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Trained as a mechanic after leaving school, Frank Dochnal’s career was interrupted by service in the United States Navy during World War II. He returned to that profession after the conflict but also started to race in midgets and sprint cars on the speedways near his St Louis home.
"Doc" moved to California in 1955 and soon discovered the vibrant SCCA road racing scene – driving an Austin Healey 100M in these competitive amateur events. In England during 1962, he chanced upon a Formula 1 Cooper T51-Climax for sale and bought it on a whim.
Frustrating Formula 1 appearance
The car was shipped back to the West Coast and he won a minor race at Riverside within three days of it arriving. Now in his forties, Dochnal persuaded the organisers of the 1963 Mexican Grand Prix to accept his entry and he and his wife (who was also his mechanic) towed the car to México City to race against the visiting Formula 1 stars. However, Dochnal was caught out on a wet track during an early practice session and he crashed. Unable to repair the damaged rear suspension, he did not start his only GP.
Dochnal retired from racing after that Mexican disappointment but continued working in the sport. He joined J.C.Agajanian’s Indycar operation as a mechanic and remained with the team for the rest of the decade. He then returned to California to work for reclusive industrialist and famed aviator Howard Hughes.
Dochnal was also a technical official in Indycars for over 20 years, first with USAC and then transferring to CART. He retired to his native Missouri in 1997 after the death of his wife.