Kauhsen: the worst F1 team in history
They copied Lotus 79 in order to win, but ended up failing to qualify in anything
History showed us that Ferrari is the best F1 team (by the number of victories), followed by other teams like Mercedes, McLaren, Williams, Red Bull...But, do you know which F1 team was the worst?
The main hero of this story is a man called Willibald Kauhsen, nicknamed Willie. He used to own a transport company in a German city of Eschweiler. In 1960s and 1970s, he was very famous in motorsport. Kauhsen used to race for Porsche, until he decided to drive for his own team. Then, in 1975, he won the world championship in the prototype class driving an Alfa Romeo. Two years later, he entered Formula 2 with an ELF-Renault 2J, and Alain Prost as his teammate.
One of Kauhsen's racing cars-Porsche 917/10. Credit: Porcshmania.it
Despite not doing well in F2, Kauhsen decided to step up his game...and enter Formula 1. His initial plan was to buy two F1 cars from a Japanese team Kojima, and one of them to be driven by Keke Rosberg. That plan failed, so Kauhsen's first driver was Gianfranco Brancatelli. Unfortunately, they didn't have any cars, since Kauhsen didn't transfer any money to the Japanese team. So, he decided to make his own cars and, with no experience at all, the team Kauhsen WK1 entered F1.
In early fall of 1978, the first Kauhsen WK1 was produced. The car looked nice, but the project was very expensive with around 400.000 Deutschemark spent before the wheels even touched the track. After he reached his financial limit, Kauhsen asked his test driver Patrick Neve to get some sponsors. However, after getting the money from sponsors, Neve left the team saying that the car was undriveable and that he didn't want to ruin his reputation by being seen in it.
Brancatelli in the WK1. Credit: Motorsportmagazine.com
Due to Neve leaving with all of the money, Kauhsen was struggling to get more cash in order to start the season. The team had to miss 4 races of the 1979 season, until it was finally put on a start line in Jarama, Spain. At this point, they received a notice from the F1 head honchos that they would unlikely get any points, and that they had to pay a $30.000 fine for not having the car ready at the start of the season.
Like all serious manufacturers, Kauhsen showed up with 2 cars that were ready to race. However, they had a major problem-there was not enough place available for them in the pits, so Bernie Eccleston put them in the pit with Lotus. Ironically, Kauhsen's F1 cars were a copy of Lotus 79, so I guess the two teams had a lot to talk about.
Lotus 79. Credit: Snaplap.com
Unfortunately, Kauhsen's team came last in qualifying, so they had to back down from the actual race. But, they didn't give up; two weeks later, they turned up at the Zolder track for the Belgium Grand Prix, and failed to qualify again. This time, the cars had multiple mechanical failures, and since the team barely had any money left, they decided to quit F1.
Surprisingly, Kauhsen's F1 cars didn't end up on a scrapyard, but were bought by Arturo Merzario, who was looking for one-seater cars that would replace his own self-designed F1 cars. The WK1 was renamed to A1, and it continued its tradition of failing to qualify in the rest of World Championship rounds. The only proper racing appearance this car had was at the non-championship Dino Ferrari Grand Prix at Imola in 1979. Not surprising, the car finished 11th...out of 11 cars in total.
Merzario A1. Credit: Racingsportscars.com