40 years of Sauber Racing, Sir Stirling Moss back in action, Austin Grand Prix launches website
40 years of Sauber Racing
At the end of 2009 Swiss Peter Sauber thought he could finally enjoy his retirement, but the unexpected withdrawal of the German BMW car manufacturer from the Formula One scene forced him to stay on for at least one more year. The 66-year old Peter Sauber bought his team back from the Germans for only one reason: he was concerned about the future of the 280 employees, who had been faithful to him and the Sauber Formula One team for so many years, and if Sauber would have retired, they would almost certainly have lost their job. Last weekend the team celebrated 40 years of motorsport, which started in 1970, when Peter built the Sauber C1 in his parent's basement, he drove the car himself in the Swiss Hillclimb Championship.
From 1970 to 1992 Sauber was mainly active in sports car racing. In the 1976 the C5 with its BMW 2 liter engine was the most successful design, and being a Group Six design Sauber entered the car in the 1977 and 1978 Le Mans 24 hour races. In 1980 and 1981 he developed the BMW M1 Sportcars, and won the Nurburgring 1000km race. In 1985 he started a relationship with Mercedes-Benz, and in 1991 Michael Schumacher and Karl Wendlinger won races in the FIA World Sportscar Championship for team Sauber-Mercedes.
In 1991 Sauber was ready for Formula One, legendary designer Harvey Postlethwaite joined the team and Mercedes provided the funds for a factory in Hinwil in Switzerland, where the team still resides. However, at the end of 1991 Mercedes decided to withdraw from the project, and Sauber's debut on the Grand Prix circuits was postponed until 1993, when he entered the championship with the Sauber C12, powered by an Ilmore V10 engine, and piloted by Austrian Karl Wendlinger and Finn JJ Lehto.
The 1994 Suaber C13 was powered by a Mercedes engine, but the German engine builder abandoned the team again and decided to move to McLaren, and Sauber had to use the Ford Zetec R V8 engines in 1995. Sauber signed a sponsorship deal with Austrian energy drink manufacturer Red Bull, a deal that would last almost 10 years. In 1996 he also signed a long lasting sponsor deal with the Malaysian Petronas oil company. From 1997 until 2005 Sauber used Ferrari designed engines build by Sauber Petronas Engineering. His staff included Ferrari engineers, and there were protests from other teams because the Sauber chassis looked like an exact copy of the Ferrari F1 chassis, but the FIA never received a formal complaint.
In 2001 Peter Sauber again rocked the Formula One world when he hired the unknown and inexperienced Finn Kimi Raikkonen. A number of drivers and some members of the FIA, including president Max Mosley, protested against the young Finn entering Formula One, because he would pose a danger to other drivers, and yes, we are talking about the same Raikkonen, aka the Iceman, who won the championship in 2007 for Ferrari. In 2004 Sauber upgraded their facilities and spend millions on a wind tunnel and a super computer named Albert. But by then Sauber's relation with Ferrari turned sour and in 2006 BMW took over the Sauber team, but Peter Sauber wisely enough kept a 20% stake in the new outfit. Although the new team became second and third in the 2007 and 2008 Constructors' Championship, mother company BMW decided to withdraw from Formula One at the end of 2009.
Which brings us back to July 2010 and 40 years of Sauber Racing. The Sauber Formula One team has so far completed 287 Grands Prix and scored 518 world championship points. Sauber won the World Sports Prototype Championship in 1989 and 1990 and the Le Mans 24 hour race in 1989. And the story of Sauber is not complete without a list of some of its famous drivers: Karl Wendlinger, JJ Lehto, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Johnny Herbert, Jean Alesi, Pedro Diniz, Mika Salo, Nick Heidfeld, Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Jacques Villeneuve, Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel. This year Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi are piloting the Ferrari powered Sauber C29.
During the German Grand Prix Peter Sauber admitted that he indeed one day will be enjoying his retirement and jokingly remarked, "I will no longer be on the pit wall at 70. To be honest, I never imagined I would be here at 66." And on a more serious note concluded his thoughts about his future retirement, "I want to lead the team back into a secure position and establish it at a good level. If I succeed, my mission is fulfilled."
Sir Stirling Moss back in action
After his horrific elevator accident in March this year, in which he broke both ankles, four bones in a foot and also left him with four chipped vertebrae, Sir Stirling Moss is back on his feet again, and as expected, back in a racing car. After his accident the 80-year old racing legend underwent surgery in a London hospital and made a speedy recovery, according to his friends a few days after his surgery he was already 'chasing' the nurses at the hospital. Moss was earlier this month present at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on July 9, where he apologized to his fans for not being able to drive the Lotus 16 during the hill climb competition. Instead he drove a Mercedes-Benz AMG SLC despite not being fully recovered from his injuries.
Last weekend the Briton was back at Silverstone for the annual Silverstone Classic Racing Festival, on Friday he was behind the wheel of his 1956 OSCA FS 327 to qualify for the RAC Woodcote Trophy on Saturday. Moss jokingly said before the event, "It will be good to get back to racing a car again, a wheel chair is not as fast." After qualifying Moss was very optimistic about his race return, "I feel great and I'm absolutely ready to go racing again. The Silverstone Classic is a lovely meeting to make my comeback event." Moss was aiming to beat British musician Chris Rea, who had qualified just in front of him in his1955 Lotus 6. Rea is also a fan of the Silverstone Classic, "I've done the event many times before and it is my favorite weekend of the year," he said.
Moss, who will drive the OSCA together with his co-driver Ian Nutall, said just before he left the circuit on Friday to prepare for the race on Saturday, "We must beat Rea, that's what we need to do tomorrow." On Saturday during the race he was in front of Rea, as promised. Unfortunately for him, his OSCA ran into problems just ten minutes before the end of the one hour race. He pulled into the pit lane and his crew found there was a problem with the gearbox. A disappointed Moss about his retirement, "She [the car] was stuck in fourth gear and I couldn't get it to come out. That's a bit too high a gear to become jammed in. Third I could have coped with. But we were flying and I've really enjoyed it." His retirement meant that Rea and co-driver Richard Hodson in the Lotus 6 won RAC Woodcote Trophy for Pre 1956 Sports Cars.
Austin Grand Prix launches website
And from the past we move on the future, finally good news for the American Formula One fans, the organizers of the Austin Grand Prix in 2012 have launched a website with more information about the future event. The promoter of the Austin GP, Full Throttle Productions LP boss Tavo Hellmund also revealed the location of the circuit, and the name of the main investor. The permanent race track will be build south east of Austin, near the city's international airport, an area formerly known as Wandering Creek.
Hellmund about the location close to the city of Austin, "As many Americans know, Austin has earned a reputation as one of the 'it' cities in the United States. Austin features that rare combination of ideal geographic location and beauty." Hellmund has been actively involved with some of the various organizing and promoting companies of past FIFA World Cups, international business conferences, music festivals, national USAC and regional NASCAR events. Hellmund has a long standing relationship with FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone, which dates back to the days Ecclestone owned the successful Brabham Formula One team.
The Red McCombs Automotive Group is the main investor of the project, and owner Red McCombs has previously been involved in sport before as he was the former owner of the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, and the Minnesota Vikings. McCombs is also a successful investor, according to the website their "investments include a range of businesses such as on-line savings plans, on-line advertising, automobile dealer software, real estate and consumer lending, and technology incubators. The investments also include public and private equities, fixed income, commodities, and derivatives." McComb about his involvement, "Bringing Formula 1 back to the United States represents the opportunity of a lifetime and one that any city in the world would want."
The website also promises the details of the by Hermann Tilke designed circuit will be revealed later this summer.
Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track".
See also: Formula One - On and Off track week 29