From Nürburg with Speed

The Lancia LC1 has proven to be the car to beat this year, and the Nurburgring 1000km confirmed this trend indeed. However, it was no walk in the park for the Italian team, as the works Porsches issued a serious challenge in this great afternoon of endurance racing.

 

Coxon snuck past Weber on the start, and things quickly heated up. The pair was to keep a very impressive pace for the first 8 laps, in close company. Quite far behind them, the fight was nothing short of epic. Gaggles of very different Group C cars battling it out on every corner of the green hell is always a sight worth seeing. Kowalski, Tiengou, Martinelli, Whited, Swindells, Vermeersch and Jundt were trading position on every lap, keeping the fans very entertained indeed. Unfortunately, what the Nordschleife gives, the Nordschleife takes back. Soon, as tyres started to wear off, drivers were caught off guard, and we lost several very interesting entries way too early. Tiengou and Kowalski, who had been shining in the early stages of the races, totaled their cars on lap 5 and 6, respectively. Uncharacteristically, Martinelli and his works Porsche, who was going strong in 4th place, suffered an engine failure early in the race. Paulet never got the chance to show his pace with the car.


Ring 01


As Jundt’s Ford was making great progress up the field, eventually securing third place, Rob Swindells and Jason Whited were having impressive runs in their ageing cars, racing very close to each other for ten laps. Unfortunately, on the first driver swap, the Joest Porsche suffered a terrible bug, and retired. The Rondeau driver, after having lost a lap for repairs on lap 10, was to set a formidable come back, lapping very fast and consistently. After having handed over the French car to Bruno Chacon, who had a good stint, this team as well was to suffer one of the dreaded bugs on their last swap. No doubt Swindells and Maycock, already winners in Silverstone this year, and Whited, probably the fastest man on track considering his car, will be forces to be reckoned with in future events.


Ring 02                 Ring 03
 

As Coxon pitted after 8 laps, commentators and fans alike were in shock. Surely the 956 could not compete with the Lancia by stopping five times? As it turned out, when the Lancia stopped for fuel and tyres on lap 12, its stop was 15 seconds longer than the Porsche’s. From then on, the maths were simple: to win, Coxon and Wilks had to beat the Lancia by 1mn15s on track. Unfortunately, as Wilks took over on lap 16 it became clear that he could not keep up with his teammate’s impressive pace. Although he did set great laptimes in the 7mn00 region, Weber meanwhile was still lapping some 15s a lap quicker, and the gap he managed to set on his rivals was to prove decisive. However, there was drama in the Lancia pits, where Jan Titz was nowhere to be found at the start of the race! Eventually, he did show up and took over the LC1 halfway into the event. He managed an excellent double stint with distant pressure from Coxon, who was setting lap records after lap records in an attempt to close the gap. It was not to be though, and when the quick Englishman pitted again with four laps to go, Lancia had the race firmly in their grasp.

 

In Group 5, Lancia won as well! A commanding performance earned Yves Placais a very fine win. Having been the fastest in the class all year long, it was only fair that he did taste champagne eventually. His main rival Mikula out after a single lap due to technical issues, he found himself in a remote fight with Jukka Maattanen and Jason White, who despite being a tad slower on the track, could make the whole race on three short stops thanks to the M1’s great fuel mileage. However, Yves was not to be denied, and his class drive even allowed him to beat a competitive Ford crew and finish in 4th overall! One of the finest endurance solo drive ever witnessed in the history of the league for sure. Splendid results for Marazzi, Janak and Kalide, who finished in this order, 3rd 4th and 5th in class and 7th, 8th and 9th overall after tough solo drives. Early on in the race, Noack and Canola proved to be serious contenders, but they both crashed out. Hopefully we see them again at the wheel of competitive cars this season. Others interesting performances came from Chapman, Acerlinth, Wattman and Verplanken, but they all had to either retire or make long stops due to several misfortunes. Acerlinth gets the unofficial fair-play award for pushing the Wattman brothers' wounded RX-7 over the line on his 935’s remaining 3 wheels! True Swedish camaraderie for sure.


Ring 04
 

Zakspeed can boast a solid performance overall, with 3rd and 5th place. Jundt and Jacques showed their pace and reliability, their podium position never being seriously contested after lap 12. Vermeersch, Jereb and Knowles had a slightly more eventful race, finishing without a front bumper, and behind a group 5 car. Tough luck for WM, with a car that’s considerably off the pace, Thiim tried to keep in touch with the rest of the pack but a massive shunt meant he had to spend a long time in the pits. Later on, Dechavanne had to retire the car for the same reason.


Ring 05
 

Overall the race was a great success, with 23 starting cars and 11 finishers, great sportsmanship, skilled driving all around the track and competitive racing in both classes. Bring on Spa already!

(thanks to Matthias Weber for the pictures !)