise which a lot of people hadn't seen coming, and it was simple. A lot of people had seen the championship as being worthy of adding to, especially with the struggles in the WSC. And when big automakers start to complain, the FIA usually listened to them....

Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterrey, California, USA

The picturesque hills of California were usually alive with the sound of engines when there was a race at Laguna Seca, but today, there was no racing. Just testing. Not that the hundred or so engineers in the paddock saw in that way, of course. They were all watching data for the three cars on the track, which were circulating rather more quickly than they had at first expected....and they were very happy about that indeed.

The cars were Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z models, each one powered by the same 5.7-liter V8 as the Corvette and with the Corvette's new-for-1988 six-speed manual gearbox, which would also now be a IROC option. They also had beefed-up rear suspensions, big disc brakes on all four corners, fat tires, a rear spoiler and big front air dam which in both cases were able to be used on both road and track. After all, the rules of the race series the cars were being built for demanded it. The fact that these three Camaros were fast in a straight line was no surprise, but the suspension modifications they used seemed to work pretty well, and they really did work well on the brakes. Indeed, the Camaro looked like a proper racing car for a touring car series, aside from its throaty NASCAR bark, of course.

One of the cars dropped into the pits, this one having IMSA racer Chip Robinson at the controls. He slid in, stopping the car in exactly the right spot and waiting as its air jacks picked the car off the ground. Mechanics swarmed over it, and Robinson opened up the driver door before one of the engineers did it for him.
"Well?" One of the senior GM engineers, a man who had worked the last two years on the IMSA Corvette GTP program, asked into the car.
"It handles like a go-kart, and it puts its power down really well, especially for a car with a solid rear end."
"That's what that diff is for." The engineer smiled. "The brakes?"
"Like running into a brick wall." Robinson confirmed. He was smiling now. "Everything about the thing feels surprisingly good."
"Excellent. That's the way we want it to be. We'll need it later on."
That got Robinson's attention. "Hey, uh, I wonder if I can ask this, but what is this all for?" He had a good idea, but wanted confirmation. "It's clearly based on a Camaro chassis, no tube-frame car here, and its been honed really well, but there isn't a series in North America for cars like this." He paused. "It would never be competitive in IMSA, it's not legal for World Challenge."
"We're not going to either." The engineer smiled. "We're taking these cars to Europe."
"I thought so." Robinson smiled. "Am I to guess that we'll be headed to Argentina in March?"
"You got it."
"Nice." He smiled. "You think this can take on the Sierra Cosworth? I've driven one, man, and you have no idea how fast that sumbitch is a straight line. It's big money, and they take this stuff seriously."
"There's also expected to be rounds in Canada and the United States next year, not to mention the fact that the Renaissance Center wants to use this program to train their engineers."
"By taking a car they make and tuning it to the greatest extent possible without being able to change a lot of the parts."
"You got it."

Holden Special Vehicles Workshops, Geelong, Victoria, Australia


It wasn't as if nobody knew this was coming, Larry Perkins thought to himself, studying the VL Commodore he was looking at, noting the massive rear wing that Holden was willing to make 500 cars with. The "Evolution" car rules meant that there was expected to be some crazy cars coming onto the grids in the years to come, and HSV wanted to be involved early, namely knowing that the competitor Ford Sierras had the advantage of turbocharged power. Holden had also told Perkins and the squad that Detroit was working on some help for them in the engine and drivetrain department - though Holden had no idea that GM was using the same engine and drivetrain from the Commodore SS Group A in the Camaro IROC. They would soon find out, but there was clearly more going on in the WTCC. The FIA's plan to effectively shut out the series hadn't lasted the angry onslaught from Ford, BMW, Alfa Romeo and General Motors, and rumors abounded that the plan had also given a shove to Mercedes-Benz and Toyota as well, and there were some big rumors for 1988.

The big news for this was the fact that several of the series sponsors, including holden, wanted the teams of the ATCC to do their season, which only ran until mid-July, and then join the World Touring Car Circuit for the rest of 1988 - which did include two rounds in Australia and one in New Zealand at the end of the season. As insane as it sounded, the teams had in most cases told the sponsors that they didn't have the funds, and they would if they could get the money. HSV would be one of the ones that went, and Perkins knew it. It would mean nine ATCC rounds and seven WTCC ones, but in his mind, if HSV wanted to pay up, he would certainly assist them in spending their money. Looking at the new Commodore SS Evolution, with its fatter arches and massive rear wing, he wondered just what it would be able to do against the agile BMW M3 and the lighting-quick Sierra RS500. He didn't have any expectations of being unable to be the Alfa 75s that had made up much of the grid in 1987, but Perkins didn't want to beat them. Holden wanted success in both championships, and in Australia they really wanted to be beat Brock back to the stone age - though he now had M3s, which meant particularly in the WTCC, that could be hard. But I've got the car to do it, Perkins' mind told him. They had tested a week before at Sandown, and that had proved it - he had run within a hair of the lap record for a touring car there. The thought of that, and the thought of Brock driving an M3 chasing the big Commodore's taillights, made Perkins smile broadly.

You better be ready, Peter. And to the guys in Europe with your M3s and Sierras, we'll get to show you guys what an Aussie with a five and a half liter V8 can do. Perkins thought of that and headed back to the office. He had more work to do that day, but he wouldn't soon forget the thought. It was the first such thought, and it would not be the last....
 
November 26, 1987

AMG Engine Production and Development, Affalterbach, Germany

"So, this is what BMW is forcing us to do, it is it?" Hans-Werner Aufrech commented at the fat-arched new variant of the Mercedes-Benz 190 2.5-16, with the car sprouting a small lip on the roof over the rear window and a spoiler on the trunk lid, as well as a fat air dam and vents in the hood. Under that hood, which was made of kevlar on this model, was a 2.5-liter variant of the Cosworth engine, a total redesign of the engine that Mercedes had used for years in their titanic struggles with BMW's quick M3 on the circuits of Germany. It was a good car and in every way the M3's equal, but Aufrech was no fool. BMW had an improved M3 on the way, with the goal of unseating the powerful Sierra being the main thing on the cards. But Mercedes had been whining to the FIA, and a friend who was party to the conversations said that Mercedes wasn't about to enter F1 but wanted to get the FIA to listen to them. Peter Sauber's sportscar operation was progressing smoothly, so the question of what was next didn't take a lot of guessing....
"Yes, it is." The senior Mercedes man paused. "The company has authorized this to be sold to the general public, and the company wants to have 500 cars built to suit the rules for the DTM."
"It will be done." Aufrech commented back, accepting that news. It was good for his company, but he was better on more. "I must ask, Herr Meiner, does the company just plan to race these in the Meisterschaft? It rather seems like there is more at play here...."
"You are correct, Herr Aufrech. That is why I wanted to speak to you and Herr Melcher. You see, Mercedes wishes to showcase its models on a worldwide scale, and...."
"They want an effort in the World Touring Car Championship."
"Yes, they do. And they are not at all pleased with the proposed silhouette cars for the series, you understand."
"Yes, I do understand. They are a dead-end, particularly as the turbocharged engines are unlikely to remain in Formula One racing for much longer. It would seem as if the series would be better remaining with the Group A formula."
"Which is what we intend to do. The 190 has been an excellent performer on the European circuits, and now we want to showcase the car on a global scale, and the 1988 World Championship offers such an opportunity."
"Unless the FIA calls it off."
"They won't, not now. BMW, Ford and Alfa Romeo have committed to it for 1988, and we have also made our intentions clear. These is also a very strong likelihood that there will be more than the four of us."
"There is talk of the Australians being involved." Aufrech pointed out.
"It is more than that. General Motors is officially supporting them now. That will become clear in a few weeks in all likelihood, but there is no chance of them not turning up for the first race in March. The only question for them is what they bring to race with."
"It will probably be one of those big Holden Commodore cars." Aufrech guessed. "They are not to be taken lightly. Huge cars with enormous engines, but the Australians have twenty years of developing them into competitive cars, and anything with a five-liter V8 is gonna be fast."
"With that in mind, Herr Aufrech, I want your best estimation. Will the 190 be competitive in the series? The M3 did well last year, but against the Sierra Cosworth...."
"We have the handling advantage. The Commodore and Sierra aren't really good in the corners due to their size and weight, and in the Sierra's case its chassis is a rather old design, not exactly state of the art. They will also run in a different class than us, don't forget. Our main competitor will remain the M3."
"And we can beat them."
"Some of the tracks on the series will be unknowns. I have raced at several of them. Dallas is an unknown, but we know how it was for Formula One. Buenos Aires and Mosport will favor the higher-powered cars, as will Monza and Silverstone. The Australians can be reasonably expected to win their rounds if the Holden is any good at all. But truly, we can do well at a number of places, and we can certainly win Class 2 at every circuit we race at."
"Excellent. And the costs?"
"We can not expect them to be cheap, but once the FIA realizes the series is here to stay, we can expect them to be more supportive of it, which will help everyone."

November 27, 1987


Federation Internationale de L'Automobile, Place de la Concorde, Paris, France

"Mr. Ecclestone, I can assure you that the interest in the series at this point is very genuine, and you are quite well aware of how poorly the planned new category for it went." Jean-Marie Balestre was of two minds in this conversation. He and Bernie Ecclestone were not friends, and had once upon a time in the not-too-distant past been outright enemies. But he wanted to keep the appearances up with F1, and the FIA worried that the manufacturer interest swelling in both the World Sportscar Championship and in the World Touring Car Championship would not harm F1. His first attempt at trying to find common ground had gone over very badly indeed, and now he found himself with Ecclestone and the FOCA on one side and the manufacturers wanting to race in the World Touring Car Championship on the other. It was a hard balance to make, and Ecclestone seemed to be intent on making it harder.
"You know perfectly well that having three world championships...."
"Monsieur Ecclestone, you know the problem I have here. General Motors and Mercedes-Benz will be confirming their involvement in the new series within a few weeks, and that is on top of Ford, BMW and Alfa Romeo making efforts. You know the problem these cause. I can not afford to anger this many makers, particularly since I have already used up some of my goodwill with them over the Formula One engines affair."
"Your problems with goodwill are not my problem." Ecclestone responded over the phone. "You can enforce whatever rule set you wish on the series, and yet you choose to...."
"We cannot at this point force car changes. They are four and a half months from the first race. There is no ability to change it all now, particularly since several of the companies are newcomers and the series has a lot of interest for the future."
"You're risking the anger of the Formula One teams."
"Am I? Mr. Ecclestone, you are being unreasonable. We cannot arbitrarily change the rules at this point with the series being that length of time away. The contracts have been set. Even if we were to withdraw sanction, the series at this point would surely go ahead in any case. You know the problem I face, and I cannot stop it now."
"Then stop it for 1989. You know the problems that series makes for sponsorship numbers for Formula One."
"That's why the turbos are on their way out. To keep costs to a reasonable level. You must understand, there is only so much I can do."
"See to it that you do what you say you can, then." Ecclestone hung up abruptly. Balestre put down the phone and looked around his office.
That ass, his mind thought to himself. There is a world of racing outside of Formula One. But he's just in it to make himself rich, the bastard.... That led to a thought on Balestre's part, which took hold in his mind when he thought about it for a few minutes.
The 1988 World Touring Car Season is a real world series, racing on all of the continents except Africa. The tin-tops have always been awesome racers in their national championships. What if....the mind held for a second, considering such a thought almost heretic. What if this series grows to the point where Bernie starts fearing the results of it? The greatest drivers and cars and teams in the world, only racing the touring cars that the manufacturers create? That thought was added to when he remembered the rules and that BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Holden had made cars just for them. Can we get more of that?

He thought about that and remembered the 1987's racers and the cars that raced in other series. Nissan was dominant in the Japanese touring car series and did well in the Australian one. Toyota had the Corolla in the small car class and the Supra in the big one, Rover had the SD1 Vitesse running competitively in England, Volvo ran the 240 Turbo for a while....what else could be out there? Balestre thought it through for another moment, counting off manufacturers in his head. Between Class 2 and Class 3, practically every major automobile manufacturer in the world had a suitable car for the championship. But how many will do it....can I get involvement that great? He sat down at his desk and thought it over. There is only one way to find out for sure....
 
A couple of things, I think you mean HRT not HSV, the SS Group As were Holden not HSV cars although building the Walkinshaw VL was the first job HSV did.

Also you may not be aware but Holden destroked the 308 (5044cc) to 304 (4987cc) in 1985 and then built 5000 VKs with the new engine in 1985 to get into a better weight bracket for Group A, the weight went from 1400kg to 1250kg. A 5.5 litre engine would mean a 1400kg car, but I think the 1990 Bathurst winner went on a diet and only got to 1268kg so that might not be a problem.
 
A couple of things, I think you mean HRT not HSV, the SS Group As were Holden not HSV cars although building the Walkinshaw VL was the first job HSV did.

I'll keep that in mind. Thanks. :)

Also you may not be aware but Holden destroked the 308 (5044cc) to 304 (4987cc) in 1985 and then built 5000 VKs with the new engine in 1985 to get into a better weight bracket for Group A, the weight went from 1400kg to 1250kg. A 5.5 litre engine would mean a 1400kg car, but I think the 1990 Bathurst winner went on a diet and only got to 1268kg so that might not be a problem.

That's the point I wanted to make, right there. Getting a VL Commodore down to 1250kg is a tall order, but 1400kg is pretty easy, and several of the tracks on the 1988 schedule favor big horsepower, which is why I'm gonna have a 5.7-liter V8 in the Commodore SS Group A in 1988, which when combined with lots of engine help from Detroit will mean it has the muscle to run right at the front at the power circuits, though at handling ones the M3s and 190s will run away and hide. After Godzilla (aka the Skyline GT-R) shows up, the VN Commodore is gonna take a big jump in engine capacity and power to go with it, as a lot of the field will....
 
The VK Group A illustrates the difficulty of Group A for Australia. After they destroked the 308 to get it under the 5.0/1400kg limit they had to build 5000 4.9 litre VKs before HDT-SV could build the 500 'Blue Meanie' Group As. In 1986 Australia switched to unleaded petrol and Holden was going to drop the V8 like Ford did in 1982, but a public campaign meant they kept building carby V8s. So Holden had to adapt the 304 to unleaded, then build 5000 road cars then HDT-SV built the Brock VL Group A.

Then Holden had to make the 304 fuel injected for the VN, which is why the VL got another run of 750 Walkinshaws with the EFI engine despite it being superseded that year. EFI-ing the 304 took time, and then Holden had to build 5000 before they could build the VN Group A, which is why it didn't come out until 1990. By then WTCC had died as an international series, Group A had been dropped by key European series, the old V8 was no longer competitive under the rules. Holden got an FIA dispensation to homologate the VN with only 300 (302 in the end) cars at first but then never bothered with the other 198 to get to 500.

If you want V8s to be competitive two things are needed: control fuel without shitloads of toluene, that let the turbos run massive boost but wan't much good for N/A cars, and a better equivalency than 1.4, the Sierra was making 600 hp from 2 litres but classed as a 2.8 litre for weight purposes, 1100kg. The old V8 was making 500hp at the time and weighed about 1300kg.

If you're proposing the Commodore use a US V8 it will mean that 5000 VNs will have to be fitted with them before Group A can be built, which basically means the end of the Holden V8 in favour of a Chev. 327 would be a better size for Group than 350 because the weight would go up to maybe 1600kg for those extra 23 inches.
 
December 21, 1987

Fair Park, Dallas, Texas, USA

"We've been confirmed for the schedule? Absolutely?" Michael Russell asked his partner in the Fair Park Grand Prix, Chris Pook, who had just gotten off the phone with the organizers in Europe.
"It's set in stone now. We race on April 10, as requested in the initial setup. World Touring Car Championship as the headliner, and they are bringing the International F3000 Series with them, and they want us to set up some support races."
"Trans Am is already locked in, World Challenge will probably come along as well, and we'll also probably have some smaller series to fill up the event card." Russell asked, a smile growing on his face. "We the opening round?"
"Round Two. Their starting the series in Argentina, then us. They move on to Mosport in Canada after that, then off to Europe. We do have the opening round for F3000, and their only 1988 visit outside of Europe."
"Interesting that they want to do that, especially after what happened three years ago...."
"Which will NOT be repeated." Pook said stiffly. "That's why now that we know we can do this in April, we start getting the new pavement down now and start planning things out."
"Can't argue with you, Chris, not on that one. We're not gonna make this mistakes of 1984, are we?"
"Most definitely not."

Mosport Park, Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada


"We're back on the schedule, for real." Mosport's veteran track owner Norm Namerow commented to his partner, Harvey Hudes, and race organizer Ludwig Heimrath. All three were pleased to hear the news indeed.
"It means we've got a lot of work to do in the meantime." Heimrath knew that well. Several hundred workers were hard at work at that point installing concrete barriers, and during the winter they would have to find time to resurface the track. "How long is the event in question?"
"We got the 1000 km run we wanted. Dallas is getting 500 miles, too. Looks like the FIA wants to make an impression in the WTCC's North American races."
"They can afford it. Can we?"
"We can, and we will. Think about it. This year the GP is back in Montreal, and you just know that Molson and Labatt's after their little tussle over the naming rights in Montreal...."
"Has somebody called Labatt's over that?" Namerow asked. Heimrath quickly answered.
"Yes, and they wanted to know the idea is for real before they get going on sponsoring the event. I can tell them now that the race is a go."
"And what of the track?"
"You know those plans for the better paddock?" Heimrath asked aloud. "I'd get on that. And if this event is a success...."
"I know where you are going with that, and I like it." Hudes commented back. "I'll get the crews working on the paddock right away."
"Probably wanna do the track first, give it time to cure once we're done paving it." Heimrath suggested. "The cold weather will help with the tack of curing it somewhat, but we still wanna get it done ASAP. The paddock won't be subjected to the stresses the track itself will."
"Indeed. The plans?"
"With a big race like this on the cards?" Namerow asked aloud. "I say we go big on this one. The plans are all stuff the track needs."

January 15, 1988

Federation Internationale de L'Automobile, Place de la Concorde, Paris, France

The latest issue of Autosport was a bible to a lot of car enthusiasts in the English speaking world, and it tended in F1 to be the magazine of choice for those seeking to really keep up with the sport. Today, however, they had another big and happy surprise for those at the FIA who wanted the World Touring Car Championship to succeed.
"It is hard to imagine a more potentially-awesome field than one which is expected in March to make the trip to Argentina and begin the awesome challenge that is a fifteen-race World Touring Car Championship that will see the series go to five continents, with the tracks up for races being an incredible mix, with the tight streets of Wellington, New Zealand, Helsinki, Finland and Dallas in the United States being mixed with the legendary Nurburgring and Spa-Francorchamps circuits, along with tracks like Buenos Aires, Phillip Island, Jarama, Mosport and Fuji Speedway seeking to create touring car legends. It is clear that the series will be a tough slog, and that a team that wants to win will need both speed and endurance to have any chance of lifting the trophy when the series concludes in New Zealand in October. This more than anything puts the onus on the defending champions, Eggenberger Motorsport, along with their Sierra-driving compatriots at Andy Rouse Engineering, to make sure the mighty Cossies are just as awesome in 1988 as they were last year. This is particularly so the field of those out to get them is rather greater this year...."

Jean-Marie Balestre paused there for a moment, thinking to himself what was to come. General Motors had hired the Protofab, Hendrick and Mach 1 Racing Teams to run their new Camaro IROC-T in the WTCC, taking advantage of rules changes which were done to allow the big V8s to keep up with the screaming Sierra Cosworths, and the Chevrolet and Holden teams planned to take advantage of this by being able to run the 1400 kg weight class with the big 5.7-liter V8 engines. BMW and Mercedes were also able to shed a little bit of weight in an attempt to help them keep up with the mighty Sierras. Despite the Ford's opponents getting help, they now had more of them ready than ever, a fact that was made clear in the article.

"Perhaps the stunning news of the off-season is that General Motors has decided that they should have two options to compete in the WTCC, with the more agile Chevrolet Camaro and the more developed Holden Commodore surely likely to be rivals all season. Both take advantage of the 1988 rules modifications, which allow them to make more power from their huge 5.6-liter and 5.7-liter V8 engines, while those same rules adjustments allow both BMW and Mercedes-Benz to lighten their cars to a considerable degree, and all of the companies appear to be ready for a fight. Clarification of the regulations is likely to remove the ambiguities which caused scoring chaos in 1987, and make the series both more easy to police and more likely to attract additional entrants. As it stands now, the entrants in the top classes include five Ford Sierras, four Chevrolet Camaros, five BMW M3s, four Mercedes 190 2.5s, four Holden Commodores, one Maserati BiTurbo and six Alfa Romeo 75s, along with the local racers who will undoubtedly turn up at all of the local venues. There is much to love in this series, and even the most jaded of observers say that even beyond the breakout year of 1987, this year is which could really be that of the Group A Touring Car. The people we have spoken to say that the plans for the future can only get better, and none of the factory entrants have any wish to finish anywhere but first."

Excellent, Balestre thought to himself after finishing reading the article. F1 was moving into a new era, and between this and the WSC, it was sure to have some competition. He set the magazine down and sat back in his chair, again thinking of things as he often did. The tracks are there, the field is set now, and the racing is gonna be incredible, as it will be the clash of several very different cars. That led to a pause. Now, for the final ingredient....
 
The VK Group A illustrates the difficulty of Group A for Australia. After they destroked the 308 to get it under the 5.0/1400kg limit they had to build 5000 4.9 litre VKs before HDT-SV could build the 500 'Blue Meanie' Group As. In 1986 Australia switched to unleaded petrol and Holden was going to drop the V8 like Ford did in 1982, but a public campaign meant they kept building carby V8s. So Holden had to adapt the 304 to unleaded, then build 5000 road cars then HDT-SV built the Brock VL Group A.

Then Holden had to make the 304 fuel injected for the VN, which is why the VL got another run of 750 Walkinshaws with the EFI engine despite it being superseded that year. EFI-ing the 304 took time, and then Holden had to build 5000 before they could build the VN Group A, which is why it didn't come out until 1990. By then WTCC had died as an international series, Group A had been dropped by key European series, the old V8 was no longer competitive under the rules. Holden got an FIA dispensation to homologate the VN with only 300 (302 in the end) cars at first but then never bothered with the other 198 to get to 500.

I'm looking at the Group A series in this world moving from 5000cc displacement limit to 6000cc for 1988, allowing the V8-engined cars to have more displacement, and the "Evolution" model of the VL Commodore SS will be allowed to use the 5.7-liter Chevrolet V8 after only 500 are built, as per the rules. So, as with the Camaro, the 1988 Commodores could use either the Chevrolet V8 (which was sold next to the Holden V8 for quite a while and thus is legal to use) or the 5.6-liter Holden V8.

If you want V8s to be competitive two things are needed: control fuel without shitloads of toluene, that let the turbos run massive boost but wan't much good for N/A cars, and a better equivalency than 1.4, the Sierra was making 600 hp from 2 litres but classed as a 2.8 litre for weight purposes, 1100kg. The old V8 was making 500hp at the time and weighed about 1300kg.

The series will run spec fuel for 1989. (1988 is gonna see the ultimate expression of just how nuts the Sierra Cosworth can get, and then it will get toned down - and not a moment too soon, as we'll see the Nissan Skyline GT-R starting in 1989, too.) I mentioned above that bigger-displacement will be allowed, which will bring the Sierras down to about 550 hp and the Camaros and Commodores up to about 580-600, which with the Sierra's lighter weight will put everyone pretty close. Once the Skyline is around, though.....

If you're proposing the Commodore use a US V8 it will mean that 5000 VNs will have to be fitted with them before Group A can be built, which basically means the end of the Holden V8 in favour of a Chev. 327 would be a better size for Group than 350 because the weight would go up to maybe 1600kg for those extra 23 inches.

Mentioned it above.
 
Round 1 - Gran Premio de Turismos de Argentina
Autodromo Municipal de Buenos Aires, March 20, 1988

The second running of the World Touring Car Championship began in Argentina, where as had been much too usual for the Formula One races there the temperature was very high indeed, with the temperature on the day being at 30.3 degrees Celsius at the time of the race. That wasn't stopping an enthusiastic crowd of some 52,000 from going there to watch the race, of course, and it hadn't stopped a number of local teams from bringing cars to the event to race against the world series runners.

Buenos Aires was a fast circuit, but it was soon clear that the allowing bigger engines in the Holden and Chevrolet entries was going to pay off. Klaus Niedzwidz held the pole for the Texaco Ford Sierra, but he had Chip Robinson's Chevrolet Camaro right up his tailpipe, and the second row was the two Holden Special Vehicles Commodores, with Larry Perkins qualifying one and Andrew Bagnall in the other. The second Texaco Sierra, qualified by Steve Soper, held in the inside of row three, lining up next to the second of Camaros driven in this case by Tommy Kendall. Argentinian heroes Oscar Castellano and Oscar Aventin shared a Sierra RS500 on Row four, while Andy Rouse's Labatt's Sierra lined up next to them, with the Schnitzer BMWs making up row 5, Emanuele Pirro outqualifying Johnny Cecotto to start in position number nine.

Race day began with intense heat and growing humidity, with a strong storm moving in from the East on the radar screen, though everyone hoped it would come after the 500-kilometre race was over. Niedzwidz got the jump on Robinson and powered into the lead, while both Soper and Kendall soon made short work of Andrew Bagnall's Commodore and Aventin clearly had eyes on being successful himself, him being able to keep both Andy Rouse's Sierra and the two Schnitzer BMWs behind him without too much difficulty. The first retirement of the day from the world championship runners was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Pro Team Imberti Maserati BiTurbo, which limped to a halt on Lap eleven with electrical problems. Up front, Niedzwidz couldn't shake the roaring Camaro to any great degree, and a slight slide out of Horquilla on Lap sixteen was all the room the Camaro pilot needed and he roared past, though the two cars remained side by side until the entry into Turn One, proving that the Sierra still had something of a power advantage over the naturally-aspirated Camaro, particularly in the intense heat.

The Italian cars and several of the locals, as well as Andy Rouse's second Sierra and the second CiBiEmme M3, all suffered from the intense heat, an engine fire shutting down the Sierra, overheating hammering the Alfa Romeos and M3 pilot Luciano Lovato pulling off with heat exhaustion. The heat and humidity also began hurting the Mercedes entries, with the first of them to be delayed being the car of Kurt Thiim and Roland Asch, which began overheading. The smaller cars, in addition to being down on power on the fast Buenos Aires circuit, also began living with heat problems as well.

Thirty laps in the lead was the reward for Chip Robinson's pass on Klaus Niedzwidz, and the Valvoline Camaro dived into the pits, perhaps incidentally, on the same lap as the Texaco Sierra - but the Sierra was quicker out of it, and with both cars having changed drivers Klaus Ludwig now had the lead over Michael Andretti, who had replaced Robinson in the Camaro. Andretti soon showed his driving ability and proved the worth of the American musclecar by keeping Ludwig's time leading to just seven laps before the American outbraked Ludwig into Turn Seven. The Camaro seemed to be better able to handle the heat, and soon Andretti was pulling away somewhat from Ludwig, a fact made worse when the Sierra started misfiring. This forced Ludwig into the pits, allowing the Commodore of Larry Perkins and Tim Harvey into second place, though that second lasted but five laps before the two Argentinians in Klaus Eggenberger's third Sierra RS500 passed them for second place into Turn One, earning a considerable roar from the crowd.

But the rain that had threatened all day had other ideas for the race. The rain began falling on Lap 86 of 150, and as everyone knew of the coming storm, everyone dove for the pits for wet weather tires. Andretti handed the car back to Robinson, who promptly spun on his first wet lap at Tobogan, doing damage to nothing but his pride but allowing the Sierra driven by Oscar Castellano to drop into the lead, a lead he lost when he had to tear off the road on Lap 92 to avoid a spinning Neil Crompton in his BMW M3. That handed the lead to Perkins and Harvey, who dutifully went forward in the race, aware as they were of the advantages the smaller M3s and 190s had in these conditions. The heat had weeded out some of them, but the two Alfa 75s left in the race and the remaining BMW and Mercedes entries saw the chance to use the wet track as an opportunity to chase down the more powerful cars ahead and they went for it, with Pirro, Keke Rosberg's Mercedes and Roberto Ravaglia's M3 being particularly brazen in their pushing. The Skoal Bandit Camaro was also doing well in the conditions, with Scott Pruett and John Morton proving that experience can do well even in conditions like this and that the Camaro, solid rear axle and all, was not to be taken lightly.

Ludwig's misfire fixed and the dropping temperatures helping the Sierra's power output, even if the wet track made handling a challenge, he began storming back from fifth, quickly dispatching Rosberg's Mercedes - which stuck to him and didn't let go - and was gifted a position when the Robinson/Andretti Camaro tangled with a backmarker had to make a stop for repairs. But in front of that, however, was still the Commodore of Perkins and Harvey, and the M3 of Emanuele Pirro and Roland Ratzenberger proved moved into second due to another off-track excursion by the Castellano/Aventin Sierra on Lap 135. But the Sierra simply couldn't do any better, as the Argentinians knew the track well and the two leaders were just too quick. Tim Harvey made an excellent last stint, and while Ratzenberger did his best to catch the big Commodore, he did not succeed.

Harvey led Ratzenberger across the line by 13.4 seconds, with another 21 seconds back to Oscar Aventin's Sierra. Ludwig and Niedzwidz came fourth, with Keke Rosberg and Yannick Dalmas came home fifth in their Mercedes. A somewhat disappointed Chip Robinson and Michael Andretti arrived sixth, while Roberto Ravaglia and Johnny Cecotta came seventh. The Jones/Morton Camaro finished eighth, while the BMWs of Gianfranco Bracatelli and Ivan Capelli and Oliver Groulliard and Luis Perez-Sala finished out the top ten. The Sierra of Steve Soper and Pierre Dieudonne, delayed by electrical problems, and the Commodore of Andrew Bagnall and Andrew Miedecke also got the final points-paying finishes.

Result

1) Larry Perkins / Tim Harvey
Holden Special Vehicles / Perkins Engineering Holden VL Commodore SS Group A
150 Laps
2) Emanuele Pirro / Roland Ratzenberger
BMW Team Schnitzer BMW M3
+13.4s
3) Oscar Castellano / Oscar Aventin
Team Eggenberger Ford Sierra RS500
+34.6s
4) Klaus Ludwig / Klaus Niedzwidz
Team Eggenberger Ford Sierra RS500
+50.7s
5) Keke Rosberg / Yannick Dalmas
Team AMG Mercedes Mercedes-Benz 190 Cosworth Evo I
+53.9s
6) Chip Robinson / Michael Andretti
Protofab Racing Chevrolet Camaro IROC-T
+1:05:22
7) Roberto Ravaglia / Johnny Cecotta
BMW Team Schnitzer BMW M3
+1 Lap
8) Scott Pruett / John Morton
Mach 1 Racing Chevrolet Camaro IROC-T
+1 Lap
9) Gianfranco Brancatelli / Ivan Capelli
CiBiEmme Racing BMW M3
+1 Lap
10) Olivier Grouillard / Luis Perez-Sala
Team Bigazzi BMW M3
+1 Lap
11) Steve Soper / Pierre Dieudonne
Team Eggenberger Ford Sierra RS500
+2 Laps
12) Andrew Bagnall / Andrew Miedecke
Holden Special Vehicle Holden VL Commodore SS Group A
+2 Laps

Class Orders

Category 3 (Cars over 3000cc NA / 2000cc Forced Induction)
1) Perkins / Harvey (Holden Commodore)
2) Castellano / Aventin (Ford Sierra)
3) Ludwig / Niedzwidz (Ford Sierra)
4) Robinson / Andretti (Chevrolet Camaro)
5) Pruett / Morton (Chevrolet Camaro)
6) Soper / Dieudonne (Ford Sierra)
7) Bagnall / Miedeke (Holden Commodore)
8) Kendall / Auberlen (Chevrolet Camaro)
9) Hattori / Dobson (Nissan Skyline)
10) Hoshino / Ogawa (Nissan Skyline)

Category 2 (Cars Over 2000cc NA / 1400cc Forced Induction)
1) Pirro / Ratzenberger (BMW M3)
2) Rosberg / Dalmas (Mercedes 190)
3) Ravaglia / Cecotto (BMW M3)
4) Brancatelli / Capelli (BMW M3)
5) Grouillard / Perez-Sala (BMW M3)
6) Schneider / Lafitte (Mercedes 190)
7) Brock / Crompton (BMW M3)
8) Thiim / Asch (Mercedes 190)
9) Nissen / Lohr (Mercedes 190)
10) Nannini / Wilson (Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo)
 
Last edited:
March 22, 1988

Buenos Aires, Argentina

"A fine start indeed, Keke." Hans-Werner Aufrech had flown to Argentina to see his cars race in the World Touring Car Championship for the first time, and had been quite happy with how they had done. Fifth overall hadn't been the desired response, but Buenos Aires favored the high-powered cars and the rain had come too late to totally equalize that, particularly as several of the big cars had been bale to take the head. Aufrech's warning to the Mercedes man about the power of the big musclecars had been proven pretty clearly, and while the 190 was not yet beating the M3s, they were off to what he felt was a very good start.
"Thank you, Herr Aufrech. We may have been able to do better, but the cars started off well."
"Excellent handling, I'm guessing."
"I'll tell you, Mein Herr, I think we can win races this season with this car. Yannick was follow Klaus Ludwig in the rain very easily there, I was surprising how well so, and he did nearly win the championship last year."
"He did indeed, but you did have help. The Sierra isn't really good in the rain...."
"But he did have at least two hundred horsepower on us. The same is true with the Camaro and the Commodore. He wasn't able to get away on the straights or the fast corners to any real degree, and that car has been very well developed."
"Indeed." Aufrech was surprised that Keke was more confident than even he was. He knew that had a good car, but Keke now felt that vanquishing the BMWs was quite possible. They had beaten them in Germany on a few occasions, but Mercedes was bankrolling a big WTCC assault for a reason, and they didn't just want to be class winners or be close to the M3s. "We can beat the BMWs, then?"
"I think we can, yes. The Alfa Romeos are what have me concerned, however. They have the advantage of turbos...."
"Their reliability in the race was appaling."
"Yes it was, but they won't sit around for long on that one. Alfa Romeo built an F1 team around turbocharged engines. Their experience is not to be discounted, Herr Aufrech. We face a challenging category, not to mention having to beat the turbo Fords and the big V8s."
"You were confident of victories just a moment ago."
"I still am. But I want you to let Herr Melcher and company know that we are in the middle now of what will surely be an intense fight. We can win our battles, but they must be mindful that we have little chance of domination. They should be told that. Their funding won't be in vain, but they had best not think that we can take home trophies every race. This is not to say we will not try, of course, but don't let them get too full of themselves. There is a long way to go."

March 24, 1988

Protofab Racing Shops, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

"Talk about a great start." Protofab boss John Nelson was as happy as a clam at his car starting second and finishing sixth in their first-ever start in the World Touring Car Championship. The WTCC car had been very different from what they had been building before, but the work had been excellent and the engineers GM had sent to help with their efforts had done a superb job. "We led a bunch of the race!"
"That we did." Chip Robinson said with a smile. "We're gonna have a different game plan in Dallas, though. That track is more likely to have the Beemers and Benzes and Alfas on top of us."
"Dallas has some long straights, and is a street circuit."
"But its also tighter in terms of track and corner width, and the smaller cars have great handling, particularly the BMWs. You saw how well they ran in Buenos Aires."
"Yes, I was watching." Nelson commented. "But we've got the muscle end on the equation pretty well covered."
"Let's not get too confident. We have that test at IRP this weekend, right?"
"Correct."
"And who is the new pilot?" Robinson knew that Andretti would be unavailable for much of the year with his Indycar commitments.
"Tommy is taking over for the next event with you. Greg and Tommy will have the Polyvoltac car in Dallas."
"I hope you're not ticked at them for what happened to them in Buenos Aires...."
"That wasn't their fault. That dumbass in the Corolla shoulda checked his mirrors. Hopefully they start getting the message about keeping cars like that out of the way of the faster runners from here out."
"That's about what I was gonna say, in as many words." Robinson smiled. "Now, let's see if we can win for real in Dallas."

March 25, 1988

Toyota Team Europe, Cologne, Germany

"So, that whole crazy series gets off the ground after all." Masahiko Kinoshita commented to Ove Andersson, the man who ran Toyota's rallying operations around the world."
"It's only as crazy as one looks at it." Andersson commented back, thanking providence that both him and Kinoshita spoke excellent English. "There are lots of Group A Touring Cars running around the world, the World Championship is for the best drivers who can run in it."
"It certainly is ambitious, though." The Japanese enthusiast commented back. "And Nissan is playing in it now."
"Yes, I was aware of that. Their cars were off the pace in Buenos Aires. They struggled to make the top ten in their class, and the GTS-R has been a match for the Supra in Japan...."
"True on all fronts, my friend, but you must understand that Nissan is working on a new Skyline, and they are developing a car that is a lot more competitive than the GTS-R is."
"This is that four-wheel-drive machine, isn't it?"
"Yes, and they are expected to start sending it out for 1990. Toyota wants to able to rival them when they arrive."
"On a rally stage, the Skyline is much too big to be...."
"They want to enter the WTCC." Andersson was silent for a moment.
"And they want Toyota Team Europe to run the operation."
"Yes."
Andersson sat back for a moment. "My resources are already running rather thin with the efforts to...."
"We have a new Celica on the way, it should be ready to race by the time the Skyline is, and it is going to be the same car used in our WRC efforts." Kinoshita sat back for a moment. "I know this is a big jump in commitments, but I can assure that Toyota will provide you with whatever you need to be the cars out onto the racetrack."
"The challenge of a car for rallying is rather different than one for pavement racing, but...." He paused for a minute. "This new Celica, it is to use the 3S-GTE engine we use now?"
"Yes, I believe so, why?"
"Because that will not put us against the Sierra and the American musclecars as the Supra will have to face. It's under 2000cc displacement, which means under the rules it will be facing the BMW M3 and Mercedes 190."
"And that is a good thing, you think?"
"If we can keep the four-wheel-drive system on the car, it is most definitely a good thing. We'll have better traction on wet tracks than the 190 or M3 and we can use turbo power to out-horsepower them."
Kinoshita smiled at Ove talking about it. The man had already gotten over the possibility of him entering a new arena and was already working on the pros and cons of what he wanted to do. He never gave up and never allowed himself to get caught up in surprises. "So, you think the Celica GT-Four is a better choice than the Supra, then?"
"Unless you can get a lot of power out of the Supra, yes. The Sierras and American musclecars make nearly six hundred horsepower. I don't think the Supra Turbo can get those kinds of numbers. But with the Celica, we'll only need three fifty to four hundred horsepower, which is much easier to achieve. Yes, we should go that route."
"Excellent." He paused. "So, I tell Tokyo you want this project, then?"
Ove paused for a moment. "If they can provide me the resources, most definitely I will take this on."
 
Round 2 - Stroh's Touring Car Grand Prix of Dallas
Fair Park Fairgrounds, Dallas, Texas, USA - April 10, 1988

Dallas was the host or round two of the World Touring Car Championship and if anyone remembered the infamous Grand Prix race of four years ago, the memories were forgotten very quickly indeed. Fair Park's track had been rebuilt, and tested on by Indycar teams on their way to the Indycar event at Phoenix later in the day. The track's new pavement had been magnificently laid out, walls widened in a few areas, the track's quite good layout not having been changed but most everything about it had been, and the organization was much better this time.

As in Argentina, a number of local runners were on the grid for the WTCC race and with a sizable crowd ready to see some racing. Formula 3000 ran earlier in the day and put on quite a show, with Johnny Herbert, Roberto Moreno and Mark Blundell putting on a great show for the fans and the World Challenge event the day before being an excellent show as well. The WTCC grid had all of the World Championship competitors from the race in Argentina, and the twists of the first section of the track allowed the more agile BMW and Mercedes drivers to pull out a lead which the highly-boosted Sierras and big Commodores and Camaros, as well as the star local runners in the Saleen Autosport Ford Mustangs, had to make up on the longer straights of the second half of the lap. Emanuele Pirro and Roland Ratenberger started from the pole position, with the second Protofab Camaro driven by Greg Pickett and Tommy Archer starting alongside them. Klaus Ludwig's Sierra started third, with Keke Rosberg's Mercedes next to him. The Camaros of Scott Pruett and Tommy Kendall made up row three, while the BMW of Roberto Ravaglia and the Mercedes of Bernd Schneider were row four. The winners in Argentina started ninth thanks to Tim Harvey, lined up next to the Sierra of Andy Rouse. American IMSA powerhouse Roush Racing had started eleventh in a Sierra borrowed from Rudy Eggenberger and with Pete Halsmer and Paul Gentilozzi driving, somewhat embarassingly outqualifying the second Texaco Sierra driven by Steve Soper and Pierre Dieudonne. The Saleen Mustangs of Steve Saleen, Scott Sharp and Lisa Caceras all started off inside the top twenty, the Mustangs they had proving to be rather better than those brought by most Mustang competitors, with many in the field figuring it was because Europe's Ford racers had long since all switched to Sierras. The race was set for 500 Miles, which meant 207 laps of the street circuit, nearly three times the length of the F1 event four years prior, but nobody cared all that much about that, as the racing in Touring Cars was expected to be much closer and harder-fought then the F1 race of years previous, where the track had come apart under the F1 cars and made the event more like a rally race with F1 cars, made worse by a punishing heat - which today wasn't nearly as present, with the temperature on race day being a comfortable 69 degrees Fahrenheit.

The race began at noon, and it didn't take long for a pecking order to emerge. Pirro went all out early on in an attempt to keep Kendall behind him - a lead that lasted all of four laps before the Camaro's tires warmed up to such a degree that the Camaro was soon all over the back of the BMW. Four more laps after that saw three lead changes between the M3 and the Camaro, with Archer finally managing to get Pirro behind him. The Roush Sierra fell out of contention early when Halsmer overcooked his brakes into the hairpin and buried the car in the tires - he got it out, but last two laps as a result. Ludwig soon had the familiar experience of Rosberg's black-and-silver Mercedes all over the back of him, but the Texaco Sierra was powerful enough that Keke's pass efforts and aggressive driving in the twisty sections wasn't enough for him to get past the German and his Sierra. Behind that, a four-car train led by Scott Pruett's Skoal Camaro lasted until lap 20, when Kendall got way too aggressive in a pass maneuver through the corner at the end of Washington Street ran into Pruett, pushing both into the tires. Kendall kept going, but not before Ravaglia, Schneider and Harvey were through. Pruett also got himself extricated from the tires, but with a broken steering arm that forced him immediately into the pits. Kendall's attempt at redeeming himself didn't go well either, as he locked up the rear brakes in the same spot six laps later looking to pass Harvey and spun backwards into the tires. Harvey got around, but Kendall had to duck into the pits for repairs himself.

The aggressive early racing caused some tire wear issues for Archer, who ducked into the pits on Lap 36 to get new tires and fuel, and a puncture a lap later for Ludwig forced the Sierra into the pits as well, leaving Pirro well out in front of Rosberg, who both put the pedal down in an attempt to consolidate their positions. Pirro pitted on Lap 50, leaving Rosberg to inheirit the lead - and Pirro gunned it out of the pits without his gas cap fully on, causing a fuel spill which a spotter noticed. Pirro dove back in to get that fixed, but in the process he lost the lead for fair to Rosberg. Keke pitted the Mercedes on Lap 58 and had a clockwork stop, emerging back into the lead - but with just meters between him and Archer, who a lap later retook the lead from the Mercedes pilot. This time, Tommy was more careful with his driving and drove more gently so as not to have tire problems. Behind them, both Pirro and Klaus Niedzwidz, who had replaced Ludwig in the Eggerberger Sierra, were pushing hard to make up for their problems and get back to the leaders, having made it back out in front of Ravaglia, Schneider and Harvey.

The first full-course yellow of the race came out on Lap 65 when John Heinricy's Camaro spun on the exit of Turn 14 and was collected by the Alfa Romeo 75 driven by Giorgio Francia, who was promptly rear-ended by the Mustang driven by Steve Saleen. Six laps under caution led to a raft of cars going in for fuel top-ups, including Archer's Camaro, Niedzwidz's Sierra, Ravaglia's M3 and Harvey's Commodore. The Lap 71 restart was moments old before Pirro dove past Rosberg into the first Turn, with the BMW and the Mercedes running wheel-to-wheel until the brakes to Turn 5, where Pirro had the edge and held the lead. Both the cars went all-out to get away from the other, leave Schneider's Mercedes in third and the pack behind him - Brancatelli and Crompton's M3s, Andy Rouse's Sierra, Kris Nissen's 190 and Kendall's Camaro - well behind. But behind that was the pack of cars who were on fresh tires and going for a chance at getting back to the front - the Sierra of Niedzwidz led this pack because of a fast stop by his team, with Archer, Ravaglia and Harvey all chasing him.

By Lap 100, the former front-runners had gotten up to chasing Rouse's Sierra in sixth, and Archer had pushed his way past Niedzwidz to get seventh place for himself. Yellow came out again on Lap 103 after Bruno Giacomelli's Maserati Biturbo blew its engine on Pennsylvania Avenue on its way to Turn 19, and the Acura Legend of Jerry Lustig and Mac DeMere skidded off as a result of the Maserati's oil, adding a smashed rear end to the damage to Pro Team Imberti Maserati. This time, only a few cars pitted, led by Steve Soper, Scott Sharp, Lella Lombardi and Tommy Kendall, all trying to gain back time lost earlier in the event.

The race restarted on Lap 111, and this time both Yannick Dalmas, who had replaced Rosberg in the Mercedes, and his teammate Jacques Lafitte both went for Pirro's jugular, passing him with a car on each side into Turn 5 that shocked everyone who saw it. Andy Rouse made short work of Crompton and Brancatelli on the restart and powered into fourth place, and the two BMWs soon found the more powerful cars, particularly the turbocharged Sierras, liking the cooling weather. Niedzwidz, Archer and Larry Perkins soon were past the M3s as well, taking advantage of the changing conditions.

Dalmas' lead was short-lived, as Mercedes soon proved that they had no team orders and Lafitte soon pushed past Dalmas in Turn 14, though a lap later Dalmas answered back in Turn 19. Rouse dove for the pits for fuel on Lap 121 and to hand the car over to teammate James Weaver, allowing Niedzwidz back into fourth spot, though Archer soon made that short-lived, taking it from him on Lap 125. Pirro got back into the mix behind the two 190s as they battled, and he pushed his way back into second on Lap 133 in Turn 12 by going around Dalmas. The action, even now almost three hours into event, was still wild and pushy, and nobody was giving an inch among those who still had a chance to win.

Everyone's fortunes changed on Lap 136, as Peter Seikel's Sierra suffered a steering failure in Turn 1 and plowed into the tire wall hard. Yellow was out for the third time, and this time everyone on the lead lap came into the pits, setting up a very late shootout. Niedzwidz got out first, Pirro right behind him and the two AMG Mercedes cars right behind that, with Rouse, Archer, Harvey, Ravaglia, Soper and Brancatelli making up the rest of the top ten. For the third time in succession somebody dived on the leader in the first turn after the restart on Lap 142, but this time Pirro went too wide and bashed in the driver's door on Niedzwidz's Sierra, though both drivers kept their foot in it and gathered up the slides....but not before Jacques Lafitte motored past both of them into the lead. Niedzwidz soon let Pirro behind, the BMW clearly having damage from its impact with the Ford and that letting Dalmas, Tiff Needell (who had taken over Andy Rouse's Sierra) and Greg Pickett through.

Niedzwidz soon closed the gap on Lafitte's Mercedes, but his doing so used up his rear tires, a fact that the German driver began to have to deal with on Lap 185 when he got big sideways in Turn 7. He gathered it up and kept going, but the Sierra driver had to be more careful from then out, and he was, though that let Dalmas close in on him - though Dalmas had his own problem thanks to a charging Tiff Needell. Needell passed Dalmas in Turn 12 with five laps to go, and soon caught Niedzwidz, but he looked good for third until Niedzwidz got sideways again on the final lap, this time on the power out of Turn 6, and Needell drove past him on the same place he had passed Dalmas four laps earlier.

Jacques Lafitte and Bernd Schneider took victory in the AMG Mercedes, 8.7 seconds clear of Andy Rouse and Tiff Needell's Sierra. The second Ford of Klaus Ludwig and Klaus Niedzwidz grabbed third, while Yannick Dalmas and Keke Rosberg finished fourth. Greg Pickett and Tommy Archer brought the Protofab Camaro home fifth, while sixth went to Emanuele Pirro and Roland Ratzenberger's BMW.

Result

1) Jacques Lafitte / Bernd Schneider
Team AMG-Mercedes Mercedes-Benz 190 Cosworth Evo I
207 Laps
2) Andy Rouse / Tiff Needell
Andy Rouse Engineering Ford Sierra RS500
+8.72s
3) Klaus Ludwig / Klaus Niedzwidz
Texaco Team Eggenberger Ford Sierra RS500
+10.15s
4) Keke Rosberg / Yannick Dalmas
Team AMG-Mercedes Mercedes-Benz 190 Cosworth Evo I
+16.64s
5) Greg Pickett / Tommy Archer
Protofab Racing Chevrolet Camaro IROC-T
+19.81s
6) Emanuele Pirro / Roland Ratzenberger
BMW Team Schnitzer BMW M3
+25.15s
7) Larry Perkins / Tim Harvey
Holden Special Vehicles / Perkins Engineering Holden VL Commodore SS Group A
+25.44s
8) Gianfranco Brancatelli / Ivan Capelli
CiBiEmme Racing BMW M3
+32.28s
9) Tommy Kendall / Chip Robinson
Protofab Racing Chevrolet Camaro IROC-T
+41.92s
10) Steve Soper / Pierre Dieudonne
Texaco Team Eggenberger Ford Sierra RS500
+1 Lap
11) Neil Crompton / Eddie Cheever
Mobil 1 BMW Team Australia BMW M3
+1 Lap
12) Lyn St. James / Lisa Caceras
Saleen Autosport Ford Saleen Mustang
+1 Lap

Class Result

Category 3 (Cars over 3000cc NA / 2000cc Forced Induction)
1) Rouse / Needell (Ford Sierra)
2) Ludwig / Niedzwidz (Ford Sierra)
3) Pickett / Archer (Chevrolet Camaro)
4) Perkins / T. Harvey (Holden Commodore)
5) Kendall / Robinson (Chevrolet Camaro)
6) Soper / Dieudonne (Ford Sierra)
7) St. James / Caceras (Ford Mustang)
8) Kendall / Auberlen (Chevrolet Camaro)
9) Hoshino / Ogawa (Nissan Skyline)
10) Bagnall / Mediecke (Holden Commodore)
11) J. Harvey / Dorsey Schoreder (Holden Commodore)
12) Pruett / Kneifel (Chevrolet Camaro)

Category 2 (Cars Over 2000cc NA / 1400cc Forced Induction)
1) Schneider / Lafitte (Mercedes 190)
2) Rosberg / Dalmas (Mercedes 190)
3) Pirro / Ratzenberger (BMW M3)
4) Brancatelli / Capelli (BMW M3)
5) Cheever / Crompton (BMW M3)
6) Grouillard / Perez-Sala (BMW M3)
7) Thiim / Asch (Mercedes 190)
8) Ravaglia / Cecotto (BMW M3)
9) Nannini / Wilson (Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo)
10) Nissen / Lohr (Mercedes 190)
11) Tarquini / Bailey (Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo)
12) Reuter / Weidler (Mercedes 190)
 
Round 3 - Labatt's Canadian Touring Car Trophy
Mosport Park, Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada - April 24, 1988

After the street circuit and high-flying backdrop of Dallas, the third round of the World Touring Car Championship moved on to the dense forests around Mosport Park, northeast of Toronto, Canada. Mosport underwent a $18 million renovation for the event, which included a complete surface repaving, new walls, runoff areas and bridges, as well as improving the track's amenities, some of which were over 25 years old and needed the replacement. Luck was with the promoters in one other area - snow had fallen a week before at the track, but race weekend dawned clear and sunny and reasonably warm, with temperatures of 15-20 degrees Celsius all weekend and the only bit of precipitation being a short but sharp thunderstorm on Saturday night. That did, however, have the effect of stripping all of the accumulated rubber off of the racetrack, and the slightly-damp track and relatively cool weather meant that the cars would have challenges with handling, a particular problem at Mosport with its high-speed nature. It was a considerable adjustment after the the flat street circuit in Dallas.

Tiff Needell parked the Andy Rouse Sierra on the pole for the race, with Steve Soper's RS500 lining up alongside, and Klaus Niedzwidz in the second Eggenberger Sierra starting third. The Camaro of Scott Pruett and Chris Kniefel started fourth, with the Holdens of Allan Grice and Tim Harvey starting fifth and sixth. The Roush Sierra of Paul Gentilozzi started seventh, with the Protofab Camaros of Chip Robinson and Tommy Archer split by the Nissan Skyline of Masahiro Hasemi and Kenji Takahashi, which rounded out the top ten. The sticky track during qualifying had resulted in a clean sweep of the top ten by the higher-power runners, with the best BMW being that of Ravaglia and Cecotto starting eleventh, with the best local runners, that being the Ford Sierra of Paul Tracy and Ron Fellows, lining up next to them. The cool day made it easier to make the naturally-aspirated cars run next to the turbocharged ones, a fact which was beneficial most of all to Holden and Chevrolet. The race began at one in the afternoon under a sunny sky which was, however, starting to cloud over, in front of a crowd of over 60,000, the largest crowd at the track since its last Grand Prix race a decade before.

Needell, Soper and Niedzwidz took off early on, while the Camaro driven by Pruett struggled to keep the two snarling Commodores behind them, a trio soon joined by Masahiro Hasemi's Nissan Skyline, showing extraordinary pace thanks to engine improvements. The bigger-power cars had more of an edge at Mosport than they had had at Buenos Aires or Dallas, and the early running showed it - and keen to make up for embarassments in the previous two rounds, Steve Soper soon dispatched Tiff Needell and set out to pull away in the Texaco Sierra, while Klaus Niedzwidz clearly decided to help his teammate today and did his best to keep Needell's mind off of the car in front of him. That worked reasonably well, but not always.

Traffic became an issue quite early, as the Sierras were running into lap cars inside of twenty laps into the race, which was an especial problem when it happened early in a lap, as the track layout meant that passing off-line was frequently not advisable, a fact learned first by Cecotto, who had a scary moment in Turn 3 trying to pass a lap car, and then with consequences by Allan Grice, who ran off the road in Turn Two and spun three complete 360s on the wet grass before his Commodore hit the tire barrier on the outside of the course. Grice amazingly got it going again and limped back around to the pits for repairs, but the Commodore lost a lot of time going that. Traffic allowed Needell to close back up on the tail of Soper, and using a class 2 Alfa as a pick, rocketed past on the entrance to Turn 2, nearly pushing off the Alfa as the two Sierras shot past. Needell's lead was short lived, as he got caught behind one of the BMWs on the start of the long Andretti straightaway two laps later and could only watch Soper motor past back into the lead.

The first yellow flag came out on Lap 46 as the Toyota Supra of Morio Nitta and Keiichi Suzuki had the differential seize as they came out of Turn 1. Losing momentum immediately, Nitta got the Supra off to the right side of the track, but seconds later a bump between the Mercedes of Volker Weidler and the Alfa Romeo of Julian Bailey saw the Bailey punted to the left and straight into the back of the stopped Toyota, which the Alfa hit at over a hundred miles an hour and ricocheted back into Weidler's Mercedes, which spun down the hill at Turn Two into the tire barriers, coming to rest over eighty meters from Bailey's Alfa, which was a further thirty meters from Nitta's Toyota. Somehow, none of the drivers were seriously hurt, though Bailey had to be helped out of his wrecked Alfa Romeo and Nitta had a nasty headache which thankfully turned out to be nothing more. The mess took a considerable amount of time to clean up, though, and so the race was delayed for no less than twenty-one laps while the mess was cleaned up. Everyone took to the pits for fuel and tires, the fastest out being Soper's Sierra, though the Camaro of Pruett beat out the second Eggerberger Sierra to take third.

The race restarted with the usual first-corner dive, this time by Scott Pruett diving to pass Soper in the Sierra, but he couldn't make it stick and dropped back into second. Behind him, Paul Tracy did the same thing to Tim Harvey, only he did manage to make it work. The race pace was soon a battle of the temperatures - the cool day making it harder for the tires but easier for the engines, the people most dealing with this problem being the turbocharged entries - the Holden, Chevrolet and Ford V8s had the benefits of naturally-aspirated throttle response. The results of this became clear on lap 76 as Pruett pushed his way past Soper into Turn 10 and roared into the lead, though Soper attached the Texaco Sierra to the Camaro's bumper and wouldn't let go for the life of him. Attrition proved to be surprisingly little in the race, even with the traffic and the somewhat-slippery track after early problems for some cars and the massive Lap 46 shunt, which didn't allow any of the lightweight cars to move up the order as they had in Argentina. Even the Pro Team Imberti Maserati was running alright, a needed thing after two early failures in the heat of Buenos Aires and Dallas.

Cars began cycling back into the pits around lap 90, with the Eggenberger Sierras following each other in. Paul Tracy's Sierra soon followed, though he was somewhat-embarrassingly beaten out of the pits by the Saleen Autosport Mustang. The surviving Toyota Supra and the Pro Team Imberti Maserati both made good stops as well. Pruett stayed out and ran as hard as he could on his light fuel load and dove for the pits hoping to stay out of the Eggerberger and Rouse Sierras, and the Mach 1 Team did the job and got him back out into the lead, though Pruett didn't get the lead back immediately - the Mercedes of Ellen Lohr and the BMW or Johnny Cecotto both led laps before they pitted and Pruett cycled back into the lead.

The pit stops had just finished when Anders Oloffsson's Volvo 240 Turbo blew its engine on the Andretti straightaway on Lap 102, thankfully not causing any other consequence. The restart on Lap 105 saw Soper go for the dive-bomb move into Turn 1, but Pruett was ready for that as well and held the lead, though behind them Pete Halsmer's Roush Sierra was aggressively shoved out of the way by Masahiro Hasemi's Nissan Skyline, which was followed through by Andrew Mediecke in his Commodore, who four laps later in Turn 8 outbraked Hasemi for seventh place. Behind that, a flying Alessandro Nannini was doing his best to make sure BMW and Mercedes knew that the Alfa Romeos were still in the field. Also surprising on the day was Armin Hahne in the Maserati, which seemed to be running a lot better than usual.

Up front, Pruett hung onto the lead until lap 127, when he ran a hair wide in Turn 2 and saw Soper dive for it. Pruett attempted to shut the door but was too late to do so, and the Sierra and the Camaro came out of Turn 3 banging doorhandles. Soper had enough grip to hang around the outside of Turn 4 and outbrake Pruett into Moss Corner, though Soper spun the tires ever so slightly coming out of Moss and suddenly had Pruett alongside him as they ran up the Andretti straightaway. Pruett didn't give up the lead until they were coming into Turn 9, having spent two-thirds of a lap side by side. Behind them, however, Niedzwidz, Rouse, Archer and Perkins were waiting for the two front-runners to make a mistake, and there wasn't much back to the second pack, led by Mediecke, Hasemi, Tracy and Robinson. But that front pack, after running as a conga train for thirty laps, say Perkins upset the apple cart by diving past Archer in Turn 1 - and that done, the Aussie ace set about putting Rouse behind him. That didn't work as well, as Rouse had seen Perkins passing Archer and was paying attention.

The third round of pitstops were similar to the second round - the Eggenberger Sierras, this time followed by Rouse, pitted earlier than many. Soper handed the car to Pierre Dieudonne on this stop, the Englishman somewhat exhausted from his hard pushing. The Camaros all came in at the same time, with Pruett handing over to John Morton, Archer to Greg Pickett and Robinson to Tommy Kendall, along with Paul Tracy's Sierra with Tracy handing the car off to Ron Fellows at the same time. Perkins inheirited the lead from the stops and held it for four laps before he too pitted, and Hasemi had it for three more after that before he went in for fuel and tires. That cycled Lohr into the lead in the Mercedes - who then later that lap in Turn 5 was passed for the lead by Nannini's Alfa Romeo, putting the Alfa 75 in the lead of a WTCC race for the first time ever. That lead lasted two laps before both Nannini and Lohr pitted, handing the lead to Dieudonne. Dieudonne ran the Sierra hard to keep the lead, but on Lap 165 he surrendered the lead back to John Morton, but in the process Ludwig roared past into second place. Morton surrendered the lead to a charging Ludwig on Lap 169, but got it back five laps later when Ludwig got hugely sideways in Turn 9 and had to catch it, which let both Morton and Dieudonne back by him.

Lap 187 saw the yellow out for the third time, this time because of the BMW M3 of Ivan Capelli being hit by the Saleen Mustang of Scott Sharp in Turn 3, causing both cars to end up buried in the tire wall - and a quite-angry Capelli having very vocal words with Sharp. Everyone pitted for tires and fuel on this stop, figuring that this would allow everyone to make it to the finish on the fuel and tires taken on - though the Sierras were likely to be pretty close to the edge, and they knew it - and decided to pit later than most, figuring those extra couple laps behind the safety car could make the difference.

TBC....
 
Last edited:
Top