World Touring Car Masters
|World Touring Car Masters|
|Driver's Champion||Roland Ratzenberger|
The World Touring Car Masters was the successor to the World Touring Car Championship, ran in 1987 by the FIA. It ran for 18 seasons, from 1988 until 2004, when it was replaced by the reformed World Touring Car Championship in 2005.
The First Season
After the fiasco of 1987 with the World Touring Car Championship - where politics took much more of the headlines than racing ever did throughout the year, culminating with the champion Roberto Ravaglia only getting crowned in March 1988 (with WTCM already starting) - FIA realised things needed to change.
For 1988 then, the WTCC idea was scrapped and was replaced by the newly formed World Touring Car Masters. In spite off still being organised by the FIA, the series featured inputs from all the successful regional touring car series, in order to build the most secure set of rules possible. A 11 race calendar was introduced for 1988 - featuring rounds at places like Bathurst and the mythic Nordschleife - with the race format being the big change. Instead of the usual endurance race and two driver teams, FIA announced that teams would have just one driver per car with separate rules for manufacturer and privateer entries - manufacturer backed entries being allowed 4 cars per event while privateer entries only 2 entries per event. The usual one race weekend was replaced by a two race format, the first race of the weekend being a long endurance race (with distances ranging from 250km to 1000km, starting in 1989), followed by a shorter 100km race sprint race on Sunday, with the top 10 of the endurance race being reversed on the grid. The format vastly improved racing, with specially the sprint race being lauded for introducing a new variable into touring car racing as a whole.
But with the focus being on racing, 1988 didn't start as expected. In February 1988, the FIA received a request from Nissan to homologate their new Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R, also known as the "Godzilla" in the future. Nissan exploited a loophole in the regulations which allowed to homologate prototypes, without having need to feature those modifications in their road car - the R32 the car was based off only scheduled for release to the public in October of that year. So, when the first round of the year came along, Nissan showed up with the R32 GT-R, and promptly beat the Andy Rouse Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth - causing the American manufacturer and the British team to follow a protest to the legality of the R32 after Bathurst was done, with Ford threatening to quit WTCM in case the R32 wasn't banned.
Before Fuji came along, FIA announced that the R32 was indeed illegal, and was banned until Nissan had built the required number of cars to homologate the car as a Group A car. Nissan used the R31 for the rest of the year, with Ford - knowing what was coming in 1989 - bringing regular updates to the manufacturer backed RS500. With the banning of the R32, Ford and the RS500 prepared by Rouse dominated the season - taking 16 wins in the process of the 21 races possible - while also winning the non-championship race, the famous Bathurst 1000 - with 3 other victories beeing achived by Ford privateers, two by Merkur Racing (which was rumoured to be a Ford backed team, to be used to test new parts in the Ford Merkur RS500) and another by Zakspeed, courtesy of Manuel Reuter.
Despite the sucess of Kaliber and Ford, growing stress between Andy Rouse and Ford started brewing over the year - Rouse posing as the main challenger to Tim Harvey in the title race, eventually losing the title due to major technical glitches in his car across the year - led to Kaliber stopped to being backed by Ford at the end of 1988 season and switching efforts to the German team Zakspeed, who despite their efforts to keep champion Tim Harvey aboard the project, saw the British driver depart to lead the Mercedes manufacturer effort in Class C.
The Final Group A Years
1989 saw a great number of changes for the series - ballast in the style of what was ran in the DTM was introduced in order to balance out the field, and the Bathurst 1000 was added as the series finale in October after being run to Group A rules by the FIA the year before as a non-championship race. The return of the R32, now fully homogolated, was the biggest news, with the rivalry between Ford and Nissan a big press ordeal throughout the year.
Despite the pace of the R32, the Nissan was more unreliable then the Sierra RS500 entered by Zakspeed, and the German team was able to extract the maximum of the car, completing a 1-2-3 in the drivers championship, with Roland Ratzenberger taking the title with 3 wins and on 224 points, with Klaus Ludwig - who had led most of the year - in 2nd place on 193 points and Manuel Reuter in 3rd on 191 points. Both Reuter and Ludwig ended the season on 5 victories each, but Ratzenberger's consistency won him the title with a 2nd place finish on the Bathurst 1000 finale, which earned double points for the drivers. Zakspeed won 14 out of the 21 races, capitalising on the Sierra's pace and reliability on most tracks. The R32 won 7 races through the year and usually on race trim was faster than the Sierra on most occasions, but it suffered 4 double retirements on endurance race's through the year that costed Nismo the chance to fight for the title. Nismo won the Bathurst 1000, which showed the car's capability to perform at its fullest.
1989 saw an increase in competition from most teams though. The development done by Toyota saw the Supra Turbo and Union Saver Developments take B Class reigns, the Japanese manufacturer taking 1-2-3 in class, while new entry Audi showed that the V8 was also a force to be reckoned with, especially with its 4WD traction in the rain. Reliability costed Audi the chance to fight for the B Class title overall, but the performance was there for 1990. USD also finished in 3rd place in the teams championship, and fought with Nismo until the very end for 2nd place. They scored in every round but the last. Mercedes refugee and defending champion Tim Harvey missed on the C Class title by 14 points, as Johnny Cecotto took Prodrive's privateer BMW M3 to the title to defeat the heavy factory team's of BMW and Mercedes to first place.
1989 was the beginning of the end of the Group A era. The power outputs by the turbocharged Sierras and Nissans were reaching almost 600HP in some occasions, and led to serious accidents throughout the year - Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Masahiro Hasemi's in particular, which made the FIA raise a few eyebrows over the concept. By the end of 1990, FIA would announce that the WTCM would be switching to the brand new Super Touring regulations which were starting to take a play in Europe, particularly in the British Touring Car Championship.
List of Champions
|1988||Tim Harvey||Kaliber Industrial Control Services Racing||6||15||254|
|1989||Slim Borgudd||Larsen Racing System||0||1||160|
|1988||Kaliber Industrial Control Services Racing||19||44||611|
|1988||Tim Harvey||Kaliber Industrial Control Services Racing||7||25||369|
|1988||Naoki Nagasaka||Nismo Motorsport||9||19||324|
|1989||David Leslie||Union Saver Developments||9||30||359|
|1988||Roland Asch||Mercedes-Benz AMG Team||7||16||361|
|1988||Andrea Geisler||Joest Racing||6||11||176|
|1989||Helmut Maier||Volkswagen Dealers Racing||11||20||316|