Monday, 3 April 2017

4 April: Richards by the Lake

Round 3 of the Australian Touring Car Championship brought a return to Lakeside International Raceway, just to the north of the Queensland capital of Brisbane. And it brought the noise! Lakeside was a cracking little race where all the heavy-hitters landed a punch, but in the end it was Jim Richards in the little Bavarian car that walked off with the glory, giving the BMW M3 its maiden win – worldwide.

The E30 M3: BMW's Siegfried Line
If you're still following Mental Floss's WWI Centennial series (which you totally should be, despite the clickbait that contaminates the rest of the site), you'll know we recently passed the hundredth anniversary of the Kaiser's troops withdrawing to the infamous Hindenburg Line, which the Germans called the Siegfriedstellung or Siegfried Position, about 20km to their rear on the Western Front. They did it to eliminate some useless salients in their own lines and generally shorten the front by 25km, which freed up 13 divisions for redeployment elsewhere. It was a ruthlessly clever thing to do, though in this case it backfired spectacularly, the Kaiser's men looting every scrap of French food, burning every French house, felling every French tree and generally doing their best to ruin the French countryside forever, leaving the space in front of the Siegfriedstellung a virtual desert. It was a sensible act of total war, but it was conducted against a world run by chivalrous 19th Century loons, and so was a gift to Allied propaganda. Whatever gains were made by shortening their front were cancelled out when the Americans joined the party – largely because of acts like this.

But it showed the Germans understood that sometimes you needed to take a step back to take two steps forward, and it was a trick they repeated in 1987 when BMW dropped the 635 CSi in favour of the smaller E30 M3 – never intended as an outright car, but one that would win the World Touring Car Championship by sweeping its class.

Seen here in the Swiss sales brochure

There's been no shortage of scribbling over this car – most notably Mark Oastler's column on Shannons Club, an excitable but nicely succinct article on Motorsport Retro, and Issue 93 of Australian Muscle Car has some intriguing details as well – but it's all justified. The M3 is not just a stone-cold classic, it's the ultimate expression of what Group A could've been. Along with the Nissan Skyline R32 – maybe – the M3 was the only time Group A bred a road car you might actually might want to live with on a day-to-day basis.

So how did it come about? The car's origins lie in the early 1980s when the FIA switched to the Group A rulebook and BMW's engine man Paul Rosche was neck-deep in F1, trying to get the M10-derived four-cylinder turbo to work. This was in the early days of electronic engine management, and Rosche referred to their shoddy wire management back then as "noodle soup." Electromagnetic pulses from the ignition playing havoc with the delicate electronics, as rogue signals could, and did, trigger the fuel injectors at the wrong moment.
The development was a lot of hard work. We began at the end of 1980 with the first test drive and in 1981 drove the whole year through. It was dreadful! Day and night we were on the test beds and on the track, too. It was real pioneering work in those days. – Paul Rosche
All of which is pretty tangential to the touring car scene, but it goes some way to explaining why BMW went for a naturally-aspirated engine in their Group A flagship, despite ultimately winning the first turbocharged F1 championship in 1983. At the time the decisions were being made there was no guarantee the M10 would ever deliver the power it promised, and there were huge issues controlling temperatures – which would be worse in a tin-top, with the potential of under-bonnet "heat soak" when the car was switched off for the many, many refuelling stops needed for a race like Spa. What was an acceptable compromise for a Formula 1 car just wasn't going to work for a touring car.

So, when it came time to plan the M3, BMW looked to the next most powerful engine in their inventory, the family of inline-sixes bred from the M1 supercar. In 3.5-litre form, this was exactly the engine that had powered the 635 CSi, but as the competition caught up the six's limitations had been revealed: it just placed too much weight over the front axle, and the long and awkward crankshaft produced torsional vibrations that put a cap on the rev range. Instead, BMW's engineers elected to create a brand-new four-cylinder engine which, with its shorter crankshaft, would be able to rev much more freely.

Designed in just 14 days, the resulting S14 engine was a Frankenstein of existing parts. Paul Rosche took a 2-litre version of the M10 block and bored it out to 93.4mm to match the M1's straight-six, with an 84mm stroke. This produced the famous 2,302cc capacity, and allowed him to spice it up with the M1's free-breathing DOHC 16-valve heads, and later, Bosch Motronic fuel injection. A 12:1 compression ratio was as high as BMW dared go without compromising reliability, so in the new era of unleaded fuel, you really wanted to pay the extra for premium. Even so, in stock for in gave a very nice 150 kW, which in competition tune went up to somewhere around 200 kW at 8,200rpm in its first year (estimates vary from 190 to 230), with about 270 Nm of torque at 7,000rpm.

Those might seem like pretty weedy figures compared to the Holden V8's brute 300 kW and 400 Nm, but remember it was being loaded into a vehicle that weighed an awful lot less. Group A's minimum weight for the 2,500cc tier was just 960kg, compared to the Holden's 1,325, plus another 8kg (give or take) if they both brimmed their fuel tanks, then more for the extra oil and coolant, and on it went. Allan Moffat once said, "Once you were over the 1,200kg mark, every extra kilo feels like a tonne," so the Holden would definitely feel the pain in those braking zones. With huge disc brakes (332mm front, 280mm rear) clamped by powerful four-pot callipers, the M3's braking at times seemed to defy the laws of physics.

The car's real secret, however, was how well it babied its rear tyres. Rear suspension typically makes some huge compromises in a road car – in that area of the car, you've got to pack in the suspension, rear seats, boot, usually a fuel tank and diff, and in the case of the Alfa Romeo 75, the gearbox as well. Something has to lose out, and given the importance of legroom and boot space to the customer, usually it's the suspension. Given how restricted 80s-era Falcons were in this area – especially the XD, which had a boot too small for an esky, and the XE, which had so little travel it had been binding up its rear springs in race trim – we may once again be grateful the XF never humiliated itself in Group A.

BMW, however, sacrificed everything to give the M3 proper rear suspension.
The suspension came first and the body was designed to fit around it. Read any road test of the car and you won't find many compliments about the rear seat room. Now you know why.

If there's one thing that Group A really sorts out, it's which cars give their tyres a hard time. The width limits are fairly narrow considering the amount of weight they have to carry over fairly long distances. What this adds up to is the importance of keeping the rubber as flat on the road as much as possible. Take into account the tendency of the latest radial racing tyres to slip sideways as their sidewalls flex under cornering loads and you've got to be able to set a fair amount of negative camber into the geometry.

Once again the limitations of production cars become apparent. They aren't designed with such radical modifications in mind. Front ends usually don't pose any problems; it's the rear where manufacturers leave race engineers no room to manoeuvre.

Even cars with independent rear suspensions rarely allow full-width racing tyres enough lateral and vertical movement. And as for dinosaurs like Holden's Commodore, they've got trouble with a capital T.

For [Frank] Gardner, who cut his teeth in racing and sports cars, it was a major improvement over earlier BMWs: "You take the temperatures across the tyres and if they're reading 120, 120, 120 [degrees C] then you've got the optimum camber and toe-in. With the 635 we couldn't get the tyres absolutely right." – Mike Jacobson, Australian Motor Racing Yearbook, cited by Mark Oastler, E30 BMW M3: The Purpose-Built Group A Racer That Conquered The World, Shannons Club
After a summer of rumours, the M3 had been revealed to the public at the Frankfurt Motor Show in the autumn of 1985. Although it was pricey and pitched against a rich field of similar homologation specials, the M3 was a big hit. It wasn't just the performance and exquisite handling, it just looked the goods – the whole car had been made wider and lower, even if it still had the narrow upright posture of a European car (which makes a lot more sense once you've tried to thread one through a medieval city – even the "compact" Commodore looked wide and flat compared to the M3). The rear window rake had been reduced, requiring a modified C-pillar that led down to a raised boot lid (made of plastic for lightness). Both the front and rear windscreens were bonded to the shell for extra rigidity, and the front and rear guards were flared to accommodate the intended 10-inch racing tyres. In fact, by the time the engineers were finished, the only panel carried over from the original E30 sedan was the bonnet. Since BMW were required to build 5,000 of them to qualify for Group A, this represented a considerable investment – but it paid off, because by the time BMW dropped it in 1990 the factory had churned out nearly 15,000, plus three extra runs of 500 to homologate new parts for racing.

And as Davide Cironi shows us, you definitely wanted one. The handling was absolutely electric, sharp and responsive and yet wayward enough to make sure you were still awake. Racecar accuracy scaled to road-tyre grip. The kind of handling keen drivers dream of.

The Terrytowel from Terrey Hills: Frank Gardner's M3s
JPS Team BMW had been running 325i's as class cars in 1986 – at least two of them, since that's how many had shown up for Symmons Plains that year – and had another one under construction the day BMW informed Gardner the M3 programme was a go. I'm guessing that was probably 3 January, the day the homologation papers had been rubber-stamped by the FIA, with their first day of eligibility being 1 March, race day at Calder. The Bavarians told Gardner a kit of parts was already on the way, so work was halted and what had started as a 325i became the first Australian M3 instead. They mostly used it for testing and development, and it was Tony Longhurst's racecar for the first half of the year, but it was "never quite right," according to chief mechanic Paul Baker. "It was just a bit heavy and not a good car." Longhurst's patience in bearing this says a lot about his attitude at the time: with a champion for a boss and another one for a teammate, he must've been very aware he was the apprentice in the team.

BMW then sent over another kit complete with a race-ready shell and a chrome-moly roll cage, and this became Jim Richards' car for the first two ATCC races (Calder and Symmons). It was then sold to New Zealand's John Whitehall, owner of Archibald Motors, whose driver Trevor Crowe had shared a 635 with Richards in Wellington and went on to be crowned both NZ and Asia-Pacific Touring Car Champion in '87-'88.

Gardner's crew then built a third car, which incorporated what they'd learned so far and so had a slightly different parts list. For one, they had their wheels made locally by Simmons Wheels rather than rely on the BBS units common in Europe. For another, Gardner insisted on roll cages made from low-carbon steel tube rather than chrome moly to provide greater rigidity, and he worked closely with Pirelli in Italy to develop a unique rubber compound tailored to Australia's warmer track temperatures – D3, D4 and D5 race tyres, and D7 qualifiers – rather than Yokohamas like the works teams.
We did try Yokohamas in the early days of the 635, but we stuck with the Pirellis for the M3. We did a lot of tyre testing and they were painful days changing springs and shocks to get it right. After that we didn’t want to walk away from it. – Paul Baker, AMC #93
Baker has also revealed the team acid-dipped its shells in Sydney ("...just to remove sealant..."), and at least once used lightweight panels and glass obtained from South Africa. However, these doors were so light the signwriter had trouble even applying the decals, and the glass was so thin it once shattered because a mechanic shut the door too hard. Baker doesn't believe these parts were used for long.

The biggest difference however came about because Frank Gardner insisted on doing all the testing and setup work himself, only letting his drivers change the anti-roll bars at the races (maybe). And in the U.K., where the weather could be incredibly changeable, Frank had absorbed the lesson that a forgiving car that worked in all conditions was a smarter bet than specialising in a smooth dry surface and getting lost when the rain came out, or even if the sun went behind a cloud (anyone who remembers the early 2000s in Formula 1 will know that's not an exaggeration). So the JPS M3s ended up being set up less stiffly than the works cars in Europe, a bit softer and more forgiving, with a different camber to ensure even temps across the face of the tyre, keeping wear under control. So in effect, Gardner had immediately identified the M3's main strength, and maximised it.

Race Day by the Lake
The case can be made that the ATCC was a tougher arena for the M3 than any in Europe. At home the M3s only had to cope with the relatively fragile Sierra RS Cosworths; there was no works Nissan Skyline team, and the Holden Commodore presence was token at best. That most Australian tracks favoured power-down over mid-corner speed didn't play to the M3's strengths either, nor did the shorter sprint format give them much chance to wear the opposition down.

But if any local track was going to bend their way, it was Lakeside, the swooping, awkward rollercoaster beside Lake Kurwongbah to the north of Bris Vegas. Lakeside's blind off-camber turns did a marvelous job of neutering cars with too much power, and the only length of straight, which blasted by the pits and start/finish line, still had a kink called BP Bend which none of the Skylines, Sierras or Commodores could quite take flat-out. Only the M3s could go through there without a lift.

Even better, the race distance this year had been increased from 35 laps, or 84km, to 60 laps, or 145km. Game on.

The entry list included most of the usual suspects: Being Dick Johnson's home track, both he and Gregg Hansford were present in their Shell Sierras, although a cloud of controversy hung over them as some of the scrutineers had taken exception to their new turbo impellers and had stepped in to seal some components. Quite sensibly they'd elected to let him race and sort it out afterwards – not even the maddest of CAMS officials would come between Dick Johnson and a Queensland crowd. Backing him up were the Oxo Sierras of Don Smith and Andrew Miedecke, as well as former F1 World Champion Denny Hulme in Neville Crichton's older-model XR4 Ti (Crichton himself was in the U.S. on business).

As at Symmons, sunlight suggests this was a practice shot taken on Friday; race day was overcast.

There were also the two Peter Jackson Skylines of George Fury and Glenn Seton. They'd won the first two races of the year, and were angling to make it a hat-trick thanks to some new engine management made by a company in the U.S. (the TV says a name that sounds like ACCUmotive, but the only ACCUmotive I can find is from Germany. Any readers got any hints? The comment box is all yours). Also wading in with new engine management was Colin Bond, whose Alfa Romeo 75 had found another 35-45 kW thanks to Melbourne Alfa specialist Joe Beninca (whose brother Dominic was a presence in Sports Sedans).

Peter Brock was present in a Mobil VK Commodore, but it was the #6, not his usual 05: teammate Gary Scott had been bedding in engine and brakes on the Thursday when he'd fired it off the track and straight into a wall. Since the 05 had contained the newest engine and other parts, this was just the sort of disaster Brock's Holden Dealer Team couldn't afford. More by necessity than as punishment Scott was relieved of a drive for the weekend, as Brock took over his car.

Behind Brock were the usual swathe of Commodore owner-drivers. The best of them was once again Larry Perkins in the #11 Enzed car, but there were plenty of weekend warriors as well: Lester Smerdon, Wayne Clift (a white car with a yellow band), Wayne Park (in Bob Jane T-Marts orange), and Alf Grant (red, black and yellow Dulux car). Graeme Crosby hadn't been able to find sponsorship and so hadn't made the trip, but his Roadways pseudo-teammate Allan Grice had – and his car wasn't a VK, but a VL, the new model finally making its debut down under. Gricey was having the expected teething troubles, but his car had 315 kW; backing from Chickadee, Nordbank, Valvoline and Bob Jane; a Channel Seven RaceCam; and a set of 17-inch Yokohamas, which he may still have been getting for free. He was ready for the VL's first serious outing.
[Side Note: All this development points to something I noticed in the broadcast – the date of the race listed on Wikipedia has to be wrong. At the time of writing it still reads 13 March 1987, which is impossible, because the commentators mention the events at Monza on 22 March. At first I assumed this was down to the delay between filming and broadcast, since in those days Channel Seven didn't show the races live, but recorded them and sent them out the following week, usually Saturday night about 10pm. But then they started talking to people in the pits, and they were aware of the shenanigans at Monza as well. So that finally forced me to notice that the 13 March date is only five days after Symmons Plains, which is a pretty tight schedule. Getting all your cars and equipment from Tasmania to Queensland in only five days is a tall order; also fitting in a couple of weeks' worth of development as listed above is flat-out impossible – the commentators even mentioned DJR having breathing space for "two weeks of testing." So I went looking, and found this site listing an alternative date of Saturday, 4 April, 1987. This just seems all-round more plausible. I'm not sure where Wikipedia got the 13 March date from, but it seems most of the other sources on the internet have cribbed it unquestioningly (including me until I watched the footage). So this'll be an interesting test of how read/regarded The Cutting is – will the date on the Wikipedia page be changed just on my say-so, and if yes, how soon?]
Your time starts now.

Green for Go!
Glenn Seton started from pole thanks to a lap of 56.1 seconds, and from there he leapt into an immediate early race lead, with Brock following after and getting busy trying to keep the two M3s behind him. Dick Johnson, however, was waiting for no-one, taking his new turbo in one hand and his home turf advantage in the other and beating the other drivers over the head with them. On lap 3 he got past Larry Perkins at BP Bend, and by lap 5 was trying it again on Tony Longhurst, kicking off a great scrap with the youngster.

Bob Jane Racing Heritage Collection. Check it out.

Lap 6, however, saw the first green bottle fall, as George Fury pulled over at the Karussel and climbed out of his Skyline. A white flag warned the other drivers of a service vehicle dispatched to pick him up, and frankly in his place I'd wouldn't have minded a lift either. He told Seven interviewer Colin Young: "Well I was just braking for bottom corner, the Karussel there, and the whole car just seemed to explode inside and it started burning, all the bits and pieces inside the car started to burn..."

Most of what he said was muffled by the roar of passing race engines, but what we heard was enough. There must've been a fuel leak somewhere, which had filled the cabin with petrol vapour which had, inevitably, ignited. In other words, he’d sat inside an explosion and still managed to pull over safely and escape with his eyebrows intact to deliver the news in the same bored monotone as every other interview. A unique breed of person, your racing driver.

Meanwhile, Richards was starting to get a bonnet ahead of Brock into some turns. Pushing hard to stay ahead, Brock overcooked it over the rise at the Eastern Loop, setting off a chain reaction back down the hill. With nowhere to get past Brock's slide slowed Richards, who slowed Longhurst, which gave Johnson the edge he needed to come storming down the hill and relieve Longhurst of the place.

Richards tried to carve Brock up the inside on the entry to the Eastern Loop on the following lap, but was firmly rebuffed, Brock keeping his foot in it and using the brute strength of his Holden V8 to haul him up the hill faster than the BMW's little four. Finding himself on the outside line for the run through the fast and scary Ford Corner wasn’t part of the plan, but now Brock had held the line it was the only plan. Brock and Richards came down the hill side-by-side – and right behind Brock was Dick Johnson, who made hay while the Queensland sun shone and finally had his way past Jim Richards.

Across the line for lap 10, it was Seton far off in the lead, Brock 2nd and Johnson 3rd, with the two BMWs 4th and 5th. 6th not far behind was Larry Perkins, and then Allan Grice. And then through Dunlop Bridge, Johnson's Sierra had a moment, a wisp of smoke from the left-rear tyre as it snapped sideways and had to be saved by Dick's impressive reflexes, and Neil Crompton said something very interesting: "Notice the bodywork rubbing on the tyre that time as the car really started to roll-steer through that corner..." Remember that, it'll come up again in October...

Down the front straight Brock got just a tiny bit baulked by a backmarker, John Donnelly in the #50 Rover SD1. Donnelly waved him past but even so Brock must've had a lift, as behind him Dick had his foot hard on the power, pulling out and around Donnelly and then further out to go around Brock as well! Brock made his Commodore as wide as he dared, forcing Johnson to the right and drop a wheel in the grass as they passed the pits, but Johnson was in his native Queensland and wasn’t backing off for anyone. Through BP Bend Johnson held his nerve, held his line and soon it was all over red Rover (heh). 2nd place had finally gone to someone other than Brock.

Meanwhile, Jim Richards was really starting to get hot under the collar and putting the moves on Brock. A huge gamble to throw it up the inside at Karussel failed with nothing but a huge brake lock-up, but Richards didn’t lose the scent. Brock had gone in too deep as well and that left him running wide through the Karussel, opening the door for Richards to turn just a little bit tighter and run it up the inside. Even so Brock wasn’t giving up, the pair exiting the corner side-by-side, but in his eagerness to keep up Brock again overcooked it slightly and ran out of grip at the back. The Commodore got sideways, lost momentum and Richards kept the line... but Brock still refused to concede the place. It was only as they came through Dunlop Bridge, where the Commodore was all thumbs, that Richards finally asserted his authority and virtually pushed Brock aside. Richards accelerated away – and so did Tony Longhurst, playing follow-the-leader with Richards, and Perkins, who capitalised and arrived at the Eastern Loop ahead of his old boss.

A couple more laps and Johnson was starting to pressure young Seton. The interesting thing about this was that for the first time ever, the Sierra was looking like it had more power than the Skyline – it had been over 12 months since anything had been able to catch a Nissan on the straights. The pressure told and Seton got a little sideways as they emerged from Ford Corner. Johnson once more kept his foot in it and pulled out to make the move on Seton, and – incredibly – he did it. Around the outside of BP Bend, the local hero simply out-muscled Seton to take the race lead, to a thunderous cheer from the partisan Queensland crowd.

And from there Dick didn’t back off, driving the wheels off that Sierra to build a cushion over Seton, 3.8 seconds in 5 laps. In truth, by now the Skyline was starting to slow. The lack of downforce meant it was very nervous over the bumps – bumps Johnson knew better than the contours of his own face – and couldn't take BP Bend flat, penalising the Skyline right at the point on the track it really needed to maximise itself. That meant by lap 22, Jim Richards too was starting to think about where to pass Seton – the traditional passing spots were all being covered, and whatever gains he made through the back part of the course were eaten up by the power of the Skyline once they came back to the front straight. But think about it he did: inching up lap after lap, Richards finally made his move – into Hungry Corner, so-named because it was so tempting to bite off more than you could chew. The off-camber turn was not forgiving of excess entry speed, but Richards judged it to perfection, pulling out from behind Seton, deftly outbraked him, rotating the car and accelerating off again. It was such a brilliant move that, for once, Tony Longhurst wasn’t able to follow. Differences in car aside, sometimes where was a real difference between an embryonic racing driver and the mature form.

As if to prove the point, Longhurst tried to get tough on Seton and make use of the backmarker Dulux Commodore of Alf Grant. With Grant hogging the inside line, Longhurst boxed Seton in and forced him to sit behind the slow Commodore – but the BMW didn’t have the power to capitalise climbing the hill, and he’d only forced himself onto the outside line for the Eastern Loop. Back down the hill Grant kept to the left, leaving the battling youngsters clear to take the inside line back onto the main straight – where of course the Skyline did its best work. Despite which, there was a glimmer of hope – Seton's tyres looked like they were starting to die now, the Skyline was getting more and more sideways without any appreciable increase in speed. Indeed, Dick Johnson's gap over Seton was now up to 5 seconds... but of course, Seton was no longer 2nd, and the man who was, Jim Richards, was only 3 seconds behind and closing the gap by four tenths a lap.

And then suddenly, on lap 35, Dick Johnson slowed. As Richards was rocketing past, unable to believe his luck, the Sierra was heading for the pits with the odd flame coming from the exhaust. Something had gone majorly wrong. A few laps later they had Johnson for an interview:
Colin Young: Dick, out of the race, what’s the problem?

Dick Johnson: Well actually Cole, I thought we’d make a bit of a race of it this weekend, you know, being our home track and all. So we turned the wick up, it was giving us 1.8 bar of boost, which is great stuff, mate, because it means you can blow 'em away in a straight line which is the way the Commodores have been doing it all the time. So I thought, well, the ol' Henry can go past them any day. And unfortunately, the teeny little turbo that they got just couldn't hack the pace. But we know how to fix the problem and we'll fix it before next race.

Young: Been a lot of talk about your turbo today, is it legal?

Johnson: Mate, I reckon around about midnight tonight might show whether it's legal or illegal. I reckon we’ve got a really good case otherwise we wouldn't've put it on the car.

Young: Okay. Dick Johnson, a great drive early in the race but he’s not going to win today here at Lakeside in front of his home crowd.
DJR team manager (and former HDT man) Neil Lowe said something similar when asked: "At the moment it’s only a lot of discussion, and all the discussion’s just come from the other teams. They just don’t like to see the potential of the Cosworth start to come out. These are an exceptionally powerful motor car. We ran the car for the last two meetings in a standard form, exactly as we bought the engine from England. And, in the last two weeks we’ve put in a bit of time and effort and development and this is the result." Yes, a DNF would be a pretty common result for the Sierra at this stage, unfortunately – none of the four RS Cosworths entered saw the chequered flag, and the only Ford that did was the single-cam, two-valve XR4 Ti of Denny Hulme, which finished dead last.

Once Richards was in the lead, there was nothing anyone else could do – he'd simply run them all into the ground. Allan Grice even had to pit for new tyres in his new VL, and although that meant he enlivened the final laps with a nice scrap with Longhurst, it was academic because he was a lap down. Colin Young then made a rookie mistake and tried interviewing Frank Gardner, who had his usual sour face on and offered a typically unsparing assessment of things.
Colin Young: Well Frank, you should be happy, Jim's leading the race but Tony's got some problems?

Frank Gardner: Tony hit a kerb nice & early on and he's had a bit of a wheel alignment problem, so he’s a bit of a tyre worry at the moment. But if his tyres hold out he's still in good shape.

Young: Can he get past Seton for 2nd, do you think?

Gardner: If Seton has his way, no.

Young: Well Frank, a lot of controversy a couple of weeks ago in Italy, with the [muffled]... but a fine performance here today?

Gardner: Well, the scrutineers are sat on us a few days, so whatever happened in Italy goodness only knows, but we’re not involved in it. So we’re just here to have a motor race.

Young: What about... You had some comments earlier on about the increased performance of Dick Johnson’s Ford Sierras?

Gardner: Well it’s pretty impressive. Rumours have it that there’s a little bit of a scrutineering problem with it. The scrutineers are going to look at the turbo on it, whether or not there’s anything illegal only time will tell.
Time did tell: after the race, when the huge crowd of Johnson supporters had gone home and the danger to their persons had dissipated, the scrutineers declared the impellers on the #17 and #18 Sierras illegal. Dick could only throw his hands up and tell them they were the same as the ones used in Europe. DJR was still slapped with a ban by CAMS, although it was a soft penalty that extended only for seven days, which coincidentally didn't actually exclude him from any races. In truth, with a DNF at his best track, after leading the race, there wasn't much more damage could be done. This would get worse before it got better.

Bond had a good day for once. Not great, just good.

When it all shook out Richards had won the race, with Seton 2nd and Longhurst completing the podium in 3rd. On the championship table it was now Richards leading on 70 points ahead of Seton on 67, with Fury the big loser in the shuffle as his DNF saw him tumble from first to third with 45 – just ahead of Longhurst, now on 44. Brock and Perkins collected some minor points, while Bondy actually doubled his score from 8 to 16. But the hapless DJR drivers still sat on the bottom rung, Dick himself left with nothing but the 4 points he'd picked up at Calder.

On the Manufacturer's table, it was just another round of business as usual: Nissan and BMW equal first on 60, Holden on 45 and Alfa Romeo on 36. The only movement was well down the order, where Toyota picked up 10 points to jump to 6th with 16, just behind Ford's static 18 – and Rover, who joined the party with 2 whole points.

But the headline was clear: Richo had won a race outright, which was pretty impressive in what was supposed to be a class car. In fact, JPS Team BMW had now given the M3 its race debut, its first pole position and its first (legal) race win – not that you'd know it from the European press...

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