Brett Lunger

Brett Lunger

Former F1 driver
Name = Brett Lunger
Nationality = flagicon|USA American
Years = 1975- 1978
Team(s) = Hesketh, Surtees, non-works March, non-works McLaren, Ensign
Races = 43 (34 starts)
Championships = 0
Wins = 0
Podiums = 0
Poles = 0
Fastest laps = 0
Points = 0
First race = 1975 Austrian Grand Prix
First win =
Last win =
Last race = 1978 United States Grand Prix

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."Lunger's Sputtering Career Revives According To Plan", New York Times, April 11, 1976, Page 164.] 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."Brett Lunger Story: From Rich Kid To Formula 5000 Driver", New York Times, January 20, 1974, Page 213.] 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 withFormula One teams in 1975."Lunger Qualifies for Glen Race As Lauda Gains Pole Position", New York Times, October 5, 1975, Page 226.]

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. Lungerdescribed Lauda's accident which occurred on the 3rd lap. He went off of aturn 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 whichwas fortunate and saved time in the rescue. Lunger got out of his Surteeswhich 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 theseatbelts and Lunger and Lauda tumbled out of the car as a portion of thecockpit broke apart. As Lauda and Lunger emerged corner workers put foamon 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 thefire. ["Ferrari 'Boycott' Is Ending In Dutch Grand Prix Today", New York Times, August 29, 1976, Page 151.]

ports 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. ["Donohue, in Lola-Chevrolet Sunoco, Take 252-Mile Nassau Trophy Race, New York Times, December 5, 1966, Page 86.] 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. ["New Array of Cars to Appear in Can-Am Race Next Sunday, New York Times, August 25, 1968, Page S14.] 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."Cannon and Hobbs Head Field In L&M Grand Prix Tomorrow", New York Times, September 5, 1971, Page S8.] Lunger came in 3rd overall in the 1972 L&M Grand Prix at Laguna Seca Raceway. His home at the time was Pomona, California. ["New Zealand Driver Victor In U.S. Debut", New YorkTimes, New York Times, May 8, 1972, Page 52.] 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. [Big Foreign Entry Is Represented In L&M Continental 5000 Field", New York Times,August 27, 1972, Page S12.] 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. ["Gethin Betters Lap Record In Formula 5000 Victory". New York Times, March 18, 1973, Page 219.] 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. [Redman Captures First L&M Race; Scheckter 2nd", New York Times, April 30, 1973, Page 43.] 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. ["Scheckter Slows Down to Win By Modest Margin", New York Times, June 18, 1973, Page 39.] Lunger was 2nd in a Lola in a Formula 5000 race at Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, in September 1973. ["Scheckter Takes 3rd, Wins Title", New York Times, September 4, 1973, Page 47.] Lunger drove for the Dan Gurney Eagle Anglo American Racers team which debuted in Formula 5000 in 1974. ["Auto Racing Sponsors Awaiting Clear Track", New York Times, January 6, 1974, Page 270.] . The marque was introduced in Formula 5000 in preparation for an entrance into Formula One in 1975. ["Revved-Up Formula 5000 Ready To Hit High Gear", New York Times, January 13, 1974, Page 220.] Redman won the Mid-Ohio Formula 5000 race in Lexington, Ohio, in June 1974. Lunger placed 2nd, 1 minute and 14 seconds behind. ["Redman, in Lola, Wins Formula 5000 Race", New York Times, June 3, 1974, Page 42.] Lunger was 3rd in the Mosport International Raceway Formula 5000 race on June 16.He drove an Eagle-Chevrolet. ["Hobbs Captures Race in Ontario", New York Times, June 16, 1974, Page 212.] In July Lungerpiloted 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. ["1,1000 Race Miles Slated at Watkins Glen", New York Times, July 10, 1974, Page 34.] 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." ["Andretti Is Victor At Glen", New YorkTimes, July 15, 1974, Page 19.] 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 Ruppas 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. ["Andretti 2nd To Redman On Coast", New York Times, September 2, 1974, Page 11.] 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. ["Ickx, Mass Win As Porsche Dominates At Glen", New York Times, July 10, 1977, Page 161.] 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. ["RosbergVictor", New York Times, March 20, 1978, Page C7.] Lungerteamed with Follmer and Derek Bell in a Vasek Polak entry in the Los Angeles Times 6- Hour Grand Prix of Endurance in April 1979. ["Barbour Goes For 1-2-3 Finish", Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1979, Page OC_A1.] 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. ["Whittingtons Win Times Race", Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1979, Page D1.]

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 onthe 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 withthe team of Alexander Hesketh, 3rd Baron Hesketh for the remainder of the 1975 Formula One season. ["People In Sports", NewYork Times, August 12, 1975, Page 24.] 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 9throw. ["Lauda on Pole for Austrian Grand Prix", New York Times, August 17, 1975, Page 187.] He finished 13th in hisHesketh-Ford. ["Brain Surgery for Driver", New York Times, August 18, 1975, Page 17.] 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 24qualifiers 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 wasin 21st position. He described the dilemma of negotiating the Long Beachrace 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." ["Depailler's Car Is Speediest", New York Times, March 27, 1976, Page 46.] Lunger failed to make the field on the2nd 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. ["Regazzoni Takes Coast Race Pole", New York Times, March 28, 1976, Page 175.]

1977 "-" 1978 McLaren, Ensign

In January 1977 Lunger announced that he had signed with B.S. Fabrications, an English race team, and manufacturer ofrace car components."Lunger Hopes To Bolster Confidence At Long Beach", New York Times, March 27, 1977, Page 175.] He fielded a McLaren M-23, the same car driven by James Hunt when he won the 1976 Formula One World Championship."People In Sports", New York Times, January 7,1977, Page 16.] 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 racehe 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 the11th row, 21st starting position for the 1977 United States Grand Prix West. ["Hunt Still Savoring World Title; Lauda Has Pole Position For Grand Prix", Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1977, Page D1.] He did not complete the race after he was in an accident on the 4th lap. ["U.S. Grand Prix West", Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1977, Page D4.] He drove a McLaren to a 19th place finish in the 1977 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. ["Lauda Bests Scheckter In German Grand Prix", August 1, 1977, Page D4.] Lunger qualified 17th in Zeltweg for the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix.He had a time of 1 minute, 41.40 seconds. ["Auto Racing", Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1977, Page C8.] He placed 9th at Zandvoort in the 1977 Dutch Grand Prix. His McLaren was2 laps behind winner Lauda. ["Hunt and Andretti Crash; Lauda Wins", Los Angeles Times, August 29, 1977, Page E7.] Lunger was 10th, 2 laps down, at the 1977 United States Grand Prix. ["Andretti Rally Falls Short As Hunt Wins", Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1977, Page E7.]

He was one lap off the pace and finished 19th at Buenos Aires in the 1978 Argentine Grand Prix. ["Andretti Wins Shortened Argentine Grand Prix", January 16, 1978, Page D14.] Lunger's McLaren was 20th at Rio De Janeiro in the 1978 Brazilian Grand Prix ["Reutemann Breezes To Formula One Win", Los Angeles Times, January 30th 1978, Page D3.] and was 11th at Johannesburg in the 1978 South African Grand Prix, in March. ["Peterson Wins South Africa Race on Last Turn of Last Lap", Los Angeles Times,March 5, 1978, Page C6.] 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. ["Auto Racing", Los Angeles Times, March 20, 1978, Page D6.] Lunger started 24th, in last position, for the 1978 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. His qualifying time was 1:20.39. ["Auto Racing Results", Los Angeles Times, July 16, 1978, Page D4.] He was 8th in the race, 1 lap behind winner Carlos Reutemann. ["Reutemann Edges Lauda In British Grand Prix", Los Angeles Times, July 17, 1978, Page G9.] In the 1978 Austrian Grand Prix he finished 8th, 2 laps off the winning pace. ["Auto Racing", Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1978, Page F6.] Lunger started an Ensign from 24th position in the 1978 United States Grand Prix. His time was 1:43.067. ["Formula One", Los Angeles Times, October 1, 1978, Page C21.] He finished 13th. ["Auto Racing", Los Angeles Times, October 2, 1978, Page D11.]

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. [In Grand Prix, Change Means No Change", New York Times, April 1, 1979, Page S2.]

Complete Formula One World Championship results

() (Races in bold indicate pole position)


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