European Touring Car Championship 1984
Round 8 Nurburgring

Four Cornered fight

K elleners/Brancatelli win thrilling "sprint" race - Jaguar, Volvo, Rover and BMW take turns at leading - Allam/Duez second - Poor day fot Jaguar.

"I tell you," said Hans Stuck devouring an ice cream after practice on Saturday, "the Kelleners/Brancatelli car is going to win. Good engine, lots of experience, and quick. Jags? No . . . You see." Hans-Joachim then disappeared among a welter of autograph hunters, while at the same time remonstrating energetically with a friend. And how right he was.

The BMWs, having been outclassed in practice by the Jaguars, Rovers and Volvos, finally came good in the race, the BMW Italia car holding back during the early stages before moving forcefully up and into first on lap 72, having passed the Gitanes-backed Rover.

It was an absolutely superb race, more like a sprint than an endurance race, with four different makes of car leading at one stage or another - Jaguar, Volvo, Rover, BMW - with a thrilling finale that saw Marc Duez just hold off Alain Cudini on the last lap for second.

QUALIFYING

The setting changed from Austria to Germany for the eighth round of the European "Touring Car championship. From Salzburgring to Nurburgring, from old circuit to new.

Although the old Eifel castle still looked over the circuit, and remnants of the old track could still be seen, it was the new circuit the drivers would be racing on, purpose built, with marvellous pit facilities. but lacking something in the atmosphere stakes. A wide track, with huge run off areas, while the spectators looked lost in the giant stands, somewhat removed from the action.

However, not all things change. Practice was dominated by the TWR works Jaguars, all three cars setting their times in the first qualifying session, undoubtedly the faster of the two. So yet again it would be the British racing green cars heading the grid. And on pole was the Tom Walkinshaw/Hans Heyer car. Not all was well, though.

"This Mickey Mouse track is very hard on brakes," explained an animated Heyer. "We did a 15 lap test on the brakes and found that we had cooling problems. It's going to be very hard for the Jags on such a silly track as this. And we also had problems with the tyres. We weren't able to use our qualifiers, because for some reason they were no faster, and the Pirelli runners are about 1 sec quicker with the new construction tyres they have. So it's going to he very difficult, especially as the track is so new and there's lots of oil from the bitumen making it very slippery." Hans was obviously worried.

So on the Saturday, the TWR team practised brake pad changes, completing the operation in about 50 secs. Quick, but likely to add another 20 secs or so to their pit stops.
Sitting next to the boss's car on the grid was the Win Percy/Chuck Nicholson version. the time, set by Percy, over 1 sec slower. Nicholson, his foot fine after last week's accident, was more confident. "Everything is going fine," he explained. "It's a hard track for the Jags, no doubt about it. In fact, we only snatch top twice, and then only briefly. But for the race we'll be fine, as long as we take it smoothly and easily, without bumping over the very high kerbs."

Making it a Jaguar one-two-three on the grid was the Enzo Calderari/David Sears car, and then just to bolster British confidence - and ensure wholesale German depression - was the first of the works Austin Rovers (the Gitanes sponsored car) with a time of 1m52.20s, 0.97secs behind the third Jaguar.

Feelings ran high in the Austin Rover camp that they stood a chance of beating the Jags this time round if they ran into trouble. Armin Hahne, who set the time, looked pleased and was looking forward to the race. "We came here testing on Wednesday, because we knew we hada lot of work to do on the brakes," explained Hahne. "It was worth it, because now we have a very good set up. If we take it easy at first it should be no problem. But we must finish, that is important." Hahne, far from ruing the demise of the old track, found the new circuit challenging and demanding. "You know, at first sight the track looks easy, but it is very hard in fact. You have to fight the car all the way round. On Wednesday, when we were testing, I thought I had got it, but no . . . It is very difficult to go that extra half second quicker and needs lots of practise. And that's without setting the car up . . ."

Making it five British cars in the top six was the Jean-Louis Schlesser/Steve Soper Austin Rover Fleet car, sixth on the grid. Soper had managed to set the qualifying time in the second, and slower, session. An engine change had been effected between sessions, the drivers finding the first engine sluggish. So the change had proved fruitful even if it had meant more work for the mechanics, Soper reporting that the car felt "brilliant.

Splitting the two Rovers, and fifth on the grid, was the first of the Swedish Volvos, That's Lindstrom and Anders Olafson looking quietly confident. "We are satisfied with the handling, and with our time," said Olafson. "The car feels perfect on the circuit," he continued. "It's very easy on the driver in this car with its power steering, light and easy to drive. I think we'll need two pit stops, though. because the car is a bit heavy on fuel."

The second of the Swedish Volvos sat two places back (Granberg/Jelinski) and the third in 19th spot (Stureson/Persson ). The Belgian examples (Pirnay/Neve and Delcourt/Dieudonne/Baert) were in 18th and 24th, and still without water injection. They did a lot of running (luring practice, bemoaning the fact that they were without the new injection system. Olafson, on the other hand, thought differently. "The water injection doesn't make the car any faster - it makes little difference I find but it does make the engine a lot safer. That's where the advantage lies ..."

Ninth on the grid was the third of the Rover Vitesses, Jeff Allam reporting that there had been few problems in practice. So the three works Jaguars and three works Rovers were all in the top nine. But what of BMW? It was their home track after all.

Dieter Quester looked desperate. "It's hopeless," he demonstrated. "we're lying 15th on the grid, with all sorts of problems." Hans Stuck explained: "We can't improve the car. However we juggle the tyre/suspension set up, it still does not work. And the Dunlops are not proving good for qualifying ..." "You know," continued a depressed Quester, "we are fighting hard in all the the corners that's when we can catch the Jaguars but it also means the brakes are doing too much work. But as soon as we get on the straights, the Jaguars leave us. It's rather like Formula 1. where you have a big power difference between the turbo and Cosworth cars. We are losing out some 150 bhp to the Jaguars. It is not good.

The first BMW on the grid, then, languished back in eighth place, this being the Eggenberger prepared BMW Italia car of Helmut Kelleners and Gianfranco Brancatelli. Unlike the Schnitzer car, practice had proved un eventful for both the BMW Italia cars, the second of which was 10th on the grid, heading the rest of the BMW army. This was led by the Jagermeister car of Grohs Brun: then van Ommen/Vojtech: Hollinger/Giroix: Gartner Cudini: Stuck/Quester: Felder/Hamelmann: and Ravaglia Danner. So the BMWs were going to have to work hard during the race.

RACE

Raceday dawned bright and sunny, just like the two days of practice. It was going to be a beautiful day at the 'Ring, but it was also to be very hard work, the heat taking its toll on both drivers and cars alike.

So, just before 1pm, the pace car led the assembled field round for a lap before peeling off for the rolling start. And the Jags thundered off down the road, Chuck Nicholson, though, getting rather en gulfed by the pack. Tom Walkinshaw had juggled with his driver pairings in the morning, with Hans Heyer in the polesitting car, then Nicholson and Win Percy driving the third (Calderari/Sears) car.

Round they came at the end of their first lap. Heyer (Jaguar), Percy (Jaguar), Granberg (Volvo, Olofson (Volvo), Nicholson (Jaguar), then Hahne, Allam and Soper (Rovers), followed by Brun (BMW').

Lap 2, and the two Jaguars were still in control, but the Volvos were closing, Granberg demoting Percy on lap 3. However, all looked safe for Heyer - until the end of lap 3 when the Jaguar peeled off into pitlane to begin a lengthy stop. Apparently, a stone had smashed an alternator pulley. It was the start of a troubled race for the TWR Jaguars.

So, a Volvo led at the Nurburgring and from a Jaguar, while team mate Olofson looked well placed in third. Behind them, though, there were several battles being engaged in an energetic manner. Hahne just headed Allam, the two Rovers coming out of the hairpin onto the start/finish straight in beautifully controlled slides, while Nicholson followed discreetly, pacing himself. And then came the first of the Bee Ems, Stuck attempting to hold off Kelleners and Soper having dropped back. This trio continued in such fashion, the Rover moving ahead of Kelleners before attempting to outdrag (successfully) Stuck down the straight on lap 20.

Both cars, however, were in trouble, the furious pace taking its toll on brakes and tyres. Soper: "By the time I had got past Kelleners and Stuck, my brakes were finished and the tyres had gone off. I tell you, it was very hectic in there, with lots of shoving and bumping." Stuck, having handed over to Quester had the same to say, he too looking exhausted. "We managed to sort the handling in the morning warm up, but after 16 laps or so I had lost all grip. All the rubber had gone."

Back to the action. Percy thought he ought to correct the order at the front and on lap 10 outdragged the Volvo down the straight. Order had been restored. But not for long . . . On the same lap that the Heuer Jaguar came out of the pits, the Volvo was hack in the lead, riding high on the kerbs and going very quickly, while the next lap saw the first retirement. The orange Jagermeister car limped into the pits, its front right wheel askew.

However, Volvo glory only lasted until lap 21, when it came into the pits with damage to one of the axles, after an heroic drive. It was to rejoin later alter a lengthy stop, eventually finishing 11th. But the Jag was back in first, seemingly going like a train. But it was to stop out on the circuit later with Calderari at the wheel with an obscure electrical fault. And the Heyer car, with David Sears getting a few laps in, retired on lap 27, a result of its former problem. Not a good day for Jaguar.

In the meantime, the two Austin Rover Vitesses had moved ahead of the Olofson Volvo and took the lead on lap 33 when the lead Jaguar (Percy) made for the pits. And Kelleners lay fourth, the wily German biding his time ominously.

Lap 40: Hahne first, then Allam, Olofson, Kelleners, Stuck and Gartner. Two Rovers, a Volvo, and three BMWs in the top six with a Jaguar in eighth. The four big manufacturers were fighting it out, slug for slug . . .

The order chanced on lap 50 when Armin Hahne handed over to Eddy Joosen, Allam taking the lead . . . and Kelleners was now third, behind the Jaguar. But with the pit stops sorted - Allam having handed over to Duez, and Kelleners to Brancatelli the battle was resumed, but with the BMW now in third, and the Jag down to sixth.

Lap 69, and Brancatelli was closing in on Duez. Lap 71, and side by side they went down the straight, Brancatelli taking second, and gunning for Joosen. The spectators were being entertained splendidly and there were still 39 laps remaining.

Lap 72. Brancatelli attempted to overtake Joosen, but he countered, keeping the Gitanes Rover in front. But later round the lap, the BMW was more successful and the Rover started to fall hack into the clutches of Duez before making a prolonged stop after a water hose broke loose.
However, a Rover was still in second. "We concentrated on setting the car up for the race," said Allam after his stint, "and now it's paying off. But I just can't bear to watch . . ." It was nailbiting indeed.

In the closing stages, Brancatelli reeled off the laps, taking the flag by just over 3Osecs, but Alain Cudini came extremely close to taking second from Duez, the two in a race for the flag on the last lap. However, as John Davenport later pointed out, Armin Hahne was between them (having rejoined), and provided a suitable buffer . . . Further back, Tom Walkinshaw put in an heroic drive, heaving the Jaguar up to fifth ahead of the Volvo.
It had been a superb race, with excitement right to the very end, the big four matching each other punch for punch. Who knows what will happen at Spa?.

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