Often when we are presented with difficulties in life, we dig deep and rise to the challenge. Such a philosophy was adopted by The Theodore team in 1981. At the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort that year, teams often felt like they were left out in the cold -literally! 30 cars were entered for the event but there simply wasn’t room in the pit buildings for all of them! The only solution for some was to set up shop on a patch of grass near the pitlane exit.
Theodore Racing was brought into being by Theodore ‘Teddy’ Yip who’d built an empire in the Far East, dealing in shipping, rice, corn, sugar, restaurants and of course cars. He was a busy man. Mr Yip attempted racing cars himself, but ended up more in the management side of things, participating in five seasons between 1977 and 1983, with cars being known as either an Ensign, a Wolf or a Theodore as it happens.
For the Dutch Grand Prix and the remaining second half of the season in ’81, Swiss racer Marc Surer was employed to drive for Theodore. Most drivers think that when they reach F1, they’ve made it! It’s the high life for me from now on! But Marc must have had a shock when he showed up for the first practice session. It’s incredible to imagine an F1 team in the modern era having to cope with absolutely no amenities! Where on Earth would they put all the analysts with their banks of computer monitors! You can imagine Marc Surer here having to do a quick change into his overalls in the Gent’s loos, before climbing into his cockpit!
Despite the obvious setbacks, Marc Surer qualified the car and started from 19th on a grid of 24 competitors. He even achieved a faster time than notable drivers like Michele Alboreto and Keke Rosberg -the following year’s champion! So far so good! How about the race? Well, he didn’t challenge Alain Prost for the victory, but he did keep his nose clean and came home in 8th position (out of 10 finishers), albeit 3 laps down. Unfortunately only the first six finishers scored points then, but it was a mighty gallant effort and his best for the team that season.
Incidentally, the Theodore car was fitted with Avon tyres, which was one of four manufacturers supplying their wares that year. Others were Goodyear, Michelin and Pirelli. I can’t be certain how well the Avons ran on the grass at the end of the pitlane, but it obviously didn’t interfere too much during the weekend! Hats of to the Theodore team for being such great sports despite the situation they found themselves in!
Photo credit: Peter Cramer, for Autocar.