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Prototypes, GT & Endurance Legends From Blenheim Palace

By Tim Dunlop

In my final article from Salon Prive, I take a look at some of the more modern endurance machinery that were part of the event.

The six cars on display would cover everything from GT cars to Group C racers and even a couple of LMP 1 cars.

In chronological order and starting with the oldest, the first car we feature is the 1988 Porsche 962 ‘Kremer’ This striking Kenwood liveried car with chassis number CK6-88 was built new by the Kremer Racing team in what was to be a significant year for Porsche. Le Mans 1988 would see Porsche’s run of 6 wins ended by the Jaguar team with a Porsche 962 still on the lead lap after 24 hours taking the next step on the podium.

Kremer was one of a few teams to ‘privately’ build versions of the 962. The team did away with the original aluminium sheet tub of the Porsche chassis, replacing it on this particular car with the preferred TC Prototypes Ltd “Thompson” chassis with its reputedly stronger, stiffer aluminium-honeycomb monocoque chassis, offering enhanced rigidity and safety.

One of eleven chassis built this car was campaigned throughout 1988 in both the FIA World Sports Prototype Championship and the FIA Interserie Championship.

The cars first race came in the Silverstone 1000kms in May 88. The car would not be in the familiar Kenwood livery but in the colours of a company called ‘Aeroscope’.

This race would very much be a warm-up race prior to Le Mans with the car not finishing at the Northamptonshire circuit due to an engine failure.

For the 6 round Coupe d’Europe series, this chassis would have a further enhancement to the standard 962 package in the form of a bespoke Kremer rear wing.

This rear wing package has been kept with the car during various changes of ownership and rather than the traditional 962 rear deck that would have been used at Le Mans the car was displayed at Blenheim with the Kremer wing.

In this series, this car would take wins at Hockenheim and Wunstorf driven by Danish driver Kris Nissen. Nissen would also pilot the car to 9th at the Hungaroring but would not compete at the other three rounds.

Le Mans 1988 would see the car entered under the team name Kenwood Kremer Racing with the driving trio of Japanese racers Takahashi and Okada alongside Italian Bruno Giacomelli.

The car would finish 9th overall, 24 laps down on the Jaguar XJR-9LM of Jan Lammers, Johnny Dumfries and Andy Wallace.

It would also compete at two more rounds of the World Sports Prototype Championship later in the year at Nurburgring (10th ) and Fuji (DNF).

Excitingly this car would also feature in the 1988 World Challenge, a series finale event held at Tampa Bay, Florida that would see the top European Group C teams compete with the leading cars from the IMSA GTP field. The lighter more powerful Group C cars were expected to have the advantage but as it happened the circuit was a great balancer and the racing proved competitive from both classes.

Eventually, after 117 laps of the 1.9 mile circuit the #83 Nissan GTP car of Geoff Brabham, John Morton and Don Devendorf took the win with two Group C 962’s taking the rest of the podium positions.

The Kremer Kenwood car would take 6th place driven by Formula 1 World Champion and Indy-winning father Mario Andretti and his multiple CART Champion son Michael.

The next car up in the chronological order of this article (and easily my all-time favourite racing car) is an Audi R8.

Brought along to the event by UK classic car dealer Fiskens who currently have this car up for sale, chassis 405 debuted at the 2000 Le Mans Test Day where the car clocked the fastest time of the day. The #9 car driven by Scotsman Allan McNish and the French duo of Laurent Aiello and Stéphane Ortelli would start the main race a few months later, on pole position with the sister cars taking 2nd and 3rd place.

Audi had hoped that by reuniting the three drivers that had won Le Mans in 1998 (albeit with Porsche) this would give them a very strong chance of taking the win at La Sarthe.

Alongside two other R8’s with equally strong line ups Audi certainly arrived at the famous circuit as odds on favourites to take a win. The difficult thing to predict though would be which car would take that win?

During the race though, this car would need to pit after 10 hours due to a gearbox issue.

Although the R8 was known for its legendary speedy rear-end changes the fact that its team car (number 8) would have a pretty trouble-free race meant that chassis 405 would actually cross the finish line in second place, just ahead of the other team car (car #7) which had also hit gearbox problems.

Three weeks after Le Mans this car would race in the ALMS race at the Nurburgring for Audi Sport North America, taking the third place behind the winning Panoz and the second-place BMW V12 LMR.

This round would be one of two races outside of America for this championship, with the second one being the race of a thousand years in Australia later in the year.

Following its appearance in Germany, the car would head to North America to compete in the American Le Mans Series races at Sears Point, Texas, Portland and finally Petit Le Mans. Good results at the four races (including a win at Texas) would help guide Audi to the LMP teams championship with the driver of the sister car Allan McNish taking the drivers championship.

2001 would see the car again compete in the ALMS, this time under the stewardship of Champion Racing for three races (Sebring, Mosport and Petit Le Mans). Andy Wallace would pilot the car in all three races with Dorsey Schroeder and Ralf Kelleners joining him at Sebring and Johnny Herbert assisting in the other two rounds.

Sebring would see a third-place finish behind the two R8’s of the Audi Sport North America team. Mosport saw the car classified as 14th overall (thanks to the distance completed) although the car did not finish following an accident.

Petit Le Mans would again see the car finish third behind two Audi R8’s however this time it was not the second Audi Sport car finishing above it but the Gulf/Brocade liveried Johansson Motorsport car.

Following the Audi are two GT cars, the first of these is a British brute in the form of the Lister Storm. The car on display, sporting the livery of northeast football club Newcastle United was chassis GTM002 one of the later cars and had first been raced in the FIA GT championship in 2000.

Introduced in 1999 the GTM was the third iteration of the Storm GT car. The GTM built on the knowledge and success of the two previous versions (GTS and GTL) and although production of the road car had ceased sometime prior Lister decided, given there was a shortage of GT machinery to further evolve the Storm.

This chassis, the second GTM built would take its first win in its first race outing. The team had had a decent season in the FIA GT Championship in 1999 and despite only competing in half the races, they secured an equal fifth place in the team’s championship alongside the Konrad team and their Porsche 911 GT2.

Wins in 2000 at Valencia, Estoril, Silverstone, Zolder and Magny-Cours would see the driving due of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Julian Bailey take both the driver’s championship and also the teams championship in this car. The 2000 season also saw two further Storms competing in the British GT Championship with one car being run by the factory and a second by the Cirtek team. Strong results here for the factory car would see it take second in the domestic championship with wins for the Cirtek car at Silverstone and Spa Francorchamps.

The second GT car on display was resplendent in a quite simplistic bright red livery. Whilst the livery might be simple and largely devoid of sponsors there is not another colour you associate Ferrari with than bright red.

The Prodrive built and developed 550 had been a project that saw the Warwickshire based specialist join forces with the sports car racing division of the Care Group.

The 550 Maranello on display at Salon Prive was the third chassis produced (#113136), this car made its racing debut at the 2002 Le Mans 24 Hours driven by Rickard Rydell, Tomáš Enge and Alain Menu and led the class convincingly until a fire ruined the day and the car could not complete the race.

Following Le Mans, the car would head to the USA late in 2002 where it would join the American Le Mans Series races at Laguna Seca and Petit Le Mans. Enge would race in both events being joined by Peter Kox for a 13th place overall finish and 1st in class for the first and a 10th place finish in the second where the talent of Alain Menu would team up with Enge and Kox.

The first race the car would see in 2003 was Le Mans where it would be entered by the French team of World Cup Alpine Ski racer Luc Alphand. Alphand would be joined in the car, now in a very different livery of blue, white and grey by fellow countryman Jérôme Policand and swiss driver Frédéric Dor. The car would finish in overall 21st place and 5th in the GTS class behind two Corvettes and a Viper with another 550 of Veloqx Prodrive Racing taking the class win.

After the race at La Sarthe, the car would return to the more recognisable colours of CARE Racing and head as in the previous year to America for the remainder of the 2003 American Le Mans Series. Rounds at Road Atlanta, Sonama, Trois Rivieres and Mosport would see the car finish 10th (4th in class), 10th (3rd in class), 13th (4th in class) and 6th (3rd in class) the run to the end of the season would see the car really hit form with class wins at Road America, Laguna Seca and Miami before finishing 2nd in Class at Petit Le Mans behind the team car.

Once the season had finished in America the car was flown back to Europe to compete in the opening round of the new Le Mans Endurance Series which took place at the French Bugatti circuit. Continuing its competitive streak, the car would win the GTS class driven by Jamie Davis and Darren Turner.

Chassis 113136 would compete only once in 2004 and it was in this livery that the car would be shown at Blenheim Palace. That year’s Le Mans 24Hr would see Darren Turner and Rickard Rydell joined by the late World Rally Champion Colin McRae. McRae feeling an urge to look outside the WRC and take on some marathon-style racing events had already competed in the Paris Dakar earlier in the year and was extremely happy to be joining the Prodrive team at La Sarthe. He put on a good show and was competitive in the car the team completing 329 laps and finishing 9th overall and third in the GTS class.

The car would continue to compete in 2005 as part of the Cirtek Russian Age Racing team as they took on the FIA GT championship and also Le Mans where the car would finish 17th and 5th in class.

Its last season of competition would be the following year with the only race being Le Mans where still in the hands of Cirtek the car failed to finish after just 124 laps.

Throughout its racing lifespan of 33 events, this particular Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive picked up 14 podium finishes, 10 pole positions while taking the win in 5 races.

Towards the far end of the display of endurance legends was a Peugeot 908. The car on display was a recently restored to ‘as new’ condition 90X from 2012.

This car (chassis #6) never raced in period and is from the BBM Sport collection of Bob Berridge and Nic Minassian. Peugeot 908’s are a common sight now at historic events and in the Masters Endurance Legend series thanks in part to the purchase of multiple Peugeot 908’s direct from Peugeot Sport a few years ago.

This car is a chassis that would have been part of the factory Peugeot team in the 2012 World Endurance Championship season beginning at Sebring.

As has been well documented Peugeot would withdraw from this championship and close down the 908 programme leaving this car un-raced.

This 90X actually saw its first race in the pilot event for the Masters Endurance Legends at Spa in 2017. At that event, the car started the race in pole position after a superb qualifying session and finished the race in 6th, easily achieving the fastest lap of the race.

It was a burst of rain on the opening lap over the far side of the circuit that put paid to the 90X taking a win with the car having to pit for wet tyres along with several other cars in the field.

A round of the 2019 Masters Endurance Legends at Paul Ricard as part of the Le Castellet Motors Cup would see regular driver Kriton Lendoudis take a win in the opening race with a second place in Race 2 behind the winning Aston Martin DBR1-2.

After a few successful races including a win at Brands Hatch driven by Rui Aguas, the decision was made to carry out a full rebuild and restoration on the car back to as new condition and the car was displayed at Salon Prive having recently been completed and shaken down.

The last car in the display of historic endurance racers was a Matech Ford GT1. Looking superb in the livery of the Belgian MARC VDS team this car chassis number #003 was first raced in 2010 in the FIA GT championship.

The car sporting number 41 would be driven by Finnish driver Markus Palttala for the whole season being joined by Belgian Renaud Kuppens for the first 6 rounds and Italian Matteo Bobbi for the final 3.

Matech Concepts was founded in 2006 and in an agreement with Ford appointed to develop a racing version of the company’s hypercar the Ford GT. Initially starting with a GT3 version in 2007 which was immediately fast on its Silverstone debut, the team continued to develop the car going on to dominate the 2008 season claiming the FIA European GT3 championship.

Having proved how successful the project was, team founder Martin Bartek announced the team would step up to compete at the highest level of GT racing taking on the GT1 class with further development of the GT3 car.

2009 was very much a development season with the team using two modified GT3 chassis while back at base, development of the all-new GT1 continued ready for the following season.

6 Ford GT1 chassis were constructed by Matech over the life of the programme, two of these would be raced in the 2010 season by Matech themselves with the MARC VDS team taking two further cars.

The cars were competitive across the season with one of the Matech cars allowing its driver Thomas Mutsch to finish second in the driver’s championship.

Hungry for success in 2011. MARC VDS would employ the driving talent of Maxime Martin and rising star Fred Makowiecki. This partnership proved just the ticket and of the six rounds they raced together they took 4 wins.

Worth mentioning is the round at Ordos City China where the car took a win in both the qualifying and trophy race.

At the end of 2011, this chassis was retired from racing and retained by the team until 2014 when it along with its sister car was purchased by an American collector.