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In Wolf-F1 against Rahal and Andretti: Willy Sailer is 75 years old

In Wolf-F1 against Rahal and Andretti: Willy Sailer is 75 years old

He is 20 years older than Michael Schumacher and from the Class of 1949 like Niki Lauda and Walter Lechner: Willy Seeler will turn 75 on January 3rd.

As a racing driver, he was an all-rounder, finishing on the podium 40 times in 150 races and reaching Formula 1 driving tests: in the autumn of 1976, he finished seventh in the British Formula 3 Championship at Silverstone. Mario Andretti and Bobby Rahal were competitors on sponsor Walter Wolf's team.

Andretti came to Lotus in 1977, and Rahal (the future three-time CART champion and Indy 500 winner) drove North American races for the Austrian-Canadian in 1978. For Sailer, the Formula 1 dream remained a dream – for financial reasons, but also because the quiet Salzburg native It wasn't clear enough.

“Across every curve”

This was the beginning of a motorsport career according to the usual pattern of the time: a trained mechanic “tried it out”, discovered his talent, and “modified” his cars. That's how Sellers started in the early 1970s. Seeler looks back: “In the morning down St. Coloman and up again in the evening, almost always through every bend, and not just in winter – it was constant training.” When he drove his first races, he had a triple burden: “the race driver and his mechanic, because I had to fix everything I broke on the weekend myself in night shifts. And then there was the regular weekday job in the workshop.” “.

He tried a touring car in the final race of the season in 1972 at the Salzburgring. In 1973 it was already Schnitzer's BMW 2002. Seeler also drove the European Mountain Mountain Championship in 1975 and won the FIA ​​Cup in the Special Touring Car class. But the department did not let him leave. He drove races in the European Touring Car Championship with Harald Ertl, a compatriot from Salzburg, who reached Formula 1, and with German Harald Grohs, in addition to the local championship. “In 1975, I celebrated 20 victories in 28 races,” recalls Tennengauer with some pride.

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When Sailer dueled with later Formula 1 stars

“In 1975, Walter Wolff watched Seeler at the Salzburgring – and supported him from 1976 onwards. The result was Formula 3 appearances in the European championships and in England. “In the rain at Silverstone, I managed to surprise celebrities,” Seller recalls. With Wolff as financier, Things continued in 1977, but remained with Formula 3, and from 1979 in Formula 2. These were the years in which Sealer competed against almost all future Formula 1 stars: Patrese, Prost, Pironi, Surer, Sullivan, etc. Four titles were achieved. For the Austrian National Racing Car Championship “in passing”.

The connection that began early with the Freilassing Schnitzer team has been lasting and lasting. Not only did Willy drive in races, he also became the readily available test driver in the neighborhood: “We often went to the Salzburgring when the test had to be done quickly.” Seeler continued to compete in the European Touring Car Championship and also drove classic cars at Spa (24 Hours with Roberto Moreno and Alain Gris, 1987) and the 1000 km in a sports car (with Harald Grohs and Pierre Dieudonné). Resignation came in 1987, but Seiler was always ready for Schnitzer and continued testing into the 1990s.

What was missing to get to the top?

Sellers now has a coherent explanation for the fact that it went no further: “I lacked the karting experience to make the breakthrough, which was important even then. The sponsorship amounts required were constantly rising. I usually had to that”. Driving with used tires and replacing new ones there was no money.” However: “I never had to invest my own money in my career, and that's why I never had any debt.”

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In 1978, he opened his own auto body shop in Kochel, where he still works today as a retiree. “I crashed off the wheel and I,” he says emotionlessly. “Just like in 1977 at the Nürburgring when my wing broke during Formula 3 practice.”

The fascination with Formula 1 continues unabated

Those who supported him for almost his entire career remained friends: Bertel Wimmer (died 2019) and mechanic Robert “Hofer” Schörn from St. Coloman, long-time Salzburgring boss Alex Reiner and Küchler Herbert Höffelmeyer, the manager – took over. And of course Herbert Schnitzer: “They all always helped me and sacrificed a lot of their free time for me.”

And Formula 1? Sellers barely misses the race on television. Thinking Wednesdays at the table for Kuchler Motorsport regulars are usually hotter than the races…