Part 5 The New David Cundy Collection & My Group C Racing The Golden Years
Silverstone Super Cup & Le Mans 1989
Silverstone 1989 is a forever memory and little did I know that it was the forerunner of many great memories! I took my long term girlfriend and what a time we had!
Being a real gentleman I decided that camping in May was a great idea but after leaving the Green Man pub very late on Saturday night it was not too clever to have forgotten the sleeping bags! Boy it was cold with just a small blanket. And bear in mind I only brought the blanket to flop over the barbed wire fence as I could not afford an entry ticket! Fortunately to my surprise she was still there in the morning! To be fair she was probably frozen to me!
After telling her going over an 8 foot fence with barbed wire was a good idea, I was thrilled to witness her natural climbing prowess. I always knew I was onto a good thing after this!
The Super Cup was a replacement for the 6 Hours because the main event for group C cars had moved to Donington that year. But it had a few C1 cars and was an opportunity to see if Wendy liked the look of them before I asked her to go to Le Mans. Well it went very well! I was frozen stiff thinking this is pretty rubbish without the Mercs, Mazdas and Jags, but she was loving it. What a result and yes she was definitely on her way to La Sarthe!
Le Mans 1989
So much was good about this years race! I was going with the most special person in the world, I was driving my newly acquired Classic Datsun 240Z (Admittedly in a range of colours and by no means really road legal) and Group C racing was at it zenith!
At the time I owned a garage called Z Speed in Bournemouth, in which we specialised in Datsun 240Z and 260Z cars. I was only a very young man and in May Instead of concentrating on the business I was working flat out with my mechanic Ron Webb trying to get an MOT on my very own original 240Z. Well it was a close call but I did make the deadline even if the car was about four different colours! The car was an ongoing project to be a very fast road & race car and an advert for the garage. With a full race exhaust, a tiny fuel tank behind the seats and very thirsty triple webber carbs it was the last place you would want to put a pretty girl!
Well the day to leave for Le Mans arrived so I drove from home picked up my girlfriend! She didn't look too fazed at the technicolor monstrosity so I bundled her in before she could make a run for it, and we headed off to Portsmouth for the Monday night ferry crossing. Once again I kind of got the feeling that this was the girl for me when at just the twenty miles from home she offered to keep me company on the long walk with a Gerry can to the nearest petrol station! Boy the tank was smaller than I thought!
But we eventually made it to the port and I looked forward to a night on the boat before thrashing the car down to Le Mans on the brilliant straight roads.
Just like everyday of the 1989 Le Mans trip it started off bright and sunny, so as we rolled out of Cherbourg we just knew it was going to be a great day. Just like they all are when you are so young! Soon we started to open up “Desmond Datsun” (Remember I was young at the time and we all named our cars then! Didn't we?) And boy did it shift, and as for the sound, it really was bloody loud. A fantastic straight six has a wonderful sound. So with a beaming smile and my hands gripped onto the rim of the large wooden steering wheel we went through the 100mph mark. Then quickly we were onto 120mph. I glanced across to see the epitome of calmness from my beautiful passenger. She glanced across and smiled so my foot remained nailed to the floor and my eyes pinned to the horizon of the long straight French road. At about 140mph I eased off and we laughed at the thrill of it. A few minutes later I just new she was still the girl for me. She was sat cleaning a fouled set of spark plugs with her nail file!
Arriving at the campsite we parked under the tall pine trees in the middle of Bleu South. In those days there were plenty of trees for shade and you took as much room as you liked. Being early we had most of the small site to ourselves. Space being a premium in the small sports car I was pleased to have still managed to bring two little frame tents. One for sleeping, one for supplies and of course one each if we fell out! Tents up and no hanging around it was straight down the supermarket for food and booze.
My most endearing memory of Wednesday was one of the most fabulous parts of the Le Mans 24 Hours that is sadly no longer there, the “Pit Balcony”. The old concrete pits had hospitality rooms with windows and above was a spectator area. Outside the windows was a concrete balcony, and with no health and safety rules we climbed over the small railing and we sat on the concrete ledge. We were just feet above the pits and watched preparations for qualifying. I remember being above the Jaguar pit as well as the Sauber Mercedes apron. It was great time to fill Wendy in on the cars and drivers, and soon she had a favourite, a certain Pink Porsche.
Obviously we desperately wanted the Silk Cut Jaguars to win but with such amazing array of cars and manufacturers it was great to have other cars to follow. I had a soft spot for the Datsuns sorry Nissans! Another wonderful feature of the Group C racers was the distinct sound of each car. You could quite easily close your eyes and recognise the cars from each other by their sound. And we did just that. One car that was unmistakable because it made your ears bleed was the rotary engined Mazda. What a sound that car made.
As we were youngsters the draw of the fair in 1989 soon had us spending huge amounts of money! With copious amounts of testosterone, beating a punch bag trying to win teddies was par for the course.But the piste de resistance was that i managed to emulate Popeye! By ringing the bell with the great big hammer not only did I win a straw hat, I had won another for my “Olive Oil”. This in Wendy's eyes was close to having a hero!
Thursday and we have neighbours as the campsite starts to fill. "Hello Darling need a hair dryer later?" Was the first words from the door of a Winnebago parked beside our tents. We did not know then that this group of lads would become firm friends for many years! But that is Le Mans for you. Breakfast was cooked by myself on the little blue camping gas burners that we all used to have. We then retired to the bank beside the road to watch the road cars go by. In the Silk Cut Jag years in a large percentage of the fans arrived in classic cars and literally hundreds of Jaguars. The age group was a little higher than today and was much more reserved around the roads. There was a real appreciation of the beautiful machinery and crowds gathered to socialise around the old cars.
The Friday was really special as the majority of the massive British entourage would be arriving on mass. But first tune into the fairly new radio Le Mans to hear how qualifying had panned out. I can still hear the sponsored jingle now and I have sung it many times to Wendy to bring back memories!
Saturday and I can really remember being excited. I just loved the cars, the racing and was passionate about the Jaguars. I had a huge green Jaguar Flag which Wendy had been wearing with pride all week. Our new best friends suggested we go into the circuit with them quite early to set up deck chairs right at the front opposite the Jaguar pits. The thinking was we could take it in turns looking after our patch. Well it was a brilliant plan and we went along with it. we had a huge supply of food and suncream and now hay fever pills for my streaming nose! They had cut the grass around the campsite and since then my nose and eyes were streaming! Still I vividly remember the feeling of being proud to be part of such an occasion as we spent the whole day waiting for the start. With the thousands of Jaguar fans we had every right to be proud. No trouble, just fun and British passion.
Saturday soon turned into Sunday as the race progressed and by mid day it looked like the Germans would be celebrating a Mercedes win. As the race ended we climbed over the steep wall of the track and celebrated the occasion on track with the other fans. We took photographs of us in our hats and soon it was over for another year.
It may seem like I have ended my account of 1989 early but it is a recollection of my memories and this has been all of them. Over all I look back on it as a very special time with Wendy and get that kind of warm fuzzy feeling. I certainly bonded with a wonderful girl because of our trip, and we are still together now. I am not sure if she is still up for cleaning the spark plugs but I am sure she would still bump start your car! Thats my girl.
The Race 1989
In 1989 there were no less than seven manufacturers Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota & Aston Martin. Had there ever really been a stronger field. The Jaguars were favourites to win but upgrades to the Gear Boxes and Exhausts back fired and caused problems through out the race. The Nissans were fast and the Porsches were like clockwork. But the two Mercedes C9s ran like clock work too and were that little bit faster than the Porsches.
I kind of got the feeling the result was not a disaster for the British fans because it was so good for the Group C racing to have different winners. It was a brilliant race full stop! And of course there was always next year!
The archive for 1989 has high quality pictures of every car in the race. Of course more are available by request from the full archive.
Keywords: 1986, 24, 956, C, cut, Golden, Group, gtp, hours, IMSA, Jaguar, le, mans, Mercedes, porsche, Racing, rouge, Sauber, silk, tetre, The, twr, wec', Years 962"
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