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Horst Kwech (born 1937 in Vienna, Austria) is a retired Australian race car driver, race car constructor, engineer and inventor known primarily for his several wins and two championships in the early Trans-Am Series races of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s.
Even though Kwech was born in Austria he considers himself to be an Australian, proudly displaying the Aussie flag, the word "Australia" and other symbols such as a kangaroo on his race cars and drivers helmet throughout his career. Despite not having lived in Australia since his move to the USA in 1961, and being relatively unknown in his adopted country, Kwech still travels with an Australian passport, though in recent years he has also become a US citizen following the Australian Government's decision to allow dual citizenship.
Due to losing their house in a bombing raid early in World War II, Kwech's mother used her connections to emigrate with Horst and his older sister to Australia and the small New South Wales town of Cooma, just 115 km (71 mi) south of Australia's capital city, Canberra. There his mother and sister joined many other immigrants in working on the Snowy Mountains Scheme while Horst attended school, and later went on to work for a local car yard called Region Motors. Kwech, who got the racing bug when riding motorbikes with his mates on the dirt roads throughout the district, began sports car racing in Australia in the fifties with an Austin-Healey 100/4 for Leaton Motors. He showed his mechanical engineering talent early building a custom sports car, the RM Spyder, with a Straight 6 Holden Grey motor, which he later sold to finance his trip to the USA.
Following his move to America in 1961, Kwech joined Knauz Continental Motors of Lake Forest, Illinois in 1963 as a lead mechanic and later that year won the SCCA Central Division Championship in an AUSCA Mark II in what was his first year in US Racing. The AUSCA Mark II was an innovative tube frame sports car of Kwech’s design that competed with the Lotus 23. In 1965 Kwech won the SCCA Central Division Championship in an Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Super.
Kwech’s racing success in 1965 came to the attention of Alfa Romeo’s head of USA racing, and Knauz Motors was offered a chance to purchase an Autodelta-prepared GTA to campaign in the newly established SCCA Trans-Am Series, with Kwech as the lead driver. In 1966 the privateer team of Horst Kwech and Gaston Andrey was the most successful in Trans-Am, accumulating 39 of the 57 manufacturers' points for Alfa Romeo and clinching Alfa’s Under 2 Liter Trans-Am Manufacturers' Championship. Horst Kwech and Gaston Andrey also scored more points than any other drivers. Horst used the same GTA to qualify for the 1966 SCCA American Road Racing Championship runoffs at Riverside. He went on to win the first ARRC B-Sedan National Championship in a famous race with 25 lead changes, against the Lotus Cortina of another young Aussie (but Canadian born) Allan Moffat, and was presented with the SCCA President's Cup for his outstanding drive.
Horst Kwech and Allan Moffat were not the only Australian's who appeared in the early years of the Trans-Am series. They were joined by the likes of Frank Gardner, Harry Firth and Jim McKeown. The latter pair co-driving with Moffat on various occasions.
In 1967 Kwech formed Ausca with Ron Neal and Bill Knauz in Libertyville, Illinois. This company developed Alfa Romeo performance parts and prepared and raced Alfas in various series. In that year, he prepared and raced the Tri-Color Alfa Romeo GTA’s with Monty Winkler, and Alfa Romeo gained second place in the 1967 Under 2 Liter Trans-Am Series.
In 1968 he raced for Carroll Shelby International and teamed with Allan Moffat at both the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring when the Trans-Am car were allowed in the race, but retired with engine troubles within 35 laps at both races. Kwech famously go away from the start extremely well at the Sebring race after the "Le Mans" style start, his Ford Mustang was in company with the leading Porsche's, Ford's and Alfa Romeo's, though power soon told and he quickly dropped back to be with the Trans-Am cars. Kwech also won the Riverside Trans-Am race in a Shelby-prepared Mustang. This was one of three wins for the Shelby team in Trans-Am in 1968.
Kwech competed in the Under 2 liter Trans-Am Championship again in 1970, in an Alfa Romeo GTA. In 1971, he ran an Alfa Romeo GTV against a strong Datsun team led by John Morton in a BRE Datsun 510.
In July 1974 Horst Kwech and Lee Dykstra formed Dekon Engineering. The name DeKon used the D in Dykstra and the K in Kwech and was short for Design and Construction. Dekon was located in Libertyville, Illinois. Over three years, Dekon Engineering produced seventeen race cars. Of these, fourteen were Chevrolet Monza’s, a few of which ended up racing in Australia in the Australian Sports Sedan and Australian GT Championship's in the hands of Australian racing legends Allan Moffat, Bob Jane, Peter Brock and Allan Grice. Dekon Monza's would win the 1976 ASSC in the hands of Moffat, and both the 1984 and 1985 Australian GT Championships for Grice and veteran racer Bryan Thompson.
The Dekon Monza was designed to compete with Porsche which had dominated the IMSA Camel GT Challenge. After some teething problems the Dekon Monza of Al Holbert won the IMSA GT Championship in 1976 and 1977.
Kwech holds the distinction of being the only driver to win a Trans-Am race in both the Over and Under 2 liter divisions.
Horst Kwech has been granted 17 patents and is an active design engineer today.
As of 2012, the 74 year old Kwech lives with his wife in Lake Forrest, IL.
- 1966 SCCA Trans-American Championship Results Retrieved from www.trans-amseries.com on October 30, 2009
- 1970 SCCA Trans-American Championship Results Retrieved from www.trans-amseries.com on October 30, 2009
- "Lola T300 - car numbers HU5 and HU18". Oldracingcars.com. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
- "IMSA History: Dekon Engineering". Alex62.typepad.com. 1975-04-10. Retrieved 2011-09-28.