European Touring Car Championship 1984
Round 9 Spa Francorchamps

A Cat with clout

T WR Jaguar scores fine victory - Rovers fast but fragile - Bastos BMWs second and fouth - Weaver finishes third with Stuck/Quester.

In the week during which Jaguar cars will be sold into private ownership, Tom Walkinshaw, Hans Heyer and Win Percy guided their XJS coupé to a momentous victory in that most prestigious of all touring car races, the Spa 24 Hours. The team had been unsuccessful in three previous visits to the epic Belgian event but, undeterred by the loss through an accident of Enzo Calderari's sister car during the awful weather conditions that prevailed for more than half of the race, the remaining Jaguar ran perfectly for the entire duration. Walkinshaw and his team made a cautious start to the race but then moved up swiftly before nightfall, trading places for several hours with the Thierry Tassin/Alain Cudini/Dany Snobeck Bastos BMW before taking the lead for good just before half-distance.

The Jaguar posted a most impressive display of power and reliability, although sadly the same could not be said of the works Rovers, which ran gloriously in 1-2-3 formation at the end of the first hour before all of them hit trouble. Only one reached the finish, in eighth place. Thus, despite a nighttime incident in thick fog, second and third places were taken by BMWs, the Bastos-Juma car just one lap clear of Hans Stuck/Dieter Quester/James Weaver in a race that was packed with incident and provided some thoroughly entertaining actions

QUALIFYING

Of all the rounds of the European Touring Car Championship, the Spa 24 Hours is the Blue Riband event, the one for which teams go to extraordinary lengths to try and grab victory; cars are completely rebuilt and teams take on all sorts of masseurs, cooks and bottle-washers to keep everyone going through the ordeal. For the Spa 24 Hours is an ordeal, demanding much more from the machinery and the drivers - this is no 500 kilometre sprint race. This year, as usual, the event attracted a high quality field of regular saloon car drivers joined by a number of Grand Prix men and up and coming hopefuls.

It almost goes without saving that the TWR `Big Cats' dominated practice. as they have consistently done this year. The team had opted to run only two cars in place of the usual three and were using newly homologated I7ins brake discs which seemed to he working well. The cars were first and third at the end of the first evening of practice. Most teams would he overjoyed with such a state of affairs, but the Jaguar men looked unhappy. "You can call me `Confused of Kidlington'." quipped Tom Walkinshaw, confirming that he was none too happy with the way things had gone. But what was the problem? "That's just it. we don't know exactly what it is it could be any number of things or a combination of them."

For the team, first and third was obviously something of a crisis, and the TWR management team swung into one of their famous 'huddles' to thrash out the problem, while most of the pitlane quietly hoped they would not find a solution. They did, and when the final soggy miserable practice ended at midnight on Thursday the cars were one and two on the grid, with Tom Walkinshaw, partnered by Hans Heyer and Win Percy, ahead of the second car piloted by regulars Enzo Calderari and David Sears, who were joined for this race by Belgian veteran Teddy Pilette. So far so good for the Walkinshaw troops; so what of the other TWR cars?

The Rover team had a very impressive driver lineup - Steve Soper and Armin Hahne were joined by Jean-Louis Schlesser, while the other regular European pairing of Marc Duez and Jeff Allam had Peter Lovett to back them up. There was also a third works car, backed by Gitanes and driven by Eddie Joosen, Tony Pond and Jean-Pierre Jabouille. The ARG line-up was completed by the addition of a newly built German championship machine, and it proved to be well on the pace with its Goodyear tyres.

The Hahne/Soper/Schlesser Rover was the highest qualifier in seventh place, behind the vanguard of the BMW army, led on this occasion by the Bavaria Automobiles car of Claude Ballot-Lena/ René Metge and Gérard Bleynie. The car set the time in the third session on qualifying rubber and with a new engine in the car, and there were a few who found it hard to believe that anyone could drive a BMW round Spa faster than Hans Stuck. Just as it was getting dark on Wednesday evening Hans headed out of the pitlane and began a lap that left both spectators and other drivers gasping. It was one of those laps you expect from the great German driver - absolutely flat out all the way on the limit and looking it.

The Schnitzer team made an interesting decision on driver pairings, putting Stuck with his usual partner Dieter Quester and a young man by the name of James Weaver who has been campaigning his Bee Em in England so successfulIy. For Weaver it must have been a daunting prospect. "I used to watch Hans in Formula 1 on the TV." admitted James, "so I feel a little hit over awed by it." His progress was restrained not the sideways Weaver of late hut a more precise driver. The car needed precision, so James gave it a try and had he had more laps in qualifying he would indeed have gone quicker. Getting enough laps was a problem for most of the teams, and several newcomers were seen being sent out to learn Spa in the dark!

The Schnitzer car was in fourth position ahead of two other Bee Ems: the BMW Italia car of Helmut Kelleners/Gianfranco Brancatelli who had Marc Surer to back them up: and the Hartge car of Czech Bratislav Enge and his team-mates Henny Hemmes and Axel Huweler.

Behind this bunch of Munich cars and Hahne's Rover was the 635CSi of last year's winning team, the Bastos Juma BMW driven by Thierry Tassin, Alain Cudini and Dany Snobeck. "We have a new engine so it has to be run in," commented the Formula 2 driver after first practice, "and going through Eau Rouge the car was bouncing about so much I thought it would break in two." Despite this alarming problem he ex-pressed an interest in repeating his last year's win.

Next up was a fine performance from the Toyota Supra of Gordon Spice and the Martin brothers. Indeed, the car was third quicket in the very first session, which started wet and dried as it went on.

As the second session drew to a close, close to midnight, news filtered in that Manfred Winkelhock had hit the barriers at the exit of Le Raidillon at the top of the hill after Eau Rouge. Fortunately, considering the speed at which it was travelling, the car was remarkably undamaged, although the chassis was slightly bent. In the end the car qualified 17th. Others too had problems; towards the end of the third session Patrick Neve went head on into a barrier in his Volvo 242 turbo, necessitating a substantial rebuild.

In 10th position on the grid was the German Rover just ahead of the Duez/Allam/Lovett Vitesse, which itself was three slots ahead of the Gitanes Rover. Between the two TWR cars were the BMWs of Denny Vojtech, teamed on this occasion with Marco Micangeli and Hans Fritsche, and the Grano/Muller Giacomelli car. Bruno was deputising for the injured Johnny Cecotto.

Others to have major problems included the Serge Power BMW of Jean-Pierre Jarier/Harald Huysman/Jean-Pierre Malcher car which blew an engine in the first session and suffered transmission failure in the second. Of the rest, 53 starters in all, the Belgian Volvos were by themselves for this race, the Swedish teams deciding to stay away and develop their 240 turbos a little more. Both GTM Engineering cars qualified respectably, despite Neve's accident.

RACE

This race is supposedly held in the height of summer. You know, the end of July, school holidays, nice weather, that sort of thing. Well. Spa-Francorchamps, set deep among the scenic hills of the Belgian Ardennes, just has to be different. The changeable weather that had prevailed since the start of practice three days earlier duly continued into raceday, the morning warmup - there's a misnomer if ever there was one -- held throughout in a miserably damp drizzle. Walkinshaw's Jaguar was again the quickest car in the place but with several of the BMWs, not to mention the Rovers, in hot pursuit.

Shortly before 5 pm, somewhat later than usual, the 53 starters assembled in front of the main grandstands, most of the likely leading contenders playing safe and shod with wet weather tyres, although in fact the air had by now cleared a little. Back in the pack, both the Bastos-Juma BMW and GTM Engineering Volvo teams took to the track on slicks, before Alain Cudini, in the faster of the two Bastos BMWs, hurried back to the dummy grid and was swiftly changed back onto wets.

The clock atop the impressive new (as yet unfinished) Uniroyal Tower read some seven minutes after five by the time the field had completed their pace lap behind an open Mercedes, but at last the race was under way. Walkinshaw, as expected, immediately moved his Jaguar to the fore, but the opportunist Stuck split Tom from his teammate Enzo Calderari midway round the very first lap and shadowed Walkinshaw closely before moving ahead on lap 3. Here was the German at his best, with a nicely balanced car and on a truly challenging circuit. Hans was clearly revelling in the handeability of the Schnitzer BMW, soon moving clear in the lead. By lap 5, Walkinshaw still held second place, some 4.3 secs in arrears, but clearly content to bide his time, circulating just ahead of an enormous group of cars that changed places with every lap. Through it all, though, came the Rovers, Eddy Joosen moving his Gitanes Vitesse up into second place on lap 6, soon afterwards to he followed by Armin Hahne's Austin Rover Fleet example and the privately run German car (running Goodyear tyres as opposed to the others' Dunlops) in the hands of Olaf Manthey.

Claude Ballot-Lena upheld the surprising practice form of his Dominique Fornage owned BMW by also slipping ahead of the Jaguars, the veteran Frenchman running in tandem with the Czech/Hartge BMW of Zdenek Vojtech. By lap 7, Walkinshaw and Calderari were back in seventh and eighth places but not at all concerned. "We agreed to let the BMWs have their own show in those early laps," confirmed the canny Scot later. "We just weren't going to get involved. Stay out of trouble, that's our motto, at least for the early part of the race."

The same strategy was adopted by the Bastos-Juma team, Cudini and Lucien Guitteny (the latter on slicks) running just outside the top 10 and in company with Kelleners (Eggenberger BMW), Bretislav Enge (in the second of the Czeck/Hartge cars), Peter Lovett (content to run steadily in the fourth Rover), Roberto Ravaglia (Schnitzer BMW) and Jean-Pierre Jarier (Serge Power BMW). The last named was soon to make real progress having also started on slick tyres.

Meanwhile, as a proper dry line began to work through, Stuck found himself at a reduced advantage. The V8 Rovers, running in impressive formation, homed in on the straight six car, Joosen driving like a man possessed in front of his home crowd. On lap 14 we saw the race's third different leader as Eddy moved ahead of Stuck, the German content to lap consistently even if that meant giving a little away to the Rovers at this early stage of the race.

By the end of the first 60 mins, indeed, the Austin Rover management must have been delighted to witness three of their prized Vitesses leading the event, with Lovett also happily running along in 11th place. Further back there were several disappointments already, Erik Hoyer's little Toyota Corolla in trouble even before the start and having to join the event almost a complete lap down. First of the significant pitcallers was Umberto Grano in his Eggenberger BMW, the former ETC Champion complaining that the car was "completely undriveable". Equipped with new Pirelli rubber, Sigi Muller Jr took over the car after losing over a lap.

Teammate Keleeners was also in for an unscheduled stop soon afterwards, the experienced German similarly struggling on the Italian tyres and running off the circuit at one point. The red and white BMW was clearly in a class of its own at this juncture, pulling out half a minute over Joosen before the Belgian brought his Rover in fora change of rubber just live laps later. Sadly, the Rover challenge was suddenly depleted because Manthey had pitted one lap earlier with a broken halfshaft and then Hahne nulled off just before the chicane, unable to select a gear. The gritty Armin, winner of this race last year in a BMW, of course, started to try and push the car back to the pits but quickly realised the futility of this and so set to in trying to repair the problem himself. Neither ploy worked, however, and the car was posted as a retirement, before either Soper or Schlesser had a chance to drive.

With the leaders lapping at around the 3 mins mark, the first scheduled stops occurred after around 90 mins of racing, those on wet rubber hardly able to wait for the opportunity to switch to slicks. The Jaguars, predictably, were among the first to stop. still running close together in 13th and 14th places. although once on dry rubber they soon began to make their mark.

A very fine opening stint by Guitteny saw his slick shod Bastos 3 up into second place by the time he pitted to hand over to Pierre-Alain Thibout after 36 laps, this allowing the Gitanes Rover, now with Tony Pond at the helm, back up into second place. Right on the dot of two hours, Jarier brought the leading car in for its first replenishment of fuel, his margin being such that Jean-Pierre Malcher could regain the track with still almost half a minute in hand over Pond. Stuck, still at the wheel of the lead Schnitzer car, also looked strong in third place ahead of Ballot-Lena/Rene Metge and then the pair of Bastos cars. Walkinshaw's Jaguar, now driven by Heyer, was up into seventh place, one ahead of the sister XJS. The drying circuit was already beginning to work in favour of the powerful V 12s.

Tony Pond was also making fine use of his Rover's sure footedness, the rally cum racer soon beginning to make inroads into the lead held by Malcher, a former French saloon car champion. On lap 50, Pond roared past into the lead up the long climb towards Les Combs. Car 26 was back in front.

Just after 8 pm, the race now three hours old, Malcher pitted. He'd done only 21 laps and was obviously in trouble, losing several laps in detecting and repairing a damaged steering arm. The official positions after three hours, however, credited the Serge Power BMW still with second place and ahead of Stuck and Ballot-Lena/Metge. Then came the two Bastos BMWs, Cudini still heading Guitteny/Thibaut, and the first of the Jaguars, Win Percy having just relieved Heyer. Calderari was now back in the second XJS, following a short stint by Pilette, but was separated from his team leader by the Lovett/Duez Rover and the steady Fabien Giroix/Jean Krucker Garage du Bac/Motul BMW.

The first ten positions at 3 Hours:
1. Joosen/Pond (Rover Vitesse) 60 laps;
2. Jarier/Matcher (BMW 635CSi), 60 laps;
3. Stuck (BMW 635CSi), 59 laps;
4. Ballot-Lena Metge (BMW 635CSi), 59 laps;
5. Cudini (BMW 635CSi), 59 laps;
6. Guitteny/Thibaut (BMW 635CSi), 59 laps;
7. Walkinshaw/Heyer (Jaguar XJS), 59 laps;
8. Lovett/Duez (Rover Vitesse), 59 laps;
9. Giroix/Krucker (BMW 635CSi), 59 laps;
10. Dieudonné/Delcourt (Volvo 242 Turbo), 59 laps;

Shortly afterwards, Cudini brought in the erstwhile fifth placed Bastos BMW, having driven from the outset, to refuel, change tyres and hand over to Dany Snobeck. The fastest of the Jaguars, meanwhile, quickly moved ahead of Thibaut in the other Juma car and then took over fourth place when Metge pitted, while stops on successive, laps for the Joosen/Pond Rover and Stuck/Quester BMW saw the Tom Walkinshaw Racing Jaguar back into the lead on lap 74 for the first time since a little after 5 pm. The race had by now settled down into a quite distinguishable pattern despite the routine pitstop schedule having to be slightly revised by each team after the (in some cases) enforced early first stop for tyre changes.

And then came another little twist, something at which Spa-Francorchamps seems particularly adept. The drizzle returned as darkness began to close in, just to make life doubly difficult for the drivers. And if that didn't serve to keep them on their toes - in a race that was being run at an extraordinarily fast pace - the hilly nature of the circuit saw to it that some parts of the course were significantly wetter than others. There was no easy way out.

Several spins were recorded in these most difficult of conditions, most significant of which was the Calderari Jaguar, which went off at the tricky double apex downhill left hander at Pouhon. "It was my fault," admitted the honest Swiss. "It was just before the end of my stint and I had just passed one of the Alfas. That was just enough for me to lose me concentration and then it was too late to turn in to the corner." Calderari limped the strick en car back to pits but damage to the front suspension was extensive. And irreparable. Jaguar honour was thus on the shoulders of Walkinshaw/Heyer/Percy, still doing an admirable job and maintaining a relatively easy pace.

Tom Walkinshaw Racing's other charges, however, the Rover team, continued to struggle, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, who took over from Pond's marvellous stint, could not maintain the same sort of pace, the former Renault Grand Prix driver having completed relatively few miles in qualifying. By the 100 lap mark, he had dropped back from second to sixth place, almost one full lap down on the leaders. Walkinshaw took over once more from Percy on lap 91, which allowed the Snobeck/Cudini/Tassin Bastos BMW, now with the Belgian in control, up for their first taste of the lead; but only until lap 100, when it also made its next scheduled stop. As these two fought out the lead, Stuck/Quester/Weaver remained strongly in the running with third place, with Guitteny/Thibaut/Gartner fourth, ahead of Ballot-Lena/Metge/Bleynie and then Jabouille. Also on the same lap, having striven hard to make up for time lost early in the race, was the Grano/Muller/Giacomelli Eggenberger BMW. A dark horse, perhaps?

Also runing well was the second of the Schnitzer BMWs, in the colours of Wurth tools and driven by Ravaglia/Gerhard Berger/Manfred Winkelhock. The latter duo caused some consternation, particularly to Ravaglia, by arriving very late from the Fl test sessions at Zandvoort. "It is going to be a very long race," quipped Roberto at the start, having heard not a word from his co-drivers. Eventually, though, they did appear and apart from a minor off course excursion in Ravaglia's hands, the car was running well, up into fifth place, just behind the sister car, after 120 laps.

The first ten positions at 6 hours:
1. Walkinshaw Heyer Percy, 120 laps;
2. Cudini/Snobeck/Tassin, 119 laps;
3. GuittenyiThibaut/Gartner, 119 laps;
4. Stuck Quester Weaver, 118 laps;
5. Ravaglia/Berger/Winkelhock (BMW 635CSi), 118 laps;
6. Grano/Muller/Giacomelli (BMW 635CSi), 118 laps;
7. Joosen/Jabouille/Pond, 118 laps;
8. Ballot-Lena/Metge/Bleynie, 118 laps:
9. Giroix/Krucker Hollinger(BMW635CSi), 117 laps;
10. Spice/Martin/Martin (Toyota Supra), 115 laps;

The appearance of the Gordon Spice/Martin brothers' Toyota Celica Supra in the top 10 represented a good effort, just reward for a sensible, restrained drive that was punctuated only by a minor `off' by Philippe Martin at La Source and then a fast, extra stop when Spice misread a pit signal.

As midnight approached, a sudden heavy shower of rain nearly spelled disaster for many teams, driver after driver later admitting to almost falling foul of the treacherous surface and poor visibility: "I tell you, I was dead lucky to get back," exclaimed James Weaver, who all but spun off at Eau Rouge before he had a chance to change onto wet weather tyres. The same was true of Tassin, who managed to splash his way back to the pits, still in second place. Not so fortunate, however, was Zdenek Vojetch, who tangled with the slower BMW of Patrick Trucco at Eau Rouge, to the detriment of both. Harald Huysman, now driving the Serge Power BMW, also spun off terminally. Then there was a fracas between the Alfas of Peter Oberndorfer and Daniele Toffoli, as a result of which a marshal was hurt. These incidents heralded the start of what was to be a dramatic night with the first of four separate Pace Car incidents.

The second came just about one hour later, shortly before lam, following a coming together between the Kelleners BMW, already sorely delayed, and an Alfa, and both of these incidents were to prove a hindrance to the leading Jaguar. At the first, having just changed on to wet tyres, Walkinshaw found himself held up at the pitlane exit, the marshals under strict instructions not to let cars out other than just behind one of the two Pace Cars that were in operation. This enabled Cudini to retake the lead, soon to be assisted further at the second caution period when one of the 'cruise control cars' picked up Walkinshaw, just as he had closed to within 20 secs of the leader. Thus, as Cudini sped away to join the queue behind the other course car, a seething Walkinshaw was obliged to remain in line. This, allied to the fact that the Jaguar had just completed a routine stop that included a change of brake pads, meant that he suddenly had quite a lot of ground to make up.

Even at this late hour of the night, the race remained full of intrigue. Last year's winning Bastos team held the lead, but lurking not far behind were both of the Schnitzer BMWs, the Gitanes Rover and, of course, the remaining TWR Jaguar, potentially the fastest car of all. And nor was the action contained to the circuit. The traditionally huge Spa crowd had stayed on well into the night, despite the miserably damp conditions. There were bonfires, barbeques, parties of all sorts., a really carnival atmosphere which, when added to the spectacle of flat-out motoring - there was no cruising for a finish here - ensured marvellous entertainment.

One sad element of the second pace car period came when one of the marshals, waving his yellow flag vigorously while standing in the middle of the track, was collected by the second of the Serge Power Bee-Emms, driven at that stage by regular F3 man Kurt Thiim. The well-meaning fellow was thrown high in the air by the BMW and was taken to hospital. Happily, it seems that he was not too badly injured. The car meanwhile sustained body damage and a broken windscreen, which, added to earlier delays, served to put them further out of the reckoning.

The small hours were notable for Snobeck, in the leading Juma 635, running up the chicane escape road on one occasion and for Ravaglia once again putting his Wurth car off the tarmac, but otherwise the positions had remained fairly stable for the first time really in the entire race. And here we were at the halfway mark, 12 hours gone and 12 to go. Still a long way ...

The first ten positions at 12 hours:
1. Cudin/Snobeck/Tassin, 230 laps;
2. Stuck/Quester/Weaver, 229 laps:
3. Walkinshaw/Heyer/Percy, 228 laps;
4. Joosen/Pond/Jabouille, 227 laps;
5. Guitenny/Thibaut/Gartner, 226, laps;
6. Grano/Muller/Giacomelli, 226 laps;
7. Ravaglia/Berger/Winkelhock, 225 laps;
8. Ballot-Lena Metge,Bleynie, 224 laps:
9. Giroix/Krucker/Hollinger, 222 laps;
10. Lovett/Duez/Schlesser, 222 lap;

Walkinshaw, apart from not being too amused at losing out in not one but two pace car situations, was nevertheless reasonably happy with progress, the car still totally trouble-free: "We're just making our way hack up after those delays," he asserted, "but there's still plenty of time."

It was just after the half distance point that the complexion of the race changed yet again. In two separate but related incidents at Stavelot, the two leading cars both ran off the road and lost time. Suddenly, the Jaguar was back in the lead! The facts of what actually happened were difficult to ascertain, but it appears that Cudini, the leader, was the first to go off, his car actually rolling but emerging relatively unscathed, with only a smashed rear window to show. Quester, arriving on the scene shortly afterwards, had to run wide to avoid the stricken Bastos car and himself slid onto the sandy runoff area, from where he had to physically push the car back onto the circuit. In all, both cars lost in the region of three laps.

This dramatic development shortly preceded what was to become the longest caution period of all. Weather conditions had deteriorated steadily through the night hours, the ever present drizzle now joined by a thick fog that began by settling in the valley and then crept outwards to all points. Visibility. already impaired, became almost impossible, so the race officials wisely despatched their two Mazda RX-7 pace cars once more. This was turning into a long night. During the previous afternoon, however, Mr Walkinshaw had assured me that the weather forecast for Sunday was "hot and dry". One hesitates to disagree with the everefficient Scot, but such a thought did seem rather on the optimistic side'

The 'pea-souper' saw to it that caution flags remined in force for fully two hours and 20 minutes, ensuring that cars were only allowed to circulate in strict formation, occasionally peeling off into the pits for routine stops. One of these, however, was to have a severe effect on the second Bastos BMW, Guitteny adjudged to have disobeyed a marshal's order to wait at the end of the pitlane. The Frenchman, widely experienced, protested his innocence but was nevertheless blackflagged and told he could take no further part in the race. As neither Thibaut nor Gartner were prepared for such a harsh eventuality, more time was lost before the car was able to continue, the chores now shared solely between the Belgian and the Austrian.

The other sensational development concerned the weather. Miraculously, the dense fog had lifted by 8.30 to reveal bright blue skies. Not a cloud to be seen. lncroyable, even for the notoriously fickle Ardennes.

Strong night driving from Pond and Joosen had worked their Rover Vitesse back into a worthy second place by breakfast time, but then their persistence was cruelly halted; a fuel pump failure (or running out of fuel, depending on who you talked to) stranded Jabouille by the chicane. The 18th hour also accounted for the Ravaglia/Berger/Winkelhock BMW, which had provided some spectacular viewing especially when the ATS Fl man lapped in company with teammate James Weaver - until a blown engine followed several minor excursions and put them out for good.

Lovett and Duez, joined in their Austin Rover Fleet Vitesse not by Jeff Allam, who was stricken with a `bug' on Friday night, but by Jean-Louis Schlesser following the early demise of his own car (but strange that he should be chosen in preference to ETC Rover regular Steve Soper), had overcome a broken gear linkage and other minor delays to move up into seventh, a couple of laps clear of the Spice/Martins Supra, still running like a train. Grano/Muller/Giacomelli however, lost more time when Bruno spun the car a couple of times, once holing the sump on a kerb, necessitating another lengthy stop. The Bernard de Dryver/Alain Semoulin/Hervé Regout Ford Capri, even though outdated, nevertheless ran in sterling fashion to round out the top 10.

The first ten positions at 18 Hours:
1. Walkinshaw/Heyer/ Percy, 330 laps;
2. Cudini/Snobeck/Tassin, 327 laps;
3. Stuck/Quester/Weaver, 326 laps;
4. (Guitteny)/Thibaut/Gartner, 325 laps;
5. Ballot-Lena/Metge/Bleynie, 324 laps;
6. Giroix/Krucker/Hollinger, 323 laps;
7. Lovett/ Duez/Schlesser, 322 laps;
8. Spice/Martin/ Martin, 320 laps;
9. Grano/Muller/Giacomelli, 318 laps;
10. de Dryver/Semoulin/Regout (Ford Capri), 316 laps;

The 20th hour dealt a severe blow to the Bavarian Automobiles 635 of Ballot-Lena, which lost a good fifth place with a half shaft failure, while in trouble soon after was the sole surviving Rover, which pitted and then encountered a jammed starter motor. Fortunately, swift work by the TWR crew saw the car back in action without too much loss. These dramas plus some more press-on driving from Gordon Spice elevated the "Toyota to fifth place, although this carne under seige again during the closing hour. Still there was action in what had proved a most fascinating race. Just as Metge seemed poised to reclaim the position for Fornage's enthusiastic crew, however. René limped the BMW into the pits. The engine had gone sour, and although the mechanics once more leapt into action. nothing could be done except wait for the dying minutes of the race and then try to struggle round and salvage a place. Their eventual 13th position was poor reward for a fine performance.

Spice, of course, was thoroughly delighted with his fifth placing, the car perhaps not best suited to this type of competition but nevertheless running perfectly throughout. The Supra finished over one lap clear of the badly delayed Grano/Muller/Giacomelli BMW, which had been patched up yet again, followed by the Garage du Bac BMW, the surviving Rover, Frank Sytner's BMW, shared with the Belgian Simons brothers, which finished less than 2 secs ahead of the good old Capri.

Some six laps ahead of Spice, in fourth place, was the second of the Juma Bastos; cars, Gartner and Thibaut doing well to make up for the loss of Guitteny, their car just under 1 min adrift of the Stuck/ Quester/Weaver Schnitzer 635. Tassin/Cudini/Snobeck were a lap ahead of these two and in second place, thoroughly delighting the partisan crowd if not managing to repeat their success of 1983.

Without a doubt, the day belonged to Jaguar. The car had run faultlessly throughout the entire event and still sounded as crisp as ever when Walkinshaw roared the V12 past the packed grandstands to complete a memorable victory. There had been a heartbeat or two lost when Tom pitted with less than 10 mins to go, to change a punctured right front tyre but otherwise their progress had been virtually uninterrupted. Tom's second win in this race, Hans's third and Win's first (after five previous retirements) had been thoroughly deserved. Jaguar, in their third attack on the event, had overcome the early setback of Calderari's exit to record their first win (in fact, also their first finish) in this most gruelling of races. It had furthermore been achieved in the face of stern opposition and in conditions which for half of the race at least had been far from in their favour.

Special Thanks To: Glyn Parham and Paul Adams.

The Race Results

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© RWP dec. 2004