Jorge de Bagration

Research and Biography by Mischa Bijenhof

Thanks to Felix Muelas, Frank de Jong, Rainer Nyberg and 'Jarama'

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Last updated: 31-July-2002


Before Formula One Formula One After Formula One

Before F1

Jorge head of the Georgian Royal family and heir to the throne!

All drivers on this site have one thing in common; they are listed on official FIA entry lists. And even if they did no more than practise the car (like Masami Kuwashima), at least they are acknowledged as one-time Grand Prix drivers. For Jorge de Bagration, even this honour was not to be. His efforts to participate in the 1974 Spanish GP were never officially registered, and his F1 record contains only his name on a provisional entry list. Now we finally give this king of obscurity the recognition he deserves!

Prince Jorge de Bagration of Moukhrani, as his official name is, was born in Rome, but his heritage lies in Georgian royalty. Georgia became independent of the Soviet Union in 1991 after centuries of oppression by the Mongols, the Turks, the Persians and finally the Russians, but throughout their turbulent history, the Bagration dynasty retained royal status even if no political power. Jorge, despite his Spanish nationality, is still head of the Georgian Royal Family and rightful holder of the Georgian throne!


Starts in bikes, then rallies and hillclimbs, modifying a Fiat 1600

It is evident that the status of the Bagration family allowed Jorge to go motor racing as a hobby. Royalty and motor racing has always gone hand-in-hand, and rich aristocrats have abounded in racing history, although very few of them made it into the very highest step of the sport. The names of Earl Johnny Dumfries, Prince Gaetano Starrabba di Giardinelli, Count Carel Godin de Beaufort and Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried are examples of those who are easy to track down in the registers of Formula 1.

To make it all the way to the top was exactly what Jorge wanted to do as well. Like many of his contemporaries in motorcycle-mad Spain, he started his career in 1959 by racing motorcycles. Very little is known of his achievements in this period, but in 1963, de Bagration decided to leave motorcycles and participate in rallies and hillclimbs in a Fiat 1600 S. A rather modest machine hardly suitable for racing purposes, we can only assume that Jorge modified it for competition standard.

Jorge (second from right) took out the 1970 Spanish Hillclimb and Circuits Championship in his Porsche 908.
Jorge (second from right) took out the 1970 Spanish Hillclimb and Circuits Championship in his Porsche 908.


2nd in Jarama's first ever race; makes F3 debut in Madrid

In 1964, he got hold of a more suitable Fiat Abarth 850, and in 1965 he raced a Mini Cooper. Felix Muelas tells us that in this car he scored two rally wins and a hillclimb victory. In the same year, he earned his first semi-works drive in a Renault Alpine A110 at the French Rallye Bayonne-Côte Basque, and in 1966 he continued racing his Mini and had some sporadic outings in a Renault 8, again for the factory team. But it was in 1967 that he got busy and his motor racing career really began to get serious.

The year started with Jorge came 2nd at the very first race on the Jarama racetrack, behind the wheel of a Renault Alpine M67, in a race that was won by Mauro Bianchi in a similar car. He then showed his versatility by competing not only in road-racing, but in hillclimbs and rallies still. In the latter discipline, he came a great 2nd overall in the Spanish Rally Championship in a semi-works Lancia Fulvia HF, placing 7th at the Rallye RACE and 2nd in the Rallye Costa del Sol. Also, he took his first steps in single seaters, making his F3 debut in the Madrid F3 Grand Prix.


Races F2 with Soler-Roig for Escuderia Nacional Calvo Sotelo

In 1968, he once again competed in rallies such as the Rallye Camino de la Plata in his semi-works Lancia Fulvia HF, and in addition he drove his own Fulvia in Spanish circuit meetings. He was also at the wheel of a Brabham BT21 in F3, coming 2nd at Jarama behind future Lotus F1 driver Reine Wisell. Plus he competed in the European Touring Car championship, coming 8th overall and 6th in Division 3 in a one-off drive in a BMW 2002 at Jarama.

But, under the Escuderia Nacional Calvo Sotelo banner, he and fellow Spaniard Alex Soler-Roig also got their hands on a Formula 2 Lola T100, powered by a Cosworth FVA engine. In his first race at Montjuich Park, Jorge came home 9th, albeit last and a huge 11 laps down on winner Jackie Stewart. After withdrawing from the Thruxton round, the team showed up at the non-championship race at Pau, but for de Bagration it proved to be an unsuccessful event, retiring with fuel injection problems after 16 laps.

In the 1972 ICM, de Bagration came 6th in an Escuderia Montjuich Porsche 908/03 with Juan Fernandez in the Buenos Aires 1000kms.
In the 1972 ICM, de Bagration came 6th in an Escuderia Montjuich Porsche 908/03 with Juan Fernandez in the Buenos Aires 1000kms.


Lots of DNQs hamper F2 season, but there was a great 6th at Jarama

Clearly, the Escuderia Nacional CS were choosing to race only in events that were not too far away from home. One such race was the Gran Premio de Madrid at Jarama, a championship race. Here Jorge finished a great 6th, which gave him his first points, ahead of the likes of Brian Hart, Jo Schlesser, Max Mosley and 'Nanni' Galli. Then at Crystal Palace, after retiring in the qualifying race he failed to qualify for the final, but neither did Mosley, Peter Gethin or Alan Rees. Not that this made things better for him, of course.

At the non-championship Monza Lotteria, both de Bagration and Soler-Roig were entered, but neither qualified for the race eventually won by one-off Ferrari F1 driver Jonathan Williams, although Jorge did manage to go faster than his better-rated team-mate and only missed out by one spot. Neither qualified in Zandvoort either, a race marked by the tragic death of Chris Lambert, and Jorge's final (non-championship) outing at Reims ended prematurely with fuel tank problems.


Spanish Touring Champion; drives a Porsche and BMW in ETCC

Despite only two championship and two non-title race starts, in the final standings, Jorge was equal 17th in the 1968 F2 championship with 2 points, a place he had to share with Robin Widdows, David Hobbs, Eric Offenstadt, Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Chris Williams. But after that, de Bagration's single seater career somehow stagnated, and he concentrated on endurance and road racing instead. 'Jarama' tells us that, in a BMW 2002 and Porsche 911, he took out the Spanish Touring and Specials Championship in 1969.

Thanks to Frank de Jong, we know he also drove both a BMW 2002 TI and a Porsche 911 in the ETCC. In the BMW he came 2nd at Budapest, and in the Porsche, after retiring at the Spa 24hrs with Giorgio Pianta because of a fire, he drove to an excellent 2nd place at Jarama. In Division 3 of the ETCC, Jorge came 5th overall with 20 points. In sports cars, de Bagration and Soler-Roig also shared an Escuderia Nacional CS Porsche 908 at the Barcelona 12hrs, taking pole position. Although Jorge then set the fastest lap of the race, they could only come 7th outright.

Jorge's assault on the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Chevron B23 Ford Cosworth FVC with José Juncadella under the Escuderia Montjuich banner was a disappointment, having to retire after only 52 laps when the gearbox broke.
Jorge's assault on the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Chevron B23 Ford Cosworth FVC with José Juncadella under the Escuderia Montjuich banner was a disappointment, having to retire after only 52 laps when the gearbox broke.


Battles F1 legends in all-Brazilian sportscar races, coming 2nd overall

In 1970 de Bagration continued to prove that he had what it takes. 'Jarama' informs us that in a Porsche 908, he took out the Spanish Hillclimb and Circuits Championship, and won the Carrera en Cuesta al Montseny event in the European Hillclimb Championship in a similar type of car. He also shared a 908 to 2nd place with Wisell in the Jarama 6hrs, but the attempt by Escuderia Nacional to enter a Porsche 917 to Soler-Roig, de Bagration and Dieter Quester ended in naught when their entry was refused.

One more start in the ETCC at Jarama in an Alfa Romeo 2000 GTAm saw Jorge prove his local knowledge by coming 3rd. But it was in several South American events that he battled with drivers who became real hot-shots in F1, and more than held his own. In the Buenos Aires 200 miles, he shared a Porsche 908 to 6th with Carlos Reutemann. He then participated in the Torneio do Brasil, an all-Brazilian four-race sportscar series, which saw Jorge and his 908 come 1st, 3rd, 4th and 3rd, finishing 2nd overall behind Emerson Fittipaldi.


Dominant on the domestic scene, taking out Spanish Rally title

1971 saw de Bagration continue in similar vein. In the Spanish Touring and Specials Championship, Jorge came 3rd in an Alfa Romeo GTAm. The Spanish Prototypes and Sportscars Championship gave him a fine 2nd overall in his Porsche 908/1, and in hillclimbing he became Spanish champion in a similar car. Also, he came 4th in the Barcelona 1000kms in a Escuderia Nacional CS 908 with Jorge Pla, but two ETCC outings in a Ford Capri RS 2600 at Monza and Zandvoort ended in a DNQ and DNF.

There was one more ETCC start for Jorge in 1972, again at Monza, where he came 7th outright and 4th in Division 2 in a Jolly Club Alfa Romeo 2000 GTAm with Rafael Barrios. But the bulk of his year was spent in circuit sports car racing. In the International Championship for Makes, he came 6th in an Escuderia Montjuich Porsche 908/03 with Juan Fernandez in the Buenos Aires 1000kms, but the same pair at the Daytona 6hrs retired with gear selection problems.

At the helm of his Ford Capris, de Bagration tackles the Vila Real touring car race in Portugal.
At the helm of his Ford Capris, de Bagration tackles the Vila Real touring car race in Portugal.


Clutch gives way at Le Mans, lots of retirements to test Jorge's patience

At the Le Mans 24hrs, de Bagration was in the Ecurie Bonnier Lola T280 Ford entered by Jo Bonnier, shared with Mario de Cabral and Hughes de Fierlandt, but the car retired with clutch problems. Jorge's link with Bonnier came through the fact that he was driving an Ecurie Bonnier Lola T290 Ford in the European 2 litre Sportscar Championship, in which he scored one 3rd in heats and one 3rd outright. He also drove the Bonnier T290 with Dieter Basche at the Nurburgring 1000kms, a DRM round, but retired.

1973 proved to be another busy year. In the ICM, Jorge started in the Dijon 1000kms in a Racing Enterprises Chevron B23 Ford Cosworth FVC with José Juncadella, but retired. Le Mans, where the pair were entered in the same car under the Escuderia Montjuich banner, gave them even less to cheer about, when they had to retire after only 52 laps when the gearbox broke. A third ICM start at Zeltweg saw yet another retirement for de Bagration, this time from engine maladies.


Portugal sees Jorge race a Ford Capris and Chevron B23 at Vila Real

Elsewhere in 1973 Jorge also raced four times in the European 2-litre championship in a Hire Racing International Chevron B23 Ford, with a best result of 4th outright at Montjuich Park. 'Jarama' tells us that he also occasionally drove a Ford Capri RS in the Spanish Circuits Championship, also winning the Alcañiz City Cup, and using the same car also at the Vila Real touring car race in Portugal. Also at Vila Real, in the sports car race there, he piloted his Chevron B23 to 3rd place.

The following year, Jorge's sports car efforts in 1974 were confined to the European 2-litre championship, where he drove an Escuderia Montjuich Abarth Osella PA2 and the Hire International Chevron B23, coming 5th outright at Enna and Jarama. He also did an ETCC race at Zandvoort with Emilio de Villota in a Capri RS 2600. But his sports car outings were limited; his attentions were elsewhere, on the thing that would get him onto this site.

Formula One

Entry comes to naught when F2 Lola T100s are refused

As early as 1968, Jorge had tried to enter the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix. The Escuderia Nacional CS team originally wanted to enter both Jorge and Soler-Roig in the same Lola T100s in which they were contesting that year's F2 campaign. Since the Lola was hardly a frontrunner in F2, it would probably have made a pretty poor showing in F1. Whether or not this was a consideration, the fact is that the team's entry was either refused or withdrawn, and de Bagration was never on the entry list for the 1968 race.

That was not the last of Jorge's Formula One plans though. Six years later, when his single seater days were far behind him, he finally wanted to have his drive in F1, probably encouraged by Soler-Roig, who had managed to start in six Grands Prix from 1970 to 1972. Come the 1974 Spanish GP at Jarama, de Bagration purchased a Surtees TS16, to be painted in the colours of his sponsors, Escuderia Calvo Sotelo and El Corte Ingles. We have to thank Felix Muelas for much of the details of what happened next.

Surtees TS16

Jorge presents his car, number 29, to the press, ready for the race

Local entrants in F1 were no rarity in the 1970s, and much attention was given to Jorge's entry. So much so that a couple of weeks before the Grand Prix weekend, de Bagration had given a presentation to the press regarding his entry, which was duly on the entry list for the race, and was given car number 29. But the trouble started when El Corte Ingles decided to pull out of the operation in the week prior to the race, robbing Jorge of a major part of his sponsorship backing for the event.

We said above that Escuderia Calvo Sotelo was only a sponsor, whereas previously it had often been the team for which Jorge had driven. When Soler-Roig retired at the end of 1973, the team was dissolved, and the company behind it, Empresa Nacional Calvo Sotelo, reverted to sponsorship instead, making Jorge's backing from El Corte Ingles all the more vital. Perhaps also the fact that Calvo Sotelo, an oil company, had just merged meant that Jorge was getting less money from them than he expected.

Jorge's Surtees - complete in El Corte Ingles livery - is presented to the press. But it would never make the entry list for the 1974 Spanish GP.
Artist's impression of Jorge's Surtees in El Corte Ingles livery. The real thing would never make the entry list for the 1974 Spanish GP.


Bagration entry lost forever when new 'official' list omits his DNA

Sponsorship troubles aside, and to make things even more complicated, in the week before the Grand Prix the president of the Spanish motor racing federation had failed in his re-election bid. He drove to his office and cleared his desk, taking all paper files with him. Believe it or not, this included the official entry list for the Spanish Grand Prix. Subsequently, a replacement list was hurriedly drawn up, but since Jorge's sponsorship had just fallen through, he was not included.

The point is, though, that he should have been. He was on the original entry list, and he had never withdrawn from it. The fact that his sponsorship had fallen through and he would not have been able to compete anyway is irrelevant. He should be have been on the subsequent list, and in recognition of that fact, some statistics now record him for the 1974 Spanish GP as a DNA ('did not arrive'). Anyway, these three sad symbols are all that reminds us of Jorge's efforts to start in a Grand Prix.

After F1

Tragedy strikes when a massive accident kills navigator and injures Jorge

Highly disappointed to see his only chance to start a Grand Pri go down the drain, he was absent from the sport in 1975, but returned in 1976. Rallying had always been one of his old passions, and he decided to fully concentrate on this form of motorsport from now on. In the famous Lancia Stratos, with Manuel Barbeito navigating, he took out the Palmares Rally de la Vendimia, the Rally de Catalunya, and the Rally de España. For 1977, Jorge was a natural favourite for the Spanish national rally title.

But halfway through the season, disaster struck. A huge crash at the Criterium Luis de Baviera claimed Barbeito's life and left de Bagration seriously injured. It almost meant the end of his racing activities, but he decided to continue, and in 1978 he hit back by claiming 2nd place overall in the Spanish rally championship, still at the wheel of a Lancia Stratos HF. Now navigated by Nuria Llopis, he finished the series only behind Antonio Zanini's Fiat Abarth 131 Rally.


Retires after taking 2 national rally titles and the Spanish Circuits title

Finally, in 1979, Jorge got his reward. Still with Llopis beside him, he grabbed the Spanish Rally crown, including victory again in the Palmares Rally de la Vendimia. Realising that racing on narrow, bumpy and dusty roads was as much a challenge as formula racing, he now fully immersed himself in rallying, claiming 2nd overall again in 1980 behind Zanini's Porsche 911SC, with a victory in the Rallye Tenerife in his trusty Lancia Stratos.

Another national rallying title came his way in 1981, this time with Víctor Sabater alongside him, before Jorge returned to the tracks in 1982, adapting his Stratos for the Spanish Circuits Championship. Walking off with that title too, he realised that this was as good as it would get and and decided to call it a day. Nowadays, he lives in Marbella, Spain, enjoying his retirement at the age of 58, but he made news in 1995 when he, the King of Georgia, made his first visit to his ancestral homeland to bury his father's ashes.

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