Steve Soper

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The greatest saloon car driver of all time

- MotorSport Magazine

Qualifying with Ludwig

Being a team mate to Klaus Ludwig was never going to be easy. I had a lot of respect for him as a person and a driver. He was a big name with a big personality. In 1987 there was a lot to learn.

Klaus had all the skills of getting himself positioned in a team for him to be able to get what he wanted to win races, and to be in contention for championships. He was without doubt a talent and technically very smart with the car. He knew how to develop it to get what he wanted from the car.

Technically the Sierra Cosworth was new. The Bosch Motronic System controlled fuel and ignition, which was very complex at the time and normally needed a Bosch engineer to do the programming and adjustments. Simple by today’s standards but back then in ’87 it was the first type of clever Motronic that they had developed. We had adjustable boost for the turbo with three settings, qualifying, race and conserve fuel.

Eggenberger, who built the cars, was ever so conservative with the cars and engines. Our engines in particular would last for five long distance races, while the likes of Dick Johnson and Andy Rouse were throwing their engines a way after one race!
But when it came to qualifying over a single lap, I believed that with the equipment we had, I was quicker than Klaus. And for the first half of the season every session, he’d beat me. I couldn’t work out how he out qualified me and stick his car on pole every time. In the race or in testing when I was following him I could always pass him and then lead quite comfortably. As I said, he was a good, capable fast driver, but I still felt that I had an edge especially over a single lap.

Then one day, to my surprise, I went into the garage before qualifying and the entire team were still over in the motorhome having lunch. The two Sierra Cosworths were on their jacks with no wheels on, but I saw someone in the boot of Klaus’s car. I realised that it was Klaus himself and hadn’t noticed me there. So I’ve quietly approached him and said, “What are you doing?”. At this point I noticed that he had the battery lead off. “Nothing, nothing…” he said, but you could tell he was up to no good. So I said, “Look you either share it with me, or I’ll find out some other way…”

It turned out that through his time racing at Porsche he’d developed some connections at Bosch, and he was told that if you disconnected the battery, the Motronic System would lose its memory and would take two or three laps to re-teach itself all the parameters. But the thing was that during this time the turbo would run on overboost. No one in the team knew except him, and so before every qualifying he’d find a time when the car was alone, disconnect the battery for two to three seconds and there was the advantage.

After Klaus had been rumbled we did the same to my car, and from that moment it was a far more equal qualifying situation. Sometimes he’d beat me, and sometimes I’d beat him.

One Response

  1. weigner says:

    typisch Ludwig.Auf der einen Seite ein großer Rennfahrer,
    aber menschlich-na ja!!Ähnlich ist das Verhalten bei dem
    -nach eigener Aussage(allerdings nur am Telfon) von ihm ver-
    ursachten “Rennunfall” beim 24-h-Rennen 2012 mit mir ge-
    wesen

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