The Legends Parade, which brings together ex-racers and their original machinery, has proved a highlight of the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring since the race returned in 2014. This year, the Legends Parade on July 1-3 features cars and drivers from BMW M1 Procar, a short-lived series held in 1979-80 that pitted the best drivers of the day against each other in identical BMW M1 cars.
Read our 2015 Austrian Grand Prix trip report, which includes pictures from last year’s Legends Parade.
The Procar series was the brainchild of Jochen Neerpasch, the head of BMW’s Motorsports division, who was in the charge of developing the M1, BMW’s first super car. Now widely recognized as one of the finest BMW’s ever built, the M1 was designed in Italy and made for BMW by Lamborghini. It was first unveiled at the 1978 Paris Motor Show. In order for the car to compete in Group 5 racing, BMW needed to produce 400 ‘road going’ versions of the car. However, production was beset by delays and with its Group 5 racing debut put back, Neerpasch came up with the idea of a one-make racing series for the M1 in 1979.
The first series of Procar featured eight rounds, all of which took place on Formula 1 weekends and featured the best Formula 1 drivers of the era. A factory BMW team fielded five cars in each race and awarded driving slots based on times set in Formula 1 practice to Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Alan Jones, Jacques Laffite, Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet, among others. Other teams competed (including Tom Walkinshaw racing and other touring car teams), as did several non-F1 drivers. With three wins, Niki Lauda took out the inaugural championship by a small margin from Hans-Joachim Stuck who won twice.
The second series of Procar in 1980 was less reliant on Formula 1, with only six of the nine rounds being held on Grand Prix weekends. The Österreichring circuit (the original name of the Red Bull Ring) featured once again. With three late-season wins in a row, including the Austrian round, Nelson Pique took out the championship from Alan Jones. This was to be the final season of Procar as BMW turned its sights to supplying engines for the Brabham team F1 team.
The following drivers, many of whom raced in the original Procar series at the Österreichring in 1979/1980, have confirmed for this year’s Legends Parade:
- Niki Lauda (Austrian): 3-times World F1 Champion and winner of the 1979 Procar Championship
- Gerhard Berger (Austrian): ten-time Grand Prix winner in an F1 career which spanned 1984-1997
- Dieter Quester (Austrian): touring car driver who competed in both series of Procar, achieving a best result of 5th on two occasions
- Sepp Manhalter (Austrian): competed in both series of Procar, with a best result of 9th and continued to race the M1 until 1984
- Jos Verstappen (Dutch): father of Max and F1 journeyman driver between 1994 and 2003 who peaked early with his best results – two podiums – in his first season.
- Hans-Joachim ‘Strietzel’ Stuck (German): competed in the F1 midfield from 1974-79. Drove successfully in both Procar championships, achieving two wins in each season.
- Jochen Mass (German): winner of one Grand Prix in a ten-year F1 career and also Les Mans 24 hours champion in 1989. Competed in several rounds of Procar in 1979 with a best result of 7th at Hockenheim.
- Leopold Prinz von Bayern (German): a Bavarian prince who competed in touring cars and also finished fourth in the Les Mans 24 hours.
- Christian Danner (German): won the international F3000 series in 1985 and graduated to F1 in the same year with Zakspeed. Spent four years as an F1 backmarker with a best result of 4th for Rial in the 1989 United States Grand Prix.
- Harald Grohs (German): a moderately successful sportscar driver who achieved several notable wins in a 20+ year career and is known for having competed in fifty 24 hour endurance races.
- Marc Surer (Swiss): 88 F1 starts with midfield teams from 1979-86. From two seasons of Procar, his best result was 2nd at Zandvoort in 1980.
- Jan Lammers (Dutch): didn’t score a point in a rather forgettable F1 career but won the 1988 Les Mans 24 hours driving a Silk Cut Jaguar and also won the opening round of the 1980 Procar series at Donington Park.
- Johnny Cecotto (Venezuelan): following a successful motorcycle career (250cc World Champion in 1975), he competed in Formula 1 in 1983-4, but scored just one point.
Need to Know
The pits area for the Legends Parade is located in the heart of the Fan Zone at the Red Bull Ring, so there are ample opportunities to see the cars up close and meet the drivers. The best time for meeting the drivers is on Saturday afternoon from 16:00-18:00. The M1s will hit the track for a practice session from 18:05-18:45 on Saturday evening before the main event, a short ‘race’ at 12:40 on race day.