McLaren has it its own way

Less cars appeared at the track than were initially promised. The Morgans were withdrawn, as was a Konrad Porsche, and Promoracing Venturi. This left 32 cars entered. The Ferrari F40's were withdrawn due to a lack of gearbox parts - leaving Simpson Engineering's Ferrari 348LM as the sole representative for the Maranello concern.

Chamberlain Engineering had a new Jaguar XJ220 to race, prepared by themselves. "She is too big, she understeers a lot, but is the best we can do" said the team manager. Lotus were present with an official Lotus Esprit S300. It is a completely new car "The chassis is the same, but all the rest is new. We have renewed the supply system, the electrical circuit, the aerodynamics and the weight. For the moment we will not be able to take part in all the races but we will try and find the budget" said Ian Foley. The car now weighs in at a touch over 900kg, with a 370bhp engine for the race, and a 500bhp one for qualifying.

Marcos, the Westbury-based manufacturer, also was making it's debut in the GT Endurance Series, after recent success in the British Series. The car is based on the Mantara, and is powered by a 6.1 litre V8 Chevrolet.

Sunday, unusually the qualifying day due to a bank holiday on Monday, was gloriously hot - perhaps too hot at times, and the cars set for battle on the track. Porsche were getting in a tizzy about the name of their car. Dr Jurgen Barth insisted that it is not a 933, as there isn't such a car in their range. It is most definitely a 911 GT2. The cars built by other people are 911 bi-turbos, and all cars with atmospheric engines are Carreras (Cup, RS, RSR, Carrera 2 or Carrera 4 - take your pick).

In free practice the Michelin shod McLaren's set the pace, in the afternoon it was the GoodYear shod McLaren's that took pole. "In the past we had just one type of tyre and it was a big problem. But here, for the first time, we have softer tyres" said a happy John Nielsen in the West-sponsored McLaren. Andy Wallace set the second fastest time. The McLaren of Giriox & Grouillard had to make do with third fastest. The Labre Porsche's had to make do with a time 3 seconds adrift, and was not happy - the team wanted a wet race on Monday to narrow the gap! Lotus managed a time good enough for 7th, with Alessandro Zanardi at the wheel. The unloved original XJ220 of PC Automotive beat the 'new improved' XJ220 of Chamberlain, thanks to a clutch problem, and then it ran out of fuel. "We wanted to test the capacity of the tank" was the answer to this latter problem from Hugh Chamberlain. "Otherwise everything is perfect. But the car is too big, we are going to build a smaller one".

In the second qualifying session, a much cooler session, Ron Dennis watched as 'his' McLaren's dominated again, improving on the first session. The new GoodYear tyres certainly seem to have made a huge difference to the 'other' McLaren's. For once the Gulf Racing McLarens looked second rate - comparatively. The Jaguars moved up the grid to 7th and 9th places, the 'old-model' still ahead of the new improved one.

Place No. Team Car Time 1. 8 West Competition McLaren F1 GTR 1.31.60 2. 9 Mach One Racing McLaren F1 GTR 1.31.69 3. 7 GRT Jacadi McLaren F1 GTR 1.33.34 4. 1 Gulf Racing McLaren F1 GTR 1.33.49 5. 16 Gulf Racing McLaren F1 GTR 1.34.05 6. 86 Larbre Competition Porsche 911 GT2 1.35.10 7. 17 PC Automotive Jaguar XJ220 1.36.11 8. 45 Lotus GT Team Lotus Esprit S300 1.36.71 9. 80 Chamberlain Jaguar XJ220 1.37.23 10. 70 Muhlbauer Porsche 911 GT2 1.37.42 .... 27 39 Lotus Equipe Lotus Esprit 2.07.16

Race report to follow.

-- Stephen M Baines

"[The Autosport sticker] started to peel off in the middle of Eau Rouge and it distracted me. In fact it was the first thing to hit the barrier" Tiff Needell - Jaguar XJR-15 Challenge - Interview with Autosport