Retro: When Jaguar became world champions at Fuji

This weekend's Six Hours of Fuji is a great excuse to revisit Jaguar's crowning glory 40 years earlier, thanks to the Duke Classics archive on Motorsport.tv, writes Elliot Wood.

The 1988 Fuji 1000km was a round of the World Sportscar Championship, and is the equivalent to this weekend’s World Endurance Championship round at the same circuit. What gave the race extra significance at the time was that it decided the winner of that year’s drivers’ championship.

In the Jaguar corner was a young Martin Brundle, and in the Sauber Mercedes corner was the veteran Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser. Brundle's teammate was Eddie Cheever, who Mark Cole spoke to after his first stint...

Without a turbocharged engine, the Jaguar was the slower car around Fuji, which has a 1.475km pit straight, and it was the Saubers that ran in first and second during the first half of the race. The race didn’t pan out in their favour though, and a closely packed top six were there to benefit when Sauber’s title ambitions started to unravel.

Prior to the race being shown, you can see the various title contenders and frontrunners discussing their expectations for the race, with an extra layer of intrigue added by the continuous rain that had blighted running earlier in the weekend.

The first to go was leader Mauro Baldi, taking an early pit stop in the Sauber he shared with Philippe Streiff due to a ‘useless clutch pedal’. This promoted title-contending team-mates Schlesser, Kenny Acheson and Jochen Mass into first place (interviewed below, two hours into the race), with the second Jaguar of Jan Lammers and Johnny Dumfries not far behind.

A left front tyre blowout caused Lammers to crash out spectacularly (as he explains below), and handed the Brundle-driven Jaguar second. This alone was enough to secure the title, but when fuel pick-up problems for rival Schlesser meant he had to pit, the title was but a certainty for Brundle.

Brundle and Cheever took victory by a lap over Klaus Ludwig and Price Cobb, who marked the final appearance of the works Porsche team in the championship. Porsches also finished third and fourth, with the Joest Racing entry heading the polesitting From-A Racing car.

Schlesser recovered to fifth in his Sauber, albeit four laps down. The top entry from the home contingent was the factory Nissan car driven by Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Kenji Takahashi and Allan Grice in ninth place. Mazda won the GTP class in 14th with Yojiro Terada and David Kennedy, while Toyota struggled down in 21st and 22nd as the last finishers.

If this isn't enough to quench your nostalgic thirst – there’s more WSC races in the Motorsport.tv archive.

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