Frederick Rikky von Opel is a former racing driver from Liechtenstein who recorded ten starts in the Formula One World Championship in 1973 and 1974, driving for Ensign and Brabham. Rikky is a son of Fritz von Opel, who was also a racing driver, and a great-grandson of Adam Opel, a founder of the German car manufacturer Opel.
Rikky von Opel was born in October 1947 in New York, USA, but he has a citizenship of Liechtenstein. He's the only driver from that country who ever competed in Formula 1.
Rikky von Opel
Formula 3 champion with Team Ensign
Von Opel started a racing career in the British Formula 3 in 1971, driving a Lotus-Ford. He finished 13th in his F3 debut season.
Next year, he joined Team Ensign in the Formula 3, winning the British Lombard North Central Championship, finishing second in the BARC championship and fifth in the BRCC championship.
Rikky von Opel was successful with Team Ensign in the Formula 3
Formula 1 debut with Team Ensign at 1973 French Grand Prix
In 1973, the Team Ensign entered the Formula One for the first time. The team made an F1 debut in the 8th round of the championship, at the French Grand Prix, choosing Rikky von Opel to drive their #29 Ensign N173-Cosworth.
In his second race, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, von Opel progressed to the 13th place, what remained his best result with the Team Ensign. He qualified for the Dutch Grand Prix but didn't start the race due to broken chassis.
Until the end of the season, he raced at Österreichring (Austria), Monza (Italy), Mosport Park (Canada) and Watkins Glen (USA). He retired three times and finished 12 laps behind the winner at Mosport Park.
Von Opel made six F1 starts with the Team Ensign
Leaving Ensign after 1974 Argentine Grand Prix
After tough debut season both for Team Ensign and Rikky, a new car was introduced for the 1974 season. But, the N174 was much like N173, being too slow and unreliable.
In the season-opening Argentine Grand Prix, von Opel was one and a half second slower than the second-slowest competitor in qualifying. Faced with such a performance, Team Ensign withdrew from the race. Shortly after that, von Opel left the team and joined Brabham.
One start in the European Touring Car Championship
In March 1974, between F1 drives with Ensign and Brabham, Rikky von Opel participated in one race of the European Touring Car Championship. At Monza 4 Hours, he was sharing a BMW 3.0 CSL with Harald Ertl and Thomas Betzler. They were the fastest qualifier but didn't finish the race.
In June 1974, he recorded one more race outside F1. He was driving a Chevron B26 for Roger Hire Racing in the Inteserie round at Nurburgring, not finishing the race.
Rikky von Opel's Brabham BT44
Four F1 starts with Brabham
Team Ensign returned to the championship in the fifth round but without von Opel. He joined Brabham (Motor Racing Developments) in the fourth round, the Spanish Grand Prix, to drive the #8 Brabham BT44-Cosworth. He retired after 14 laps due to an oil leak. He retired also in the next race, the Belgian Grand Prix, with a broken engine.
He failed to qualify for Monaco Grand Prix and then recorded two Top 10 results, finishing 9th both in the Swedish Grand Prix in Anderstorp and the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. After one more DNQ in the French Grand Prix at Dijon, he was replaced in the team by Carlos Pace. Von Opel's F1 career ended where it began, in the French Grand Prix. At the age 27, his racing career was over.