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Harald Ertl

31st August 1948
Zell am See, Salzburg
7th April 1982 (Aged 33)
Hohenahr, Hesse (D), aircraft accident
Most recent race (in database):

Essentially an amateur racing driver, the bearded Harald Ertl flirted with Formula 1 during the mid 1970s. Always a popular figure in the paddock, he displayed more enthusiasm than talent at that level if truth be told. However he did enjoy success in sports cars and touring cars.

Early racing career

A journalist by profession, his own racing career began in 1969 when Ertl finished third in the Austrian Formula Vee Championship. Runner-up in the following season’s European series, he stepped up to Formula 3 and the European Touring Car Championship in 1971.

It was in the latter that Ertl enjoyed success. He drove an Alfa Romeo 2000 GTAm that year before switching to a BMW 2002 for 1972. The highest profile victory of his career came at Silverstone in the 1973 Tourist Trophy when sharing an Alpina BMW 3.0 CSL with Derek Bell. That victory prompted Ertl to shave off his fulsome beard in public but the trademark growth soon reappeared.

Formula 1 with Hesketh and Ensign

Ertl graduated to Formula 2 and was third at the Nürburgring in 1975 with Fred Opert’s Chevron B27-BMW. He then persuaded the Warsteiner Brewery to finance three GPs in the second Hesketh 308B-Ford – finishing eighth on his debut in Germany.

He was a regular in both F1 and F2 during 1976 without sustained success in either. Seventh in the British GP for Hesketh proved to be the best result of his 19-race GP career. Ertl’s March 752-BMW was sixth in that year’s opening F2 race at Hockenheim.

Ertl continued with Hesketh for five unsuccessful GPs in 1977 before his finest F1 drive at Hockenheim a year later. His Sachs-sponsored Ensign N177-Ford ran sixth in the closing stages of the 1978 German GP only for his engine to fail with four laps to go.

German Racing Champion

The Austrian enjoyed greater success in sports cars that year, driving a Schnitzer BMW 320i to win the German Racing Championship. A race winner in that Group Five series for Zakspeed in 1979 and 1980. He did not qualify an ATS for the 1980 German GP and only raced occasionally thereafter in the Renault Five Turbo Championship.

He was flying in a light aircraft with friends and family to an island off the northern coast of Germany, when the plane crashed near Giessen. He wife and son were seriously injured and Ertl was killed at the scene.