I have been away for quite some time doing work for a couple of up and coming young drivers. The other night I loaded this onto the "Motorsport," thread. Wrong place! I had just come back from the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) All America Team Banquet in Indianapolis and I was tired. Regardless, I think the stuff below needed its own thread.
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I met Dan Partel in Heidelberg Germany in 1979 in a pub. He and I were trying to chat up the same girl. I don’t think either of us got her–I know for a fact that I certainly didn’t!
We have hung around with each other ever since.
As a longtime member of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA), I have often used what little influence I could muster to cajole the organization into the 21st Century. AARWBA is the oldest and largest media association dedicated solely to auto racing.
I have always been disturbed that few Americans were aware of Dan and EFDA’s contributions to auto racing. So, when I got the chance I nominated him for the Pioneer in Racing award.
As proud as I am of getting recognition for Dan, I am equally proud of presenting the inaugural Auto Racing Safety and Humanitarian Service Award to Dr. Bob Hubbard and Jim Downing for the creation of the HANS Device!
BTW we had Tony George and the rest of the IRL crowd and the Champ Car crowd at separate tables. During Dan’s speech, NASCAR Team owner Jack Roush told AP’s Mike Harris. “He’s pissing off a lot of people.” To which Mike responded. “He doesn’t care.”
Below is the piece I wrote for the Banquet program and Mr. Partel's acceptance speech.
Dan Partel, Pioneer in Racing
Many people can claim to have had an influence on one or two of today's
leading stars in auto racing. The European Formula Drivers' Association’s
(EFDA) Dan Partel can say with pride that he helped launch the careers of
Ayrton Senna, Mauricio Gugelmin, Mark Blundell, Mika Hakkinen, Michael
Schumacher, David Coulthard, Eddie Irvine, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan,
Gil de Ferran, Dario Franchitti and many more of the auto racing stars
competing on the race tracks of the world today.
An American living in Europe, Dan Partel spent 10 years working for Philip
Morris (Marlboro), followed by two years with Firestone. He was running the
FF1600 Club of Germany in his spare time and was in contact with the
numerous national FF 1600 drivers associations on the Continent. The
national Formula Ford clubs collectively organized a series called Golden
In 1979, at the instigation and with the support of Johan Beerepot, then
Circuit Director of Zandvoort in Holland, Partel took on the organization of
a pan-European FF1600 championship, a Euroseries for FF2000 and a Sports
2000 championship as well. EFDA was the first organization to add a title
sponsor to a championship when they brought the Townsend Thoresen ferry line
on board and renamed the Formula Ford 1600 championship the Townsend
Thoresen Euroseries. EFDA also developed and managed a single set of rules
for the formulae. This included a dedicated technical scrutineer whose job
was to ensure that the EFDA competitors stayed within the rules.
Pan-European championships had always been difficult to organize. The
national sporting authorities didn't have jurisdiction outside their own
countries, and no one body seemed able or willing to take on the task of
coordinating a truly European series. The European Formula Drivers
Association was formed to fill the gap.
Formula Ford racing is commonly referred to as a “one-make,” series, this is
not entirely correct. While there was a single manufacturer for the engines,
in 1982, there were twenty-one specialist racing car manufacturers with
names running from Agent to Zeus. Additionally, specialist engine tuners
seem to be behind every bush!
In 1987, as Ford corporate support for the formula waned, Partel was
approached by General Motors (GM) Europe (Opel in Germany and Ireland,
Vauxhall in England, Chevrolet in Brazil and Holden in Australia) about a
proposal he had submitted in 1982.
Opel had produced a new two liter four cylinder engine that they wished to
promote. Partel’s proposal had been for a true one-make open wheel racing
car and series. GM signed up and the program was called the GM Euroseries.
Chassis and bodywork would be designed by race car builder Adrian Reynard
and built by Lotus, a GM company. Bridgestone “spec,” tires, shod the cars.
Between 1988 and 1999 the EFDA GM Euroseries and companion Vauxhall/Lotus
racing series grew into the premier “junior,” open wheel-racing series. The
programs offered a highly competitive training ground for the likes of Damon
Hill, Mika Hakkinen, Pedro Lamy, Allan McNish, Rubens Barrichello, Juan
Pablo Montoya, Jerry Nadeau, Takuma Sato, Paul Edwards, JJ Lehto and many
more of the current international racing stars today. The European Formula
Drivers Association’s final season saw Tomas Scheckter crowned 1999
For over twenty years, Dan Partel provided fledgling racing drivers a place
to learn and hone their craft.
On 13 January 2007, the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters
Association honored Daniel S. Partel as a Pioneer in Racing during their
annual All America Team Banquet at the Hyatt Regency in Indianapolis,
Mr. Partel, in his acceptance speech, took the opportunity to decry the
proliferation of one-make racing, a concept he pioneered.
His speech appears below.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I greatly appreciate your presence here
tonight, and to the members of the American Auto Racing Writers and
Broadcasters Association, I thank you for this award. The last thing I want
to do on the occasion of being recognized by such a distinguished body of
journalists is to deliver a boring speech without news value. So here goes…
I’m told one of the reasons I’m being honored here tonight is for being a
pioneer of the one-make racing series concept. But I have to admit this
comes at a time when over-enthusiasm for this type of racing has become
something of an albatross around the neck of our sport.
My original intention - and it wasn’t just me; the idea was in the air at
the same time in a number of places - was to eliminate the distorting
effects of cubic dollars, pounds, deutschemarks, and francs, as well as the
vagaries of chassis and engine choice, on the process of identifying the
very best driving talent in the lower ranks of racing.
Looking back, I think we succeeded in limiting the influence of money to
some degree, although the general advance of racing technology has seen
costs creep up across the board. But the continued vitality of open chassis
and engine classes such as Formula Ford, Formula 2000, and Formula 3 gives
the lie to the presumption that one-make categories invariably offer better
value for money.
When it comes to leveling the playing field in equipment terms, the impact
of ‘spec’ cars has again been a mixed bag. Even today, after nearly 20 years
of one-make racing, not a single F1, Champ Car, or IRL champion has climbed
the ladder solely in one-make series. And no one can deny that a driver who
has raced in Formula 3, for example, is better prepared for the technical
demands of setting up a sophisticated top line single-seater or sports car
than one who hasn’t.
The effects on race fans and the motorsport industry also bear examining.
The lack of technical interest and competition runs the risk of alienating
the segment of the racing audience, which cares as much - or more - about
the cars as the drivers. They are among the hardest core racing enthusiasts,
and a larger percentage of the fan base than many realize.
Similarly, the ever-shrinking scope for technical innovation must reduce the
sport’s appeal to young engineering talent and even the world’s automobile
manufacturers. Reducing racing to so much more of marketing than a technical
exercise must surely make it more difficult for carmakers to maintain their
commitment to the sport, and hamper their ability to call upon R&D as well
as advertising budgets.
So I’m skeptical of what we see today, namely the final assault of the
one-design philosophy on the top ranks of the sport. In Formula 1, the FIA’s
attempt to introduce stricter rules to cut costs and encourage green
technologies at the same time exhibits some of the typical pitfalls of
top-down government policy-making. Champ Car has officially gone down the
‘spec’ car route, and the IRL has done so unofficially. NASCAR’s effort to
update its technology with the Car of Tomorrow looks likely to introduce
even greater technical uniformity.
Le Mans-style sports car racing has emerged as almost the last bastion of
innovation, with the success of Audi’s turbo diesel in last year’s 24 Hours
drawing Peugeot back to Le Mans, and several carmakers exploring
hybrid-powered projects. It’s no accident that this type of racing has
attracted more new factory teams than any other over the last couple of
And I’m sure there are people here that could tell me why the pressroom was
full for the ALMS race at Houston last year on Saturday and half-empty for
the Champ Car event on Sunday.
If there is light at the end of the tunnel, it’s probably powered by some
kind of alternative fuel. The historical effectiveness of racing as a
platform for creating and proving new automotive technology is tailor-made
for the challenge of developing new power sources and systems for the car
But this cannot happen in a one-make environment. Car makers will not join
the fray unless they can introduce and develop new ideas and prove the worth
of their innovations against the best efforts of their rivals.
It may be that big time motorsport has become too much of an
entertainment-based product to risk introducing the element of a high-tech
free-for-all. The alternative is to create new forms of racing aimed at
fast-tracking the future technology of the car industry, which could well
lead to the disappearance of more than a few current series, including
one-make series. I can’t say I would mind giving up my legacy in such a good
cause. I might even join the revolution myself.
Thank you for your time, your attention, and this award."