Hans Heyer

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Last updated: 15-January-2006


Biography

Before Formula One Formula One After Formula One

Before F1
Background

Heyer had a career like few others

If during your lifetime you had the opportunity to drive a Mercedes-Benz, a BMW, a Ford, a Porsche, a Lotus, a Lancia, a Jaguar and a Toyota, you may well consider yourself to have been a fortunate soul. But what if you actually had the chance to race for each of these marques, a lot of the time for works or semi-works teams? That prospect would be enough to make most grown men salivate. And Hans Heyer, from Mönchengladbach in Germany, has done just that.

No other driver on this site has had a career like Heyer's. One of the most versatile sports car and touring car drivers in the world in the 1970s and 1980s, a gun for hire who never permanently aligned himself with one make, never seen without his good luck charm, a Tyrolean hat, Heyer's entire single-seater career consisted of two - yes, two - races, including the one F1 start that earns him his place here. And even then, it was an illegal start that has since had anoraks arguing whether or not it should be counted!

More about that in good time. Heyer's parents ran a bitumen and concrete mixing company, so from an early age he was exposed to big, brash machinery. During his time at boarding school in Adenau he developed his own passion for motoring and engineering, and by 1962 he had completed an apprenticeship as a mechanic with Daimler-Benz. By then he had also begun his racing career, having built his first kart in 1959 as a 16 year old.

1962-71

Becomes karting guru, winning in Holland, before taking to touring and sports cars

However, he was forced to race it in Holland, because the rules at that time forbade youngsters from karting in Germany until the age of 18. He became the Dutch 100cc champion in 1962, and followed it by winning the 125cc class in 1963. Wanting to return to Germany to race, he encountered licensing problems before finally moving into the Formula K class in 1965. He placed 3rd the next two years, and then blitzed both the German and European Formula K titles from 1968 to 1971 straight in his Taifun/BM.

In addition, he competed in the 24 hour karting classic at Brignoles in France from 1969 to 1971, winning in 1969 and 1971 and finishing 2nd in 1970. But by then he was already 28 years old and his motorsport career needed to move on. He had already attracted the attention of the best saloon car teams in Europe, and in 1970 he had been handed his first start in the European Touring Car Championship, when he shared a Koepchen Tuning BMW 2002 to 11th in the Nurburgring 6hrs with Clemens Schickentanz.

Koepchen were sufficiently impressed to hand Heyer further outings in 1971. He drove with Helmut Kelleners at Monza and the Nurburgring, and Hans was also given the car to race single-handedly at Zandvoort. Elsewhere, he had also made his sports car debut, when the Rheydter Club team drafted him in to drive an LBS 3 Ford turbo with Heinz Behr at the International Championship for Makes round at the Nurburgring, but Behr had an accident in the race before Heyer sat in the car.


Behind the wheel of the massive Merc 300 SEL in the 1971 ETCC at Spa.
Behind the wheel of the massive Merc 300 SEL in the 1971 ETCC at Spa.

1971-72

Joins up with Merc and a bigger than Ben Hur 300 SEL

However, in 1971 Heyer made waves with another manufacturer altogether. Apart from those starts with Koepchen, he had also raced in two other ETCC events in a giant Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL, tuned by AMG with a mammoth 6.8 litre engine. A most unlikely touring car because of its sheer size, its debut at the 1970 Spa 24hrs had actually ended in an ignominious withdrawal on safety grounds when the car's weight tore the tread off its tyres!

But the car was to get a second chance in 1971, when it weighed 1,635kg and produced 398 horsepower. Kelleners was to be its first choice driver, but he refused after a testing accident at Hockenheim. And so the drive fell to Schickentanz and the inexperienced (in saloon car terms) Heyer for the Spa 24hrs, and amazingly they guided the car to 2nd outright, albeit 3 laps down. They also took the car to Paul Ricard, where rear suspension failure put them out.

The experiment with the thunderous Merc continued into 1972. Heyer and Thomas Betzler drove the car at the non-championship Nurburgring 24hrs in 1972, but a locked differential spelled the end of their race. With a certain overlap between touring car and sports car events, AMG also entered the 300 SEL for certain World Championship for Makes events, but Heyer did not start at Spa and did not qualify at the Nurburgring. On both occasions he eventually took the start in separate, non-Mercedes cars!

1972

McLaren Mercedes project quietly shelved; Hans links with Schnitzer BMW

Heyer and Schickentanz did, however, start the non-championship Le Mans 4hrs event, where the 300 SEL was the fastest car down the straight, clocking 285 km/h. But the car retired after a mere four laps, and by 1973, touring car regulations limited engines to 5 litres, and the gigantic Mercedes was ousted from competition. But in 1972 Heyer had also been involved with Mercedes-Benz in another way, when he was part of their first abortive collaboration with McLaren, long before their F1 partnership of the past decade.

Apart from the 300 SEL project, AMG had also been working on a McLaren M8F sports car, fitted with the 6.8 litre Mercedes engine, for the Interserie championship. Heyer was signed to drive, and the car debuted at Imola, only for Hans to have a light accident in practice, followed by an engine detonation in the first heat, when he over-revved an engine that clearly was way underpowered. It was 200 horsepower down on the leading Interserie engines, but was heavier to boot! The project was quickly and quietly shelved.

But for all the under-achieving adventures Heyer was having with Mercedes, in 1972 he was actually carving out a successful reputation for a host of other teams and marques in various categories. In the ETCC, for instance, he had driven in five events, four of them for the Schnitzer BMW team in a 2800 CS. He was 5th at the Salzburgring (where he had been beaten at the line for 4th by Gerold Pankl by 0.05s), but the other outings had been fruitless.


Heyer in his Schnitzer BMW at Le Mans in 1972. Hans never had any luck at Le Mans.
Heyer in his Schnitzer BMW at Le Mans in 1972. Hans never had any luck at Le Mans.

1972-73

Drives seven different cars for six different teams in seven DRM starts!

So for the Jarama round he switched to the Ford Koln team to drive a Capri RS 2600 with Gerry Birrell and Dieter Glemser, and immediately finished 2nd. But away from the ETCC, Hans started competing in the DRM series, the German sports car title, where he made 7 starts in, incredibly, seven different cars for six different teams (four different BMWs, two different Ford Capris, and an Opel GT!), including a win at the Nurburgring 6hrs in a Schnitzer BMW with Rolf Stommelen and John Fitzpatrick.

Heyer's freelancing work also extended to the World Championship for Makes, the world sports car championship. In those two races where he had failed to start the giant Mercedes, he had ended up sharing Werner Christmann's Porsche 911S at Spa, coming 4th in the GT class, and he had stepped into a Koepchen BMW 2002 TI at the Nurburgring with Helmut Kuhl. He also drove a Schnitzer BMW 2800 CS with Rene Herzog at the Le Mans 24hrs, but the car retired with oil pressure failure after 70 laps.

Heyer's astonishing 1972, where he seemed to drive everything, everywhere, certainly established him, and come 1973 he was able to settle down his tin-top career. His main focus was on the DRM, where he drove in a Ford Capri in Division 1, in a confusing series where the Division 1 and Division 2 cars ran together in races, but scored points depending on their finishing positions in class, and yet the points were all combined for a single championship result.

1973

Misses out on DRM title by a solitary point!

Hans collected three wins at Mainz-Finthen, Hockenheim and the Norisring, and took four more 2nd places. However, he had crashed in the season opener at the Nurburgring, plus he only took 5th at Sauerland and was 10th in the shared-driver race with Klaus Fritzinger at the Nurburgring 6hrs. Those three results cost him dearly, as Glemser pipped him to the title by a single point, 130 points to 129. Heyer's turn at DRM title glory would have to wait.

Elsewhere, in the sports car World Championship, Heyer had been entered in a works Ford Capri LV with Birrell at the Le Mans 24hrs, but when a distributor failed after only four laps, Heyer was shifted into the other team car of Glemser and Fitzpatrick, only for that car to retire after 239 laps with a broken con-rod. In the non-championship Le Mans 4hrs race, there was more unreliability as the Heyer/Birrell Capri RS 2600 fell out of the event with oil system trouble.

And once again, the same types of cars were also eligible for the ETCC and other touring car races. Heyer shared a RS 2600 Capri with Helmut Koinigg at a tragic Spa 24hrs race in which there were three fatalities, and with Fritzinger at the non-championship Nurburgring 24hrs, where they came 3rd depite Hans tangling with a backmarker BMW. However, at the ETCC Zandvoort round, Heyer switched teams and cars, driving a Zakspeed Ford Escort RS 1600 to 6th outright and a class win with Manfred Mohr.


Hans in his Ford gives it everything he's got at the Nurburgring in 1973.
Hans in his Ford gives it everything he's got at the Nurburgring in 1973. Picture © Paul Kooyman.

1974

Takes out the ETCC, by playing smart within the rules!

When 1974 came around, Ford gave Heyer a more concerted attack at the ETCC title, which also featured two different divisions, two sets of points awarded, but just the one championship, like in the DRM. That meant that, in the first three rounds, where Heyer drove a Division 1 Zakspeed Ford Escort RS 1600 with Hartmut Kautz, they could come 5th, 4th and 3rd outright, but claim maximum points for winning the class on each occasion. But at the Nurburgring, Heyer and Klaus Ludwig won the race outright.

Then came Zandvoort, where Heyer and Ludwig again won the class despite coming 6th outright, but going into the last round at Jarama, Heyer was still threatened by Alain Peltier for the title. So Ford entered him in both the Division 1 Zakspeed Escort and the Division 2 Ford Koln Capri RS 3100, such that Heyer could jump into whichever car was better-placed towards the end of the race! In the end, it didn't matter, as the Capri won and the Escort came 2nd, with Heyer driving the Capri towards the end.

Although Heyer had just won a European Touring Car Championship title, it was hardly a magnificent triumph. There had only been 13 cars in that series-deciding race, and only a crowd of around 100 people, as Real Madrid was playing Atletico Madrid nearby, attracting 130,000 by comparison! Legend has it that, after collecting the trophy and the prize money, Heyer and his Ford colleagues celebrated by disappearing to watch the game of football themselves!

1974-75

Takes on various GT series in a Kramer Porsche; finally wins DRM!

Meanwhile, with his eyes on the ETCC, Heyer's 1974 DRM campaign had been more disjointed, the German not even competing in the full complement of rounds. He started the season in a Division 1 Kremer Porsche Carrera RSR before returning to drive Ford Escorts in both divisions. He won the Hockenheim round in the Porsche, and also claimed the Nurburgring round with Ludwig in a Division 2 Escort. He slipped to 5th in the series standings, with only 87 points.

But Heyer's Porsche involvement went beyond the DRM. In fact, in the International Grand Touring Trophy (the sports car world title for GT cars), Hans drove for the Kremer team in their Carrera RSR in seven races, sometimes being cross-entered and driving two cars in the one race. He claimed six class podiums, including two wins, the exception being Le Mans where the Heyer/Paul Keller/Erwin Kremer car suffered engine failure. Heyer also drove two races in the Kremer Carrera in the European GT championship.

There would be no let-up in Hans' hectic schedule in 1975; if he were eligible for frequent flyer points, he would have been laughing. His main attention was focused back onto the DRM, where he made amends for his title near-miss in 1973. Although there were three poor rounds in his Division 2 Zakspeed Ford Escort, he won the other six events, beating Ludwig to the championship by 120 points to 112. But at the same time he was unable to successfully defend his ETCC title.


Hans in his Zakspeed Escort at Brno in 1975. He would take a class victory and 2nd outright.
Hans in his Zakspeed Escort at Brno in 1975. He would take a class victory and 2nd outright.

1975

Takes on the world with Zakspeed, winning the Kyalami 1000kms

In a Zakspeed Escort RS 1600 with Martino Finotto he had come 2nd outright and 1st in class at Monza and Brno. He had then collided with a slower car in practice at the Nurburgring, and was not classified in the race in a second Escort. It was a case of déjà vu at Zandvoort, where Heyer crashed the super-fast Escort Mk II that had been built by Ford Koln, which Zakspeed had commandeered. Undeterred, Hans joined another Escort with Finotto and Jaime Sanz de Madrid, and came 6th outright and 1st in class.

All that was not enough to put him higher than 4th in the 1975 ETCC though. In the meantime, there were more GT sports car races in Porsches as well. In the International GT Trophy, Heyer drove a Carrera RSR at the Daytona 24hrs with Juan Carlos Bolanos and Michel Jourdain, but the engine failed. Returning to the Kremer fold at Monza, he retired from that race too in the car he shared with Kelleners, but he was 8th outright and 1st in class at the Nurburgring with Kelleners and Bob Wollek.

In the European GT championship, Hans only made one solitary start at the Norisring, where he came 5th in his Kremer Carrera, but there had also been other non-championship sports car and saloon car outings. Notably, Heyer won an event at the Nurburgring in his Zakspeed Ford Escort BDA, and also competed in the Nurburgring 300kms. Spreading his wings outside of Europe, he then took out the Kyalami 1000kms event in South Africa in an Escort Mk II with Peter Hennige and Jochen Mass.

1976

Back to back DRM titles herald his single seater debut in Euro F2!

By comparison, Heyer's 1976 proved a lot more settled and far less busy. His DRM season was even better than the previous year. In nine races in his Division 2 Zakspeed Ford Escort he came either 1st or 2nd in each event, taking five wins at Mainz-Finthen, Hockenheim (three times), and Diepholz. With 160 points, he easily defeated Ludwig who finished up with 115, and thus claimed back-to-back DRM titles. He then teamed up with Ludwig to finish 2nd in the non-championship Kyalami 1000kms event.

His other sports car results also improved. In the World Championship for Makes, he shared a Kremer Porsche 935 with Wollek in five events, claiming three 2nds at Mugello, Silverstone and Dijon. However he retired from Le Mans with a fire in the Kremer 935 he was sharing with Bolanos and Billy Sprowls. There were also two starts in the European GT championship. Heyer drove his Kremer Porsche Turbo RSR to 2nd at Imola, and 3rd on aggregate at Hockenheim, which was enough to claim 9th in the title with 27 points.

But, perhaps sensing an urge to stretch himself, at the age of 33 Hans made his single-seater debut, going straight into F2 in the two rounds at Hockenheim. Driving a Team Warsteiner Eurorace Toj F201, he remarkably finished 7th in his first race, promoted to a point-scoring 6th because Hans Joachim Stuck, who won the race, was a graded driver. Although his second attempt ended in non-qualification, that single point put him equal 17th in the 1976 standings along with seven other drivers who had all scored singletons!


After taking back-to-back DRM titles in 75-76, 1977 proved a let down. Here Hans pilots his Escort en route to 4th overall in the series.
After taking back-to-back DRM titles in 75-76, 1977 proved a let down. Here Hans pilots his Escort en route to 4th overall in the series.

1977

BMW trumps the Ford Escort, but still is 4th overall under Hans' pilotage

In contrast to his dominant 1976 DRM season, by 1977 BMW entered the fray, and the Ford was soon outclassed. There was one win, four 2nds and two 4ths, as Hans dropped to 4th in the series, with 100 points. He also took an Escort Mk II to the Nurburgring ETCC round, coming 3rd with Armin Hahne but winning the class, and in addition, Heyer and Hahne retired from the Nurburgring round of the WCM. Hans also competed in the non-championship Norisring Trophy in the Escort.

But elsewhere in the WCM, he joined Georg Loos' Gelo Racing, sharing a Porsche 935 to 11th at Hockenheim. Le Mans, though, proved a disaster, as the car of Heyer, Tim Schenken and Toine Hezemans struck engine trouble after two hours, before they jumped into the second team car which failed after 22 hours with injection pump woes. Rounding out the year, Heyer and Stommelen also shared a Jörg Obermoser Toj SC302 at the WCM round at Dijon, but dropped out of that race too with oil pressure problems.

Formula One
1977
ATS

Gets a drive as a local in his home GP thanks to Schmid

But on 31 July, 1977, Heyer also forced his way into the Formula One record books. That year had seen the debut of the late Gunter Schmid's ATS team, using year-old Penske PC4 chassis from the defunct Penske works team, allied to Ford Cosworth DFV V8s and running on Goodyear tyres. For much of the year the team had been a single-car effort with Jean-Pierre Jarier, but with the German GP coming up, Schmid decided to put a local driver in a second car for extra attention.

His DRM exploits having made him a household name in Germany, Heyer got the nod for his F1 introduction, despite the fact that he was already 34, and had only had one single-seater start beforehand in F2 the previous year! However, the car he was to drive had pedigree. It was PC4 chassis 01, which had been Jarier's spare thus far because it was an older car, but it had been John Watson's race car in 1976 - and the same chassis with which he had taken victory in Austria and come 3rd in France and Britain.


Heyer doing the rounds of Hockenheim in his ATS.
Heyer doing the rounds of Hockenheim in his ATS.

1977

All weekend, Heyer is right on the edge of the top 24 and making the gird

Although an F1 car was of course a very different beast to anything he had driven before, with his intimate knowledge of the Hockenheim track and his overall racing experience, Heyer had a fair shot at putting on a decent show. Placing only 27th in the first qualifying session and unable to crack the 2 minute mark did not bode well, when only 24 would eventually start. But in the second session, Heyer's time came down to a 1 minute 58.51s, which was the 18th fastest time of the session.

In the following practice he was into the 1 minute 57s, but by now the competition was heating up and Hans was only 24th, meaning that come the final qualifying session he would be right on the cusp of making the grid. In the end, he recorded his best time all weekend, a 1 minute 57.58, but it was only the 27th quickest time. Hector Rebaque was 24th on a 57.18, only 0.4s faster, but in between there was also Patrick Neve on a 57.26, and Emilio de Villota on a 57.39.

1977

The lights fail, the race is started, there's a first corner crash - and, is that Hans??

Still, Heyer had been faster than two notable names, 1974 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi who had struggled badly in his own Copersucar machine, and the flamboyant Arturo Merzario. Still, he was only third reserve should anything untoward rule some of the starters out - and a long shot to get a run come Sunday afternoon. Nevertheless, he climbed aboard his car as the race approached, perhaps hoping for a last-minute break. But as it turned out, he had a devilish plan up his sleeve...

Perhaps egged on by his team and his long-time sponsors Mampe Halb und Halb, and perhaps trusting in the goodwill of the local officials, Heyer took advantage of confusion at the start. The lights failed, and the German flag had to be dropped to start the race. Then Clay Regazzoni and Alan Jones collided at the first corner. In the middle of all that, Hans drove out of the pit lane and started the race! The crowd, realising what was going on, went ballistic.


A brazen Heyer took to the track and started the race, even though he had not qualified!
A brazen Heyer took to the track and started the race, even though he had not qualified!

1977

No-one notices Heyer's felonious presence on track; Hans is later DQ'd

Indeed, the crowd seemed to have more of a clue of what was happening than the stewards, who either failed to notice or ignored the illegal 25th car on the circuit. As it turned out, Hans retired after 9 laps with a gear linkage problem having set the 22nd fastest race lap, and it was only after he had pulled out that he was disqualified from the final results. But Hans had left a trail of confusion in his wake; with his non-qualification, his illegal start and DNF, and his disqualification, did he officially start a Grand Prix?

We would like to say that he did. The fact that something happened when it shouldn't have happened doesn't change the fact that it did happen. Over the years, there have been numerous examples of drivers starting races illegally, for example by trying to start in a spare car. But no one has been as brazen as Heyer, and that's what makes him one of the most special F1 rejects, and a worthy subject for our 100th driver profile. Hats off to him for pulling a stunt that no one would be able to get away with these days.

After F1
1978

Hans puts new Zakspeed Capri on pole at Hockenheim by 4 seconds!

Formula One, though, was never going to be a serious career option for Hans, and so in 1978 it was back to the usual haunts. He plugged on manfully in the DRM in his aging Zakspeed Escort, scoring a brace of podiums but no wins, until mid-season when Zakspeed introduced Ford's new weapon in the Hockenheim round supporting the German GP. The Escort was gone, and in its place a Capri turbo which, up to that point, had had no more than a day's worth of testing.

If this was to be the car to put Zakspeed and Ford back to the top of the DRM, then the signs for their rivals were ominous when Heyer scored pole by 4 seconds! But, not surprisingly, reliability problems struck, and Hans retired from that race with engine problems. He would also retire the car at the non-championship Norisring Trophy, and also at the Norisring DRM round. But he did come 3rd at Zolder and won the season closer at the Nurburgring, to finish 7th on 101 points, behind BMW and Porsche drivers.


It was a mixed year for Zakspeed and Ford in the 1978 DRM, starting slowly and finishing with a new Capri turbo which proved fast but unreliable.
It was a mixed year for Zakspeed and Ford in the 1978 DRM, starting slowly and finishing with a new Capri turbo which proved fast but unreliable.

1978

Back to business in DRM, ETCC, Le Mans and WCM

Heyer did give an Escort RS Mk II one last hurrah though, in the Macau Guia touring car race at the end of the year, where he finished 2nd. 1978 actually marked a year in which Hans made a more concerted return to the European Touring Car Championship, renewing his association with AMG, Mercedes-Benz and Clemens Schickentanz. Heyer drove in six ETCC rounds that year in an AMG Mercedes 450 SLC, five of those with Schickentanz and once with Brian Redman.

Two 3rds at Monza and Salzburgring proved the highlights of those outings, but the lowlight was surely the Le Mans 24hrs, which counted towards the World Challenge for Endurance Drivers series. Their touring car spec 450 SLC overawed by the flat-out blasts of the Le Mans track, Heyer and Schickentanz failed to qualify. Meanwhile, Heyer also remained an integral part of the Gelo Racing assault on the World Championship for Makes, driving a Porsche 935 in six rounds.

There was no shortage of illustrious names in the Gelo Racing fold, their other drivers including Ludwig, Hezemans and Fitzpatrick. Cross-entering and car sharing was rife. For example, at the Nurburgring, the car designated for Heyer, Hezemans and Fitzpatrick broke down; so Hezemans and Heyer jumped aboard the Ludwig car, and promptly won the event. Hans also recorded a victory at Mugello with Hezemans and Fitzpatrick, and the trio also came 2nd at Dijon and Vallelunga.

1979-80

Walks away from Zakspeed, into the arms of Lancia and his 3rd DRM title!

With his non-stop hectic lifestyle perhaps taking its toll, Heyer wound down his activities in 1979. His main attention was still the DRM, which now ran separate races for Division 1 and Division 2 cars (but still the one joint championship battle). The Zakspeed Capri ran all but one race in Division 2, and finished 10 out of 11 on the podium, winning six times. With 177 points, although far and away the leading Division 2 competitor, he was forced to play second fiddle to Ludwig, whose Porsche had been rampant in Division 1.

Zakspeed also ran Heyer in one WCM round at Nurburgring, where Hans in fact drove two different cars that Zakspeed had entered: the Capri with Jan Lammers, and a Lotus Europa with Harald Ertl and Harald Grohs, both of which retired. However, earlier in the WCM season he had won the Silverstone round in a Gelo Porsche 935 with Fitzpatrick and Wollek, but Heyer's effort in the Gelo 935 in the Le Mans 24hrs, shared with Manfred Schurti, ended when an engine failure intervened.

1979 ended dramatically though, when Heyer split from Zakspeed and Ford, with which he had had so much success for so long. Instead, for the 1980 DRM he joined the GS Tuning team to run a Division 2 Lancia Beta Montecarlo. Adapting to his new car and new team with aplomb, Hans was a model of consistency once again, finishing all but two events in the top 4, and in so doing racking up 156 points, which was enough to earn him his third DRM title, a terrific achievement in his first season for Lancia.


Hans walked away from this smash at the Norisring in 1980, but his Lancia wasn't quite so lucky to survive intact.
Hans walked away from this smash at the Norisring in 1980, but his Lancia wasn't quite so lucky to survive intact.

1980

Major smash at Norisring; takes to Procar in BMW M1s, and comes 2nd on debut

However the season had not been entirely smooth sailing. At the Norisring round, a cooling problem with his front left brake saw the brake disc tear off at top speed, destroying the brake caliper, tie rod and suspension, and pitching the Montecarlo into a series of barrel rolls. Amazingly, Heyer climbed out unscathed and walked away from the wreck - only to return to it moments later to retrieve his good luck charm, his Tyrolean hat, which he had carried with him in his car!

The Lancia connection also saw Heyer drive a works Montecarlo in several rounds of the WCM, which also counted towards the World Challenge for Endurance Drivers. He came 4th at the Nurburgring with Riccardo Patrese, and late won the Watkins Glen round with the Italian as well. He also took 4th at Mosport with Walter Röhrl, but his tilt at Le Mans was once again a disaster; the car he shared with Bernard Darniche and Teo Fabi only lasted 6 laps before succumbing with oil pump failure.

Other new projects beckoned as a result of the partnership with GS Tuning. For example, Heyer competed in the Procar series in 1980, matching his skills against other sports car and Grand Prix stars in identical BMW M1 coupes. Hans stunned everyone by taking 2nd behind Jan Lammers in the first round at Donington, but his only other podium after that was in the last round at Imola, when he came 3rd. Still, 7th in the Procar series with 41 points had been a fine effort.

1980-81

Starts building cars, bids adieu to DRM with 4th overall, continues in sports cars

In addition, although one wonders if he had any time to spare, in collaboration with GS Tuning chief mechanic Ali Strasser, Heyer also went into car building, creating a special Mercedes 500 SLC during the year which was meant to be his vision of an ultimate Group C machine. Mid-engined, short wheelbased, with huge tyres and aggressive aerodynamics, though Hans dreamed of taking the car to Le Mans one day, he himself would never end up racing it.

There was no let-up in Heyer's form going into 1981. He was as steady as ever in his Lancia in the DRM, coming home in the top 5 in each race, but with only two wins at the Norisring and the Nurburgring he was relegated to 4th in the title, behind Ludwig who had dominated Division 2 proceedings, and also the top two runners in Division 1. It was to prove to be Hans' last season in the DRM, as rule changes for 1982 allowing Group C cars saw him turn his focus elsewhere.

In international sports car races he continued to be effective, driving for both the works Lancia team and for GS Tuning in Beta Montecarlos and distinctive BASF-liveried BMW M1s, although he was no longer competing in the Procar series. His best championship result was 4th at the Nurburgring with Piercarlo Ghinzani in a Lancia, whilst he also finished 3rd in the non-championship Norisring Trophy, but he retired in the M1 at the Kyalami 9hrs where he had been driving with Hans-Joachim Stuck and Walter Brun.


1981 proved to be Hans' final year in the DRM, which had been a constant focus during his career.
1981 proved to be Hans' final year in the DRM, which had been a constant focus during his career.

1981-82

Turns some heads at all-star event, clashing with Stommelen!

As a novelty, Heyer also took part that year in a special all-star event at Diepholz, where F1 drivers, German touring and sports car heroes, and rally legends competed against each other in road-going Ford Escort XR3s, pumping out a mammoth 96 bhp each! Hans was just about the oldest man in the field, but in qualifying he lined up 3rd, before stunning his rivals by winning the first heat. His efforts were undone in the second heat though, when he clashed with Rolf Stommelen (on and off the track!) and fell to 9th.

For 1982, Heyer turned his eyes back to the ETCC (the title he had won back in 1974), joining Belgian Eddy Joosen in a Juma BMW 528i for six rounds. It proved an effective combination, the pair finishing 6th twice, 5th once, 3rd at Zolder and 2nd at Vallelunga, and taking victory in the Spa 24hrs where Armin Hahne was added to the driving line-up. With 63 points, Heyer was 8th in the ETCC, a sterling achievement given his unfamiliarity with Group A touring cars in his long career to date.

However, Hans' departure from the DRM did not mean that he completely severed ties with GS Tuning or with Lancia. In the World Endurance Championship (the latest name for the world sports car title), he shared a GS Tuning Sauber SHS C6 Ford with Stuck for four rounds, plus he partnered Ghinzani and Patrese in a works Lancia LC1 at Le Mans, although yet another attempt at the 24-hour La Sarthe classic ended in retirement when electrical failure hit.

1982-83

Grasps back to back Spa 24hr victories - this time in a BMW 635CSi

Towards the end of the WEC though, Heyer was brought into the Joest team to drive their Porsche 936C with Wollek and Henri Pescarolo. It brought Hans immediate success, claiming 3rd at Mugello and victory in Class C. An 8th at Brands Hatch was followed by 4th in the non-championship Kyalami 9hrs with Volkert Merl and Dieter Schornstein. Elsewhere in Porsches, 1982 also saw Heyer make a one-off return to the Interserie at the Nurburgring round in a Porsche 935, although that too ended in a DNF.

1983 saw an even more concerted ETCC campaign for Heyer, driving a BMW 635CSi in ten rounds, albeit for three different teams: Juma, the works Schnitzer outfit, and Hartge Motorsport. Highlights included 3rd at Monza, 2nd at Donington and Brno with Dieter Quester, and a second consecutive Spa 24hrs victory for Juma paired with Hahne and Thierry Tassin. However, disappointments in other rounds left Hans trailing in 11th place in the final standings with 109 points.

In sports cars, Heyer found himself competing in Porsche 956s for Joest and Obermaier Racing, with occasional outings for the works Lancia team in their LC2 (including yet more retirements at Le Mans and in the non-championship Norisring Trophy). Two top four placings in combined World/European championship rounds, a 5th at Fuji in a WEC-only round, and victory at Imola in a Lancia with Teo Fabi in a European-only round put Heyer just outside the top ten in both World and European titles.


Dropping in to race at Spa in a Joest Porsche 956, during what would be his last full season of racing.
Dropping in to race at Spa in a Joest Porsche 956, during what would be his last full season of racing.

1984

Hans hits the ETCC like dynamite with the Leaping Cat and Walkinshaw

1984 proved to be Heyer's last full competition season, now that he had reached the wrong side of 40. But what an ETCC season it turned out to be, as his extensive experience saw Tom Walkinshaw snaffle him up as the Scot's own team-mate in a works Jaguar XJ-S. The combination proved an immediate hit, taking pole in their first two races, winning at Monza and coming 3rd at Vallelunga. 2nd at Enna in round 4 was then followed by pole position in no less than 7 consecutive events.

Victories at Brno and the Osterreichring (where Heyer also set fastest lap of the race) led up to the Spa 24hrs, where Heyer completed an amazing hat-trick of wins, when he, Walkinshaw and Win Percy took the flag by an incredible 3 laps. Although the season tailed off somewhat, Walkinshaw still took the championship, with Heyer ten points behind on 171 points. The order was then repeated at Macau, where Walkinshaw and Heyer capped off a memorable year by claiming a 1-2 finish in the Portuguese colony.

1984 was also a year of some success in sports cars. Heyer made a rare appearance in America, competing in the Miami 3hrs before winning the Sebring 12hrs with Mauricio DeNarvaez and Stefan Johansson in a Joest Porsche 935 turbo. Heyer also made two WEC starts in Joest 956s, driving both team cars on both occasions (having been cross-entered), and finishing 3rd in one of them at Imola. However, his bad luck at Le Mans continued, where he rejoined the works Lancia team but yet again failed to finish.

1985-86

New challenges see Heyer taking on the Paris-Dakar rally

Despite the fact that his form was as good as it had ever been, come 1985 Hans chose to wind down his racing career. He took up a new challenge, signing for the MAN company to develop their Paris-Dakar rally truck, and competing in the famous event itself. Heyer continued his trend of being able to be immediately successful in any discipline, taking out the over 10-tonne truck category, finishing 2nd out of any truck in the field, and coming 28th overall, a wonderful achievement.

He had one more sports car race with Joest at the start of the year, but mainly utilised his skills to test the TWR Jaguar XJR-6, the leaping cat having transferred from the ETCC to the WEC. Heyer did get to race the car in three events toward the end of the year, but all three ended in DNFs. Meanwhile, the lure of a fourth-straight Spa 24hrs saw Heyer share a TWR Bastos Texaco Rover Vitesse in a one-off return to the ETCC, but despite taking pole, a distributor shaft failure put paid to any chance of yet another win.

Heyer's limited racing schedule continued into 1986. He had five more ETCC starts back in the Juma BMW 635CSi, finishing 5th at Anderstorp with Marc Surer and 4th at Zolder with Eric van de Poele, but another tilt at the Spa 24hrs ended when Thierry Boutsen blew the engine of the car shared with Heyer and Enzo Calderari. Similarly, two World Sportscar Championship starts in the Jaguar XJR-6 ended in retirements, including yet another failure to see out the distance at Le Mans.


Heyer was cursed at Le Mans, and he failed to finish again in 1986. This was a disappointment in a successful couple of years with TWR and Jaguar.
Heyer was cursed at Le Mans, and he failed to finish again in 1986. This was a disappointment in a successful couple of years with TWR and Jaguar.

1986-89

Ill-advised attempt with Toyota; Hans continues in Spa 24hrs

Meanwhile, Heyer continued to be a tester for the MAN Paris-Dakar team, as well as returning to AMG Mercedes to develop their machinery as well for the German racing scene. Those roles continued throughout 1986 and into 1987, in which on the other hand Hans all but ended his racing career when he dabbled in a fruitless attempt by the RAS Sport team to turn the Toyota Supra coupe, both in turbo and non-turbo trim, into a competitive Group A touring car.

Against the Ford Sierra RS500s and the BMW M3s, the Supra was hopelessly outclassed. In the World Touring Car Championship, Heyer and Joosen failed to even qualify at the Nurburgring in the non-turbo car, whereas the turbo car did qualify at the Spa 24hrs (where the pair were joined by Frank Jelinski) and Silverstone but retired on both occasions. It was a similar story in the ETCC-only rounds; the non-turbo car did not qualify at Zolder, and the turbo machine fell out of the Nogaro race.

It was hardly a fitting way to bow out, but it was not quite the last the tracks would see of the man with the Tyrolean hat. Throughout 1988 and 1989 he continued to work with AMG, helping them to develop the Mercedes 500 SEC, another oversized saloon come unlikely racer. The car was entered for the Nurburgring and Spa 24hr races in 1989, Heyer driving with Heiner Weiss and Kurt Thiim at the Nurburgring and with Weiss and Walter Mertes at Spa, but both attempts ended in mechanical failures.

1990-2004

Makes a showing in trucks, before bowing out in style in VW Polo Cup

By 1990 and 1991, Heyer was retired, concentrating on the family concrete works business, but the lure of motorsport sporadically brought him back in the 1990s. Benz asked him to help test their truck racer, and Hans competed in the Nurburgring Truck Grand Prix in 1992. In 1994, he returned to the Nurburgring 24hrs in a BMW M3 with Poldi, Weiss and Rainer Braun, and likewise in 1995 in a BMW veterans 'Dream Team' with Weiss, Braun and Klaus Fritzinger, but mechanical problems ended both outings.

A start in the Nurburgring 500kms in 1997 then proved to be Heyer's last race for seven years, as he began to watch his son Kenneth forge his own racing career, sporting the same helmet colours as his dad, but minus the trademark Tyrolean hat. But in 2004, two single-make series brought Heyer, now 61, out for guest drives. The Alfa 147 Cup invited him to race at the Nurburgring Nordschliefe, but Hans' time away from the wheel showed, as he qualified near the back and collided his way out of the race on lap 3.

The Volkswagen Polo Cup then gave Hans the opportunity to compete in his supposedly 1,000th career race at the Norisring. Admitting that he needed much longer these days to get onto the pace, and again starting down the field, he fought his way against competitors young enough to be his grandchildren, all the way to 14th, before being asked to join in the podium celebrations. It was a suitably respectful way to bring down the curtain on one of the longest and most distinguished careers in international motorsport.


Making an honourary return to racing in the 2004 VW Polo Cup, Hans started his 1,000th race, and finished a fine 14th.
Making an honourary return to racing in the 2004 VW Polo Cup, Hans started his 1,000th race, and finished a fine 14th.

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