Part 2 The New David Cundy Collection & My Group C Racing The Golden Years

February 18, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Link to part 1 if you missed it 

Chapter 3 Le Mans 1983 To 1985

Porsche 956 Newman Brands Hatch 1000km 1984Porsche 956 Newman Brands Hatch 1000km 1984

Joest Newman Porsche 962

 

Obviously a Le Mans junkie like myself was at Le Mans every year, by hook or by crook I made it over to France. And although the impact Group C was having was gradual it was certainly evident. There were many factors at play but to me a few were quite obvious.

Porsche builds privateer cars! So for the first time in years there are more than just three or four cars that can win the race. In fact with 11 Porsche 956s, 3 Lancia works cars, an Aston Martin and a couple of Saubers there was around about 15 cars that could win the race! Not since the 1960s had the race been so open.

I do not think it was just me that had noticed but the shape of the cars lent themselves to some great advertising opportunities. And it wasn’t just cigarettes Kenwood, Grand Prix International, Martini and Hugo Boss were all on board. This of course added to the wonderful spectacle of Group C but also the opportunity to easily follow cars that appealed to the fans.

Most of the years up until 1985 I had witnessed predominantly French crowds, but thing were slowly changing. There were more and more racing fans coming from all over Europe. Not in massive numbers but it was noticeable. And then in 1985 it hit me big time! Group 44 had brought Jaguar back to Le Mans in 1984 and it was interesting but nothing much more. Then before the 85 race I was in front of the massive ACO grandstand just before the start of the race. In the famous build up to the departure of the grid, the national anthems were played. The German anthem was played and small ripple of applause could be heard among the crowd. The French anthem was accompanied by a few passionate Gallic voices singing along. Then the announcement that the British National Anthem was next for the Jaguar Team. Well the moment will stay with me forever as if from nowhere hundreds of voices cheered and sang God Save The Queen. I swear the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I got quite emotional. It sounds crazy but it was like I wasn’t alone anymore! I was at my 6th race and still basically a kid. Each year if you bumped into anyone from the UK you would say hello as if you were part of an exclusive little club that had discovered this amazing event in France. All of a sudden it was like I was part of something special. Word had got back home and the Brits were coming!

Group 44 Jaguar le Mans John Watson Tony Adamowicz Lena 1984Group 44 Jaguar le Mans John Watson Tony Adamowicz Lena 1984

Group 44 Jaguars

Group 44 In IMSA USAGroup 44 In IMSA USAJAGUAR XJR7 GROUP 44 RACING PHOTOGRAPH USA 1985 BOB TULLIUS BILL ADAM

 

Chapter 4 Jaguar Challenge 1986 

1986 was a very exciting start to the year, I was off to Silverstone for the 6 hours race. Over the winter Group C had snowballed into a multi marque World Series with Mazda, Sauber Mercedes and none other than TWR Jaguar all trying their hand to beat the mighty Porsches. At Silverstone there was an impressive 11 Porsches 956 /962s and the incredibly fast Lancia LC2 to beat.

To see these cars at Silverstone was thrilling. The biggest change for me was that there was no waiting around to see the best cars come around. With about 30 prototype cars on track and all looking and sounding superb it was quite a spectacle. The new Kourus sponsored Mercedes even made the race programme look mint!

And another thing, with the Jaguar Team came fans, 25,000 thousand of them! It was so nice to see and feel a buzz around the famous old airfield circuit.

And just like all good fairy tales the Jag of Eddie Cheever and Derek Warwick only went and one. What a catalyst this was to boost the British presence in Le Mans. The fans really believed that the Brits could win the big one now!

Part 3 In the next few days

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