26th April 1980
The opening race for the Procar series in 1980 in England was staged over 40 laps at 3.15 km each. The winner mastered the race distance of 126.0 km at an average speed of 159.6 km/h.
The Procar season for this year was opened with a good race in Donington. Surprisingly, Jan Lammers was man of the race and secured a clear win, whilst behind him there was a hard fight for the other positions. Hans Heyer fought magnificently, whilst Austrian, Jo Gartner of the Marko team cut a fine figure as the replacement for an unlucky Markus Höttinger.
“Has there ever been such an exciting M1 race?” This question was asked by the manager of BMW Motorsport GmbH, Dieter Stappert, at the end of more than 40 laps of the leading Procar races at the superb Donington circuit. And everyone agreed, since the offered fare in the Midlands qualified great hopes for this series. On one hand, it seemed to prove itself, that five invited Formula 1 stars were not allowed to start in the first rows, but had to be content with the position they were allocated according to the times produced in practice. On the other hand, it gave the impression that some private teams had not spared costs or efforts, in order to play a successful role in this year’s BMW championship worth millions.
Already during practice, this was clearly visible as only 2 Grand Prix rivers were able to start in the top ten. This performance was accomplished by Pironi (3rd starting position) and Jones (5th starting position). Otherwise just rookies up front: In pole position, an extremely confident Jan Lammers, who literally pulverised Nelson Piquet’s existing lap record from the previous year – 1979 – (1:15.52) with a practice time of 1:11.99. The lively, small Dutchman – managed by seasoned, fellow countryman, Hezemans – attained his impressive time in the first practice session and no one could even come close to matching this effort. Hans-Georg Bürger was in second position with his wonderful GS car. Once again Bürger proved his speed. Jo Gartner pushed in between Pironi and Jones, for which he probably scored a lot of points with team manager Marko. Sauber had originally assigned the Italian, de Angelis as a replacement for Surer. But Colin Chapman’s veto prevented his assignment at the last moment. In his position and with the support of BMW Italy, Gabbiani was assigned.
When the 18 cars were sent onto the track on Saturday noon, all pessimists that had predicted a multitude of accidents in the first lap were proven wrong. With much discipline, all merged at the first awkward ascent towards “Old Hairpin” and Lammers set things straight: With a lead of 50 metres, the Dutchman passed the pits, followed by Jones, Pironi, Bürger, Gartner, Piquet, Heyer and Stuck.
In 4th position, Hans Stuck had to drive into pits at exactly half-time for observation and as a result lost a whole lap. In the midfield, the motto was “by hook or by crook”, though, according to many drivers, reckless Schütz overdid it. Quester was a victim of the Swabian’s ravenous riving manner, accruing damage to his front windscreen of his BMW through stones being thrown about. How well Schütz blocked his fellow competitors, was then apparent when one of his opponents finally succeeded in overtaking. They were immediately able to gain a lead of 100 metres or more. Just before the finish, Didier Pironi, who had been in 2nd place since lap 13 ran into some bad luck. At the end of the final laps, the Frenchman was forced to let his car roll to a halt in front of Coppice. Problems with the electrics pulled the young Frenchman out of the race – disappointment was clearly written all over his face.
It was an expensive weekend for Bernie Ecclestone. Due to the 50$ – rule, the Procar series almost cost him the 25.000$ prize money!