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Formula Racing Career

Switching from 2 to 4 wheels and getting  into Formula 1 Johnny   always   had   one   eye   fixed   on   car   racing.   Now   at   the   end   of 1980   he   was   going   to   make   a   rather   dreadful   decision   for   all   his motorcycle   racing   fans   at   that   time.   Already   during   the   Grand   Prix motorcycle   racing   season   of   1980   Johnny   Cecotto   drove   some   races in   Formula   2   with   a   March   BMW   802   for   the   Mike   Earle   team.   His results   weren't   that   bad   at   all.   So   his   decision   was   clear   now.   He said   goodbye   to   motorcycle   racing   and   switched   into   the   car   racing scene.   This   was   a   brand   new   experience.   He   already   knew   most   of the    circuits    but    racing    in    cars    and    on    these    four    wheels    was completely   different   then   motorcycle   racing.   It   felt   like   starting   all over   again.   In   1981    he   drove   for   the   Minardi   team   with   Michele Alboreto   in   a   Minardi   Fly   812   but   because   of   not   been   threaten even   with   Michele   he   left   the   team   after   5   races   and   was   contracted for   the   Horag   team   from   Markus   Hotz.   He   drove   a   March   BMW   802   at Mugello   but   got   a   new   March   BMW   812   at   Pau.   He   learned   quickly   and   so Johnny   Cecotto's   results   became   better   and   better   and   at   the   last   three races   he   finished   always   in   6th   position.   He   ended   on   a   14th   place   overall with    6    points.    That    wasn’t    bad    for    his    first    season    in    this    for    him    new discipline.    Cecotto    was    also    contracted    to    race    in    St.    Peterzell-Hemberg during   a   hill   climb   race   for   the   Hotz   team.   This   was   the   first   time   he   ever   did this   so   it   was   a   new   experience   again.   He   finished   in   a   fine   3rd   position though in this spectacular new and for once time challenge. His   talent   had   been   attract   attention   and   so   he   became   a   contract   in   1982    for the   official   March   BMW   team.   Johnny   Cecotto   formed   a   team   with   Corrado   Fabi and   Christian   Danner   in   1982.   They   all   drove   in   the   March   BMW   822   and   Johnny Cecotto   did   unbelievably   well.   I   visited   one   of   the   Formula   2   races   in   1982   at   the Spa   Francorchamps   circuit   in   Belgium   where   I   came   close   to   Johnny.   Cecotto   did win   three   Formula   2   races   at   Thruxton   (UK),   Pau   (France)   and   Mantorp   (Sweden) and   he   only   came   1   point   short   at   the   end   to   be   the   Formula   2   European Champion.   His   team-mate   Corrado   Fabi   won   the   European   title   for   March   BMW. Johnny   did   get   a   Formula   1   seat   for   the   1983    season   in   the   Theodore   team   with Roberto     Guerrero.     In the   2nd   Grand   Prix   of USA   in   Long   Beach   he finished     6th     and     so gained   1   point   for   the drivers        listing.        But there       was       lack       of sponsorship   and   so   no money    to    improve    the Theodore     Ford     N183. Because   of   this   Cecotto couldn't   qualify   in   four Grand     Prix's     and     he even    had    to    miss    the last   2   races   because   of money   problems   in   the Theodore       team.       In 1983   I   was   able   to   visit two    Formula    1    Grand Prix   to   see   Cecotto   in   action.   The   first   was   at   Spa   Francorchamps   where   he   finished   in   10th   position.   Also   the   Dutch   GP   at   Zandvoort   I   was   present but   as   for   Johnny   didn’t   qualify   for   the   race   I   couldn’t   see   him   race.   Nevertheless   his   driving   performances   in   1983   were   noticed   and   rumours   went on   he   would   sign   for   Brabham   next   to   Nelson   Piquet.   That   wasn't   going   to   happen   though   but   instead   for   1984    he   got   a   seat   in   the   Toleman   team together    with    Brazilian    Ayrton    Senna. His     Toleman     TG183B     car     was     very unpredictable   though   and   he   couldn't reach   the   finish   once.   Most   attention   in the    team    was    given    to    Senna    and Johnny   wasn't   happy   about   that.   Senna did   al   the   testing   and   got   new   material as   first.   At   the   Monaco   GP   Cecotto   did receive    a    new    Toleman    TG184    which should   be   much   more   competitive.   Instead   things   went   better   they   got   worse,   very   worse.   Disaster   struck during   the   Friday   practice   for   the   British   GP   at   the   circuit   of   Brands   Hatch.   Johnny   drove   his   Toleman   in   his 2nd   flying   lap,   after   losing   it's   grip   on   the   track,   with   high   speed   in   a   straight   way   into   the   guardrail.   He smashed   the   whole   front   side   of   his   car   of   which   the   parts   flew   all   over   the   track.   Red   flags   were   shown and   the   practice   session   had   to   be   stopped   to   be   able   to   extract   Johnny   from   his   car.   He   had   a   lot   of   pain. With   severe   injury   on   his   legs   he   was   taken   to   hospital   for   surgery   in   St.   Mary's   Hospital   in   Sidcup.   I   have never   seen   any   pictures   or   video   footage   of   the   accident   except   for   some   of   Johnny   being   taken   to   the helicopter.   Click   on   this   PHOTOGRAPH    to   look   at   a   compilation   of   his   wreckage   and   transformation   to   the helicopter.    Martina    Wagner,    Johnny's    girlfriend who   normally   always   was   with   him   at   the   races was   in   Germany   recovering   from   a   flew.   Martina was   flown   in   by   a   helicopter   after   Elio   de   Angelis   had   informed   her   personally.   Long   time surgery   was   necessary   and   luckily   his   legs   could   be   saved.   He   stayed   in   hospital   for   some time   in   England.   His   team   mate   Ayrton   Senna   never   showed   up   there   to   even   visit   Johnny. Shortly   after   Cecotto   was   going   to   be   transported   to   Augsburg   in   Germany.   Rehabilitation in   Germany   followed   for   almost   a   year   and   although   he   did   recover   almost   completely   he just   never   would   be   able   to   drive   Formula   1   again.   His   strength   in   legs   and   feet   just   wasn’t good   enough   to   race   in   a   Formula   1   car   any   more.   And   that   for   sure   was   a   pity   while Johnny   had   been   talking   to   a   lot   of   other   Formula   1   teams   like   Brabham   and   Ferrari.   He possessed    the    capabilities    to    also    become    a    great    Formula    1    driver    at    that    time. Regrettably   the   accident   in   Brands   Hatch   changed   all   of   Johnny’s   plans   and   so   he   never got   the   chance   to   prove   his   abilities.   Therefore   he   made   a   decision   to   step   into   Touring Car   Racing   in   the   year   1985   of   which   you   can   read   more   in   that   section   on   this   website. Click below to go back to the Career overview page to look at another section.....
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