35 years of motorsport experience
With the start of the 2011 Supercup season, Walter Lechner looks back on 35 years in active motorsports. The Austrian has spent more than half of his life with racing.
If T-shirts are too short – the long VIP list
"On occasion of our 35th anniversary we wanted to produce a T-shirt for the Walter Lechner Racing School with all the names of the famous pilots who drove for our team or who made their first steps with us and learned their job", Walter Lechner let half of his motorsportive live pass by again. "However, we had to cancel the production for the time being." The reason for the decision appears quite humorous: "We ran out of place – already after the letter B the T-Shirt was too short", Lechner grins. It would have been more reasonable too produce a down to the floor long winter coat to have space enough for all the names like Schlesser, Wurz, Klien, Bartles, Berger, Formula 1 Team manager Franz Tost, Arno Zenzen or Stefan Bellof.
One of a kind - Stefan Bellof
"Stefan was the race driver who has impressed me most in all those years", Walter Lechner joyfully but also wistfully remembers the exceptional sportsman who died at the 1000 Kilometre race in Spa on September 1st in 1985. "If a young driver comes towards you, you know already after seconds, whether the chemistry is good or not." Between Lechner and Bellof it was good. "At the Harald Ertl Motorshow Geo Bellof came to me." The older of the two Bellof brothers had an appeal to the boss. "I wonder if you can give the kid a drive?" Lechner gave him a Formula Ford cockpit at Hockenheim and the young gun was thankful in his very special way. "Stefan with an unbelievable performance outclassed the rest of the field, and he did it with great joy and his very special waggishness", so Lechner. Stefan Bellof drove two years for Lechner Racing.
Here drives the boss
"If I could turn back time, I would have started with racing earlier", Walter Lechner refers to one of only a few points in his life, he perhaps would have done differently if he gets another chance. "I was already 26 years old when I started with racing and Lauda had already clinched his first Formula 1 championship, although we are both the same age. Nevertheless, Walter Lechner rages successfully through the world of the racing. He and his team claimed 19 Formula 3 titles and became German and European champion in the Formula Super Vau. "I thought it would go on like this for the rest of my life, but then I lost my sponsor and suddenly I was bankrupt", Lechner experienced the other side of racing but he learned his lesson. "I realized how important the economic side, and particularly marketing is in motorsports." He builds up his quite personal network. "Today I am proud when Dr. Wolfgang Porsche comes to me to shake hands at a Supercup race", he says. "It is the pride and the mutual respect for the life achievement which comes to the expression in such situations."
With 1.000 hp - Lechner's time in the Group C
"It was a fascinating crazy but also dangerous time", Lechner thinks back to his rides on the 1.000 hp cannon balls of the Group C time. "I am pleased with my years in this class but I am also happy to be still alive and still having both legs", Lechner takes it to the point in its typical way. "At that time we had to bury two colleagues each year." Running a small private team as a kind of "one man show" Lechner enjoyed annoying the big ones in the business. "I drove against Walter Brun or against the Joest Team and they realized soon, that it is better instead racing against Lechner to race with him", he still today laughs about the fact that the big teams often obligated him to be the third man in their team. In the Interseries he claimed more than a handful titles.
Touring cars in the end
"Austrians are not really known for having a good touring car championship", Lechner jokes about the motorsport activities in the Alpine Republic. "However, for two years we had a quite good show with terrific cars and good drivers." Behind the steering wheel of a Ford Sierra Cosworth RS 500 he fought against pilots like the upcoming Claudia Hürtgen or his compatriot Dieter Quester. Then he quit driving and changed the sides – From now on Lechner is only a team manager. He clinches titles in the Formula Renault and the Formula VW.
Boss in his own Porsche team
In 2003 he knocks at the Porsche door. His first cup season comes to an end with third rank in the Supercup. In 2005 he clinches the title for the first time. Alessandro Zampedri fetches the drivers title and together with Patrick Huisman the Lechner Racing School becomes team champion. Some years and ten race victories later the champions' trophy collection added up for five more titles. "You may never fade with your efforts, you always have to fight hard to make progress and have success", Lechner explains his personal strategy in motorsports. He continuously extends his business fields and since two years he is the organisation boss of the GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. "With drivers from this championship Lechner Racing also wants to go on in international racing. "In 2011 we want to participate in different long distance races. We are discussing the GTE Class (former GT2), and also Le Mans is one of our topics." The Lechner troop can't complain about a lack of work; Full employment prevails, vacation forms are traded like little gold nuggets. "Right after the Supercup season the Middle East championship started for us, and when it is over, it all begins again with the Supercup in Bahrain." Walter Lechner wants to defend the championship with René Rast. There are still some titles to win and beside that there are just 35 years gone since Walter Lechner started his career.