Proud Jaguar had four drivers but was down to one car, which Jan Lammers and Martin Brundle drove for all they were worth to win the GTP main event of the Camel Grand Prix of Southern California Sunday.
“We wanted badly to give this team a good result,” said Lammers, the Dutchman who put the XJR-9 on the pole a day earlier, after teammate John Neilsen crashed the second car.
Jaguar was out of the race for the manufacturers’ championship, which went to the Porsche 962s by a point over Nissan’s ZX-Ts, 197-196, when Germany’s Klaus Ludwig and France’s Bob Wollek placed second and third ahead of Ireland’s Derek Daly, in a Nissan.
Geoff Brabham, the lead Nissan driver who dominated the series by winning 9 of 11 races this year, spun once and later crashed while running third, slightly injuring his left leg.
That was only one of many spins and wrecks around the 10-turn, 1.62-mile temporary circuit, which was a driver’s nightmare and a body shop’s dream.
It was so slippery that virtually every driver said it was the worst course he’d ever raced on.
Brabham, sensing a difficult day, had said ominously before the race, “I’m glad I won the championship in the previous race.”
Add to the track conditions some rough driving and the determination of the Jaguar team and you had the ingredients for a thrill show. If that’s what 33,000 spectators paid to see, they went home satisfied. They’ll be picking up the pieces for days.
Brundle, relieving Lammers during a caution period after 45 minutes of the 2-hour time limit, said, “I probably pushed my luck more than I needed to.”
They split $145,000, the richest purse ever in International Motor Sports Assn. competition, and claimed they did it for pride. It was Jaguar’s first victory since the season opener at Daytona.
“We’re not here for the money,” Lammers said. “We’re here purely for achievement.”
They finished 8.484 seconds ahead of Ludwig, averaging 69.838 m.p.h., which was 7.176 slower than the inaugural event a year ago. But this time 22 of the 88 laps (141 miles) were run under yellow flags.
The last one was for Brabham, who locked his brakes on an aborted pass and smashed almost head-on into the concrete wall at the end of the back straightaway, totaling the $400,000 machine that served him so well.
Brundle, clinging to the lead established by Lammers, was streaking down the main straightaway when Wollek pulled alongside on the outside and slammed him hard twice. Brundle went straight into the runoff area, as Wollek cut behind him and into the lead.
“I was trying to stay away from him and the wall at the same time, a task that was becoming ever more difficult as I got nearer the corner,” Brundle said.
“That’s all right. That’s acceptable . . . marginal, that maneuver. We tend to do that a bit more in Europe. He’d just spent 10 laps trying to get past me. He knew I was cute enough not to let him past for the next half-hour. That was his big chance.”
Brundle did a nifty flip-180 in the chute, went around for fresh tires in the pits with a team-record 19.2-second stop, then took off after Wollek in sixth place, 37 seconds behind, with about 12 minutes remaining.
“I was angry,” Brundle said. “I don’t like making mistakes, tire problems or not. I just drove the thing flat out.”
That meant making some daring (dumb?) passes and once taking a shortcut across the hairpin, through pylons and all, when Ludwig cut him off.
“You have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Brundle said.
UCLA senior Tom Kendall, 22, already had clinched his third straight title in the GTU series for small sports coupes, but survived three skirmishes en route to his sixth victory in 11 races. He averaged 62.972 m.p.h., 11.782 seconds ahead of John Hogdal of Ham Lake, Minn.
Kendall, driving a Chevrolet Beretta, was slow to get off his pole position at the start and was rear-ended by Don Reynolds of El Segundo, dropping to third.
Then he tapped Bill Auberlen of Rolling Hills into a spinout on the first lap and, finally, after dropping to sixth place to change tires, he overtook leader Amos Johnson of Raleigh, N.C., and knocked him into the wall on the final, 30th lap of the 45-minute event.
In turn, Johnson swerved back across the track and took out Dave Kruse of San Jacinto, who was running third. Kruse jumped from his XR4Ti and ran back to help Johnson, whose Mazda RX-7 was destroyed.
Johnson was not hurt, but Kendall was distraught.
“It was a hollow victory,” Kendall said, “not the way I like to win. Amos is upset, I imagine, and I don’t blame him.
“I pulled up on him as he went to shift. When he slowed down I hit him from behind. It’s a shame to be running for the win and then finish the race by the side of the road. I owe him one.”
Johnson called it “an unfortunate incident.”
There were several other incidents, which Kendall attributed to the competition between Beretta and Mazda for the GTU manufacturers’ championship. Kendall gave Beretta the title by a point.
“Emotions were running high,” Kendall said.