Tomas Enge is a racing driver from the Czech Republic who has competed in various motorsport categories, including the Formula One, earning his place in motorsport history as the first ever Czech driver in F1.
However, he was more successful in sports car racing, taking one victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans (GTS class in 2003) and championship title in Le Mans Series in 2009.
Following footspteps of father racer
Born in September 1976 in Liberec, Tomas followed father's footsteps. His father Bretislav was one of the best Czechoslovakian racing drivers in 1970s and 1980s so it wasn’t a surprise after Tomas decided to follow his footsteps. Interestingly, Enge as a boy was more interested in skiing but as a teenager he started to race karting.
It was clear that the boy has speed and talent, so at the age of 16 he moved to national Ford Fiesta Cup racing and stayed in the series for three years. His best result was the 5th place in 1994 when he scored five wins.
Switch to single-seaters
In 1995 Tomas switched to single-seaters, debuting in the German Formula Ford 1800. He did well and finished 3rd overall, behind Nick Heidfeld and Pierre Kaffer. Encouraged by his manager Antonin Charouz, Enge stayed in the series in 1996 and won the title, scoring four wins on his way to the throne.
In the following year Enge progressed to the German Formula 3 but failed to impress as he finished 12th in the championship. During the 1998 season, Tomas shared his duties between German Formula 3 and Formula 3000 International, but the results again weren’t impressive.
In 1999 Enge had even more duties. He signed with Gabriele Rafanelli's World Racing Team but it wasn’t a success until the French GP where Enge was able to finish the Formula 3000 race in second place. The same year he also appeared in the American Le Mans Series and some minor championships but probably the highlight of the year was a test with Jordan F1 team, thanks to the support of Czech brewery that sponsored Jordan.
Short spell in Formula 1
The Czech driver remained a test driver of Jordan in 2000 but also raced with a considerable success in the Formula 3000 International. He scored his maiden victory at Hockenheim before finishing 6th in the championship.
In 2001 Enge finally made an impact in Formula 3000. Racing with the Coca-Cola Nordic Racing, the Czech driver won two races and had other three podiums before finishing 3rd overall, behind Justin Wilson and Mark Webber. The same year Enge also appeared in the European Le Mans Series and FIA GT but what was the most important moment was an opportunity to test himself in Formula 1.
In September that year Tomas had a test with Prost team and soon debuted in the race, becoming the first Czech driver in the series. It was in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza where he replaced Luciano Burti who was unable to drive due to an injury. Enge finished 12th in the race. In the following race, the US Grand Prix, Enge was 14th while in the final round of the season in Japan, he retired. That was his last appearing in the Formula 1 after Prost team folded and Tomas was unable to find a new engagement.
Another try in Formula 3000, drugs affair and Le Mans 24h victory
In 2002 Enge decided to go back to Formula 3000 with the Arden team and was the dominant force in the series but lost the title when he failed a drugs test after the Hungarian GP event. He scored most points and had three wins that year but was stripped of the title due to a positive marijuana test.
In 2003, Enge was 3rd in the GTS class of the American Le Mans Series where he won the Petit Le Mans but he also triumphed at Le Mans 24 Hours, driving the Prodrive Racing’s Ferrari 550 alongside Peter Kox and Jamie Davies.
He struggled to revive his career but finished fourth in the Formula 3000 series in 2004 with the new Ma-Con team and made his debut in the Indy Racing League at the end of the season. In the following season, Enge raced full-time in the IndyCar Series but without too much success. However, the results were somewhat better in the A1 Grand Prix where he scored one win and a total of three podium finishes.
The good season of 2006
The season of 2006 was one of the best in Tomas’ career. Driving the Aston Martin Racing’s DBR9 alongside Darren Turner and Andrea Piccini, he finished 2nd in the GT1 class at Le Mans 24h. Driving the same car Enge also finished 3rd in the GT1 class of the American Le Mans Series. Interestingly, he scored a podium finish in each of 10 races that season.
The following year wasn’t nearly good as the previous. He moved to the Petersen/White Lightning team to drive Ferrari F430. At the beginning of the season Enge was injured during the race at St. Petersburg street circuit. He suffered numerous injuries but luckily his life wasn’t in danger. Tomas recovered quickly but in July was released from his duties after an accident in the event at Mid-Ohio.
Return to Europe and ELMS champion
In 2008 Enge returned to Europe to compete in the ELMS with Team Modena. He won 3 out of 5 races before finishing the season as a runner-up. Tomas also raced part-time in the FIA GT Series and scored two wins in the GT2 class.
During the following season Enge raced in various championships but the European Le Mans Series again was a priority. Driving a Lola-Aston Martin alongside Jan Charouz and Stefan Mucke, Enge became the series LMP1 champion after winning the races at Catalunya Circuit and Nurburgring and having other three podiums.
Enge stayed with Aston Martin in 2010 but this time he has competed in the FIA GT1 World Championship, driving alongside Darren Turner. The Czech driver had a fine season during which he scored 3 wins and 6 podiums before taking the 4th place overall. One of the season highlights was the 3rd place in the GT1 class at Le Mans 24 where he was driving alongside Peter Kox and Christoffer Nygaard. In 2011 Enge was teamed with Alex Muller and again finished 4th in the FIA GT1 Drivers’ Championship after scoring 2 wins and 8 podiums.
Long suspension after using banned substances
Enge stayed in the series in 2012 but moved to the Reiter Engineering team, with Albert von Thurn und Taxis as his co-driver. In the middle of the season, after the race at Nogaro Circuit, it was announced that Enge had tested positive for a banned substance and was banned from motorsport for 18 months.
After serving his suspension, Enge returned to racing in 2014, appearing in various championships like Blancpain GT Series, ADAC GT Masters, Super GT, 24h Series etc. The results were variable as Tomas still was able to win sporadically, but it was clear that he has passed the peak of his career.