EuroBrun

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Last updated: 28-September-2003


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• Slot-machine Brun gambles on Oscar and EuroRacing
It was the end of 1987, and Argentinian driver Oscar Larrauri was in a spot of bother. He was the protégé of Juan Mañuel Fangio; he had been the European F3 champion as far back as 1982 for the Euroracing team; since 1984 he had been enjoying success in Porsche sports cars run by Walter Brun; but, most of all, he was 33, and with each passing season his F1 aspirations were diminishing. But then he had an idea: bring Brun and Euroracing together to jointly form a Grand Prix team in a time when big ambitions and not big budgets were enough to get you started. And so EuroBrun was born.

Paul Gibson tells us that Brun had made his fortune building and servicing slot machines. In the 1980s he had run a successful team in the World Endurance (Sportscar) Championship out of his Swiss base, fielding customer Porsches, but otherwise he had no single-seater let alone Formula One pedigree. Euroracing, on the other hand, had both. Run by Paolo Pavanello, in the early 1980s they were the dominant force in European F3, taking the title with Michele Alboreto and Mauro Baldi in March-Alfas in 1980 and 1981, and with Larrauri in 1982 in their self-designed Euroracing-Alfa 101.

Since the mid-1970s, though, Alfa Romeo had been back in Formula One after an absence of 25 years, first as an engine supplier to Brabham, and then as a constructor in their own right, with both chassis and engine produced by Alfa's sporting arm, Autodelta. But for the 1983 season, whilst Autodelta remained in charge of engine development, the chassis design was given to Euroracing, on the back of their European F3 success. Until their withdrawal as a constructor after the 1985 season, Euroracing's designers penned the Alfa Romeo 183T, 184T and 185T chassis.

So a coalition between Brun and Euroracing had, on paper at least, the right ingredients to go places during the 1988 season. The team would be based in Euroracing's headquarters at Senago in Italy. Pavanello as engineering director contributed technical know-how and his team of engineers, whilst Brun as managing director of the squad would take care of the business and financial side of things. Mino Torazzi became team manager, and Euroracing's Mario Tolentino (who had drawn the Alfa Romeo 184T) and Brun Zava were appointed as designers.

Stefano Modena tests the EuroBrun ER188 early in 1988. Stefano Modena tests the EuroBrun ER188 early in 1988.
• EuroBrun passes the pre-qualifying test regularly
Tolentino came up with the ER188 chassis, a less-than-beautiful contraption with a steep nose and low engine cover, hiding a conventional non-turbo Cosworth DFZ engine. Sponsorship for the plain white machine came initially from the Tommasini belt conveyors group. Since Larrauri had brought Brun and Euroracing together, he was a definite starter in one of the cars, but in the other ER188 there was cause for excitement. EuroBrun had secured the services of Stefano Modena, the reigning F3000 champion who had already made one - albeit unimpressive - F1 start for Brabham.

EuroBrun weren't the only newbies on the 1988 entry list though. Dallara and Rial were making single-car debuts, and Coloni were also embarking on their first full season having entered twice towards the end of 1987. With the number of entries having risen to 31, pre-qualifying was introduced for the five cars from these four teams in order to eliminate one of them before the main qualifying sessions. And then, from the remaining 30 cars, there was going to be a tough fight to get into the top 26 allowed onto the starting grid. It promised to be a testing first season for the Italian-Swiss coalition.

But in the eight events in the first half of the season, EuroBrun looked to be passing the test quite competently indeed. Larrauri never failed to pre-qualify, and only twice did not make the grid, missing out by around 0.3s in San Marino and 0.5s in Britain. Modena would probably have qualified for every race, were it not for two consecutive disqualifications in Monaco and Mexico, neither of which was his own fault. In two careless mistakes by the team, the Italian's car had missed a weight check at Monaco, and its rear wing was too high when it was measured in Mexico City.

Apart from that, the conservative ER188 was getting the job done, Modena comfortably qualifying in the other six events in around 20th place, whilst Larrauri was usually either 24th or 26th, with notable exceptions being when Larrauri was 18th at Monaco (one wonders where Modena could have been) and Modena a stunning 15th in Canada. However, finishes were harder to come by, Modena only recording two 12ths and Larrauri a 13th. Mechanical issues, from engine failures and gearbox problems to flat batteries and broken clutches, contributed to a litany of DNFs.

Larrauri was a stunning 18th on the grid in Monaco. Oscar Larrauri was a stunning 18th on the grid in Monaco.
• Getting harder to get to the grid
A number of driver-induced incidents didn't help. Larrauri crashed at Monaco and collided with Rene Arnoux in Canada, whilst Modena had two massive accidents in Detroit, one of which managed to split a concrete barrier and give the Italian whiplash. Yet at the halfway point of the season EuroBrun had reason to be satisfied. Although they had not come close to scoring any points and were still required to pre-qualify in the remaining eight events of 1988, the car was showing solid enough speed to get onto the grid on a regular basis. Or so they thought.

Behind the scenes, though, all was not well. Euroracing and the Brun group were beginning to have difficulties working together, and the Euroracing side seemed less interested about being involved in F1 than Brun was. Also, Larrauri had been outshone by Modena, and despite the fact that he had brought Euroracing and Brun into this ambivalent marriage, the team was now looking to replace him and leave him to concentrate on sports cars. Christian Danner had actually been signed, only to discover that he could not fit into the ER188, and Larrauri was kept for the rest of the season.

Also, money was undoubtedly tight, and development on the ER188 non-existent. As other outfits improved, qualifying became a great deal harder. Both Modena and Larrauri qualified in Germany; then in Hungary only Modena made it, before going on to record EuroBrun's best ever finish in 11th place. Then in Belgium, Italy and Portugal there was no EuroBrun on the grid, Larrauri having failed to even pre-qualify at Estoril. Modena's was again the only ER188 that made it through to Sunday in Spain, and he finished there too, in 13th place.

New sponsorship from the M505 company for the final two races of the year in Japan and Australia gave the cars a checkered yellow and white livery, but neither qualified at Suzuka. In something of a turnaround though, both EuroBruns qualified in Adelaide, Modena in 20th and Larrauri 25th. It would be the last time two EuroBruns started a Grand Prix, and both drivers retired with driveshaft problems. Despite this relative success Down Under, though, there was no hiding the fact that after a promising start to their debut season, the second half had tailed off very badly indeed.

The last time 2 EuroBruns would make a race: Adelaide 1988. The last time 2 EuroBruns would make a race: Adelaide 1988.
• Trimmed down to one car, for hotshot Foitek
Over the 1988-89 winter, Euroracing wanted out. Brun, too, was looking for new partners, and at one stage tried in vain to buy Lotus and then Brabham in consortium with fellow Swiss businessman Joachim Luhti, Aussie golf star Greg Norman, and Williams man Peter Windsor. Unable to do so, he resorted to running EuroBrun all on his own for 1989. The name stayed the same and the team remained based in Italy, even if Euroracing's participation was nominal, and even though some Euroracing engineers were still involved.

One of those was Zava, who revised the ER188 into the ER188B, designed to take a Judd V8 engine instead of the Cosworth, and to run on Pirelli tyres. The team trimmed down to run one car only, JSK came on board to provide some limited sponsorship, and Pierluigi Corbari became team manager, although it was really now Brun and his Swiss faction calling all the shots. As a result of that, with Modena having gone to Brabham and Larrauri only driving for Brun in sports cars, the wild young Swiss driver Gregor Foitek was brought on board.

It was all to no avail: EuroBrun would turn out to be the only team which never made the grid throughout 1989, a season in which there were 39 cars competing for the 26 grid slots. The closest they came was at the season opener in Brazil, where the fact that the ER188B was not a totally new car helped Foitek to be third fastest in pre-qualifying and move through to qualifying proper. There on Friday he was 24th quickest, but an engine failure on the Saturday saw him slip to 29th. Thereafter, for the rest of 1989, EuroBrun would not manage to pre-qualify again.

Which is not to say that the EuroBrun was the slowest car of all, or that Foitek wasn't giving his best shot. The ER188B was simply too old and too far away from the cutting edge; for example, it still did not have an airbox. There was no money for development; on the contrary, parts were being used beyond their working life and the car suffered in terms of reliability. Foitek himself was perhaps trying too hard and over-extending himself, for example in Canada where he spun at the hairpin, damaging his suspension, causing a violent 257 km/h crash a few hundred metres down the track.

Jägermeister sponsorship came and Foitek turned orange. Jägermeister sponsorship came and Foitek turned orange.
• Only team in 1989 never to make it to Sunday
Meanwhile, Euroracing was keen to pull out completely at the end of 1989, and they were virtually a dead weight for the entire season. Hoping to get some kind of new chassis on the track sometime during 1989, and already looking towards 1990, in February Brun employed former Ferrari man George Ryton to set up a sports car and F1 chassis design group in Basingstoke in England called Brun Technics. But even as Ryton worked to come up with a belated new EuroBrun for the second half of 1989, it was becoming clear that Brun was more interested in his sports cars than in F1 anyway.

That new car, the ER189, arrived in time for the German GP, and so too did a sponsor in the form of Jägermeister, which painted the attractive new machine in its famous orange colours. However, even for the rest of the year there was only one ER189 chassis, and the team had to keep taking one ER188B to each race as a spare. And, considering the reliability problems associated with the untried ER189, that spare often had to come into use. Part of the ER189 also had to be remade after the initial roll-hoop behind the driver's head was not high enough, siphoning off more valuable resources.

Foitek left the team after Belgium, and Larrauri was drafted back in for another crack, dovetailing his sports car commitments with peddling the hopeless EuroBrun on a Friday morning, and never for a very long time. But like his predecessor he was unable to make it through pre-qualifying, let alone have a go at getting onto the grid. Before the end of the season, Jägermeister had departed as quickly as they had come, and by the Australian GP the car was plain black and almost sponsorless. People in the paddock were asking whether or not the team should be allowed to continue into 1990.

But continue they did. Although the team was still based in Senago and still called EuroBrun, Euroracing was fully out of the picture. Ryton had made some minor revisions to the ER189 before leaving for Tyrrell, and in a rather ambitious move Brun decided to run two cars in 1990, one for Coloni refugee Roberto Moreno, the other for paying Italian Claudio Langes. There were also plans to run the Austrian-designed Neotech 70-degree V12 engine, which was tested in the back of a Brun Porsche sports car, but lack of finance meant the deal fell through, and the team had to revert to the Judd V8s.

Oscar's F1 dream's end: sponsorless and black in Australia. Oscar's F1 dream's end: sponsorless and black in Australia.
• The American dream: second fastest in second qualifying!
So the team went to the season opener in the USA with a new silver colour scheme and once again some sponsorship from JSK, and Dutch engineer Kees van der Grint was now on hand to do what he could with the limited resources available to him to slim down what was an overweight and nervous-handling machine. But on the bumpy surface of the streets of Phoenix, and on much-improved Pirelli qualifiers, whilst Langes struggled in pre-qualifying Moreno was positively heroic. With a time over 0.4s faster than anyone else, he must have surprised even his own team by topping the pre-qualifying time sheets.

The dream run was set to continue. In a disruptive Friday qualifying session, Moreno ended up an incredible 16th, ahead of Nigel Mansell's Ferrari, Alessandro Nannini's Benetton, both Arrows, both Lotuses, and both Leyton Houses. Surely the grid would sort itself out come second qualifying, everyone thought. But when heavy rain fell on Saturday, EuroBrun's first start in 17 events was assured. What's more, of the 14 cars that nevertheless ventured onto the track in second qualifying, Moreno and his EuroBrun were second fastest!

There wasn't quite a fairytale conclusion on race day. The Brazilian had to make a lengthy pit stop to replace a flat battery, but was still circulating at the end of the Grand Prix, taking 13th place, albeit 5 laps down, in a result which nonetheless would have been a great fillip to the team. After failing to pre-qualify in Brazil, he managed to sneak through as the fourth fastest at Imola, and then got onto the grid in 24th spot, ahead of JJ Lehto's Onyx, Paolo Barilla's Minardi, the two Arrows and David Brabham's Brabham. However, Moreno's race was short-lived, retiring on the first lap with a jammed throttle.

He also made it into main qualifying in the next two rounds in Monaco and Canada, topping the pre-qualifying timesheets at Montreal, but got into the race in neither, although in Canada he missed out by an agonising 0.059s. There was more heartbreak in Mexico, where after pre-qualifying 3rd, he set a time good enough for 24th on the grid before being disqualified from the meet for a push start. But, as the AGSs started improving and the Coloni too once they had ditched their Subaru engine, it turned out to be the last time a EuroBrun was seen beyond Friday morning.

Moreno turned heads at the 1990 season opener in Phoenix. Moreno turned heads at the 1990 season opener in Phoenix.
• EuroBrun releases Roberto to better things
Meanwhile, in the other car, Langes was being treated as second fiddle by the team in terms of equipment, but he was somewhat out of his depth, regardless. Whereas Brun had been able to find sponsorship for as many as three Porsche 962s, he simply didn't have the funds for F1, and Langes was in the team for his money only. In Canada, though, the team was so frustrated with Langes that they only gave him a few laps before parking his car, just to avoid a FISA fine, and they were serious about replacing him. Later on, Langes found a little more cash and was given a few more laps, but his final record of 14 DNPQs in 14 attempts stands as an ignominious record.

By now all the attention at Basingstoke was on the sports cars, and with only the two fly-away Grands Prix left in Japan and Australia, Brun wisely euthanased the EuroBrun operation, which in three seasons had racked up 55 DNQs and DNPQs from their 76 entries. Moreno and Langes were notified that they were not required at Suzuka, which allowed the talented Brazilian to take the Benetton seat after Alessandro Nannini's dreadful helicopter accident, and finish 2nd in his best ever F1 result. By pulling out and giving the Moreno his Benetton break, EuroBrun had finally done something right.

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