Zakspeed founder Eric Zakowski has died at the age of 89

Zakspeed founder Eric Zakowski has died at the age of 89

Much more successful in touring cars, the Zakspeed GT and sports cars had a disappointing five-year spell in grand prix racing from 1985 to 1989, scoring just one point.

After World War II, Zakowski’s family moved from Prussia and eventually settled in the town of Niederseisen, close to the Nürburgring, where he trained as a mechanic and set up his own garage and eventually a racing team.

From the beginning, Zakspeed was closely associated with Ford, running touring cars and GT cars in Germany and elsewhere. The organization had huge success in the DRM – the race that preceded the DTM – with its exotic Capris, while also competing in IMSA with Mustangs.

Zakspeed’s Ford links to sports car racing reached their peak with the works Ford C100, which was intended to be the successor to the legendary GT40, with designer Len Bailey providing a direct link between the projects.

First seen at the 1981 Brands Hatch 1000km race and later reworked by Tony Southgate, the car achieved little success, despite being raced by contemporary Formula 1 drivers Marc Surer, Manfred Winkelhock and Zaxspeed’s Klaus Ludwig.

After Ford ended its formal involvement in the sports car project, Zaxspeed continued to run development of the car under its name.

The company took a different direction when it entered Formula 1 in 1985 with an ambitious project that included its own 1.5-litre turbo engine while continuing to achieve some success in the DTM.

Willy Weber, manager of Michael Schumacher and Eric Zakowski, former team manager of Zaxspeed

Photography: Sutton Pictures

Willy Weber, manager of Michael Schumacher and Eric Zakowski, former team manager of Zaxspeed

Initially, the Formula One team fielded one entry for Jonathan Palmer, who was suffering from reliability issues. After being injured in a sports car accident at Spa, the Englishman was replaced by Christian Danner late in the season.

In 1986 Dutchman Hope Rothengater joined Palmer as Zaxspeed expanded to include two cars. Reliability remained an Achilles’ heel, and neither driver was able to finish eighth.

In 1987, Palmer was replaced by Martin Brundle while Danner returned to drive the second car. By now, the package was more competitive, helped by other smaller teams migrating to aero engines as they began to shift away from turbines.

Brundle scored the team’s only points with a fifth-place finish in a high-drain race at Imola, and also finished seventh in Monaco.

There was a line-up change for 1988 with German incoming man Bernd Schneider joining veteran Piercarlo Ghinzani. Most teams had already switched to air power, and the now restricted Zakspeed Turbo engine was uncompetitive, and the cars frequently failed to qualify.

With the banned Zakspeed turbo for 1989, Aguri Suzuki replaced the Ghinzani and came equipped with Yamaha V8 aero engines. The team had dropped to the pre-qualifier group, and Suzuki did not make it to Center Court for the entire season, with Schneider only doing so twice. This poor performance led to his withdrawal from Formula 1 at the end of the season.

Zakowski subsequently handed the reins of the company over to his son Peter, a successful racer in his own right, who continued to race Zakspeed in a variety of championships.

Eric Zakowski, Team Manager at Zaxspeed and Martin Brundle

Photography: Sutton Pictures

Eric Zakowski, Team Manager at Zaxspeed and Martin Brundle

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *