Background Stories

How a hastily-built Ascona Voyage humiliated its class mates
by Frank de Jong

Group 1 racing in the early seventies was not always clean, to say the least. Many cars with illegal modifications were disqualified after the race - and even more took a win without being caught.
An exception were the cars of the Dutch National Racing Team - at home and abroad, the cars won very often but passed any technical inspection, to the disbelief of their opponents.

In 1972, the team had been dominant in Dutch Group 1 races with Opel; and in 1973 it would be no different. And for the first time, an official championship was at stake.
Group 1 in the Netherlands was divided into a number of classes, which reflected the list price of the cars including any options, as far as they were homologated, of course. The shrewd technical wizard of the team, Rien Frankenhout, had surprised many people in the past with an unusual yet very competitive choice of cars. In 1973 they stayed with Opel.
In the 12.000 Guilder class the choice was an Opel Ascona 1900 for Loek Vermeulen; in the 15.000 class, Fred Frankenhout drove a Manta 19SR and in the 30.000 Guilder class a new Commodore B GS/E would be driven by Rien Frankenhout. In the first race, Rien in a hired car was beaten by an Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV (which was disqualified later in the season...). Fred Frankenhout and Loek Vermeulen won their classes, of course.
After the race, Rien and Fred changed cars. Rien would drive his faithful Manta, while Fred changed into a brand-new Commodore B. The reason behind this was as follows.

The Commodore had a Group 1 development program initiated by the works, and the race program would include Spa in its original layout; a track Rien did not want to risk his life on. So, despite a massive point loss, the decision was taken to swap cars with brother Fred.

In his 15.000 Guilder class, most opponents drove the Alfa Romeo Giulia Super. But Rien was near unbeatable, won the next three races and with a second in the penultimate race he claimed the championship.

But there was still one race left. No championship to worry about, and so if the team wanted to draw any attention from the press, a stunt was called for.

Rien inspected the FIA homologation list, and discovered that the Ascona Voyage was homologated as a variant of the Ascona and could use the same goodies as the Manta, since the running gear and homologation papers of the cars were near identical.
He could borrow a rally service van from the Dutch Opel Dealer Team, which already had a roll bar installed. But that was about it, with regard to racing.
The car came in on Friday and work started on the transfer of front- and rear axle, gearbox and engine from the Manta to the Ascona Voyage.
When the car hit the track on Saturday, the car was understeering badly - and the car leaned over heavily at the rear under cornering. It qualified only third in class, ninth overall.
The Manta rear springs were exchanged with the original springs of the Voyage; the rear shocks were replaced by the much stiffer shocks of the Commodore of brother Fred. This was done on Saturday evening; all guesswork really, but there was not much else they could do in the short time.

On Sunday, the car went like clockwork, lapping 0,2 seconds inside the lap record, finished sixth overall, won its class and passed technical inspection with ease - unlike the number 2 in class, the only one who had beaten the Manta all season. The driver refused inspection and was disqualified.
So the outing was a success; and it was one of the few wins for a stationcar as well - in fact the only one in a major championship I can think of.

My thanks to Rien Frankenhout for his cooperation.

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