Time Out with Hans-Joachim Stuck
1985 turned out to be one of Stuck’s most successful years in sports car racing. A switch from BMW to Porsche set up a formidable pairing with Englishman Derek Bell in the all-conquering Rothmans Porsche team. At Le Mans, a flat-out qualifying lap by Stuck put the 3-litre 956 on pole with a record-setting lap time and a top speed of 251.815 km/h The pair finished third overall in the race. The last round of the 1985 World Endurance Championship took the drivers across the globe to a circuit known only to a handful of the WEC drivers – Shah Alam in Selangor.
Held in December 1985, the Selangor 800 Km, as it was called, consisted of 217 laps on the dusty (when not wet) circuit. That’s over five hours of racing. In 1985 it was the reserve circuit on the World Endurance Championship calendar until the Australian organisers cancelled their leg of the series at Sandown Park. Just sixteen cars showed up as many teams had not bothered or were too cash-strapped to make the journey. There were murmurs that the pack of stray dogs prowling the infield that circuit inspector John Corsmit encountered when he first inspected the track were still lurking about. Bob Constanduros, Formula One commentator and writer, was at the circuit with photographer Keith Sutton and Bob’s article in the February 1986 edition of newly launched Motor Racing magazine (launched in January 1986) revealed that it wasn’t just Corsmit who encountered a pack of wile dogs. Apparently the #75 C2 Gebhardt JC843 Cosworth V8 of Ian Harrower/Richard Piper and Evan Clements clipped one during the warm-up! Was Bob scathing in his report? Let’s just say that many were not thrilled by the safety aspects of the circuit, amongst other things. But of course it didn’t stop Porsche from sending a brace of Rothmans-livery 956 and 962 Porsches, two with state-of-the-art Porsche double clutch transmissions (PDK). Or Tom Walkinshaw with a pair of TWR Jaguar XJR6s for Thackwell/Nielsen and Lammers/Brancatelli.
Anyone who watched the race would have recalled two things: The empty spectator stands on Saturday and the torrential downpour that struck in the late afternoon during qualifying. Just 3,000 spectators showed up at the circuit, and they must have regretted it because the colossal downpour literally turned the track and paddock into a floating dock and only Tom Walkinshaw sent Mike Thackwell out in the Jaguar XJR6 (he qualified fourth fastest, behind the Ickx/Mass 962, Bell/Stuck 956 and Larrauri/Sigala 956).
Stuck, however, remembers it for something entirely different. Stuck was the most experienced driver around (Vern Schuppan and Andrew Miedecke had raced there in the early 70s, albeit in single-seaters), and the only one with recent experience (December 1984, to be precise), though over short 15-25 lap races in a BMW M1 [Super Saloon Big Bang Part 1]. “This was the hottest race in my whole life. When we came in for a pit stop, we had to put our hands and legs into water buckets, just to cool down. It was unbelievable. Lucky, we had the Porsche doctor with us. He prepared the water buckets for us to put our extremities in…”
He was one of only three drivers on the grid who was familiar with the circuit. “I kind of liked the circuit. It was an interesting circuit. The rain was nice…Warm rain. But it was ok. It was exciting to go to new places,” he recalled. “It was a very demanding series, with two to three drivers, many pit stops, and you didn’t have cars where you could go 100 per cent like you have today. It was something for the brain, for you to win races,” he told me.
Stuck had switched camps from BMW over to Porsche in 1985 and recounts the “bullet-proof” cars from Weissach. “The good thing was that when you sit in a Porsche, you knew you would not have brake problems from the heat, you won’t have temperature problems; you know the car works. We knew what we had…100 per cent reliability.” The Porsche PDK gearbox was revolutionary then, but it had a flaw. However the results went at Shah Alam, Stuck and co-driver Derek Bell had already wrapped up the championship for Porsche with outright wins at Hockenheim 1000km, the Mosport 1000km and the Brands Hatch 1000km races.
Stuck recalled his experience with the complicated PDK gearbox. “I did approximately 25,000 test kilometres with the PDK then. I had days at the race track at Weissach when I started at 9am, finished 5pm, and the last hour I was without mechanics. They filled the tank, I drove the last stint, parked the car in the garage and drove home. The main target for the automatic gearbox in race conditions was to save mid-shifting, save the engine from over-revving, and second, it was to save time because…we could measure on a normal gear box you lost 1.5 to 2 seconds on acceleration for each gear change. With the PDK, you could leave your foot on the throttle while you were accelerating. But on the other hand, this cost us fuel. That’s why we never used the PDK in Le Mans. Shah Alam was much more relaxing for the driver, not having a gearbox to shift.”
There was a price to pay for the immense forces and stress on the drive shafts of the 956, and Bell and Stuck’s race suffered as a result of a broken driveshaft early in the race – which the team replaced in an incredible 11 minutes! But it was not to be and their race was terminated prematurely when a second driveshaft broke on lap 183 and they ran out of spares. The Selangor 800 Km was won by Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass in the Porsche 962, in just over 5 hours 32 minutes. It was the last time a World Championship of this calibre was held at Shah Alam.
RESULTS of the World Endurance Championship Selangor 800 KM
#1 – Jacky Ickx/Jochen Mass – Rothmans Porsche 962C
#51 – Mike Thackwell/John Nielsen/Jan Lammers – TWR Jaguar XJR6
#69 – Vern Schuppan/James Weaver – Rothmans Porsche 956
#33 – Franz Konrad/Andrew Miedecke – John Fitzpatrick Porsche 965B
#18 – Oscar Larrauri/Massimo Sigala/Frank Jelinski – Brun Motorsport Prosche 956
#75 – Ian Harrower/Richard Piper/Evan Clements – ADA Engineering Gebhardt JC843 Cosworth DFL [Class C2 win]
#82 – Pasquale Barverio/Jean-Pierre Frey/John Nicholson – Grifo Autoracing Alba AR3 Cosworth DFL [Class C2 2nd]
#34 – Costas Los/Christian Danner – Cosmik Racing March 84G Porsche 956
#99 – David Palmer/Michael Hall – Roy Baker Promotions Tiga GC84 Cosworth BDT 1.8 Turbo [Class C2 3rd]
#88 – Max Payne/David Andrews – Ark Racing Ceekar 83J Cosworth BDX 2.0 [Class C2 4th]
#100 – Kenneth Leim/Robin Donovan/Robin Smith – Barlett Chevron B62 Cosworth DFL [Class C2 5th]
Video footage of the 1985 season, including the Selangor 800 Km on Motorsport.tv : https://motorsport.tv/duke-classic-videos/video/1985-world-sports-car-selangor/2426
This feature appeared in Rewind Magazine issue 019, July 2014