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Touring Car Racing Career

Becoming Touring Car greatness and winning multiple Championship titles Johnny    Cecotto    had    to    switch    to    touring    car    racing    after    his terrible   accident   in   Formula   1   at   Brands   Hatch   in   1984.   After   a long   rehabilitation   program   he   was   fit   enough   to   get   back   into   a racing   car   again.   But   physically   it   was   impossible   to   race   in   a Formula   1   car   again.   Already   while   racing   in   Formula   1   Johnny Cecotto   occasionally   had   done   some   touring   car   races   for   BMW. Now   eleven   months   after   that   horrible   accident   Johnny   was   able to   race   again   in   a   BMW   635i   touring   car   for   the   first   time   at   the Salzburgring,   Austria   in   1985 .   Two   weeks   later   Johnny   Cecotto raced   at   the   24   hours   race   of   Francorchamps   in   Belgium   where he    finished    2nd    together    with    Dieter    Quester    and    Markus Oestreich.   Some   more   ETCC   races   were   done   by   Johnny   in   that 1985   season.   And   so   a   new   career   in   Touring   Car   racing   was born.   In   1986    he   raced   for   the   RAS   Volvo   team   with   2   Volvo   240   Turbo’s   in   the   European   Touring   Car   Championship   together   with   Thomas Lindström,   Ulf   Granberg   and   Anders   Olofsson.   First   part   of   the   ETCC   season   Cecotto   shared   the   car   with   Lindström   but   they   didn’t   get   well   with each   other.   So   then   Johnny   raced   together   with   Olofsson.   They   did   great   and   won races   at   the   circuits   of   Hockenheim   and   Zolder.   Being   in   good   position   for   the championship   title   they   were   withdrawn   in   Sweden   for   championship   ranking. The   fuel   in   the   Volvo   was   seen   as   illegal   and   so   a   lot   of   points   were   lost   and   also   a possible   championship   with   this   in   1986.   Together   with   my   wife   Carolien   I   visited round   9   of   the   ETCC   which   was   the   24   hours   race   at   Spa   Francorchamps.   Johnny did   sign   our   Jeb’s   replica   helmets   there.   Cecotto   was   also   going   to   win   the   Macau GP   at   the   famous   Guia   street   circuit   in   his   Volvo   240   Turbo.   After   his   Volvo adventure   in   1986   Johnny   Cecotto   was   contracted   by   the   CiBiEmme   team   in   1987   and   took   part   with   a   BMW   M3   for   both   World-   and   European   Championship Touring   Cars.   The   first   race   was   won   together   with   Ricardo   Patrese   at   Monza   in Italy   but   all   top   six   cars   were   disqualified.   Further   on   in   that   1987   season   Johnny Cecotto   did   win   a   total   of   4   races   with   his   co-driver   Gianfranco   Brancatelli   at Estoril,   Dijon   and   Zeltweg.   His   results   with   BMW   noticed   other   factory   brands   and he   became   a   much   wanted   driver.   For   1988    Cecotto   was   to   be   transferred   in   the German   DTM   (Deutsche   Tourenwagen   Meisterschaft)   series.   He   was   taken   away from    BMW    for    a    lot    of    money    to    drive    for    AMG    Mercedes,    a    team    which participated   for   the   very   first   time   ever.   Again   I   was   able   to   visit   a   race   which happened   to   be   the   first   one   at   the   Belgian   circuit   of   Zolder.   With   this   AMG Mercedes   190E   2.3-16   Johnny   won   both   races   at   the   Avus   and   also   in   Budapest and he would finish in 6th position overall at the end of the season.  Johnny   was   recruited   to   BMW   though   in   1989    and   drove   in   both   the   DTM and   Italian   Touring   Car   Championship.   He   missed   3   races   in   Germany   which coincided   with   the   Italian   races   and   for   that   reason   he   “only”   finished   7th   at the   end   of   the   DTM.   He   did   win   2   races   at   the   Hockenheim   circuit.   But   in   the Italian   championship   Johnny   Cecotto   took   the   title   by   winning   seven   heats with   his   Schnitzer   BMW   M3.   It   was   his   first   championship   title   in   car   racing in   his   career.   With   this   he   proved   not   only   to   be   a   champion   on   two   wheels but   also   on   four.   In   the   1990    season   Johnny   again   was   competitive   in   both championships.   But   now   he   did   prefer   for   the   German   DTM   title   instead   of the   Italian   from   last   season.   With   a   BMW   M3   E30   of   the   Schnitzer   team   he battled   until   the   end   for   the   DTM   championship.   He   was   7   times   on   the rostrum   with   three   wins,   one   2nd   spot   a   three   3rd   places.   Before   the   last race   at   Hockenheim   Johnny   Cecotto   was   well   ahead   of   his   rival   for   the   DTM   title Hans-Joachim   Stuck   with   a   18   points   advantage.   Still   he   would   loose   the   title   in   the last   race   because   being   pushed   off   from   the   track   by   Mercedes   "guest   driver" Michael   Schumacher   in   the   very   first   corner   of   the   first   heat.   Cecotto   restarted from   the   back   of   the   field   but   couldn't   make   it   up   towards   the   front   in   this   massive field   of   drivers.   In   the   second   heat   Johnny   wasn't   able   to   pass   the   "Audi-train"   of Stuck,   Jelinski   and   Röhrl   and   finished   only   4th   in   the   race.   It   wasn't   good   enough   to be   DTM   champion   and   so   Stuck   took   away   his   almost   secured   title.   You   could   say Michael   Schumacher   took   away   Cecotto’s   DTM   title   and   Johnny   always   thought that   Mercedes   did   this   to   him   on   purpose.   Later   it   seemed   that   BMW   had   made   a mistake   as   Cecotto   didn’t   had   to   start   from   the   back   but   on   his   normal   starting   position   as   the   race   restarted.   Maybe   things   would   have   run differently   then.   Who   knows.   Anyway   it   was   a   great   disappointment   for   Cecotto.   In   1990   Johnny   Cecotto   did   also   win   the   24   hours   race   at   the   Spa Francorchamps   circuit   together   with   Fabien   Giroix   and   Markus   Oestreich.   Johnny   stayed   in   the   DTM   series   for   1991    with   the   Schnitzer   team   of   team manager   Charly   Lamm.   Again   I   visited   the   first   race   of   the   DTM   series   at   the   Belgian   Zolder   circuit   and   Cecotto   started   very   well   with   two   victories there   with   his   BMW   M3.   Later   on   in   the   season   he   did   have   some   good   result   but   because   of   six   retirements   his   results   dropped   back.   He   finished the   season   of   in   4th   overall.   In   the   season   1992    we   saw   Johnny   Cecotto with   a   BMW   M3   for   the   FINA   BMW   team   but   the   first   five   races   were disaster   and   he   gained   very   less   points.   He   escaped   uninjured   at   the Norisring   after   a   big   crash   when   pushed   from   behind   during   the   start   of the   race.   Cecotto   lurched   through   the   field   and   flew   into   the   guardrail   with miraculously   nobody   hitting   him.   In   the   second   part   of   the   season   he recovered   and   got   6   times   a   top   3   result.   Legendary   is   his   race   with   Klaus Ludwig   at   the   Nordscheliefe   where   they   fought   a   tremendous   battle   in both   heats.   At   the   end   of   the   season   Cecotto   still   managed   to   finish   in   a 4th   position.   At   the   same   circuit   Johnny   Cecotto   won   the   24   hours   race with Christian Danner and Jean-Michel Martin as co-drivers. But   after   1992   BMW   retired   from   DTM   series   because   of   the   regulations. Johnny Cecotto   in   1993   competed   with   a   BMW   M3   GTR   for   the   team   of   Warthofer   FINA   in the   ADAC   GT   Cup.   With   six   victories   from   the   total   of   eight   races   he   outclassed everybody   and   won   the   championship   title.   Even   in   Zandvoort   when   he   stepped   in the   old   normal   M3   he   won   the   race   easily.   So   Johnny   Cecotto   got   this   1993   title because   of   his   driver   skills   and   not   because   of   having   a   BMW   M3   GTR.   In   the   Italian Touring   Car   Championship   he   ended   in   5th   position   in   the   championship   with   the Bigazzi    team    in a   BMW   318i.   His friend      Roberto Ravaglia   was   the champion    there.    In    1994     Cecotto    raced    the    ADAC    Tourenwagen    Cup    with    a Warthofer-BMW   318i.   With   a   three   time   victory   in   the   last   races   he   claimed   the championship   title   of   the   Tourenwagen   Cup   in   front   of   Frank   Biela   in   his   Audi. The   last   race   at   the   Nürburgring   was   a   thriller   though.   In   the   same   year   he finished   7th   in   a   Bigazzi   BMW   318i   for   the   Italian   Touring   Car   Championship   in which    Emanuele    Pirro    won    the    title.    Togehter    with    Nelson    Piquet    and    Ingo Hoffman    he    raced    the    24    hours    at    Spa    Francorchamps    and    finished    in    4th position    with    the    Schnitzer    Fina    Bastos    BMW    318i.    Johnny    Cecotto    went    to England   to   take   part   in   the   1995    BTCC   (British   Touring   Car   Championship).   The BMW   Motorsport   Team   with   a   Warthofer   BMW   318i   with   David   Brabham   in   the second   car   of   that   team.   The   BMW   318i   was   not   very   competitive   though   against the   Ford,   Renault   and   Volvo.   All   because   of   mostly   tire   problems.   Johnny’s   best result   was   a   4th   spot   at   Knockhill   and   he   only   managed   to   finish   in   12th   position at   the   end   of   the   season   in   the   total   ranking.   A   rather   disappointing   year   for Johnny   Cecotto.   The   next   year   Johnny   got   back   to   Italy   to   race   in   the   Italian Touring            Car   season        again. With   his   CiBiEmme   BMW   320i   Johnny   became   vice-champion   in   this   1996    Italian     championship   season.   Cecotto   came   six   points   short   to   become   the   champion. He drove   some   separate   races   this   same   year   in   the   German   Super   Tourenwagen   Cup. In   Brasil   he   won   at   the   end   of   the   year   both   races   at   the   circuits   of   Curitba   and Brasilia   together   with   Nelson   Piquet   in   the   BMW   McLaren   F1   GTR   sports   car.   The Bigazzi   BMW   320i   car   was   to   be   driven   by   Cecotto   in   1997    for   the   Super   Touren Wagen   Meisterschaft   (STW)   in   Germany.   Johnny   was   in   battle   for   the   title   but   at   the end   became   3rd   behind   Laurent   Aiello   (Peugeot)   and   BMW   team- mate   Joachim   Winkelhock.   He   won   the   1000   miles   race   in   Brasilia with   Nelson   Piquet   and   Steve   Soper   in   the   BMW   McLaren   F1   GTR. Also   with   Piquet   and   Winkelhock   he   competed   the   24   hours   at   Spa Francorchamps   where   they   finished   2nd.   The   1998    season   was   very successful.   With   help   of   BMW   companion   Winkelhock   he   managed to   get   the   STW   title   in   Germany.   He   had   to   fight   till   the   last   race   at the   Nürburgring   with   a   Schnitzer   BMW   320i   against   Laurent   Aiello   in the   Peugeot   406.   Johnny   had   a   leading   advantage   of   2   points   before the   race   but   while   finishing   4th   behind   Aiello   in   the   sprint   he   was   1 point   behind.   At   the   start   of   the   last   race   he   came   in   front   of   Aiello and   kept   his   3rd   position   until   the   end.   Aiello   finished   5th   and   so Johnny took the STW championship with only 3 points advantage. After   the   1998   season   BMW   was   to   be   withdrawn   from   STW   so   Johnny   didn't   race   for   BMW   any more.   He   went   to   Venezuela   to   take   part   as   guest   driver   in   the   Ferrari   Challenge   in   1999 .   He   won all   4   races   he   competed.   Also   in   2000    there   wasn't   much   activity   for   Johnny   Cecotto.   He   did   one race   for   the   Isert   team   in   a   BMW   320i   for   the   European   Super   Touring   Cup   in   Vallelunga.   He managed   to   get   the   best   result   ever   for   the   Isert   team   with   a   6th   and   5th   place.   He   also   raced   at the    Ferrari    Challenge    race    in Hockenheim,   Germany   which he   won.   However,   Johnny   was back   into   the   racing   business again   in   the   2001    season.   He did   two   FIA   GTN   races   with   a Porsche    933    but    withdrawn while    not    being    competitive. He   won   the   1st   race   at   Monza. A   few   weeks   before   the   start of   the   brand   new   German   V8- STAR      series      Cecotto      was contracted    for    the    Irmscher Opel   team.   In   the   first   V8-STAR   season   Johnny   drove   his   Irmscher   Opel   Omega     car   to   the   V8-STAR   title   in   October   at   Oschersleben. Because   of   the   website   I   had which   partly   was   about   Johnny   I   got   contact   with   his   father   Giovanni   Cecotto   and Venezuelan   friend   Vicente   Fernández.   A   meeting   with   Johnny   was   arranged   for me   at   the   Essen   Motorshow   in   Germany,   December   2001.   Irmscher   had   a   stand displaying   his   V8-STAR   car.   There   I   finally   had   my   first   real   meeting   with   my   idol. Although   I   was   very   nervous   it   was   something   I   will   always   remember.   In   the   next season   Johnny   was   racing   again   for   the   Irmscher   Opel   team   in   the   V8- STAR   class.   Glorious   fact   of   2002    was   that   Johnny   Cecotto   was   active for   30   years   in   motor   sports.   Although   competition   in   V8-STAR   was heavier   as   it   was   in   2001   he   did   win   the   championship   in   September at   the   Nürburgring.   I   managed   to   visit   3   V8-STAR   races   including   that Nürburgring   race.   After   the   last   race   at   Oschersleben   Johnny   gave   me permission    for    my    Official    Johnny    Cecotto    Fansite.    Cecotto    raced, after   10   year   absence,   as   guest   driver   in   the   DTM   at   Hockenheim   for the   Opel   Euroteam   and   finished   10th.   In   2003   he   talked   to   Irmscher but   it   never   got   to   a   deal.   2002   was   the   last   official   year   Cecotto   raced a   championship   series.   What   Johnny   Cecotto   has   done   after   this   you can   see   in   the   last   section   “Life   after   a   racing   career”.   Click   below   to   go back to the Career overview page to look at another section.....
Official Johnny Cecotto Fansite
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