Our friend Marc Surer is today celebrating his 61st birthday today!
Marc was a relatively late starter in the world of motorsport, graduating from karts and the Super Vee series to the German F3 championship in 1976, at nearly 25 years’ age.
He jumped straight into Formula 2 the following year, gaining more experience in his ambitions to move to the top flight of the motorsport echelon. Marc’s tendency to be brutally honest and direct saw his career ambitions take a hit, however. Having been signed to race a BMW 320i in the German Touring Car Championship that year, a clash with Hans Heyer saw him suspended for two months.
Despite this, Marc moved to the BMW-backed Polifac Formula 2 team in 1978 as the number-two to team-mate Bruno Giacomelli, who went on to cruise to the title. Surer was a truly capable deputy, running dutifully as the rear gunner en route to six second-place finishes. The following year, he would go on to win the championship as the team’s lead driver, but many felt he’d made heavy weather of doing so when compared with Giacomelli’s seemingly easier progress the year before.
Nevertheless, Marc had done enough and achieved his ambition: a drive in Formula 1. He made his debut for the little Ensign team at the 1979 Italian Grand Prix, but failed to make the qualifying cut for both it and the subsequent Canadian race. He would, however, manage to qualify for the season-ending United States Grand Prix, but retired with engine problems.
Surer had seemingly done enough to be signed by the mercurial Gunther Schmid and his ATS team for 1980, but the season was barely two races old when Marc crashed heavily during practice at Kyalami, sustaining broken ankles that kept him out of the cockpit until mid-season.
Having recovered, he moved back to Ensign for 1981, and his burgeoning talent began to emerge with a brilliant wet-weather drive to fourth place at the Brazilian Grand Prix – from 18th on the grid, no less – which included the fastest race lap! He followed this up with another points’ finish at Monaco, before switching to Theodore mid-season.
The following season saw him in another new team – Arrows – and again his Kyalami jinx would strike with another leg-breaking shunt that delayed his race appearance with the team until that year’s Belgian Grand Prix. Points finishes in Canada and Germany were little reward, but the A4 chassis was well-down on the front-runners.
The following year saw the debut of his team-mate Thierry Boutsen, whom he would drive alongside for three seasons. While he managed to outscore the Belgian on points, he was generally outperformed by him in overall speed.
In late 1984, Arrows finally got its hands on some BMW turbo engines, and it was this connection with the German manufacturer that saw Marc drafted into the front-running Brabham team in the middle of 1985, paired up with two-time World Champion Nelson Piquet. Finally having the equipment to showcase his talent, he had his best-ever season and ran close to his team-mate’s pace. Sadly, reliability would rob him of podium finishes at Brands Hatch and Adelaide.
BMW placed Marc back at Arrows for 1986, and he picked up a trio of ninth places before a tragic rallying accident in Germany: he slammed his Ford sideways into a tree, killing his co-driver and sustaining serious burns and injuries that would force his retirement from the sport.
Despite having not raced for a long time, Marc has still kept close links with his love of motorsport, heading up BMW’s competitions directorship in their touring car involvement as well as commentating for Swiss, and later German, television.
Marc was kind enough to give us his time and support in compiling an exclusive interview, where he proves as frank and honest as ever about the highlights of his motorsport career. You can read it by clicking on the thumbnail below:
[Images via Corbis Images, F1 Facts, F1 Nostalgia, LAT, Motorsport.com, Sutton Images and The Cahier Archive]