25th of January – 100 years ago Frank Kurtis was born, a man with the potential to become America’s Enzo Ferrari. Besides his highly successful Kurtis-Kraft midget and ChampCar race car production he also built a couple of exciting road going sports cars and roadsters with his KSC (Kurtis Sports Car) company as of the late 40s. But high production costs and troubled sales efforts forced Kurtis to sell the operation to millionaire Muntz. Instead Kurtis entered the aeronautics business by bulding start carts for the SR-71 Blackbird, the world’s fastest airplane, with the company now run by Frank’s son Arlen.
In the 1920s ‘Macoco’ de Alzaga, as he was as much known in the USA and Europe as in his native Argentina, was a member of the official Bugatti team in the 1923 Indianapolis 500. He also raced in that year’s Italian Grand Prix, at the wheel of a Miller 122. He failed to finish in either event, but in 1924, driving a 4.9 Sunbeam, won the Coupe de l’Autodrome at Miramas near Marseilles, leading from start to finish.
Born: 25th of January 1901 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Died: 15th of November 1982 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, aged 81.
The outstanding Veritas driver Toni Ulmen was the German F2 champion in 1949 and always posed a real threat in his Veritas-Meteor. In 1950 he was 3rd at Erlen, less than ten seconds behind two Ferraris led by Villoresi, second in the Eifel-Rennen and 4th in the German GP. In 1951 he took second place and fastest lap at AVUS, and third at the ultra-fast Grenzlandring circuit. For 1952 Toni entered his sports-bodied Veritas in two World Championship events without success, but took a 5th place at the Eifel-Rennen, and won the Formula 2 high-speed thrash at Grenzlandring and a 2-litre sports car race at the Nürburgring. Despite announcing his retirement in early 1953, he was soon back, albeit briefly, sharing Roosdorp’s Jaguar in sports car events and finishing third in the Spa 24 Hours.
Born: 25th of January 1906 in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Died: 4th of November 1976 in Düsseldorf, Germany, aged 70.
Henri Louveau purchased from the French Treasury after WW2 an old Maserati 6CM, which was confiscated property and which he personally patched up so well that he won with it one of the races of the Bois de Boulogne prologue in 1945. After various successes he entered F1 racing with a 4.5-liter Talbot Lago in the 1950 Italian and 1951 Swiss Grand Prix. But two big crashes at Pau and Bern that year the same year would see him retire and running a Delage and Maserati dealership and a major car and truck rental operation in Paris.
Born: 25th of January 1910 in Suresnes, France.
Died: 7th of January 1991 in Orléans, France, aged 80.
A champion in powerboat races up until the mid-50s, Schiller successfully switched to racing cars. Entering the 1962 German GP was his only attempt in Formula 1. It was a short debut as the Swiss driver was forced to retire after just 3 laps.
Born: 25th of January 1930 in Frauenfeld, Switzerland.
Died: 26th of March 2007 in Montana, Switzerland, aged 77.
Former motorbike World Champion Johnny Cecotto switched successfully to cars in 1981 with Italian Formula 2 outfit, followed by a drive with the works March team the following only losing to team-mate Corrado Fabi in the European F2 Championship. His debut in Formula 1 came with a rather uncompetitive Theodore in his only third year in car racing and in 1984 he joined Ted Toleman’s little as team-mate Ayrton Senna. But his ambitions where shattered in a violent crash during qualifying for the British GP. With badly broken legs Cecotto was out of a drive and focused on a comeback in touring cars, where he rose to one of the World’s best drivers in tin-tops. Racing mostly in the German DTM series, his biggest success was winning the German Super Touring Championship with BMW in 1998. Since the days in the now extinct German V8 STARS series, he has since been looking after the career of his son Johnny Cecotto Jr.
The 1990 Italian Formula 3 and 1992 Formula 3000 Champion seemed hot property when he joined Michele Alboreto at the Scuderia Italia for the 1993 F1 season. But he never got anything but second rate machinery to race with, the other teams being Minardi and Forti Corse he raced for. Unforgotten the scene when Luca came back by foot to the pits at the Nürburgring, as he had suffered a last minute gearbox failure taking an almost certain 4th place finish at the 1999 European GP away from him. Since 2000 he has been a Ferrari test driver and, having completed many tens of thousands of kilometers in testing, is seen as a vital part of Ferrari’s success in recent years.
The 1998 British F3 Champion sadly became one of the victims of the Dennis/Haug scheme of promoting their rising star Nick Heidfeld in Formula 3000 by shattering careers of team-mates racing alongside the German in their Junior-Team. Apart from a test there was little return for the Brazilian of Austrian origins. He seemed to have found a new home in the US-based Champ Car World Series by scoring an outright 4th place, but never got hold of decent front-running machinery. He drove a few Grand-Am races and tested the water in the Le Mans Series.
Having built race cars in his backyard, Frank’s first entry to the 1948 Indy 500 with the Kurtis-Kraft Special ended with a 2nd place finish and won the championship that year. Frank’s dream came true when Johnny Parsons steers the Kurtis Wynn’s Oil Special to victory at the 1949 Indy 500. The following year Parsons and Kurtis repeated the feat, coincidentally the big race also counting for the first time as a round for the Formula 1 World Championship. Kurtis-Kraft created over 550 ready-to-run midget cars, 600 midgets in kit form and 120 Indianapolis 500 cars, winning the Indy 500 a total five times until 1963. Frank retired in 1968 handing the company over to his son Arlen and passed away in 1987.
Born: 25th of January 1908 in Crested Butte, Colorado, USA.
Died: 17th of February 1987 in Los Angeles, USA.