Tag Archives: Mark Webber

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Monterey Magic

Autumn or Fall as the locals would say is a very agreeable time to be in California’s Monterey Peninsula. This weekend the 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge will reach its climax after a season of classic endurance GT races. SRO has history at the fantastic Laguna Seca track dating back to its earliest days. Some 20 years ago the final round of the 1998 FIA GT Championship, was held at Laguna Seca. In the top GT1 class it was scheduled to be a classic encounter between the veteran champion, Klaus Ludwig and the bright star emerging to ascendancy, Bernd Schneider. Yes of course they had co-drivers, Ricardo Zonta and Mark Webber, but despite the obvious talent and potential of that pair all eyes were on the two Germans of different generations. Schneider had taken the title in 1997 and had looked favourite to repeat this for most of the 1998 season.

What added spice to the contest was that they were both driving for the AMG Mercedes team, for the majority of the season in the all-conquering Mercedes-Benz CLK-LM. Approaching the decisive race, the score sheet showed Ludwig and Zonta ahead of their rivals by four points, the margin between first and second place on track. However, Schneider and Webber had racked up five wins to four, so if the points tally was equal after Laguna Seca they would be champions on the basis of more race wins. It was a case of the winner takes it all and second place would be nowhere.

The GT2 class was a complete contrast to this close contest in GT1.  The Oreca Chrysler Viper team dominated proceedings, winning eight out of the nine rounds already run. Olivier Beretta and Pedro Lamy had grabbed the Drivers’ Title with seven victories, Monterey was expected to be more of the same. Could either the Roock Racing Porsches or Cor Euser’s Marcos challenge the Viper’s hegemony?

1998 was an almost perfect season for the AMG Mercedes squad. The only hiccup had come during the Le Mans 24 Hours when both cars went out early after suffering engine failure. A seal in the power-steering hydraulic pump failed and that trivial fault fatally damaged the engine. It was a most un-Mercedes moment as otherwise they were in a different league to their closest and only serious competitor, Porsche AG’s 911 GT1 98.

In reality the Porsche was only a threat at certain kinds of circuits where the disadvantage of their turbocharged engines as regulated under the FIA GT1 rules package was not a factor. And even then, it was almost always Allan McNish who was able to challenge the Mercedes duo, we would grow accustomed to the electric pace of the Scot in the following decade, but it was something of an eye opener in 1998.

Adding even more spice to the contest was the announcement by Ludwig that he would retire from motor sport after the race in Monterey. His career had included three victories at Le Mans and five DTM titles, could he add the FIA GT Championship to the list? Klaus certainly was motivated, and said before the race, “Laguna Seca is one of the tracks I love the best. It’s a demanding track and an exciting track – the Corkscrew, in Europe, impossible! To win there would be very special for me.”

Ludwig was not the only one departing the GT scene, Ricardo Zonta was bound for Formula One, another Brazilian on the conveyor-belt of talent that started with Emmerson Fittipaldi and continued through Piquet, Senna, Barrichello and Massa amongst many others.

However, there was still a Championship to be decided. Most Europeans like myself imagine that California is a place of sunshine and beaches, blondes and brunettes of either sex, all tanned, forever young. So, it was something of a shock arriving at the track in anticipation of Saturday Morning’s Qualifying session to conditions usually found at the Nürburgring or Spa, torrential rain. The first session was stopped after 15 minutes as a river of mud was blocking the Corkscrew, not quite how I imagined the weather would be on the West Coast.

The afternoon’s conditions were much better and the advantage swung Ludwig’s way courtesy of Zonta. The Brazilian’s pole position lap of 1m16.154s was 0.434 seconds faster than Schneider’s best.  Afterwards Ricardo explained. “My qualifying lap was really good but not without a problem. Because I experienced a little brake balance problem, I got off-line in the last corner where it was a little wet. That might have cost me some time.”

In GT2 the Viper effort was reduced to one car after David Donohue crashed out on Friday. He hit the wall hard as a result of brake failure, the car caught fire and was too badly damaged for any immediate repair.

Class Pole was grabbed by a very determined Stéphane Ortelli in his Roock Racing Porsche 911 GT2 with a 1:24.851 lap, less than a tenth of second advantage over Cor Euser’s Marcos LM 600 who was fractions faster than Beretta’s Viper. This could be a race to match the GT1 battle, or so we hoped.

After the traditional end-of-term drivers’ photo Klaus was presented with a lump of the track as a memento of his final race, it seemed a very Californian thing to do.

AMG Mercedes had the front row to themselves, who would emerge from Turn One in the lead, Schneider or Ludwig? Everyone held their breath but in the end the veteran got the best start and quickly pulled away from his rival.

In any case Bernd had his mirrors full of a Porsche with McNish making a nuisance of himself, even passing the Mercedes after a few laps.

GT2 also saw a fierce tussle for the lead in opening laps before the natural order of things asserted itself with Beretta grabbing the lead. Two of the major challengers to the all-conquering Viper both retired with gearbox failure after just seven laps, that was the end of Jan Lammers in the Konrad Porsche and also Claudia Hürtgen in the 911 she shared with Ortelli. A few laps later and the Marcos was out. Also with transmission woes.

Ludwig had his own dramas to contend with while negotiating his way through the traffic. William Langhorne in the Stadler GT2 Porsche was having a spirited contest with Michel Neugarten in his Elf Haberthur example, swapping positions round the sweeping track. The American was fully concentrating on the car in front so did not see Ludwig dive underneath him at Turn Three. The result was a heavy side impact that nearly put Klaus off the tarmac but somehow, he gathered himself together and raced on at full speed. Langhorne crashed out the following lap at the Corkscrew, something broke he maintained.

Schneider also got rid of the McNish problem around this point, the clutch failed on the Porsche stranding the Scot out on the far side of the circuit. It would be a straight fight for victory for the #1 and #2 Mercedes. Schneider then dived into the pits, fuel only, no fresh Bridgestones.

A lap later Ludwig was in, then out of the car, Zonta taking new rubber. He managed to stall the CLK-LM as he left the pits, all of which gave a handy advantage back to Schneider.

Bernd was looking certain to take the title but then lost a load of time stuck behind Jörg Müller in the other factory Porsche 911 GT1 98. Müller was determined to not go a lap down on the leader, hoping that the deployment of a Safety Car would give him the chance to catch up to the front. Eventually Müller ran wide at the first turn, allowing Schneider to pass, though he was furious at his fellow German. The gap was around the 12 second mark but this might not be enough to guarantee victory.

The second stints ended and into the pits came Schneider to hand over to his Aussie co-driver who also received a new set of tyres. This would put Webber behind Zonta on the road as it was expected that his stop would be a fuel only affair and so it proved. The AMG Mercedes management had anxious moments after both of their cars left the pits for the final time. Both fell off the track at Turn Three where oil had been deposited by a back marker, both cars just missed hitting the wall by a fraction, it could have been a disaster.

Zonta had a lead of 16 seconds but Webber got his head down and chipped away taking a second here, a second there. The #8 Porsche intervened again, this time it was Uwe Alzen’s turn to hold up the #1 Mercedes for a lap or two. Eventually Weber dived down the inside at the first turn and once again the was contact as the Porsche was muscled out of the way but he was through and the chase was back on.

Webber posted a time of 1:19.094, setting a new GT record, would it be enough? The gap came down to ten seconds but the time ran out for the chasing Mercedes and Zonta crossed the line 10.8 seconds ahead – Ludwig and Zonta were Champions, the fairy tale had come true.

There was no fairy tale in GT2, in fact the whole affair was something of a damp squib. The race was a walk over for Beretta and Lamy, who scored their eight class win of the season, ending up over a lap in front of the second Roock Racing 911 GT2, driven by Bruno Eichmann and Mike Hezemans. The final spot on the podium want to another 911 GT2, driven by Michael Trunk and Bernhard Müller.

Schneider showed grace in defeat, he is, and always was, a class act. “Failing to win the title after 10 races by just 10 seconds shows how tough we raced for the Drivers’ Championship this season. Although Mark and I didn’t manage to win the Championship, I’m glad for the team. Congratulations to my old friend Klaus, who deserves to end his career as Champion.”

Mark later reflected on the result in his excellent autobiography ‘Aussie Grit’. “So, the end result was second place in the FIA GT Championship by a margin of eight points. My disappointment was tempered by happiness for Klaus, since that was his last year in racing, but I also felt it had been a little unfair on Bernd. His partner came from Formula Ford and F3, whereas Ricardo arrived as the new F3000 champion to partner Klaus and was already getting test drives in Formula 1. I could go toe-to-toe with them most times but sometimes I struggled, partly because it was Bernd’s car, basically, and he had it set up as he wanted it, and partly through sheer lack of experience.” Zonta had this to say after the race.   “This was a real tough title fight. I had to give it my all to keep the gap to Mark Webber wide enough to make it. The fact that we both went off because of oil on the track shows how close to the limit we were. I’m really happy about the title and that I could win it together with Klaus.”

The retiring Champion had the last word. “I’m extremely happy about the Championship. This was a sensational achievement by the team, and my co-driver Ricardo is the best I could have asked for. I want to thank especially Norbert Haug and Hans Werner Aufrecht, who brought me back to AMG Mercedes.”

Of course, the old stager did not ride off into the sunset, the lure of motor racing proved too strong. In June 1999 Klaus scored a third win in the Nürburgring 24 Hours driving a Zakspeed Viper. In 2000 Ludwig raced a full season in the revived DTM, scoring a pair of wins at Sachsenring in his Mercedes. Now at the age of 50 he decided to retire as a professional driver. Then, being Klaus, he raced on for a few more years just for fun, notably finishing second overall in the 2006 Nürburgring 24 Hours. It was a helluva career………….

John Brooks, October 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodwood’s Silver

Can it really be 25 years ago that Lord March first introduced the Festival of Speed? These days it is part of what used to be known as ‘The Season’, a must attend for all of those who take pleasure in the automobile. Our man,  John Elwin, was in attendance at the very beginning, so who is more qualified to bring us a report of the delights to be found on the Hill in 2017?

With this being the 25th running of the Festival of Speed you might be forgiven for thinking that Lord March and his team would have run out of ideas for things to celebrate. But no, they found a whole raft of subjects worthy of commemoration to draw in the crowds.

In a departure from tradition they chose to celebrate an individual rather than a make of car with the pride-of-place sculpture on the lawns in front of Goodwood House. The person concerned was no less than Bernie Ecclestone who has recently stood down as the head honcho of Formula 1. Relative newcomers to the sport might think that a controversial choice but he has done more than anyone else to make the sport what it is today and in reality much of what we watch with awe every year at Goodwood simply wouldn’t have happened without Bernie’s drive. There were initial fears that a life-size statue in front of the house would look like a garden gnome but as usual Gerry Judah worked his magic with a creation depicting ‘The Five Ages of Ecclestone’, five representative cars soaring into the sky. Starting with the Connaught he tried unsuccessfully to qualify for the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix, it progressed to Jochen Rindt’s Lotus 72 (Bernie was his manager) a Brabham BT49 from the period when he owned the company, a Ferrari from the Schumacher era and last year’s World Championship-winning Mercedes.

On Sunday Ecclestone was driven up the Hill by Lord March in an open AC that belonged to his grandfather, Bernie being warmly received by the enormous crowds. They were followed by a cavalcade of F1 cars, led by reigning World Champion Nico Rosberg – a big fan of the Festival – at the wheel of a 2014 Mercedes. They returned to the House, where Bernie was introduced from the balcony to the waiting fans. There was something of scrum to get a view and Rosberg, being the last to arrive, had a job to get his race car to the front doorstep. Bernie was then interviewed by Mark Webber, not the most accomplished  emcee in the world, it has to be said, before enjoying a Champagne reception surrounded by many luminaries from the F1 world, ranging from former Brabham designer Gordon Murray to FIA President Jean Todt. As if you needed reminding that the times are a-changing, amongst them were Ron Dennis and Peter Sauber, two long-standing team owners who have recently relinquished control of the teams they ran for so long, leaving them in the hands of corporate non-entities.

The cynics amongst us could be amused that the new guard in the shape of Chase Carey, head of Liberty Media, was left to rub shoulders amongst the riff-raff at ground level, some of whom reportedly resorted to fisticuffs! Carey may well have gone away re-thinking his ideas to give the public more access to the Formula 1 Paddock – maybe Bernie wasn’t so wrong after all! He also got to ride up the Hill in Duncan Pittaway’s fire-breathing monster 27-litre Fiat; aside from testing the aerodynamic qualities of his faintly ridiculous moustache (he didn’t wear a helmet) it may also have given him ideas about returning to proper engines. Pittaway drove the monster to Goodwood from his home in Bristol, requiring eleven fuel stops en route – imagine that in a GP!

Another nod to the passing era was the celebration of the Williams Grand Prix Engineering’s 40 years in Formula One. Sadly Sir Frank himself was not well enough to attend but daughter Claire and son Jonathan were present, supported by Patrick Head and Bernie and including others with Williams connections such as Adrian Newey and drivers Nico Rosberg and Damon Hill. Whilst Claire busies herself with the day-to-day running of the team, Jonathan is taking care of the history. Williams has retained ownership of many of its old cars, as recently seen at the birthday celebrations staged at Silverstone. Jonathan has a programme to bring the old cars back to life, aiming to work on two a year. This year’s projects have been the six-wheeler that never actually raced, and Nigel Mansell’s 1992 World Championship-winning FW14B, which remarkably has not run in the intervening 25 years! The FW14B with its Renault engine is not compatible with modern software, but fortunately Williams still has the original tower computer from the day, complete with floppy discs, and it still works! Both cars took to the Hill at Goodwood. With Claire and Jonathan firmly ensconced, and Claire shortly to give birth, hopefully this most British of teams will remain under the control of the family for many years to come.

The Cosworth DFV was the mainstay of many Formula One teams for some years, including Williams, and this most successful engine of all time celebrates its 50th birthday in 2017, having debuted in the back of the Lotus 49 at the Dutch Grand Prix in June 1967. Lotus boss Colin Chapman had convinced Ford to fund development of the engine for the exclusive use of Lotus initially, in the new 3-litre formula, but such was its dominance, everyone wanted it in the following years.

The DFV powered all three of Sir Jackie Stewart’s World Championships, scored whilst driving for Ken Tyrrell’s team. Remarkably, all three cars were at Goodwood, so Jackie together with sons Paul and Mark demonstrated them on the Hill several times during the weekend, driving the 1969 Matra MS80, 1971 Tyrrell 003 and 1973 Tyrrell 006 in what must be a unique convoy.

No motoring event this year has been complete without a Ferrari 70th Anniversary tribute and Goodwood was no different. One could get a bit blase about the Prancing Horse-adorned machines but Goodwood did bring together a breathtaking collection from the very beginning to the very latest and since most were demonstrated on the Hill, it was an aural as well as visual feast. Amongst them was a re-creation – the originals were all destroyed – of the Sharknose 156, giving Derek Hill an opportunity to find out what his late father Phil’s 1961 World Championship-winning machine was like. During the course of the weekend Jackie Stewart was also re-united with the 330 P4 he and Chris Amon drove to second place in the 1967 BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch, thus helping Ferrari clinch the World Sportscar Championship. It is the sole-surviving example of a car Jackie himself describes as possibly the most beautiful racing car of all.

We are becoming immune to the eye-watering numbers being paid at auction nowadays for almost any Ferrari, so it was somewhat amusing to learn that Nick Mason paid £4,000 for his 250 GTO! I can recall seeing it parked, two wheels up on the kerb, outside a well-known model shop on a busy road many years ago – bet he doesn’t do that now. It also has the registration number 250 GTO, leading one commentator to muse that that alone was probably worth more than his house. Another Ferrari in long-term ownership is Sally Mason-Styrron’s 1949 166. The combination was actually the very first to drive up the Hill at the first Festival back in 1993. What’s the betting Sally and her Ferrari will be back for the 25th anniversary FoS next year?

The Ferrari demonstration led neatly into a tribute to the late John Surtees, who passed away earlier this year. Surtees won the 1964 World Championship at the wheel of a Ferrari. John was a stalwart supporter of the Goodwood events from the very beginning, bringing along cars and ‘bikes from his own collection, as well as cajoling others to come along. Amongst them was Stuart Graham, who like Surtees also successfully made the switch from ‘bikes to cars, although not in Formula 1. He was, however, the only man to win the TT on two and four wheels. At Goodwood, Stuart both rode ‘bikes and drove a re-creation of the Brut 33-liveried Chevrolet Camaro he campaigned so successfully in touring car racing.

The John Surtees tribute included a minute of noise, in the presence of John’s wife and daughters, Lord March and Bernie Ecclestone, followed by a demonstration of various ‘bikes ridden by the likes of Freddie Spencer, and cars including a Lola T70, Surtees F1 and F2 cars, and of course a Honda F1 car.

The AMG business is now the sporting arm of Mercedes-Benz, but it started out as a tuning business run by Hans-Werner Aufrecht, ultimately becoming synonymous with Mercedes’ successes in DTM, the German touring car championship, in the 1990’s and progressing to the then-new GT1 sports car programme, culminating in that famous flying incident at Le Mans. Now owned by Mercedes, the company celebrates 50 years this year and to mark the occasion Bernd Schneider, a driver who has been associated with many of its successes, demonstrated a DTM Mercedes C-Klasse. Of course, Mercedes was very much in evidence elsewhere, with everything from turn-of-the-century (that’s last century!) racers to recent Formula 1 cars. Amongst them was Ben Collings’ 1908 French GP car that was driven on the road from Bristol in convoy with another Mercedes and Pittaway’s Fiat. Imagine seeing that lot looming up in your rear-view mirror!

Doubtless there were many other anniversaries and celebrations, but Justin Law marked his own 40th birthday by setting the fastest time in the Shoot-Out that brings proceedings to a close on Sunday. Driving an IMSA Bud-liveried Jaguar XJR 12D he set a time of 46.3-seconds, just pipping Jeremy Smith’s Penske PC22 Indy car. Showing the way to the future, Nick Heidfeld was fifth fastest at the wheel of the Mahindra Formula E prototype. With Lord March stating we will see autonomous cars on the Hill next year, times really are a-changing…

…and one last word. Not celebrating any anniversaries that we are aware of, that incorrigible enthusiast Emanuele Pirro really must have thought all his birthdays had come at once, for he got to drive the MoMo Ferrari 333SP, Lotus 56 Turbine Indy car and the six-wheeler Williams. That’s not bad for a day out, is it?

John Elwin, July 2017

Takin’ It To The Streets

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The streets of London have seen most things during the several thousand years that settlements have existed by the banks of the Thames but even for such a cosmopolitan place today was a bit special.

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Early morning workers on their way to toil and extremely well refreshed revellers lurching back to base were treated to the vision of a pair of Porsches running round the streets of the capital.

The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid would not have turned heads, fine vehicle that it is.

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Its companion on the run round famous London landmarks such as Hyde Park Corner, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square will have caused the revellers to curse that last drink and the workers to reach for another expresso.

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Normally confined to the race tracks the Porsche 919 Hybrid was takin’ it to the streets in the hands of Mark Webber, a top bloke.

This Porsche recently took the German marque’s 18th victory at Le Mans and its purpose this morning was to “demonstrate how Porsche is translating its race-winning Hybrid technology from the track to the road.” At least that was what the press release said.

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My take on things is that winning at La Sarthe accrues a sizable amount of bragging rights, and why not display them on the streets of the world’s number one international city? A chance to demonstrate how performance motoring will look in the future.

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There were no road closures just a police escort on the run across Central London. Next stop is Japan and the 6 Hours of Fuji.

John Brooks, September 2016

Full of Eastern Promise

The attention of the endurance sportscar world  has been rightly focused out East this weekend, to the majestic Fuji Speedway, nestling in the shadow of Mount Fuji. My mind drifts back to the last century and the previous FIA sportscar race in Japan, the enticingly titled Pokka Sweat 1000 Kilometres.

Sweat was indeed much in evidence during that event, run in baking hot conditions with nasty August in Japan humidity, a photographer’s lot was not a happy one. Another whose lot was less than joyous during that era was Porsche AG, as the AMG Mercedes steamroller beat them like a gong for the whole of the 1998 FIA GT Championship. Suzuka was no exception and the lead CLK LM, with favoured son Bernd Schneider and his side kick Mark Webber in the cockpit, won easily by two laps.

The AMG pair were aided in this convincing victory by the blunder in the early part of the race by one of their team mates, Ricardo Zonta. Zonta was duelling for second spot with the Porsche 911 GT1 98 of Allan McNish (who else?) and used one of the GT2 Porsches driven by Claudia Hürtgen to assist with late braking, the result when the dust cleared was that all three cars were beached in the gravel trap. To add insult to injury the marshals got Zonta on his way first, leaving an incandescent McNish to wait his turn. The race was over as a contest, barring misfortunes for #1 AMG.

The incident cost the Porsches a couple of laps and Zonta later received a drive through penalty for his misjudgement, though this did nothing to restore the time lost by McNish.

While the Wee Scot was matching Schneider’s lap times before the incident it required something of a leap of faith to imagine that this could be maintained by Yannick Dalmas and Stéphane Ortelli over the 1000 kilometres. In the end the lead Porsche finished a lap down on the #2 Merc to grab the final step on the podium.

The second entry from Weissach suffered a number of misfortunes that first blunted, then eventually ended their challenge for the podium. Mid-race Bob Wollek had contact with a slower car in the chicane and drove the short distance into the pits against the flow of traffic to check the damage. As I wrote at the time, this eccentric piece of driving incurred the ire of the Stewards who awarded him a three minute Stop and Go penalty. That observation incurred the ire of “Brilliant Bob” when he later read it and he threatened the magazine with legal action, even by his standards he was especially touchy that summer.
Jörg Müller finished the day for #8, when once again there was contact with another car in the final chicane. This time it was Geoff Lees in Thomas Bscher’s McLaren F1 GTR who was hit by the Porsche, both crews enjoyed an early bath, Nul Points Reykjavik.

The rest of the GT1 field had a pretty nondescript afternoon, the Persson Mercedes CLK GTR pair showing their 1997 pedigree, finished 4th and 7th, while the singleton DAMS Panoz thundered round to 5th. The Zakspeed Porsche 911 GT1 98 duo could only manage 6th and 8th.

The GT1 category had a fin de siècle feel in the heat and humidity of Japan that year, exaggerated by the rumours that the FIA GT Championship, 1999 style, would be for GT2 cars only. Having invested heavily in this form of competition, Mercedes Benz were keen to go racing somewhere other than Le Mans in the following season. A month or two later we were all dragooned into a press conference in beautiful downtown Miami-Homestead Speedway. Stéphane Ratel was at his charismatic and visionary best, revealing the proposed FIA International Prototype Championship that would pit Mercedes against Porsche and possibly Toyota, Nissan and Audi. The factory contingent would be padded out by a motley crew of GT1/GT2 survivors and prototype inductees who would be press ganged in from the newly formed International Sports Racing Series. The problem was that there were not enough of the true believers, heretics and cynics were found at every turn.

Mango’s Barmy Army in the ISRS may have earned their title many times over, but even daft as they were, they would not fancy a regular drubbing from the Silver Arrows, no matter how good or guaranteed the start money was. Look at how AMG annhilated the Porsche Werks effort in ’98, the score ended up at 10-0 in Stuttgart’s favour. Porsche’s Le Mans prototype project was about to be  killed off by Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking, the CEO, who preferred to invest the cash in Porsche’s new light truck range, the Cayenne. Those of us with true grit gave him the raspberry at the time but he had the last laugh when the multitudes with questionable taste queued round the block to pay full price for this odd vision of a Porsche. PT Barnum really knew what he was talking about. Toyota had another cunning plan in mind in their quest to spend riches of Croesus on mediocre motorsport, go to Formula One. Nissan fired TWR after Le Mans 1998 and then realised that they were bust in all but name, so motorsport went out the window. Audi were in no hurry to tangle with their German rivals, reasoning that they had much to learn about the sport of driving long distances fast. So the IPC was a dead duck almost from the start and then the newly formed ALMS became the potential target for AMG and Mercedes. The aviation disasters at La Sarthe the following June extinguished that dream.

All of which meant that the GT2 battle was under increased scrutiny, as this was our probable future. The contest, such as it was, had three elements Chrysler Vipers versus the factory blessed Roock Porsche 911 GT2 and Cor Euser in his fierce Marcos LM 600.

The reality was that the 911 GT2 was beyond any further significant development, the Marcos was quick with the fearless Euser at the wheel, less so when the money men were in the hot seat and the Oreca run Chryslers were an absolutely better package than anything else.

At the start Cor did his usual thing jumped into the lead, irritating the Viper pair, but it was just a matter of time and so it proved with #51 just edging out #52 to give Chrysler a 1-2. Zonta’s indiscretion stuffed the lead Roock 911’s race and behind that it was just a gaggle of GT2 Porsches making up the numbers.

A few locals had rocked up to excite those who enjoy diversity on the entry list. The Kunimitsu Takahashi Honda NSX-S was actually faster than the Vipers in Qualifying, a result, no doubt, of a collaboration with Dome, but the engine blew early in the race.

The other respectable performance, speed-wise, from the Japanese contingent was the Toyota Supra LM that was also quicker over one lap than the Oreca entries, but it struggled to make an impact during the race.

In the end home grown honours were taken by a rather plodding Nissan Sylvia.

From the adrenaline climb that GT Racing had enjoyed from 1995 to 1997, the 1998 season was flat and rather expensive. It could not continue, especially as no one was keen to take on AMG Mercedes, and the North American market was about to offer exciting opportunities, the first Petit Le Mans was just round the corner. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.

John Brooks, October 2012