Part 5 The New David Cundy Collection & My Group C Racing The Golden Years

March 30, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Toyota #37Toyota #37

Toyota David Cundy Collection 1989

Link To Part 1 If You Missed it

Part 5

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! 13988185_1044155999024765_4410517377268101826_o13988185_1044155999024765_4410517377268101826_o 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 god for 1989 we spent so much money in the super market! And France at the time was so cheap! The back of the car was resembling a food convoy and a mobile off licence. Seeing that we were in the city it seemed a good idea to go for a drink in the old town. The beautiful cobbled back streets of the old quarter are a beautiful place to go for a few drinks, and we did just that! First the tourist places were graced with our presence before we found the aptly named "Le Pub". A late afternoon early evening session in Le Pub will stay with me for ever! There was only me and Wendy in the little medieval bar but the owner and his wife were very welcoming, and we kind of got the impression they did not see many patrons! Soon we were trying all the local brews and playing darts with our new chums. I will never forget the Wife of the owner as she was wearing a dark green velvet dress and had her long hair braided, I swear she looked like Maid Marion! Halfway through darts match the classic Belle Vue beer was discovered and although not yet messy we were in a bit of a pickle.
Belle Vue beer is wonderful stuff but is not much help when remembering where you parked the car. Eventually we must have found it because I remember doing all that deep breathing shit to try and sober up, before driving back. I can still remember how confusing all those red, green and blue camping signs were on the outskirts of the city, but I made it back to near the circuit. At the Porte Du Pilotes bar I pulled over to ask a Gendarme for directions! A few points of his hands and the message was very clear “straight up there and make sure you don't drive any more”. It is hard to believe today the difference there was in attitude to drink driving in France, but that is the way it was back then.

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   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.

Porsche #9aPorsche #9a

Pink Porsche David Cundy Collection 1989

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.

Mazda #202Mazda #202
  Mazda David Cundy Collection 1989

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!
The fair really was a massive affair and unrecognisable compared with today's offering. As you walked down from the Dunlop bridge you had to the right a freak show with dwarfs, snake lady, tallest man, hairy lady and more politicly incorrect attractions inside. You had then the 3 D Cinema, strip shows, the mouse chase roller coaster, the bob sleigh ride and House of fun. My favourite was next, the Bumper Cars then we had the crazy “ready stop go” go karts. There was a wrestling come boxing ring in the trees near the Esses. The general idea was that a member of the public would challenge the resident boxer to a three round fight. The public could then purchase tickets to watch how the hapless fool would fair. Often the challenger was some poor sod, who was a little worse for wear and convinced by his pissed friends that he was superman. Sometimes it got really quite messy for the hapless fools! But the next day the bruises were treasured souvenirs of another great Le Mans. Next door to that was another great feature of the Fair the big ferris wheel which was reputably the largest in Europe. Towering above the trees and circling above the track it was a brilliant place to take in the atmosphere and a favourite for photographers. Certain memories never fade and one was the sound of Elton Johns latest hit Sacrifice. Wether blaring out from the fair or on the radio, time and time again we heard it. As you can imagine it lives with both of us now as ”Our special song".

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Back at the race track we had the obligatory Chips and mayo or as they say in French "Frites" . We sat in the trees beside the Esses. The lights through the trees were the draw but the cooking smells, dust clouds and the noise of the fair in the background are what made it special. All this and with racing cars whizzing by are something that lives with you for ever. It was really special because the cars lights suddenly turned direction as the steered into the left right curves. The sky would light up and then darkness returned in an instance.Today the trees are mostly felled and a very special part of Le Mans is sadly no longer there. A drink at one of the numerous trackside bars and realisation that it was late had us returning home by midnight.

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.
Later in the day Desmond stretched his legs on the Mulsanne straight the four mile blast from one end of the circuit to the next. At the far end barriers were being repaired after a dramatic crash the night before, so we pulled over to check out the damage and saw the evidence of scrapping metal on tarmac as the main straight was scarred for literally hundreds of meters. This led us to plan our evening adventure, and once again something new for me! A trip through the woods to see the race cars flat out at the Mulsanne Kink! A slight curve in the straight taken flat out day or night with definitely no public access.
Later that night we drove out and hid the car in a country lane. We then set of on foot through the trees. We could see the gendarmes and although worried about dogs we made our way past the lawmen without being detected. Just a few hundred meters in front was the edge of race track with the lights of the cars piercing the tree lined horizon. The noise was shocking and to be very honest frightening. As we covered the last twenty meters or so there seemed a lull in the cars and the tremendous noise was dulled. We did not hang around and quickly made our way to the barriers, then the sound of cars in the distance built as they came closer. With no chicanes the scream of the engines at maximum revs was brutal and as they closed in there was no awareness of their proximity because an alarming noise and ground shaking explosion hit us like a bomb. I dived for cover to avoid tragedy as clearly something had gone wrong! But as soon as the cars were on us they were gone through the kink and up the small incline toward Mulsanne corner. I looked up to see Wendy laughing and peering right over the barrier as another set of cars came through. I will be honest I thought the noise and shaking could only be an accident, but it was just the amazing Group C cars at 230mph plus thundering by! To me it was rather like standing next to an airport runway and I can reveal I was never really comfortable with it. It was so frightening for me but a certain girl was loving it! After a short time I made my excuses saying it was probably time to leave in case we were caught by the police. I then prized her away. A fifteen minutes experience beside the barriers in the dark is still as vivid today as it was all those years ago but my god I was scared! I am glad I witnessed it because again it is something that no longer exists. In 1990 chicanes were added to slow the cars. Still amazingly fast but the talk at the time was of prototypes at well over 240mph!

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!
"Baby you make me go brum brum
Your just my kind of girl.
You make me feel like a motor car,
Filled up with Casrtol Oil."
Now remember this was 1989 and I didn't just have a radio but a Ghetto Blaster and boy did they eat a lot of those massive ever ready batteries! No problem I thought as I opened the back ripped out the spent fuel cells and fixed up some speaker wire to the plus and minus terminals. This is no word of a lie but just before I attached the wires to my cars massive battery one of the lads from next doors Winnebago popped out to see what I was up to.
"What are you up to mate"
"Bloody batteries have run out just going to attach it to " but before I finished the Ghetto Blaster speaker had exploded with an almighty bang and I had accidentally lobbed the offending item six feet across the grass. I stood quite shocked with my blackened hands in front of me. The Winnebago was now empty as the group of lads were out front staring at the terrorist in their wake.
"Wow nutter" and "You OK mate?" Before I heard a calm "Would you like to borrow a little radio we have a spare one here"
As if this was just an everyday explosion I calmly replied "Oh yes please, I don't think mine will work now"
Now we had broken the ice with our new friends we became part of their camp, as you do at Le Mans.
In the afternoon we headed off to Beaumont a village just a few mile north of the city. The thinking was of a relaxing afternoon sat outside the hotel bar watching the convoys of cars converging on the route down from all the ferry ports. Every few cars would be a vehicle of interest, the variety was quite incredible. Jaguar D and C Types were the favourites of mine, Gt40s always a great sight. A lot of drivers would stop for a break at Beaumont which gave us the opportunity to view the cars up close and chat to fellow enthusiasts. A pleasant afternoon and a nice opportunity to stretch the legs of the car on the journey back to the circuit.
The evening was spent in the Bar Portes Du Pilotes with our new friends from camp. As far as I remember it was a great evening and definitely remember we were wearing our straw hats with pride.

Jaguar #3Jaguar #3 Jaguar David Cundy Collection 1989

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.
My memories of race day are quite vague for some reason but a trip to the Village behind the paddock are clear. We had a roast chicken from the spit roast, a drink in the German beer Keller and I discovered “Yop” a yogurt drink. I also discovered the fabulous Croquet Monsieurs. Boy I used to eat a lot in them days!

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

Sauber #62Sauber #62

Mercedes David Cundy Collection 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.

Photograph Link

    

  

 


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