- March 16, 1943
- Not Active
Hans Heyer is a German former racing driver who achieved the most in touring car races, winning the European Touring Car Championship once (in 1974) and DRM (German Racing Championship) three times (1975, 1976 and 1980). Heyer scored three consecutive wins at Spa 24 Hours from 1982 to 1984.
He was also successful in sports car races, with Sebring 12 Hours victory in 1984 as the highlight of his sports car career. He has an infamous record of twelve retirements in twelve starts at 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Heyer's most recognizable sign is his Tyrolean hat (Tirolerhut). His son Kenneth Heyer (born in 1979) is also respectable racer.
Early success in karting competitions
Hans Josef Heyer was born in March 1943 in Mönchengladbach, near the German-Dutch border. He developed a passion for motor racing and engineering when he was at school in Adenau, a town next to the famous Nürburgring circuit. He was later an apprentice at Daimler-Benz as a mechanic.
Heyer started his racing career in the late 1950s. Not yet allowed to race in Germany at the age of 16, he went to the nearby Netherlands and started to race with karts in 1959. In the early years, he won several championship titles in the Netherlands and then switched to German karting competitions, becoming a champion four times in a row from 1968 to 1971.
Switching to car racing in 1970, scoring a podium at Spa in 1971
Heyer switched to car racing in 1970, driving a BMW 2002 for Peter Koepchen Tuning company in the German Circuit Racing Championship (DARM - Deutsche Automobil-Rundstrecken-Meisterschaft), non-championship races but also at Nürburgring's round of the European Touring Car Championship.
In 1972, Heyer continued to race with Koepchen's BMW but, in July, he competed at Spa 24 Hours in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3, sharing a car with Clemens Schickentanz. In his Spa debut, Heyer finished in the sensational second place, behind Dieter Glemser and Alex Soler-Roig in a Ford Capri RS. A few months later, Heyer and Schickentanz participated in one more endurance race in a Mercedes, recording DNF at Paul Ricard 12 Hours.
1972 - debut at Le Mans 24h in a BMW 2800
In 1972, Heyer started a season driving a BMW 2800 for Schnitzer in the ETCC race at Salzburgring. Later that year, in June, he made a debut with that car at Le Mans 24 Hours. His co-driver was Rene Herzog. They retired after 70 laps.
The highlight of the season was Heyer's victory at Nürburgring 6 Hours, together with John Fitzpatrick and Rolf Stommelen in Schnitzer's BMW 2800 CS. At Spa 24 Hours, Heyer and Fitzpatrick didn't finish the race.
Heyer had a wide schedule of races in 1972 and he drove few other cars besides BMW – McLaren M8F-Mercedes, Porsche 911 S, Opel GT 1900 and Ford Capri RS.
1973 - German vice-champion in a Ford Capri
Heyer was also driving not one, but two Ford Capris, at Le Mans 24 Hours. Both cars retired. Heyer also recorded DNF at Spa 24 Hours, sharing a Ford with Helmuth Koinigg.
Triumphing in the 1974 European Touring Car Championship
In 1974, Heyer achieved his first great success in touring car career, winning the European Touring Car Championship title. He was driving Ford Escort RS 1600 and Ford Capri RS 3100 for Team Zakspeed.
During the year, he was also driving a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR for Samson Kremer Team in the DRM and some rounds of the World Championship for Makes. It was also his car in the third attempt at Le Mans, which ended after 239 laps.
Two consecutive DRM titles with Castrol Team Zakspeed
In 1975, Heyer finally captured a championship title in the German Racing Championship (DRM), driving a Ford Escort RS 1600 for Castrol Team Zakspeed. In the ETCC, he was fourth. In November, Heyer won non-championship race Kyalami 1000 Kilometers in a Ford Escort, sharing a car with Jochen Mass and Peter Hennige. In 1975, Heyer was also driving Porsche for Kremer Racing in the World Championship for Makes.
In 1976, Heyer defended DRM championship title in Team Zakspeed's Ford Escort. In sports car races, he and Bob Wollek scored three podiums with Kremer's Porsche 935 in World Championship races, finishing second at Mugello, Silverstone and Dijon. At Le Mans, Heyer again didn't finish the race in Kremer's Porsche 935.
Illegal start at 1977 F1 German Grand Prix
In 1977, Heyer continued to race with Zakspeed's Ford Escort in the DRM, finishing fourth, but that year is most remembered by his Formula One attempt in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring. It was one of the most awkward moments in the F1 history because he made a start despite his unsuccessful qualifying attempt.
He was driving the #35 Penske PC4-Cosworth for ATS Racing Team, being too slow in a qualifying. He was the third reserve, so he had no much chance to race if some drivers dropped out. However, Heyer started the race, using a confusion at the beginning of the race and coming out to the track from pits. He was in the race for ten laps, retiring when gearbox broke down. He was eventually disqualified from the race.
Outside DRM and F1, Heyer made an unsuccessful start at Le Mans with Gelo Racing's Porsche 935 and won the Kyalami 1000 Kilometers together with Jody Scheckter in a Ford Escort.
Racing with Zakspeed until 1979
Heyer was racing with Zakspeed Team for two more years in the DRM, finishing seventh in 1978 and as a vice-champion in 1979 in a Ford Capri Turbo.
In other competitions during 1978, he scored two World Championship victories with Gelo Racing's Porsche 935 at Mugello 6 Hours and Nurburgring 1000 Kilometers, sharing a car with Toine Hezemans, John Fitzpatrick and Klaus Ludwig. Heyer also made few ETCC starts in a Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC. In 1979, Heyer won Silverstone 6 Hours in Gelo Racing's Porsche 935, sharing a car with Bob Wollek and John Fitzpatrick. At 1979, he was sharing a Porsche 935 with Manfred Schurti, scoring sixth DNF in six attempts.
German champion with Lancia in 1980
Heyer's cooperation with Zakspeed ended in 1979 and he joined Lancia in 1980. He captured his third DRM title driving the #51 Lancia Beta Montecarlo Turbo for GS Sport team. He was also driving for Lancia in other competitions, including World Sportscar Championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans. He retired at Le Mans, sharing a car with Teo Fabi and Bernard Darniche, but won the World Championship race at Watkins Glen, sharing a car with Riccardo Patrese.
Heyer spent one more season with Lancia, finishing fourth in the DRM. Outside Germany, he made a debut at Daytona 24 Hours, finishing 18th. At Le Mans, Heyer was driving the #66 Martini Racing Lancia Beta Montecarlo Turbo, retiring after 182 laps. His co-drivers were Riccardo Patrese and Piercarlo Ghinzani.
Two wins at Spa 24 Hours with BMW
In 1982, Heyer was combining racing commitments with different teams and cars, driving Juma Team's BMW 528i in the European Touring Car Championship or three different cars (Sauber C6-Ford, Lancia LC1, Porsche 936) in sports car races. He retired at Le Mans in a Lancia LC1 and then scored his first win at Spa 24 Hours in the #30 BMW 528i, sharing a car with Armin Hahne and Eddy Joosen.
In 1983, Heyer was driving a Lancia LC2 or Porsche 956 in sports car races. He retired again at Le Mans in a Lancia but won the Imola 1000 Kilometers, sharing a car with Teo Fabi. In the ETCC, Heyer had a new car – BMW 635 CSi. The highlight of the season was his back-to-back victory at Spa 24 Hours. His co-drivers in the #21 BMW 635 CSi were Armin Hahne and Thierry Tassin.
Victory at Sebring 12 Hours in 1984
In 1984, Heyer joined the Colombian team De Narvaez Enterprises in the IMSA GTP Championship. His debut in the #46 Porsche 935 at Miami 3 Hours finished prematurely. And then, in March, he sensationally won the Sebring 12 Hours, sharing the #46 Porsche 935 with Stefan Johansson and Mauricio De Narvaez.
Later in the season, he made few more starts with Porsche in the FIA WEC and raced with Lancia LC2 at Le Mans, scoring his 11th DNF.
Third Spa 24h victory in a Jaguar XJS
In the European Touring Car Championship, Heyer became a part of TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing) Jaguar programme, driving a Jaguar XJS. He won in his first race with Jaguar, at Monza 500 Kilometers, sharing a car with Tom Walkinshaw.
He later added two more wins at Brno and Zeltweg and then the greatest victory came, in July at Spa. In his third Spa victory, Heyer was sharing the #12 Jaguar XJS with Tom Walkinshaw and Win Percy. At the end of the season, Heyer was second in the ETCC classification, ten points behind Walkinshaw.
Last Le Mans attempt in a Jaguar XJR-6
In 1985, Heyer left ETCC and slowed down his racing activities. He joined Joest Racing to drive a Porsche 956 at Monza 1000 Km (9th) and raced with TWR Rover Vitesse at Spa 24 Hours (DNF). He also became a part of Jaguar's endurance racing programme, having the first race in the #52 TWR Jaguar at Spa in September, not finishing the race. He raced more with Jaguar at Brands Hatch and Fuji, recording two more DNFs.
In June 1986, Heyer recorded his last attempt at Le Mans 24 Hours. He was driving the #52 Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-6 LM, sharing a car with Hurley Haywood and Brian Redman. They stopped after 53 laps. It was Heyer's 12th DNF in twelve starts.
Second place in truck category at 1986 Paris – Dakar
In 1986, Heyer also made an attempt at Paris – Dakar Rally. During 1985, he was helping MAN truck company to develop their rally truck and then, in January 1986, he was driving himself one truck in the world's toughest cross-country rally race. He ended a race in the 28th place overall and the second in the truck category.
Retiring from racing at the end of 1989
In 1987, Heyer was driving a Toyota Supra in few attempts in the ETCC and WTCC. At Spa 24 Hours, his partners in the #14 Bastos Toyota Supra were Eddy Joosen and Frank Jelinski. A technical failure prevented them to reach the finish.
Two years later, in July 1989, Heyer recorded one more last attempt at Spa. He was a part of AMG team, driving both the #5 and the #6 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC but both crews retired. He was also driving that car at Nurburgring 24 Hours, not finishing the race.
Focusing on family business since 1990
After a retirement from racing, Heyer concentrated on the family concrete works business. However, he occasionally participated in motorsport events, such were Nurburgring Truck Grand Prix with Mercedes in 1992 or Nurburgring 24h with BMW in 1994 and 1995.
He also appeared in some single-make series (Alfa 147 Cup or Volkswagen Polo Cup). During the Polo Cup event at Norisring in June 2004, Heyer celebrated his 1000th race start in a career.
Photos: Hans Heyer,