WORLD SPORTS CAR RACING 1976
EUROPE

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World Sports Car Championship

 

EUROPE's WORLD Sports Car championship got off to a rather soggy and somewhat disastrous start at the Niirburgring. The Sports Car championship is the other manufacturer's race (see last month's "Letter From Europe"), except that in this case the principal cars involved are Group 6 prototypes instead of Group 5 silhouette racers. But even though the cars are different the results " up to this point are the same-Porsche turbos have already begun to dominate the series.

At the 'Ring, four of the first five finishers drove turbocharged Porsches. The winner, Reinhold Joest, piloted a well worn but revamped 908/3 with a turbocharged 911 engine. The rest of the group drove Group 4 turbo Carreras, except for Helmut Bross who drove a 2-liter Lola BMW sports racing car and Rolf Stommelen who drove the factory Martini 936 turbo.' Actually it was to have been Stommelen's race, because for almost half the contest the Porsche increased its lead over its competitors. But then the throttle stuck open and that dropped him to 5th in the final standings.

However, the results might have been somewhat different if the other factory team, Alpine Renault, had not fallen victim to overconfidence. If drivers Jean Pierre Jabouille and Patrick Depailler had exercised a bit of discretion, a Renault might have won. Unfortunately, Stommelen was forced to control the engine with the car's ignition switch, a handicap the Frenchmen could not bear to see Stommelen take the lead, so they both blasted by on the rain-slick track. Losing control in the turn, they skidded off course with Depailler's car striking the barrier and then Jabouille's entry. The resultant shunt totaled Depailler's A442 and seriously damaged Jabouille's. Depailler was subsequently suspended.

Fortunately, Monza saw the French recoup some of their losses. Here the Henri Pescarolol Jean-Pierre Jarier A442 finished 2nd in a 4-hour contest that was again won by Porsche. This time it was the factory entry, the Martini Type 936, that outdistanced its competition to finish more than one lap ahead of the French car. Much of the Martini car's success can undoubtedly be credited to the skill of works drivers Jochen Mass and Jacky Ickx. Mass captured the pole with the Porsche, while Ickx helped keep the German turbo racer at the forefront during competition. Not so lucky was the other French entry, the Jabouillel Jacques Laffite A442. This car had briefly challenged the leading Porsche until it was sidelined by a turbocharger wastegate malfunction.

With only a half-dozen more races scheduled, the World Sports Car Championship, with its Porsche-Renault factory battle, is a far cry from the manufacturers' wars of the late Sixties. But it's a start.

TRENTON INDYCAR RACE 64