Wayne Rainey's History
Wayne Rainey's race career started with dirt track racing in1977. And in 1983, after incredible battles for the title against Kenny Roberts and Freddie Spencer, Rainey successfully wins the AMA Super Bike Championship title with a Honda machine. In 1984, after being successfully persuaded by rival and good friend Kenny Roberts, Rainey joins the World Grand Prix in the 250cc Class.
Later however, Rainey decides to return to the AMA Superbike, and in 1987 wins once again the Superbike Championship title with the Honda bike. After this victory and as part of the Team Roberts family, Rainey joins the World Grand Prix 500cc Class for the 1988 entire season.
Wayne achieved many remarkable battles against SUZUKI's rider Kevin Schwantz by using the lead in escape strategy; hence the origin of the famous slogan "Rainey Pattern" - well known term amongst the two-wheel race fans from this era. "Mister 100%" was also Rainey's nickname achieved after his constant fighting style of always pulling away and keeping the gap even when leading by a handsome margin.
By 1992 Rainey had won three consecutive Championship titles in the World Grand Prix 500cc Class but in 1993, the year of the V4 establishment, Rainey was suddenly met by a drastic accident which put a permanent stop to his professional racing rider career. However, "Mister 100%" returns to the paddocks the following year and continues to excel as team manager, directing riders such has Tetsuya Harada, Kenny Roberts Jr. and Norick Abe amongst other two-wheel Superstars.
Eddie Lawson's History
After brushing up his riding technique in dirt track activities, Eddie switches to road racing and joins the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race in a Kawasaki for the first time in 1980. In the next two years, Eddie Lawson wins two consecutive AMA Superbike Championships.
In 1983 Eddie joins YAMAHA, teams up with Kenny Roberts and together race the 500cc Class in the World Grand Prix series. It was also at this same year that both Roberts and Freddie Spencer showed the fans world widely, the many now historically famous and continuous fights for the Champion's title.
In spite of being his rookie year, Eddie finishes the season in the overall 4th position in the Championship. While still fiercely trying to master the brand new YAMAHA 2-stroke 500cc racing machine, as well as learning each racing track where he was racing for the first time.
And at the following year, in 1984, Eddie Lawson successfully wins his first World Grand Prix Championship in the 500cc Class. His unique and steady riding style, whenever attacking of defending, gave him the superb nickname of "Steady Eddie".
And again in 1986 and 1988, Eddie achieves the World title in the 500cc Class. Then in 1989, Eddie makes the sudden decision to change manufactures to Honda and again wins the 500cc World title. However, in 1990 Eddie returns to YAMAHA, pairs with Tadahiko Taira, and together they win the extreme but spectacular Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance Race.
From 1991 and still in the World Grand Prix's 500cc Class, Eddie Lawson decides to race the unique CAGIVA for two consecutive years before retiring from the two-wheel racing world.
Kenny Roberts' History
To this day Kenny Roberts is known as the "King Kenny" not only amongst those in the Grand Prix world but also amongst road racing fans world widely.
Kenny has, step by step developed his talent since his yearly days from his amateur debut at the age of 14, back in 1965. Kenny won and was nominated the AMA Grand National Champion at the American race AMA two years in a row; 1973 and 1974.
In 1978, Kenny Roberts joins the World Grand Prix 500cc Class and soon wins three consecutive races. In 1981 he finishes 3rd in the overall Championship ranking and in 1982 finishes in the overall 4th position.
The year of 1983 is still most well remembered by fans internationally, for Roberts' fierce battles against Honda's new star rider Freddie Spencer. Unforgettable battles for the title which went on throughout the entire season, but which unfortunately Roberts was unable to conquer. With this defeat, King Kenny retires from racing.
The deserved title of "King Kenny" is not only due to Kenny Roberts racing achievements but also because he has contributed to the racing world with many unique styles including the rear-tire-slide style as well as the hang-on riding style, just to mention some. Did you know that the presently very common gigantic paddock motor homes, were first an idea put to practice and introduced by "King Kenny"? Not only that but "King Kenny" was also the first rider to ever bring along to the racing track his personal trainer for the first time at 1985 Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance Race when he teamed up with Japanese rider Tadahiko Taira.
In 1997, Kenny establishes Team KR and enters the World Grand Prix with an original racing machine. In the year 2000, his son Kenny Roberts Jr. wins the World Grand Prix in the 500cc Class, creating a father and son unique two-generations' World Champions.
Kenny Roberts has joined the MotoGP™ Hall of Fame in the year 2000.
Tamiya to exhibit the Tyrrell P34
The present owner of the Tyrrell P34; Tamiya Co., Ltd. will exhibit the unique treasure Tyrrell P34 during the SUZUKA Sound of ENGINE weekend.
- Exhibition Date: November 16th (Sat) and 17th (Sun) 2019
*More details to be posted ASAP
- Location: To be announced.
*Planning to be displayed at an area within the facilities which do not require an extra entry ticket.
- Admission Fee: Free
*To enter the exhibition area all visitors must hold the entry ticket for the SUZUKA Sound of ENGINE 2019 (optional tickets such as Paddock “plus”, etc. are not required.)
- Supported by Tamiya Co., Ltd.
Tyrrell P34, the History
cooperated with GP Car Story
Although at first it may sound difficult to believe, in the late 1970's there was a formula one racing machine which polularity, especially amongst the youngsters, exceeded that of an idol. That was the "Tyrrell P34" or rather, as it was most commonly referred to - The six-wheeled Tyrrell machine. And hereafter is the true reason behind it!
In the 70's, the heyday of the Super car boom awakened a boom of mini cars, plastic models, radio controlled models, super car shaped erasers, playing cards, pen cases and hard boards, original T-shirt designs and many other items all targeted to the likes of particularly, the male fans.
Even animation TV programs focused on the success and performance of these unique six and eight wheeled F1 racing machines had been created and proven great popularity.
photo: Minardi Day
Tyrrell and Derek Gardner
Why and how was this unprecedented six-wheeled Formula One created and why did it almost completely vanish after just two years?
It all began thanks to the existence of this one gentleman.
His name is Derek Gardner. Derek started by joining races with a self tuned up Austin Martin Seven, and by 1960 he joined the Harry Ferguson Reseach where he began the development of the trasmission system. Soon after entering the company, Derek also joined the pro racing world through Ferguson's development of the four-wheel drive Indy car project.
After reassuring himself of the vast possibilities of the 4WD, Derek proposes the creation and development of a new approach - the six-wheeled & 4WD Indy car (steered by the front two wheels and driven by the remaining four wheels).
Although this project did not get to see the light, Derek Gardner went on to join the F1 Matra 4WD project and it was there that he had a life-changing encounter with the owner of the semi-works F1 team "Matra International", Mr. Ken Tyrrell.
By 1969, Tyrrell is challenging the Formula One world with Jackie Stewart on the wheel of a Matra chassis mounted with a Cosworth DFV engine which successfully wins the Championship.
However, due to pressure put on by Matra, to use the inhouse developed V12 engine, Derek decides to leave the company. And from 1970 goes on to feature as an independent constructor.
After that, Derek who is by then under contract with Furguson, becomes the responsible for the design development of their original racing machine. Although still an amateur in this field, Derek Gardner's originally designed first ever Tyrrell - the "Tyrrell 001" already in the first year, successfully wins 3 rounds in North America and although it was forced to retire from racing, Tyrrell 001 achieved front row grid with many battles for top positions at all races that year.
In the 1971 F1 season, Jackie Stewart wins 6 out of the 11 total races, presenting the team with the season's double title. Then in 1973, Stewart proceeds to win five races and achieves yet one more time the Championship title. Meanwhile and with all this achieved success, Derek Gardner becomes F1's Chassis' top designer.
photo: Minardi Day
The birth of an unprecedented six-wheeled racing car
Inspite of Tyrrell team steady success, Gardner had began to feel the limit of the regular kit car F1 "Cosworth DFV & Hewland FG400" package. He had started to wonder what would take to further excel in the field. And that is when Gardner realized that the concept shoud be based on "drag reduction which leads to power-up".
This is when Derek Gardner decides to unwrap his brilliant plan of creating a six-wheeled racing car.
The idea was to combine four small diameter front wheels and tires with the Tyrrell trade mark front sports car nose in order to reduce airflow to the minimum at the front and consequently adquire the optimum maximum speed. The idea behind, being that by increasing the contact surface with the tires, an increase in the mechanical grip as well as in the stopping power, would be achieved.
The machine, named P34 (Project 34) indicating Gardner's 34th project, was secretly developed and completed in 1975.
Although it was originally planned for a prototype model, it ended up successfully faster then the existing 007, and since the 007 was already showing some power lacking, it was decided that the P34 be launched to replace and join the 1976 season.
And so in 1976 at the 4th round – Spanish GP with Patrick Depailler on the wheel, the Tyrrell P34 machine makes its glorious debut right away qualifying in the 3rd position and greatly exceeding the performance of its counterpart 007, at the time driven by Jody Scheckter.
P34 was also able to keep pace and position throughout the race, until, unfortunately it got involved in an accident and had to retire from the race.
At the Monaco GP, Scheckter finishes 2nd, followed by Depailler in the 3rd position at the podium Also at the following round - the Swedish GP, P34 continues showing great speed stability, Scheckter grabs the PP followed by Depailler in the 4th position at the starting grid. They both very successfully finish 1st and 2nd at the race.
The 1976 season proved very successful with Scheckter finishing the season in the Overall 3rd position followed by Depailler in the 4th in the Drivers ranking while the Team finished 3rd in the Constructors ranking.
As later, the movie "RUSH" well projects, the final round of that season also shows why 1976 became a most unforgettable year for the Japanese fans too.
Tyrrell P34 arrived to the Japanese GP with the brand name and the drivers' names uniquely printed in the Japanese Hiragana spelling style「たいれる」(Tairel),「しえくたあ」(Shiekutaa) and 「どぱいえ」(Dopaie) which caused great impact and greatly increased the team's recognition in Japan. Thus in Japan, leaving the brand's name pronounced "TAIREL" for the next several years.
The actual race was hit by heavy rains, however for Depailler's advantage since he successfully finished in the second position behind the winner Mario Andretti's Lotus 77.
photo: JT & Pierluigi collection, Massimiliano Serra
Success lasted but a blink of an eye
Since the popularity and the results of the P34 turned out to be much better than first expected, Derek Gardner is determined to continue with further developments aiming for an even more successful 1977 season.
In this context, the front tread is further shortened, the body fully covered and aerodinamics redesigned with the goal of achieving better results. Driver Jody Scheckter is replaced by Ronnie Peterson. And at the off season tests conducted at Paul Ricard circuit, Patrick Depailler marks the track record lap time. Depailler becomes a strong candidate for Champion in the upcoming season.
However, since the Michelin tires joined the season, tire development competition became extremely strong and Goodyear stopped further development of the 10 inch front tire, which caused a significant drop in the so far good development rhythm of the Tyrrell.
The 1977 season started quite smoothly with Depailler winning 3rd position at the South America GP and 4th at the Long Beach GP, unfortunately however, gradually the results began to drop. Straying from the main stream and in order to better achieve the required results, the team agrees to numerous changes, including bringing back the previous season cowl, replacing the narrow tread to a wider one in order to retrieve front grip but by this, totally contradicting the concept of airflow reduction.
Meanwhile the team's internal atmosphere starts to deteriorate and finally at the Italian GP, Tyrrell and Gardner relationship brakes down and Gardner leaves the F1 world taking with him his P34 and therefore ending all its further future development.
Under this circunstances, although struggling with what is left, Depailler finishes 2nd at the Canada GP and 3rd at Rd 16th, the final round of the season the Japanese GP, concluding P34 short but glorious F1 history.
After that, many other teams too continued studying the six-wheeled concept and although both manufactures March and Ferrari came even close to testing, they finally gave up.
Later at the end of 1982, Williams produces a rear four-wheeled FW08B with some good test results, unfortunately however in 1983 the FIA issues a set of new regulations that prohibits any other racing machine, other than four- wheeled machines to compete in the F1, bringing to an end any further opportunity for the six-wheeled racing machines to appear in the Grand Prix scene ever again.
The further destiny of both Derek Gardner and his Tyrrell P34
Fortunately, the P34 history of course, does not end here! Even after leaving the racing world, Derek Gardner continues seaching the possibilities for the six-wheeled racing machine.
Then, when in 1990 the Historic Formula One Championship gets established in Europe, historic professional racer Martin Stretton enters the championship for the first time with the Tyrrell 005 owned by Simon Bull. Then in 1995 when Simon meets Gardner, he invites Gardner to join the team.
Soon after, when Stretton becomes one of the top group drivers on the wheel of the 005, Gardner proposes a new project to the team owner. And that was the participation in the Thoroughbred Grand Prix with the P34. They immediately agree and approach Avon tyres in order to develop proper exclusive tyres for the occasion. In 1999, the Tyrrell P34 is back in the racing world.
Right at the first race at Paul Ricard, the P34/6 (the actual car raced by Ronnie Peterson in 1977) driven by Martin Stretton starts the race from front row. Stretton finishes the race on top at his Class and in the Overall 3rd position. Then at Donington 3rd once again and in July at Brands Hatch he finishes top also in the Overall classification.
From then on, Stretton and Gardner together, continue to witness and celebrate P34's top performances in the Thoroughbred Grand Prix which helps Gardner to prove to himself and the world that his theory had been correct all along.
In January 2011, at the age of 79 Derek Gardner life comes to a close. After this, both P34 and Stretton participation chances decrease significantly and by 2012 Stretton has left the Historic F1 races for good.
As for Tyrrell P34, between 1976 and 1977 the chassis number had developed from P34/2 to P34/7. Luckly it is believed that most chassis still exist. However and because it is a rare chassis, it has become a collectors item and therefore it is extremely rare to see this car running at Historic race events or even at circuit events.
Under these circumstances, being able to enjoy the Tyrrell P34 runnning at the famous Suzuka Circuit this fall, will be a truly rare and valuable experience.
Pier Luigi Martini
Message to the Japan fans
“I still remember the very first time I raced in Japan. It was back in 1988 and in that year I was able to collect the very first point for the Minardi Team in Formula 1 and for myself at the U.S. Grand Prix in Detroit. With that placement, I was steady back in Formula 1. So I arrived in Japan and I was immediately captured by the place, so peculiar and really different from any other Country in the World. People were amazing, and still are, the fast trains and the food were other surprises. Since then, I need to go and eat sushi and sashimi from time to time.
The Suzuka race track is one of the most demanding I ever raced. To be fast here is a real challenge and I was hooked in a snap. With its bands and corners Suzuka is one of the most complete tracks in the World, with a very good tarmac too. Officials and Marshals are competent and brave and the facilities are at the top. Suzuka is definitively my favourite race track and, for me, the best in the World.
The Japan Grand Prix I'm pleased to remember is the one I raced in 1991. With my Minardi M191 powered by Ferrari, I had a car good enough to start from the 7th position on the grid. After a good start I stayed in front of the Benetton Ford of Michael Schumacher that was pushing and trying to pass me but I resisted until 39 laps when I had to retire with an electrical problem.
I want to say few words about the public I met in Suzuka: people passionate about motor sport, with high competence and great knowledge, and, most of all, a great education and respect.
I'm absolutely charmed by Japan, a Nation that I love, and I feel the highest respect and admiration for the People and the Country.
All about Pierluigi Martini
If you remember being hooked on the F1 during the bubble economy period in Japan (late 80's to the early 90's), you certainly recall the good fun Italian team "Minardi" and their occasional big hits. Then you must also certainly remember the man behind the scenes, the one that supported the team throughout its long career, Minardi's Ace driver, Pierluigi Martini.
The fact is that Martini has always had a very close relationship with Team Minardi. This team was founded in 1979 by Giancarlo Minardi. Mr. Minardi had first entered the racing world in 1972 focusing in team management business with the private team Scuderia del Passatore.
During his Formula Italia years too, Mr. Minardi successfully continued achieving great results thanks to his management know-how and so in 1975 he decided to form a new team – Scuderia Everest – and with it join the F2 series. Then in 1976 this team entered in the F1 non-championship as a Ferrari satellite team with a Ferrari 312T machine and with Pierluigi Martini's uncle – Giancarlo Martini, on the wheel. Unfortunately, and for several reasons their F1 career ended soon after just two rounds. However, Ferrari continued to supply the engine now for the F2 series. By 1979, the team had changed its name to - Minardi Team, and this was when they began the development of their original F2 racing machine. It was in also in 1979 that Minardi Team launched its racing career as a full-fledged racing car constructor.
From F3 Champion to the F1 World
Meanwhile, Pierluigi Martini, who had started his racing career in karting in his teen years, had moved up to the Italian F3 Championship by the time he was 20 and by 1983, Martini had already achieved the title of "youngest European F3 Champion".
Then in July of the same year, Martini was called to spot race for Minardi at the Misano European F2 Championship in Italy. Despite being its debut race, Martini won the team the second position which also opened a door of opportunities to his racing career.
In 1984, Martini debuted in the F1 as a spot entry with Toleman, the team was however unable to make it through Qualifying.
Martini proceeded his career by joining the F1 1985 full season with Minardi. However, and due to the lack of experience with F1, both the team and Martini struggled to achieve results and eventually Martini decided to leave the team.
Instead in 1986, Pierluigi Martini joins the European F3000 Championship on the wheel of the Ralt RT20DFV, wins two races and finishes the season in third position in the overall ranking.
Martini continues with his F3000 racing career for two more years. In 1988, however, when at the Canada GP, Minardi Team Ace driver, Adrian Campos, decides to retire from the series, Martini is invited in to join the team. Right at his first race in the US, the Detroit GP, Martini presents the team with their first series points by finishing in the 6th position at the race.
Worlds' Leading P34 Collector
Finally in 1991, Minardi is given the chance to mount the long-awaited Ferrari V12 engine. The expectations where high, but even with Martini on the wheel, the team was unable to reach higher than the fourth position, which they achieved at both San Marino GP and at the Portuguese GP (the highest scores the team ever achieved).
In 1992, Martini together with the Ferrari engine leaves Minardi to join the rival team Scuderia Italia.
However not being able to get the results desired, halfway into the 1993 season, Martini returns to Minardi Team. Then in 1995, after the German GP, Martini decides to retire from F1 for good.
After that, Martini joins the Sportscar racing world and in 1999 wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans racing a BMW V12 LMR along with teammates Yannick Dalmas and Joachim Winkelhock. Adding to his racing history one more fabulous result.
After, Pierluigi Martini retired from racing, he decided to pursue the career of a successful businessman and investor.
In recent years, encouraged by his good friend Paolo Barilla, Martini decided to become a racing car collector. Some of his first achievements included ofcourse acquiring the racing machines he once raced; the Ralt RT20 and the Minardi 189. Then by 2017, Martini got hold of the very first F1 machine he fell in love with at the Monaco GP, when he was only 15 years of age – the Tyrrell P34/5.
After that and besides the Tyrrell P34/5, Martini has also acquired the P34/2. Now Pierluigi Martini is not only the biggest Tyrrell P34 collector in the market but is also recognized as the biggest connoisseur of the P34 facts and unique characteristics.
Profile of Pier Luigi Martini
Born in Lugo April 23, 1961 Lives in Imola (Bologna) Italy
Professional Racing Career
Formula 1 Summary
|Top Six positions||10|
- Season 1984 Toleman Hart TG184 (Italian GP only)
- Season 1985 Minardi M185 Cosworth (first two races) - Motori Moderni
- Season 1988 Minardi M188 Cosworth
- Season 1989 Minardi M188B Cosworth - M189 Cosworth
- Season 1990 Minardi M189 Cosworth - M190 Cosworth
- Season 1991 Minardi M191 Ferrari
- Season 1992 Scuderia Italia 192 Dallara Ferrari
- Season 1993 Minardi M193 Cosworth
- Season 1994 Minardi M193B Coswoth - M194 Cosworth
- Season 1995 Minardi M195 Cosworth
- The first driver in the points for the Minardi Team (US GP 1988, Detroit, 6th)
- The first and only Minardi Team driver to lead a GP (Estoril, Portugal, 1989)
- The first and only Minardi Team driver to start from the first row (US GP, Detroit, 1990)
- 1982 Formula 3 Italian Championship - Ralt RT3 Alfa Romeo Team Pavesi - 3rd overall
- 1983 Formula 3 European Champion - Ralt RT3 Alfa Romeo Team Pavesi
- 1986 Formula 3000 International - Ralt RT 20 Cosworth Team Pavesi - 2nd (after review)
- 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans 1st overall - Winner (team mates Yannick Dalmas and Joachim Winkehlock - BMW V12 LMR)
The history of Group C
“Group C - Before Dawn”
“I am actually very relieved that Group C races are over. At the time, every time I finished a race, deep down I was thinking “oh what a relief that I raced and came back alive.” Confesses Mr. Kazuyoshi Hoshino when remembering his racing days in Group C. So, what exactly is Group C that intimidates even the “Fastest man in Japan”?
It was in 1972 that the 3-liter Group 5 Prototype World Championship regulations were reset. Until then and since 1970, it was basically the straight forwards 5-liter monster sports car race battle between the Porsche 917 and the Ferrari 512.
At this time Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Matra, Gulf Mirage DFV, Laura DFV, and other manufacturers began participating in this type of new sports car already racing conscious of the engine compatibility with the F1 engine. Although, with Le Mans at its pinnacle, the races were showing great popularity and excitement, many of the manufactures were forced to withdraw from the championship unable to cope with the impact of the international first oil shock in 1973. In 1976, in order to save the scene, new regulations were set for the Group 5 Silhouette Formula which was nominated the World Makers Championship and for the 3-Liter Group 6 - the World Sportscar Championship. However, by the end of the 70’ both classes had been simplified into one-make Porsche 935 and 936 races respectively.
Then in order to save the Sports Car Race, the FIA came up with a new categorization system which begun by changing the system from 1 to 8, into the alphabetic categorization. Likewise, the regulations were drastically reviewed, creating a simple series that basically stated that as long as the cars observed the total amount of fuel regulation then all different cc displacement would be accepted.
“The aim was to knock down the Porsches”
The Group C Regulations became effective in 1982. More precisely, Group C regulations consisted of a closed car body with the total length of 4800mm or less and a total width of 2000mm or less. A minimum weight of 800kg and a fuel tank capacity of 100liters or less. It was also stipulated that it should have a 1000mm x 800mm flat bottom under the cabin. The number of refueling times was also limited to 25 times or less in the Le Mans and limited to 5 fuel stops in other Endurance rounds including the 1000km and the 6hour races.
By setting up a fuel-saving race with free engine format, unlimited displacement and minimum production number requirements, the FIA aimed to encourage the entry of a wide variety of car manufacturers. However, with the almost simultaneous start of the WEC (World Endurance Championship) series, only Porsche with the 956 was prepared and ready to join the Group C series. Lancia joined in the Group 6 under the LC1 regulations and so did Ford and Rondeau who hurriedly improvised their racing machines to match the regulations.
Although in the early days it was Lancia that led the field with its excellent fuel consumption, it was only a matter of time before the 956 Porsche - the 936/81 inherited 2.56 liter horizontal 6 cylinder twin turbo engine with a new aluminum monocoque and ground effect chassis that combined with the knowhow of top drivers such as Jacky Ickx, Joshen Mass, Derek Bell and Vern Schuppan and together with Porsche’s superb organizational capacity, successfully led the field. The victories started right away with the win in the 24hours of Le Mans.
At this time, Group C’s big concern was that Porsche would exclusively lead the era but in 1983 Porsche opened the 956 market to customers. And although at first there was some hesitation regarding the 956 one-make series idea, the fact that the series attracted a fair number of leading privateers helped to create many heroes that filled the series with exciting and dramatic episodes.
As for Lancia LC2, the only other manufacture in the field, they decided to stop all works activities in 1986. On the other hand, Jaguar who had newly joined in 1985, decided to go full time with Team TWR led by Tom Walkinshaw. They introduced the XJR-6, an aspiring machine with a 5.3-liter V12NA engine mounted on a carbon monocoque chassis that gradually came to be quite effective. In this same year, the Swiss constructor Sauber launched the C8 equipped with a Mercedes 5-liter V8 turbo. In the end, Group C was supported by many different cars aiming for the post Porsche success.
It was in 1987 that major changes begun to occur in the Group C racing (changed names to WSPC from 1986). The TWR Jaguar won the first 4 races and although unable to win the Le Mans, they successfully finally took the title from the Porsche. Then in 1988, TWR Jaguar won both the Le Mans race and the championship title, becoming the leading team in the Group C. It was also in 1988 that the Mercedes did its strong comeback with Team Sauber Mercedes wining 5 races and finishing in the overall second position in the championship. In 1988 that Porsche finished its works project and it was also this year that the first era of the Group C project came to an end.
“Japanese Group C”
The Group C concept first entered the Japanese motorsports scene in 1982. In October of that same year, Japan held its first Japan WEC round, the 7th round of the WEC, at Fuji Speedway. Most entries were long distance entrants such as the March and the Chevron from the 2-liter Group 6 and the Mazda Savanna RDX-7 from the IMSA-GTX. It was only TOM’S with the support of both DOME and Toyota that was able to develop and enter with a purposely developed TOM’S Celica which ended up unexpectedly achieving the 5th position in the points and becoming the pioneer in the creation of the path for national Group C development.
And it was in 1983 that the All Japan Endurance Championship series were established. While the performance of the Porsche 956 purchased by the Trust Racing Team showed by far the strongest results, other teams began development and joined the series. TOM’s with the DOME 83C Toyota, and DOME with the RC-83C DFV. In addition the NISSANs Central 20 by Les Mans Shoukai developed the LM03C NISSAN, the HASEMI Motorsports came in with the FR layout Skyline Turbo C, HOSHINO RACING joined with the March 83C NISSAN, the MOONCRAFT with a March Chassis C2 machine, the MCS Guppy run by a privateer and so the Japan Group C era begun.
In 1985, DOME TOM’s 84C Toyota becomes the first national made racing machine to win the Suzuka 500km race. The 85C is the first Toyota to join the Les Mans race and in October, back in Japan, March 85G NISSAN with Kazuyoshi Hoshino/ Keiji Matsumoto/ Akira Hagiwara on the wheel, achieves the first pole-to-win result in the WEC Japan. By now, the Japanese manufactures’ capacity had greatly increased also partly due to the bubbling economy of the 80’s. After this, the Japanese Group C scene continued to create unprecedent excitement for many years to come.
“The New Era and its sudden Death”
In 1989 the Group C encounters its first major changes. All 8 Rounds are unified to 480km distance each (in order to conform with the TV live broadcast), the Les Mans race is removed from the championship calendar and all the participating teams are obliged to participate full season. This marked the official participation of the 3 major works teams -TOYOTA, NISSAN and MAZDA in the races.
The opening round was the Suzuka WSPC where 36 machines gathered for an apparently successful FIA event. However, being obliged to participate in the entire championship was too high a hurdle to overcome for most of the privateers which in fact were the majority in the Group C representation. In addition, and in order to attract other manufacturers in 1991 the FIA created the C1 regulation allowing only the 3.5-liter NA machines (as simultaneously changing the championship name to SWC). Peugeot was the first to join the grid, however unlike expected, no F1 manufactures joined and therefore this new approach created the end of the Group C era.
Under these circumstances, Mazda won their first Les Mans in 1991. While Toyota and NISSAN were forced to withdraw due to imposed handicap weight (BOP) ,Mazda the only Japanese manufacture that remained, which was imposed only a light BOP, went for the challenge and with a well-developed 787B and experienced F1 drivers and perfect team strategy, joined the Les Mans with the last rotary engine and overtaking the Peugeots, the Mercedes and the Jaguars, achieved the so desired and well deserved overall victory.
The plan was that after the 1992 SWC regulations were unified and standardized to the 3.5-liter NA, the championship would have its brilliant debut. However, once ready to start, the grid had only Peugeot, Toyota and Mazda and a total of no more than 10 cars signed up for the show. At the opening race, the Monza 500km, the win was achieved by the Toyota TS010 driven by Hitoshi Ogawa and Geoff Lees. Besides the battle between the Toyota and the Peugeot, it ended up being a Peugeot 905 one side game which contributed poorly to the success of the series.
In the end, although special measures were taken, such as allowing the Group C to join the Les Mans, it was impossible to stop the decrease in the participation. Eventually all this accumulation, marked the end of the Sportscar World Championship series from the 1953 onwards, as we knew it.
On the other hand, the Japanese Group C race which had changed its name to JSPC in 1987, was prospering more year after year. In 1990, the Japanese manufacture NISSAN R90CP won the first series title. Year after year the battles between the Toyota and the NISSAN continued more fiercely and by 1992 the NISSAN had created the invincible monster machine - the R92CP with more than 800ps max output and capable of reaching the unofficial max speed of 400km/h.
Even after the C1 regulations, the JSPC continued to allow the participation of the Group C machines also in order to try and maintain the series alive. However, after the burst of the economic bubble in 1992 the grid quickly shrunk to no more than 10 entries. Although, Toyota, Mazda and NISSAN were already working on the development of the 3.5-liter NA C1 racing machine, unable to survive, regretfully the Japanese Group C races were forced to quietly end its history.
Since then, the main sports cars shifted to the GT cars, leaving the Prototype sports cars in pose mode until the LMP machines were introduced. However, and due to the continuous worldwide interest in the Group C and its manufactures, machines design and drivers throughout the times, since the era of 2000, the scene has been revived by the creation of the Historic Race. And thanks to its amazing history, as for now, the fans continue to have the opportunity to enjoy and even recall some of those frenzy moments of this unforgettable history.