Otto Stuppacher

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Last updated: 17-May-2001


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Before F1

Bizarre reason for missing out on a GP start; Otto a hillclimb specialist

Recently, there has been increasing interest on the internet, on bulletin boards etc., regarding the 'worst' drivers in F1 history. While the same familiar names keep cropping up, we're surprised that Austrian Otto Stuppacher, hailing from Vienna, rarely ever gets a mention. After all, this is the guy who couldn't make his first Grand Prix start because he had already left the country!

A local hillclimb specialist, our information for Otto starts in 1969, and much of it comes from Stephen Herbert. That year he entered a Porsche 906 in the International Championship for Makes (ICM) round at Monza, where he was joined by Kurt Rieder. After qualifying 33rd, the pair finished 12th. 1969 was also the year the Zeltweg opened, and in the inaugural race there in July, Marc Ceulemans tells us that Stuppacher again entered his 906 and came 3rd behind Andrea de Adamich and Jo Bonnier.


Joins struggling compatriot by the name of Niki Lauda in Austrian GP

A fortnight later, the ICM Austrian Grand Prix came to the Österreichring, and Stuppacher was taken up by the Bosch Racing Team to drive a Porsche 910. His team-mate was a struggling unknown young local by the name of Niki Lauda. Despite putting the car 17th on the grid, by the end of the race the pair could only manage to finish 21st. The race was won by Jo Siffert and Kurt Ahrens Jr in their Porsch 917.

However, the Bosch Racing Team was sufficiently impressed to keep Stuppacher in their Porsch 910 for four rounds of the European Sportscar Championship in 1970. Unfortunately, the four races at the Salzburgring, Hockenheim, Mugello and Spa produced little in terms of results, 10th on the grid at the Salzburgring and 7th overall at Spa being highlights.

This is a Porsche 910, the car design that Otto shared with Niki Lauda on their way to 21st place at the Osterreichring in 1969
This is a Porsche 910, the car design that Otto shared with Niki Lauda on their way to 21st place at the Osterreichring in 1969.


Wins Austrian hillclimbing title, attempts 24hrs of Le Mans but crashes 2hrs in

In 1971, Marc Ceulemans informs us that Stuppacher won the Austrian Mountain Championship, having privately purchased from Lauda a Porsche 908 spyder A. After this he once again teamed up with Rieder in the 908 for the Monza 1000kms round of the ICM, staying under the Bosch banner. But after qualifying 21st, engine problems stopped them from even starting the race. Then Otto privately entered the 908 at the Zolder round of the Interserie Cup, where he actually started after qualifying 19th, but more engine problems forced him out.

For 1972, the ICM became the World Championship for Makes, and Stuppacher raced in 4 rounds for Bosch. At Brands Hatch, with Rieder, again in Stuppacher's 908, the pair finished a fine 9th, but at Monza, in the same car, this time shared with Dr Helmut Marko, engine problems prevented them from starting. At Le Mans, with fellow Austrian Walter Roser, Stuppacher was the third retirement, crashing after two hours, having started 21st on the grid. Finally, at the Österreichring, where Bosch put him and Rieder in an Abarth 2000, Otto retired.

1972, 75

More mountain and sportscar racing; takes some time off for R and R

1972 also saw Otto continue his hillclimbing efforts, taking part in the European Hillclimb Championship round at Dobratsch, the Austrian Mountain Grand Prix, in his Porsche 908. 5th place overall was quite a creditable result. That year, Stuppacher also had at least one outing for Bosch in the European Sportscar Championship at the Salzburgring in an Abarth 2000, but he failed to qualify.

At the end of the year, despite only being 25, we are led to believe that Stuppacher stepped down from active motor racing, but the bug was too strong to shake off, and in 1975 he made a comeback. In the World Championship for Makes round at the Österreichring, Stuppacher teamed up with Herve LeGuellec in a Roger Heavens Racing Lola T294 Ford. However, the car retired after starting 18th.

Formula One

Tries to petition himself into the Austrian GP

By 1976, the Tyrrell 007 was a venerable piece of machinery. As early as 1974 it had almost brought Jody Scheckter the World Championship title, and in 1975 Scheckter and Patrick Depailler were able to put the car into the points. At the start of 1976, Depailler scored a 2nd in Brazil and 3rd at Long Beach before the 007 was pensioned off in favour of the six-wheeled P34. Later in 1976, Alessandro Pesenti-Rossi used a privately-entered 007 to run midfield, showing that in the right hands the car was still useful.

A local Austrian operation, the ÖASC Racing Team, got hold of a 007 (for a reported £20,000), a Cosworth V8 engine and some Goodyear tyres, and provided Stuppacher with an opportunity to race in F1 despite his modest CV. The plan was to enter both Stuppacher and his compatriot Karl Oppitzhauser, in a March 761, in the Austrian GP. When their entries were refused, Otto apparently tried to get people to sign a petition in support of his entry, but because he was a complete unknown, he failed miserably in his endeavours.

Unfortunately, both Otto Stuppacher (right) and Karl Oppitzhauser (left) were denied entry into the Austrian GP 1976 - while Otto would try again, Karl would not.
Unfortunately, both Otto Stuppacher (right) and Karl Oppitzhauser (left) were denied entry into the Austrian GP 1976 - while Otto would try again, Karl would not.


Things don't look good for Otto, way off the pace

Undeterred, Stuppacher was officially entered for three races towards the end of the 1976 season. Considering that two of them were long-haul races in Canada and America, this effort was not without some expense. And in hindsight, looking at what was achieved, they're probably still wondering if it was worth the trouble.

At Monza, for the Italian GP, it was abundantly clear that Stuppacher was out of his depth. Out of 29 entrants, of which 26 should have started, Jacques Laffite took pole in his Ligier with a time of 1:41.35. Stuppacher was slowest of all, with a 1:55.22, some 13.87 seconds slower. Even Arturo Merzario in the hopeless Wolf-Williams, who was just ahead of the Austrian, managed a 1:47.31.


Flies away, thinking he'd DNQ'd. What a mistake!

But as fate would have it, both 'Little Art' and Stuppacher should have started the race! For when McLaren drivers James Hunt and Jochen Mass, plus Penske driver John Watson had their times disallowed for fuel irregularities, Merzario and Stuppacher were bumped up to 25th and 26th. But here's the thing: the previous night, Otto, disheartened by his DNQ, had taken the Saturday evening flight back home! Come Sunday, he was already back in Vienna, licking his wounds, obviously unable to make it back in time for the start.

In fact, in the end Stuppacher would have started 25th, because Merzario was withdrawn before the race started. Rumours circulated that Arturo had been persuaded to withdraw thanks to some money from Penske, for as a result of both Merzario and Stuppacher being absent, Hunt and Mass were allowed back in at the rear of the grid, and so too Watson. Thus in the end 27 cars started.

Seen here in practice for the Canadian GP at Mosport. Austria may be beautiful, but Stuppacher's lap times weren't.
Seen here in practice for the Canadian GP at Mosport. Austria may be beautiful, but Stuppacher's lap times weren't.


Stuppacher was thoughfully looking out for others

Things were little better for Stuppacher once the trip over the Atlantic was made. At Mosport for the Canadian GP, Hunt set the pole with a 1:12.389. Of the 27 entrants, the two Wolf-Williams cars of Merzario and Amon were 25th and 26th, the Italian setting a 1:17.288, and the Kiwi doing a 1:18.202. But Stuppacher only managed a 1:25.084, some 12.695 seconds off the pole. With only 24 cars allowed to start, even though both Amon and Harald Ertl were withdrawn before the race began, Stuppacher didn't get a chance.

Thanks to Paul Hartshorne we know that it was suggested by some critics around the paddock that the dawdling Stuppacher should throw in the towel of his own accord. But it was later determined that part of the reason why he had been so slow was that he spent most of his time on track solicitously taking long looks into his rear-vision mirrors and making sure he was not in anyone's way. When asked about Otto's DNQ, compatriot Niki Lauda said:

"It's a pity. Stuppacher could have held up Hunt for me! The thanks of the nation would certainly have been with him."

There must have been something wrong for Otto to record 27 secs off pole

He wouldn't get to the grid at Watkins Glen either for the USA East GP. Indeed, he would be further off the pace than ever before. With Hunt on pole, yet again, with a 1:43.622, several cars were already languishing way off the pace. Merzario was among them, 25th out of 27 with a 2:00.932, while Henri Pescarolo in the Surtees only managed a 2:05.211. Considering that Brett Lunger in 24th spot did a 1:51.373, I presume there's a reason behind Merzario and Pescarolo's times.

But you'll need a whole heap of reasons to explain Stuppacher's stupefying 2:11.070, some 27.448 seconds off the pole. And folks, we're not talking about a monster track like the old Nurburgring either. As things turned out, 26 were allowed to start, so both Merzario and Pescarolo made it to the grid, but Stuppacher didn't.

After F1

Otto doesn't appear in Japan; abandons racing?

We don't know if Stuppacher was meant to go to the season-ending Japanese GP at Fuji, the race famous for Hunt clinching the title after Niki Lauda decided the wet conditions were too dangerous to race in. Perhaps if Otto had been present several round earlier to slow Hunt up and help his former teammate Lauda, F1 history could have been very different!

But things did not happen that way, and sadly no more was seen of Stuppacher or the ÖASC effort in F1. Furthermore, to our knowledge, no more was heard of Stuppacher on the international racing stage post 1976. As a sad postscript, Otto passed away on August 13th, 2001, found dead in his Vienna apartment. He was 54.

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