Gregor Foitek

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Last updated: 7-July-2001


Before Formula One Formula One After Formula One

Before F1

Wins Swiss F3; makes his mark in Germany and at Jarama

Swiss driver Gregor Foitek, hailing from Zurich, is the son of Karl Foitek, a 2-litre Lola sports car racer in the early 1970s of some renown, and a very successful sportscar dealer. With racing in his blood, in 1986 driving a Dallara he won the Swiss F3 championship (a competition with no rounds actually held in Switzerland!). He also raced in German F3 in a Dallara 386 Volkswagen, coming equal 9th with 33 points, including one race in which he took the hat-trick of pole, fastest lap and race win.

But even at this early stage, young Gregor displayed an abnormal bravery that manifested itself in a few too many accidents. When he made his F3000 debut at the end of 1986, driving a Lola T86/50 Cosworth for the Horag Racing/FTL team at Jarama, he marked his first race in the category by crashing out.


F3000 brings a win from pole at Vallelunga after DNQs

In 1987, Foitek continued in F3000. He started the season with Genoa Racing in a March 87B Cosworth, but after an unspectacular first few races, a mid-season slump saw Gregor record three DNQs in a row. A switch to GA Motorsport to drive a Lola T87/50 Cosworth for the last three races of the season saw an upturn in fortunes, including a fine 3rd on the grid for the last race at Jarama, but his year finished without points.

But at least he was set for 1988, when he stayed with GA Motorsport to drive a Lola T88/50 Cosworth. In the second race of the year at Vallelunga, the promise was fulfilled when he won from pole, but the wild streak was still much in evidence, having put Johnny Herbert into the wall along the way. And just to show his inconsistency, he then failed to qualify for the next race at Pau.

A powerhouse performance from Gregor at Vallelunga in F3000 during 1988 saw him take victory.
A powerhouse performance from Gregor at Vallelunga in F3000 during 1988 saw him take victory. He had, though, been responsible for the accident that ended Johnny Herbert's race. Picture from Forix.


Involvement in the famous crash that almost ended Herbert's career

After that, he qualified 4th and finished 4th at Silverstone, and finished 4th again at Monza having started 11th. Then at Enna he qualified 3rd, but caused the race to be stopped by driving into Roberto Moreno's car at the first corner. However, it was the next race at Brands Hatch for which Foitek is perhaps most infamously remembered.

On the first lap, he collided with Herbert whilst doing 150mph. Both cars cannoned into the wall, and Foitek multiple-rolled his car along the guard-rail. Gregor was lucky to survive with only a fractured wrist. Herbert, of course, was not so lucky, shattering both his legs when his car hit the wall head-on and then rebounded into the path of oncoming traffic in the accident which hampered the rest of his career. As for Foitek, he failed to score any points for the rest of the season, and ended up 7th on 15 points.

Formula One

Fails to qualify in Brazil with 88 car revamp

Despite all that, when Stefano Modena left the EuroBrun F1 team for greener pastures at Brabham, and Oscar Larrauri simply got dumped as EuroBrun scaled back to a one-car team, Foitek made his move up to F1. With his reputation, the Modern Motor 1989 GP guide warned viewers to watch for action should Foitek qualify.

They needn't have bothered. Walter Brun's EuroBrun began the year with the ER188B, a revamp of the 1988 car, coupled to a Judd V8 engine, and while others had teething troubles with new cars in the opener at Brazil, Foitek managed to pre-qualify and in Friday qualifying was actually 24th. A blown engine in the second session meant he ended up 29th, and with a DNQ next to his name.

Most of Foitek's season with EuroBrun was spent failing to pre-qualify. Here he records another DNPQ in Hungary..
Most of Foitek's season with EuroBrun was spent failing to pre-qualify. Here he records another DNPQ in Hungary.


Lots of prangs, but sadly not during a race!

After that, though, the DNPQs were the stats which kept mounting up, as the new EuroBrun chassis simply took too long to materialise and the old car was inevitably outclassed. To Foitek's credit, he was never too far off the mark, and was actually as high as 6th in pre-qualifying at Imola and Mexico City, and 7th at Phoenix, Montreal and Silverstone, even though he destroyed one chassis in Canada after a big shunt.

By the German GP, the new ER189 chassis had arrived, as well as Jagermeister sponsorship, but it didn't mean any improvement. In fact, things only got worse, as the new car wasn't up to scratch, and the old one (which the team still carried around) became more and more obsolete. After failing to record a time in pre-qualifying at Spa, Foitek left the team and was replaced by Larrauri.


Rear wing breakage see Gregor gone from the team

Still, he was on the fringes of F1, and when Christian Danner left the stagnant Rial team after the Portuguese GP, Foitek stepped in to drive the ARC2 with its Cosworth engine. And even though Rial was guaranteed an automatic start in qualifying proper, by this stage the German team was in terminal decline, and Foitek could only set a time 29th and last at Jerez.

He wasn't helped by another big accident, caused this time by a rear wing breakage. This was enough to put off someone even as courageous and daring as Foitek, and he abandoned the team after this one solitary effort.

This crash at Jerez was bad enough that Foitek left the Rial team immediately. He was replaced by Bertrand Gachot.
This crash at Jerez was bad enough that Foitek left the Rial team immediately. He was replaced by Bertrand Gachot.


Bad times call for desperate measures; Gregor keeps seat warm

Meanwhile, at the end of the 1989 season, the Brabham team was in dire straits. Only a year after they had returned to F1, their team owner had been imprisoned, and the team had little money. The McKeever Group led by Mike Earle, the former boss of the Onyx team, was called in to try to negotiate a buyer for Brabham, and in the meantime McKeever signed Foitek to drive for Brabham in 1990.

However, soon McKeever did find a buyer for Brabham days before the season opener in Phoenix. That buyer was the Japanese-based Middlebridge Group. Only problem was, Middlebridge wanted Aussie David Brabham to partner Stefano Modena at Brabham. Foitek was nowhere in their plans. On the other hand, Brabham wanted to take some time to acclimatise himself before moving in, so Foitek was reluctantly kept for the first two races of the year.


Foitek fills in before switching to Onyx to displace Stefan J

Driving the 1989-model Brabham BT58 with a Judd engine at Phoenix, Foitek qualified for his first GP start in 23rd place. But true to his reputation, on his 40th lap, failing to see Olivier Grouillard's Osella alongside him on the back straight, he moved across the Frenchman and got pitched into the concrete wall. He was lucky not to be hurt. Then in Brazil he qualified 23rd again, but retired with transmission problems. By now Brabham was ready to take over, and Foitek's tenure was over.

However, by dint of coincidence, another team struggling financially at the end of 1989 was Onyx itself. Swiss enthusiast Peter Monteverdi had bought out the team, and led an amateurish consortium which included Gregor's father Karl Foitek himself, who owned 25%. As a result, it doesn't take a genius to work out why Stefan Johansson, who'd even scored a podium for Onyx at Estoril in 1989, was not-so-politely shown the door after Brazil, and why Foitek then stepped into the Onyx ORE1B for round 3 at Imola.

Foitek in the Brabham at Phoenix in 1990, before brain fade saw him take Olivier Grouillard out on lap 40.
Foitek in the Brabham at Phoenix in 1990, before brain fade saw him take Olivier Grouillard out on lap 40.


Fine performance at Monaco sees him almost score a point

With this car being only a revamp of the 1989 model, Onyx had an advantage of sorts, and Foitek and J.J. Lehto could at least qualify regularly for a few races. At Imola, Foitek's engine failed after the Gregor had started 24th, but his day of days came at the next round in Monaco, where he qualified 20th.

Tom Prankerd tells us that towards the end of the race, due to the high attrition rate, Foitek was actually running 6th, and looking set to score a World Championship point. He had been battling hard with Eric Bernard's Larrousse for some time, but had managed to stave off the attacks of the French driver. But then Foitek left the door open, and Bernard dived for the gap. Gregor tried to close it, but not in time. The Larrousse shunted the Onyx off the track and into retirement, and Foitek ended up being classified 7th, 6 laps down.


Onyxes start slipping back as other cars progress

In Canada, he qualified 21st but retired after he over-revved his engine. Interestingly, he was the last retirement, a massive 43 laps from the end! Then he came home 15th in Mexico, 2 laps down, having started 23rd. This was the only time Gregor would actually finish a race. It was a fine effort considering he'd been hampered by brake problems.

But then the Onyx started being overhauled by other cars, and Foitek failed to qualify in France and Britain. He started last in Germany but spun off, and was slowest in qualifying in Hungary and didn't make the grid. By this stage, though, the Onyx operation was becoming more and more ludicrous by the minute.

The best drive from Foitek at Onyx/Monteverdi came at Monaco, where he was for some time in the points, before being classified 7th.
The best drive from Foitek at Onyx/Monteverdi came at Monaco, where he was for some time in the points, before being classified 7th.


Monteverdi mess was something of a mindless disaster

Monteverdi wanted to name the team after himself, had previously planned to relocate it into his motoring museum in Switzerland as a working exhibit and there was even talk of Monteverdi raiding his classic car collection for replacement parts! Regardless, money was certainly running short, and parts well past their use-by date were regularly put on the cars, often resulting in dangerous breakages.

Refusing to let Gregor drive what had become something of a death trap, Karl Foitek pulled himself and his son out of the team, and Onyx/Monteverdi were no more. You can read about their shenanigans in more detail here.

After F1

Partners Needell and Lopez at Le Mans, in WSC

Foitek's post-F1 career appears to have been short indeed. In 1991, he made an appearance behind the wheel of a sports car, driving a Kremer Racing Porsche 962CK6 at the 24hrs of Le Mans with Mexican Tomas Lopez and Tiff Needell. The car retired after crashing. Foitek was then reunited with Walter Brun when he drove a Brun C91 Judd sports car with Oscar Larrauri in practice for the World Sportscar Championship round at the Nurburgring.

Their qualifying time would have placed them in midfield, but problems meant that they did not take the start. Foitek then joined Lopez again for the round at Magny-Cours, where starting 13th on the grid, they finished a creditable 8th. Those 3 points left Gregor equal 45th in the WSC.


Qualifies well at the Gold Coast; even better at Long Beach

But perhaps after that the dangers of motor racing became too much for him. In 1992, he drove two Indy car races for the team run by the legendary A.J. Foyt, the American hero winding down his driving involvement after a near-fatal accident in 1991. Foitek was given the use of a year-old Lola T91/00 Chevrolet, which had no right to be competitive.

However, at Surfers' Paradise in Australia, Foitek qualified a superb 13th in his CART debut, by was forced to retire after only 19 laps with a puncture. He then went one better in qualifying at Long Beach, starting 12th, but retired after 32 laps.


Shies away from concrete grazing at the Indy 500

For the Indianapolis 500, Foitek was entered to drive for the team again, but, according to Foyt himself, Foitek could not believe that they were racing at such speeds so close to the walls! He went home without even practising. Considering how much of his career he spent up against walls, perhaps this decision was somewhat understandable!!

To our knowledge, Foitek has never been heard of again in world motor-racing. His father Karl, however, continues to run one of Switzerland's leading sportscar dealerships, Garage Foitek AG Exklusive Sportwagen, in Urdorf, and also campaigns 'Team Foitek' in European car racing competitions.

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