Fred Opert

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Frederic Barry Opert (25 May 1939 – 9 August 2016), known as "Fred", was an American racing driver,[1][5] car dealer,[2] and founder and owner of the Fred Opert Racing team.[6][7]

Fred Opert
Fred Head shot for Wiki.png
Opert at a social function in the 1970s
NationalityAmerican
Born(1939-05-25)May 25, 1939[1]
Worcester, Massachusetts[2]
DiedAugust 9, 2016(2016-08-09) (aged 77)[1]
Ramsey, New Jersey[1]
Retired1973
Debut season1959
TeamsFred Opert Racing[1][3]
Carl Haas Automobiles[3]
Previous series
1964–65
1966–70
1966–69
1967–1968
1967–69
1969
SCCA Regional[3]
24 Hours of Daytona[3]
12 Hours of Sebring[3]
Formula A[1]
Trans-Am[3]
IMSA/Formula Ford[4]

As a driver, Opert's race entries included the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.[3] His team, Fred Opert Racing, fielded many notable Formula 1 drivers early in their careers including future Formula One World Champions Keke Rosberg,[8] Alan Jones[9] and Alain Prost,[6] as well as future IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal.[10]

Racing careerEdit

Opert raced sports cars and single-seater formula cars until 1970. He raced an Austin-Healey Sprite; a Jaguar XK150S; Elva Couriers; Porsche 911s;[11] Chevron Sports cars; Brabham formula cars; and Chevron formula cars. He won the US North Eastern Championship in 1966 and the SCCA North Eastern Division Championship in 1969 driving Brabhams – a BT21A and a BT29,[12] and entered 1969's inaugural IMSA event at Pocono.[4][13] He also raced in long distance races including the Daytona 24-hour and Sebring 12-hour in 1965,[14] '66,[15] '67 [16] and '68.[17]

Fred Opert Racing: Formula Atlantic/Pacific/Mondial and Formula 2Edit

Fred Opert Racing
Founder(s)Fred Opert
Team principal(s)Fred Opert
Former seriesFormula A
Formula Atlantic
Formula Pacific
Formula Mondial
Formula 2

Opert imported British sports and racing cars into the USA from the early sixties until 1978. The models he imported included the Elva Courier;[18] Brabham; Chevron;[19] Titan; Tui; and Tiga.[20]

Opert ran a turnkey racing business where drivers could buy or rent racing cars from him and have them prepared and transported to race meetings by his mechanics.[21] He also ran professional drivers for whom he could attract sponsorship or who brought sponsorship with them. The New York Times wrote that "Opert indicated that the primary reason he began fielding teams was to sell the race cars he imported—Chevron, Titan, Supernova and Brabham" but that 'now' (in 1978) Opert said he was in it “just because of the racing.”[9]

Over fourteen years many future Formula 1 drivers[6][2] including Alan Jones,[9][22] Alain Prost,[6][23][19]: 228  Bobby Rahal,[10] Jacques Laffite,[9] Didier Pironi, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Héctor Rebaque, Rolf Stommelen, Patrick Tambay,[22][9] Peter Gethin,[9] Tom Pryce[9] and Rupert Keegan, all drove for Fred Opert Racing. Keke Rosberg[9][24] was the driver whose name is most often linked with Opert as the American funded the Finn's racing in Formula Pacific,[25][26][27] Formula Atlantic[27] and Formula 2.[28][29][8][30]

Fred Opert Racing competed in the USA; Canada; Argentina; Colombia; Venezuela; Mexico; New Zealand;[31] Japan; Macau; and many European countries. The Argentinian races were F2 Temporada in 1978 where Opert ran Rosberg in a Chevron B42.[32]

Fred Opert Racing SchoolEdit

Opert established one of the USA's first motor racing schools in 1971.[33] The school was at Bridgehampton and the first instructor was New Zealand racing driver Bert Hawthorne. An advertorial for the school appeared in the New York Magazine on 10 April 1972,[33] four days before Hawthorne was killed racing at Hockenheim. Mexican Freddy van Beuren took over after Hawthorne's death.

The school moved to Pocono in 1973 when the Bridgehampton track was sold to property developers. After the school moved an advertorial appeared in the June 1973 edition of Popular Mechanics.[34] When van Beuren returned to Mexico, Swedish driver Bertil Roos became the chief instructor and eventually took over the school and rebranded it under his own name.

Formula 1Edit

 
Opert with his ATS F1 Team at the 1979 Monaco Grand Prix

With the demise of Chevron racing cars after the 1978 death of its founder Derek Bennett,[19]: 228  Opert gave up running his own teams and took on the role of Team Manager with the ATS Formula 1 team,[35] a "notorious" job - according to Motor Sport magazine - with "the highest turnover in motorsport".[36]

Opert soon became one of many casualties at ATS,[37] resigning after the 1979 French Grand Prix following team owner Günter Schmid's decision to pull the ATS car from the race.[38]

Return to team ownershipEdit

Opert returned briefly and tragically to team ownership in 1983 when he put together a Formula Atlantic team for his friend Olivier Chandon de Brailles. Chandon was killed when he was testing an Opert Ralt Formula Atlantic car at Moroso Motorsports Park (now Palm Beach International Raceway) in Florida, preparing for the WCAR Formula Atlantic (Mondial) Championship that would start in April.[6][39][40]

Later yearsEdit

Opert turned his back on motorsport after the 1983 death of Chandon in one of his cars.[2] Later in his life he took an active interest in Nico Rosberg's career, attending F1 races to follow Rosberg's fortunes. He died not long after attending the Hungarian Grand Prix then visiting Germany but missing 2016 German Grand Prix,[2] because he was too ill. Later that year Nico Rosberg won the World Championship title.[41]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Fred Opert | Motor Sport Magazine Database". Motor Sport.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Fred Opert, former race car driver who sold specialty automobiles in Ramsey, dies at 77". North Jersey Media Group. August 17, 2016. EU URL
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Fred Opert (USA) - All Results". racingsportscars.com.
  4. ^ a b "IMSA 1969-1989: The first race at Pocono". Racer.com. (Excerpted from IMSA 1969-1989 by Mitch Bishop and Mark Raffauf, Octane Press)
  5. ^ "Fred Opert". driverdb.com.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Fred Opert Racing | Motor Sport Magazine Database". Motor Sport.
  7. ^ "fred-opert-he-was-racer-at-heart". speedsportblog.com.
  8. ^ a b Donaldson, Gerald. "Formula 1 Drivers Hall of Fame: Keke Rosberg". formula1.com.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Pash, Phil (February 12, 1978). "Jerseyan Backs Driver With Grand Ambitions". The New York Times.
  10. ^ a b "New Zealand Grand Prix - Pukekohe, 7 Jan 1978". oldracingcars.com.
  11. ^ Friedman, Dave (2001). Trans-Am: The Pony Car Wars, 1966-1971. Motorbooks International. ISBN 9780760309438.
  12. ^ "North East Division SCCA Formula B 1969". oldracingcars.com.
  13. ^ Mansfield, Linda (13 March 2019). "50 Years of IMSA". Speed Sport.
  14. ^ Wagner, Carl. Automobile Year No 14 1966-1967. Edita S.A. Lausanne. pp. 264–267.
  15. ^ Armstrong, Douglas. Automobile Year No 15 1967-1968. Edita S.A. Lausanne. pp. 248–249.
  16. ^ Guichard, Ami. Automobile Year No 16 1968-1969. Edita S.A. Lausanne. p. 203.
  17. ^ Guichard, Ami. Automobile Year No 17 1969-1970. Edita S.A. Lausanne. p. 238.
  18. ^ Wimpffen, Janos (2011). Elva: the cars, the people, the history. David Bull Publishing. p. 305. ISBN 978-1-935007-13-5.
  19. ^ a b c Gordon, David (1991). Chevron: the Derek Bennett story. Patrick Stephens Limited. p. 94. ISBN 1-85260-318-6.
  20. ^ Ganley, Howden (2015). The Road to Monaco. Denley. pp. 350, 380. ISBN 978-0-9931395-0-5.
  21. ^ "Fred Opert". racingyears.com. (From The Fred Opert Story by Peter R Hill, Veloce Publishing)
  22. ^ a b "1976: Villeneuve emerges as a star". Autosport. 1976-05-26.
  23. ^ "Alain Prost | Motor Sport Magazine Database". Motor Sport.
  24. ^ Constanduros, Bob (1984). Kimberley's Grand Prix racing driver Keke Rosberg. Kimberley’s. p. 4. OCLC 220379571.
  25. ^ "Fred Opert Race Car Dealer". NZ International Grand Prix Inc. December 1976. p. 25. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  26. ^ "A Champion in Defence". NZ International Grand Prix Inc. December 1977. p. 18. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  27. ^ a b Donaldson, Gerald (2003). Gilles Villeneuve: The Life of the Legendary Racing Driver. London: Virgin Books. pp. 71–72. ISBN 9780753546307.
  28. ^ Armstrong, Douglas. Automobile Year No 257 1977-1978. Edita S.A. Lausanne. pp. 184–185. ISBN 2-88001-049-7.
  29. ^ Perry, Mitch. "Rockstar Tells All: Formula Continental – When Men Were Men!". turnology.com.
  30. ^ "Formula Two Review 1977". Motor Sport December 1977. Motor Sport Magazine Limited. p. 1613.
  31. ^ Loxley, Tony (15 August 2015). Tasman Cup 1964-75. Full Throttle Publishing. p. 491. ISBN 9780980858969.
  32. ^ "Formula Two Temporada". Motor Sport December 1978. Motor Sport Magazine Limited. p. 1774.
  33. ^ a b Stock, Ellen, ed. (10 April 1972). "Best Bets". New York Magazine (advertorial). p. 55.
  34. ^ Ramírez, Jo (2005). Jo Ramirez Memoirs of a Racing Man. Haynes. p. 147. ISBN 1-84425-238-8.
  35. ^ Cooper, Adam (January 1998). "Wheel nut". Motor Sport. p. 57.
  36. ^ "Opert resigns from ATS". Autosport. 1979.
  37. ^ Roebuck, Nigel. "Grand Prix Gold: 1979 British GP". autosport.com.
  38. ^ "Racer Drowned After Car Crashed". The New York Times. March 4, 1983. Retrieved 2008-12-11.
  39. ^ "The body of Olivier Chandon de Brailles, the heir..." United Press International. 4 March 1983.
  40. ^ Benson, Andrew (27 November 2016). "Nico Rosberg wins F1 title as Lewis Hamilton wins in Abu Dhabi". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 3 November 2017.

External linksEdit