Germany 1977: Hans Heyer’s illegal startWritten by 'Αγγελος Φωτσεινός
Translated by Giannis Binas
In 1977, Hockenheimring hosted the German GP, taking the place of Nurburgring, which was marked as dangerous.
Niki Lauda’s accident at the “green hell” of Nordschleife, in 1976, was the ‘knock-out blow’ for the circuit that was never used again at its big course.
That Hockenheim race was where German Hans Heyer, known from his participation at touring car championships and for the trademark Tyrol hat he wore (and is still wearing today), debuted to the sport.
His first (and last, as was destined to be) participation in Formula 1, he took care of leaving his mark, offering an outstanding moment in the sport’s history.
Credits for the photo: Julian Roberts
Driving for German ATS, Heyer classified 27th in qualifying, with a time of 1:57:58.
That year, at the Hockenheim race, the first 24 drivers were to be qualified, while the rest, based on their times, entered a substitute drivers list.
The substitute driver was entitled to enter the race in case someone out of the 24 qualified drivers was unable to race.
The time ranking mattered as the fastest not qualified driver would substitute the driver who wasn’t going to compete.
At the particular race, Patrick Neve was the 1st substitute, as he had classified 25th in the qualifying session, while Heyer was the 3rd as he had classified 27th.
In other words, the only chance for Heyer to participate was if at least 3 qualified drivers wouldn’t race.
The German, no doubt, had a different opinion.
It was a home GP, he would find a way to race!
The confusion at the start after the accident between Clay Regazzoni and Alan Jones, granted Heyer the chance to record himself in history.
ATS’ crew fired up his single-seater’s engine and Heyer found himself in the circuit, illegally of course, since he had no right to participate.
He remained in the circuit for 9 laps, until he retired with a gearbox problem, while right after the retirement the stewards waved him the black flag.
The question of course is for what reason were the stewards so late to do this.
Some reckon that was because Heyer knew the stewards and others that he was unnoticed in the thick of the action of the first laps.
In any way, Heyer offered in F1’s history a unique moment, although his participation is not recorded in the official statistics of the sport as he had not qualified into the race!