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Brett_Lunger

Brett Lunger

Robert Brett Lunger (born November 14 1945) is a former racecar driver from the United States. He was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Lunger was educated in dancing schools in Wilmington, the Holderness School, and Princeton University. He dropped out of Princeton after three years to enlist for service in Vietnam. He was a political science major. At the time he was preparing a thesis on U.S. Policy on Southeast Asia. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident refuted much of what Lunger contended in his writing. A former US marine lieutenant who served in the Vietnam war, his racing career was mostly spent in privateer cars, paid for by his family wealth (Lunger was a scion of the DuPont family).

Lunger was not raised a car enthusiast. He was brought up to enjoy baseball, hockey, and football. He became interested in auto racing when a friend took him to a race in 1965. By 1966 he was the rich kid of the Can-Am series. Between 1972 -1974 he faced the top competition in Formula Two, Emerson Fittipaldi, Ronnie Peterson, and Graham Hill. His best finish was a 4th place at Mantorp Park in Sweden. The machinery he was in at this juncture did not allow him to do better. On a single weekend in Rouen, France, Lunger blew three engines.

He married Jo, the daughter of Sir Leonard Crossland, former chairman of Ford of England and an executive with Lotus in 1975. Lunger used his wife's English thatched cottage as a base to court a ride with Formula One teams in 1975.

Racing career synopsis

He participated in 43 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on August 17, 1975. He scored no championship points.

Lunger's Formula One career started alongside James Hunt in the Hesketh team in 1975, followed by a season with Surtees in 1976. For 1977, he started the season with a March 761 run by Bob Sparshott and entered under the name of his sponsor, Chesterfield Racing, but switched to a McLaren M23 after three races. In 1978, he stayed with the McLaren M23 and also tried an M26, but now entered by Sparshott's racing outfit, BS Fabrications. After a one-off drive for Ensign at the end of the season, Lunger moved on to sports car racing.

Lunger is perhaps most renowned for being one of the drivers, along with Guy Edwards, Arturo Merzario and Harald Ertl, who saved Niki Lauda from his burning car during the 1976 German Grand Prix. Lunger described Lauda's accident which occurred on the 3rd lap. He went off of a turn at a speed of 130 m.p.h. to 140 m.p.h. He had apparently crashed on exit, went through a couple of rows of catch fence, up a relatively steep bank, and back into the middle of the track, the Ferrari on fire. Lunger said that Edwards was able to get by Lauda's car to the left but Lunger was unable to avoid the wrecked Ferrari. He made contact about three quarters on because I was committed to a line and couldn't make it through the debris. Ertle followed, colliding with the Ferrari and knocking it into Lunger's Surtees. Lunger's fire extinguishers were set off by the collision which was fortunate and saved time in the rescue. Lunger got out of his Surtees which was tangled up with the Ferrari. The extinguishers going off had dampened the fire somewhat. Workers arrived and kept the fire down, eventually putting foam on the Ferrari. This enabled Lunger and Merzario to get close to the fire, although they could not free Lauda at first. Lauda was conscious, struggling to get free on his own. Again the fire flared up and kept the men back from the car's side. Lunger jumped on top of the Ferrari and grabbed Lauda by his shoulders. Merzario unbuckled the seatbelts and Lunger and Lauda tumbled out of the car as a portion of the cockpit broke apart. As Lauda and Lunger emerged corner workers put foam on them. They lay for a few seconds in the grass. The burning fuel was moving toward them so Lunger and Lauda walked 6 to 8 steps away from the fire.

Sports cars and Formula 5000

Lunger finished 8th in a McLaren Chevrolet in the 1966, 252 mile Nassau Trophy race, in Nassau, Bahamas. He was only a few seconds behind Peter Gregg in a Porsche Carrera 6. Lunger fielded a Lola chassis in the 1968 Canadian American Challenge Cup (Can-Am). Others who drove Lola 160 cars were Swede Savage and Chuck Parsons. Lunger was among drivers in the 1971 L&M Grand Prix, at Lime Rock Park, who were competing for 2nd place in the sports car championship. Lunger had 58 points prior to the event. David Hobbs had clinched 1st place with 99 points. Lunger came in 3rd overall in the 1972 L&M Grand Prix at Laguna Seca Raceway. His home at the time was Pomona, California. In 1972 Lunger was 3rd in the L&M Continental 5000 Championship, trailing Graham McRae and Sam Posey. He combined participation in Continental racing with Formula Two. He moved into 3rd place following a win at Road Atlanta in August. In March 1973 Lunger placed 2nd to Peter Gethin in the opening race of Rothman's Formula 5000 European championship at Brand's Hatch. He was in a Lola. In the April 1973 Formula 5000 race at Riverside International Raceway, Lunger finished 6th. He led the first 19 laps before a stuck throttle forced him to spin at turn 7. A 17 second pit stop to look for damage dropped him to 7th place. Lunger was 3rd in a Lola Chevrolet at the L&M Watkins Glen Grand Prix, in June 1973. Jody Scheckter and Brian Redman came in ahead of him in the Formula 5000 race. Lunger was 2nd in a Lola in a Formula 5000 race at Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, in September 1973. Lunger drove for the Dan Gurney Eagle Anglo American Racers team which debuted in Formula 5000 in 1974.. The marque was introduced in Formula 5000 in preparation for an entrance into Formula One in 1975. Redman won the Mid-Ohio Formula 5000 race in Lexington, Ohio, in June 1974. Lunger placed 2nd, 1 minute and 14 seconds behind. Lunger was 3rd in the Mosport International Raceway Formula 5000 race on June 16. He drove an Eagle-Chevrolet. In July Lunger piloted a BMW in the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen and competed in a Trans Am race, sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America, with George Follmer. Lunger started 8th and ran as high as 4th in the Can-Am Challenge Trophy race of July 1974. He developed engine problems with 4 laps to go. Lunger said, We're not ready yet, but we're getting there. Lunger won 2 heat races but crashed during the 1974 California Grand Prix at Ontario Motor Speedway. He was trying to pass a slower car and at the same time hold off eventual race winner, Mario Andretti. Lunger's Eagle Chevy collided with Mickey Rupp as they entered a turn at the end of the infield straight. Their cars spun in a cloud of dust 100 feet off the race track. Lunger assisted rescue workers in pulling Rupp from his car. Lunger and Follmer secured 2nd place in a turbocharged Porsche 935 in the 1977 six hours endurance race at Watkins Glen. They were more than 3.377 mile-laps behind the winning team of Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass. The victors drove a factory Porsche 935 with a 150 horsepower adavantage over the 20 other customer Porsches, which composed the field of 44. Lunger finished 4th in the 1978 BRDC International Trophy auto race at Silverstone. He was behind winner Keke Rosberg, 2nd place Emerson Fittipaldi, and Tony Trimmer. The $190,000 event was hampered by rain over its 117.28 miles. Lunger teamed with Follmer and Derek Bell in a Vasek Polak entry in the Los Angeles Times 6- Hour Grand Prix of Endurance in April 1979. The 3-man team placed 3rd, 6 laps behind in a Porsche 935/79. The car started in the 23rd row due to engine problems during qualifying that kept it from posting a time.

Formula One

1975 Hesketh

Lunger joined the Hesketh Racing Formula One team in 1975 for the running of the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix. Aside from Mario Andretti and Mark Donohue, he was the only American driver on the elite circuit. At the age of 29 Lunger found himself without a car to drive for a major team. His friends bought him a ride with the team of Alexander Hesketh, 3rd Baron Hesketh for the remainder of the 1975 Formula One season. Lunger's brother, Dave, and Rod Campbell, a veteran motor racing public relations man, formed a combine in late 1975 to promote a Formula One ride for Lunger. In his debut Lunger started from the 9th row. He finished 13th in his Hesketh-Ford. In qualifying for the 1975 United States Grand Prix, Lunger wrecked his Hesketh, sustaining superficial damage to his car. He recovered to become one of 24 qualifiers for the 199.243 mile race. Lunger ran as high as 8th at Watkins Glen, before he retired. In the 1975 Italian Grand Prix he came in 10th.

1976 Surtees

In 1976 Lunger moved to the Team Surtees. The corporation obtained sponsorship from Chesterfield, Rand Time Corporation, the Delaware Trust Company, and Champion Spark Plugs Company. On the 1st day of qualifying for the 1976 United States Grand Prix West in Long Beach, California, Lunger averaged only 83.61 miles per hour. Driving a Surtees-Ford, he was in 21st position. He described the dilemma of negotiating the Long Beach race track, which incorporated 85 circuits from Ocean Boulevard downtown to a parking lot and to Shoreline Drive, not far from the RMS Queen Mary, and then back to Ocean Boulevard. This course is so narrow, it's like trying to drive a Sherman tank through a parking lot. Lunger failed to make the field on the 2nd day of qualifying. Only 20 cars started due to the narrowness of the Long Beach circuit. Lunger's Surtees dropped a clutch in practice and was never correctly fixed.

1977 - 1978 McLaren, Ensign

In January 1977 Lunger announced that he had signed with B.S. Fabrications, an English race team, and manufacturer of race car components. He fielded a McLaren M-23, the same car driven by James Hunt when he won the 1976 Formula One World Championship. In his first race in the McLaren, Lunger finished 14th in the 1977 South African Grand Prix driving a March-Ford. The week prior to the race he lost a right rear wheel and crashed. It took his crew a week to rebuild the car from the ground up. During qualifying he drove three timed laps before his car blew an engine. This meant that Lunger started the race at the rear. Lunger qualified his March on the 11th row, 21st starting position for the 1977 United States Grand Prix West. He did not complete the race after he was in an accident on the 4th lap. He drove a McLaren to a 19th place finish in the 1977 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. Lunger qualified 17th in Zeltweg for the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix. He had a time of 1 minute, 41.40 seconds. He placed 9th at Zandvoort in the 1977 Dutch Grand Prix. His McLaren was 2 laps behind winner Lauda. Lunger was 10th, 2 laps down, at the 1977 United States Grand Prix.

He was one lap off the pace and finished 19th at Buenos Aires in the 1978 Argentine Grand Prix. Lunger's McLaren was 20th at Rio De Janeiro in the 1978 Brazilian Grand Prix and was 11th at Johannesburg in the 1978 South African Grand Prix, in March. He came in 4th in a nonchampionship Formula One race at Silverstone on March 19. Only 4 of 16 starters finished the event because of rain. Lunger started 24th, in last position, for the 1978 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. His qualifying time was 1:20.39. He was 8th in the race, 1 lap behind winner Carlos Reutemann. In the 1978 Austrian Grand Prix he finished 8th, 2 laps off the winning pace. Lunger started an Ensign from 24th position in the 1978 United States Grand Prix. His time was 1:43.067. He finished 13th.

Post race life

Lunger failed to find an acceptable ride in 1979. During his retirement from racing he worked as a journalist with CBS, covering Formula One races like the 1979 South African Grand Prix. He completed his degree at Princeton.

Complete Formula One World Championship results

(F1 driver results legend 2) (Races in bold indicate pole position)
Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Team WDC Points
1975 Hesketh ARG
BRA
RSA
ESP
MON
BEL
SWE
NED
FRA
GBR
GER
AUT
13
ITA
10
USA
Ret
Hesketh - 0
1976 Surtees BRA
RSA
11
USW
DNQ
ESP
DNQ
BEL
Ret
MON
SWE
15
FRA
16
GBR
Ret
GER
Ret
AUT
10
NED
ITA
14
CAN
15
USA
11
JPN
Surtees - 0
1977 Chesterfield Racing ARG
BRA
RSA
14
USW
Ret
ESP
10
MON
BEL
DNS
SWE
11
FRA
DNQ
GBR
13
GER
Ret
AUT
10
NED
9
ITA
Ret
USA
10
CAN
11
JPN
Chesterfield Racing - 0
1978 BS Fabrications ARG
13
BRA
Ret
RSA
11
USW
DNQ
MON
DNPQ
BEL
7
ESP
DNQ
SWE
DNQ
FRA
Ret
GBR
8
GER
DNPQ
AUT
8
NED
Ret
ITA
Ret
USA
13
CAN
Ensign - 0

References

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