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  • Mark Sparrow

Group C: The World’s Endurance Events

Group C racing was one of the most exciting and popular forms of motorsport in the 1980s and 90s. These endurance races were some of the longest and most gruelling events in the world, testing the skills and endurance of both drivers and cars. Group C cars were some of the most advanced race cars of their time, capable of reaching speeds of over 200 miles per hour on the track. In this post, we'll take a look at some of the most memorable Group C endurance races that took place around the world during this era.

The FIA World Endurance Championship (1982-1985)

The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) was a series of international endurance races that took place from 1982 to 1985. The events were open to all Group C cars, which were defined by their lightweight construction and fuel efficiency. The championship was created as an attempt to bring together the world's best endurance racers and teams in one place.

The WEC consisted of eight events, with each race lasting up to 24 hours in length. The series started with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and then continued on with the 480 km of Nürburgring, Brands Hatch, Dijon, Donington, Jarama, Spa-Francorchamps, and Fuji.

Each event had its own set of rules and regulations, but there were some common elements. There were restrictions on how many drivers could be used per car during each race, as well as other restrictions on car modifications.

The championship was dominated by teams from Germany, France, and Britain, with German teams taking the first five titles. Porsche won the most overall titles in the WEC with three championships and three runner-up finishes. Joest Racing took two titles, while Kremer Racing and Alba Racing won one apiece. The 1983 title was won by Lancia, marking the only time a non-German team won the championship.

The WEC was eventually replaced by the World Sports-Prototype Championship (1986-1990). However, its legacy still lives on today as a reminder of the golden age of endurance racing.

The World Sports-Prototype Championship (1986-1990)

The World Sports-Prototype Championship (WSPC) was a top-level sports car racing championship that ran from 1986 to 1990. It was organised by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and was open to Group C cars.

The WSPC featured some of the most iconic Group C race cars ever built, including the Porsche 956, Jaguar XJR-9 and Lancia LC2. The championship was dominated by the Porsche 956/962 with it winning races between 1982 and 1994. Other manufacturers who participated in the championship included Nissan, Mazda, Sauber Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Peugeot.

The championship ran for five seasons and featured races at iconic circuits all over the world, such as Spa Francorchamps, Silverstone and the Nürburgring. Drivers competed for individual glory as well as teams and manufacturers, making the WSPC a truly global spectacle.

In 1990, the championship was replaced by the World Sportscar Championship, which ran until 1992. While the championship was short-lived, it will always be remembered as one of the greatest Group C endurance series of all time.

The World Sportscar Championship (1991-1992)

The World Sportscar Championship (WSC) was a motorsport series held between 1991 and 1992 that saw the world's greatest drivers compete in the most demanding endurance events. The WSC was a successor to the World Endurance Championship and the World Sports-Prototype Championship. It featured regulated 3.5 litre engines, with manufacturers such as Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar vying for victory.

Jaguar XJR-14
Silk Cut Jaguar won the Teams Championship with Jaguar XJR-14. Photo by: Nuvolari72 - Own work, Public Domain,

The WSC was divided into two classes: the open-top Group C cars, and the closed-cockpit Group C2 cars. Races typically lasted two or three hours but could last up to 24 hours in special cases. Points were awarded to drivers who finished within two laps of the winner. The WSC also included the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which was held every year between 1991 and 1992.

The series saw many iconic drivers compete, including names like Michael Schumacher, Jean Alesi, Derek Bell, and Mark Blundell. The championship was won in 1991 by Mercedes-Benz with driver Jochen Mass, and in 1992 by Jaguar with driver Derek Warwick.

The WSC was discontinued after 1992, and replaced by the BPR Global GT Series. While the series is no longer active, it remains an important chapter in the history of endurance racing and is fondly remembered by motorsport fans all over the world.

The European Endurance Championship (1983 only)

The European Endurance Championship (EEC) was a short-lived championship that ran for just one year in 1983. The series consisted of 8 races, all held in Europe. The races were held in France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.

The Porsche 956
Rothmans Porsche won five of the eight races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the Porsche 956. Photo by: Alan from UK - 27_29-07-2007_Silverstone 075, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The series was a part of the FIA Group C regulations, meaning that the cars that were used were prototypes that complied with the regulations set by the FIA. The EEC was seen as an alternative to the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and allowed teams to compete at the highest level on European soil.

The EEC was contested by some of the biggest names in motorsport including Porsche, Lancia, Nissan, Jaguar, and Ford. All of these teams had cars that complied with the Group C regulations, but each team put their own spin on them. For example, Porsche opted for the 956.

The 1983 EEC season was won by French driver Bob Wolleck, Wolleck now has a street named after him near the circuit de la Sarthe after his passing.

Unfortunately, the EEC was discontinued after 1983 as there were not enough participants or support from other racing series. Although it lasted only one season, the EEC was an important milestone in Group C racing, paving the way for more successful endurance racing championships in Europe such as the WEC and Le Mans.

The All Japan Sports Prototype Championship (1983-1992)

The All Japan Sports Prototype Championship (AJSPC) was the premier sportscar racing championship in Japan between 1983 and 1992. The championship featured high-performance and technologically advanced racing machines from manufacturers such as Nissan, Toyota, Mazda, and Porsche.

The AJSPC was first held in 1983, and over its nine-year lifespan, it saw numerous changes to the regulations, which allowed for some exciting races. The championship was initially divided into two classes - the GT500 (which featured production-based vehicles) and the Group C class for purpose-built prototypes. In 1986, the GT500 class was replaced by the new Super GT500 class, which allowed for even faster and more powerful vehicles.

Throughout its history, the AJSPC attracted some of the world's top drivers and teams. It was a hotly contested championship and saw numerous wins by legendary drivers such as Kunimitsu Takahashi, Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino, and Satoru Nakajima. The championship also featured memorable battles between rival manufacturers, with Nissan and Toyota often duking it out for supremacy.

The AJSPC produced some of the most thrilling racing action in Japan during its nine-year lifespan. From exciting battles to iconic cars and legendary drivers, the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship provided plenty of entertainment for fans around the world.

In Summary

Featuring world-class drivers, spectacular cars and iconic races, Group C created some of the most memorable moments in motorsport history. With four major championships, the FIA World Endurance Championship (1982-1985), World Sports-Prototype Championship (1986-1990), World Sportscar Championship (1991-1992) and the European Endurance Championship (1983 only), as well as the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship (1983-1992) to its name, Group C was a truly global phenomenon. The legacy of Group C has left an indelible mark on motorsport, and its influence can still be felt today. To put it simply, Group C era has produced some of the fastest and most dramatic closed wheel circuit racing cars ever built.

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