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Teddy Yip's feast from the East



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Johnny Cecotto, Roberto Guerrero


Theodore-Cosworth N183


Long Beach


1983 US West GP (27 March 1983)


After taking over the Ensign team lock, stock and barrel, Macau-based businessman Teddy Yip started off on his last F1 world tour. As was the case with almost all of his F1 enterprises Teddy's last adventure was a case of rechristening someone else's left-over bits. The Chinese Indonesian's love for fast motor cars had been sparked off by the annual Macau GP, which he regularly competed in during his youthful days in the fifties. His best result eventually came in 1963 when he brought a Jaguar E-type home third in the Guia tin-top race. In the seventies he became a steady Macau entrant instead, supporting several F3 hotshoes in their bid for Macau GP glory. Theodore-entered F3 cars won the event six times in all between 1974 and 1985 before the regular European and Japanese teams finally took hold of the event.

The wheeling and dealing entrepeneur started off his F1 exploits by becoming involved in Mo Nunn's ailing Ensign operation during the course of the 1974 season. This had come through his backing of Vern Schuppan in F5000 - on the moment the opportunity arose to fill the gap (both sporting and financial) left by Rikky von Opel, Schuppan and Yip zoomed in as driver and sponsor respectively. It was a brief first flirtation with the team, as Schuppan was soon out of his drive. In the meantime Yip diverted his backing to fellow Aussie Alan Jones' assault on the North American F5000 championship, only to return to Ensign after Nunn had seen the end of his relationship with Dutch security company HB Bewaking, which took along Mo's cars to form Boro.

On the rebound, and on a budget as tight as shrink-to-fit jeans, Nunn hit back with Amon, Regazzoni and the swell Dave Baldwin-penned N176/N177 design (MN05 through MN08), good, practical cars which were easily the best Ensigns in history. Yip soon became involved in the team and effectively ran one of the two 1977 Ensigns in what was to become the small marque's most successful season. Supporting giant-killer Patrick Tambay, Yip helped Nunn amass 10 World Championship points. That could even have been more, had Tambay not retired from third at Zandvoort. For both Nunn and Yip, 1977 would remain their best and probably happiest season in Formula One.

In 1978 Yip began his second-hand shopping spree around the F1 paddock. His first acquisition was Ralt's first F1 design. Penned by Ron Tauranac, the car was dubbed Theodore TR1 and became as unlikely an F1 race winner as the Prost AP03 is today. But that is discounting the ephemeral talent of one Keijo Rosberg. Naturally, Keke's win in the 1978 International Trophy owed more to the Finn's skill than to the car's virtues - which were laid bare through four consecutive DNQs in the GPs that followed - and so Teddy decided to ditch his self-named GP car in favour of a pair of Wolfs (WR3 and WR4). Keke tried hard but hardly anyone noticed - expect maybe for Walter Wolf, who took on Rosberg to replace the fed-up James Hunt in the course of the 1979 season. Meanwhile, Yip had taken his cars to the 1979 British Aurora series, the Hi-Line-sponsored machines suddenly proving good competition against the field of ageing McLarens and Lotuses. On board a Theodore Wolf, Desiré Wilson even managed to take the only win F1 win ever taken by a lady driver.

In 1981, after the Aurora championship had folded, Yip returned to the GP circus proper, again taking over the remains of a defunct team. This time, the Southgate-penned Shadow DN12 was turned into the Theodore TY01, as Yip waited for Southgate to complete the drawings on the TY02, which would be Theodore's first and only original F1 design. Again, Patrick Tambay jumped in to save the day as he claimed the team's first Championship point at the Long Beach season opener. Sadly, the Theodore effort was diluted by Tambay leaving for Ligier to replace Jabouille, after which the quality of Teddy's new hires plummeted: from Surer to Daly to Lammers to Lees to Byrne - all in one and a half season.

So, almost down for the count, Yip pulled off yet another takeover, this time saving old buddy Mo Nunn's behind by taking over the Ensign team and its neat little Nigel Bennett N181B chassis. Updated to N183 designation, these cars could be thrown around as was proven by Roberto Guerrero and Johnny Cecotto in the initial part of the season, Cecotto taking a fighting sixth - and Theodore's second and last point (both of which were gained at Long Beach!) - in the spectacular race that saw the McLarens of Watson and Lauda take the probably most improbable one-two in the history of GP racing. But as Formula One was gradually moving towards the turbo era, Yip bowed out after the year, unwilling to fork out the escalating costs, instead going the same way as Nunn initially - over to Indycars. Returning home, the diminutive Asian has concentrated his support on the Macau GP ever since, helping countless young F3 racers in their quest to win the big-money invitation race.

There have been some some two-wheelers who did successfully make the switch to four wheels. Alberto "Johnny" Cecotto was one of them. Among his illustrious predecessors were of course Britons John Surtees and Mike "The Bike" Hailwood. Surtees was successful enough to even capture the drivers' crown and went on to be a constructor as well, albeit with much lesser success.

The most successful motorcycle rider of all time is Italian Giacomo Agostini, whose name is practically synonymous with the MV Agusta marque. He amassed an incredible 15 world titles and a massive 122 Grand Prix victories. He also won the fearful Isle of Man TT race ten times. After a successful two-wheel career he then attempted to convert to four wheels at the age of 37. Giacomo even went as far as to try his luck in a Formula One car but not at World Championship level. Instead he drove a Williams FW06 without much success in the Aurora F1 series of 1979, and also competed in that year's Race of Champions and Dino Ferrari Tribute at Imola in his Scuderia Agostini Marlboro-entered Williams.

Among the latter-day converts is 1987 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner from Australia. He tested a Lotus 109 on several occasions in 1992 and 1993 but an aspiring single-seater career ended there. He later forged a reputation in Australian Touring Cars, sportscar-prototypes as well as GTs. He is presently competing in the Japanese GT Championship.

His compatriot, the 5-time 500cc World Champion Mick Doohan also got the chance to sample Formula One machinery in April 1998 at Barcelona when Williams let him behind the wheel of a FW19D. He found the car difficult to drive and subsequently bent the car against a guard rail! Italian "Mad" Max Biaggi has also expressed his interest to cross-over to Formula One. Ferrari gave him a test at Fiorano in January 1999, doing 57 laps in a '98 Ferrari F300. The Ferrari team was impressed by his performance and with 1.06.500 he was only four seconds away from the pace test driver Luca Badoer usually ran at. Although it looks unlikely, only time will tell if he will get another chance.

Back to Johnny Cecotto, who had biking in his blood as he was the son of a motorcycle rider himself. Giovanni Cecotto was successful in his native country during the 1950s. Johnny, a trained car mechanic, began in motorsport in his native Venezuela as a teenager riding motorcycles. A rising star in that category, in 1975 he was already crowned 350cc World Champion, a mere 19 years old. The young hotshot's first foray into four-wheelers came next year when he competed in a little Alfasud. Once again on two wheels 1978 would bring him the Formula 750 world title.

He continued his two-wheel career until 1980 when he decided to try his luck in Formula Two. No real successes were gained until 1982 when he sat in a factory March 822: Johnny scored three wins on his way to second in the overall standings for the Euro F2 crown. Among the wins was the famous street race at Pau.

This led to a chance in Theodore "Teddy" Yip's team. He qualified nine times in 1983 and actually scored a point at Long Beach (pictured here). Yip had amalgated his interests in the Ensign team together with his own team for 1983. But the modified 1982 Ensign now called a Theodore was a never a competitive proposition. Nevertheless, Johnny's speed was noted and he got the second seat in the Toleman team in 1984, partnering another, even more promising Latin American driver. His name, Ayrton Senna da Silva…

Ayrton went on to greater things but Johnny's GP career sadly ended after a huge pile-up in the British GP at Brands Hatch. Johnny smashed his legs badly and his single-seater career was effectively over. After several operations on his damaged feet Johnny did go on to forge a very successful tin-top career, usually as a factory-supported BMW driver. Here are some of the highlights:

Away from motorsport Johnny enjoys life on skis, both on water and the alpine variety. He also has a nice collection of cars, a BMW M1 and a Ferrari F40 among them. And of course a BMW M3 "Edition Cecotto"… His girlfriend Isabella, 16 years younger, probably also keeps Johnny fit! His early-boyhood hero was Finnish motorcycle rider Jarno Saarinen (the man who gave Jarno Trulli his first name). Johnny still would like to meet Pope John Paul II and Bill Clinton… Oh well.

The other man in Yip's 1983 South American link-up was ex-Ensign driver Roberto Guerrero, who was part of the lock or stock or barrel Mo Nunn's selled off to Theodore. The affable curly-haired Colombian gentleman from Medellin never got a proper ride in Grand Prix racing. Roberto's best results came on the American ovals, as with so many talented Formula One cast-offs.

Incidentally, Roberto's dad was just as sports-minded and two-wheeled as Cecotto Sr, Guerrero being the son of an Olympic cyclist. As with almost every aspiring racing drivers Roberto started out in karts at age 12 and he collected two national titles during his five years in the category. In 1975 he was third in the Pan American & National Kart Championships.

For 1977 Roberto took the obvious move and relocated to England as he honed his skills at the famous Jim Russell Driving School at Silverstone. His talent was obvious through winning 5 of the 6 school races and finishing second in the remaining one.

The British FF1600 series was a logical next step on the path to Formula 1. He won eight races and finished fifth overall in 1978. It was good enough to bag him the factory seat in the Argo F3 team, for whom Roberto drive for in 1979-80. Five wins in 1980 and second in the overall standings was his reward. Graduation to Formula 2 was next and he signed for the Mampe-Maurer team. He won the Thruxton race in the handsome Gustav Brunner-penned Maurer car.

His Grand Prix chance came in 1982 when he signed to drive for Mo Nunn's Ensign - the next Colombian connection to Ensign after Ricardo Londono's abortive attempt. He managed to qualify for eight races but had no results for his efforts. The Ensign project was bought by Theodore Yip in 1983 and Roberto continued to drive for the amalgated team. No points were gained in 1983 and Roberto decided to move elsewhere. He moved on to the North American CART-series and he would remain in Indy-style single-seaters to this day.

Despite a problem-filled race which included a 360 spin and having Danny Sullivan running up and over his rear wheel during a caution flag Roberto came home second in his Indy 500 debut in 1984. He also beat Michael Andretti to the CART Rookie of the Year title. The next couple of years showed that Roberto was really at home in this kind of racing. After the second place in the 1984 event he finished third in 1985 and fourth in 1986. In 1987 an another eventful Indy 500 saw Roberto once again finishing runner-up. He lost by five seconds to Al Unser sr. A bad clutch made him stall the engine at the final pitstop and this effectively cost him the win.

However, he did score his first wins in the category by winning the Phoenix and Mid Ohio CART races. His year finished off on a bad note though, when he crashed while testing at Indianapolis in late September. He was struck in the head by a tyre and was listed in critical condition, actually left in coma for 17 days. He had an amazing recovery and by the traditional CART curtain raiser at Phoenix in 1988 he put his Lola second on the grid.

But Roberto was never again truly the driver he used to be. His string of successes at the Indy 500 was also broken when he was taken out in turn two at the first lap of the 1988 race.

In 1989, Roberto signed for Pat Patrick's team. They would be developing the new Alfa V8 engine. Together with Bruno Giacomelli Roberto tested the engine in a 1988 March. But the Alfa brass decided against racing at Indy and would make their debut at Detroit. Because of the Alfa contract Roberto was not allowed to find a ride for an another team for the big race and he was forced to sit out the 1989 Indy 500. Truesports had wanted him to drive for them but Roberto was unable to accept the offer. In all, 1989 was really a lost year.

For 1990 however Roberto was back and with Alfa power behind him as well. Unfortunately the March 90CE chassis dedicated to the Alfa engine was never competive and it suffered from unpredictable handling. His month of May included a massive crash, but he was quicker than his team mate Al Senior. But the race ended after 118 laps with suspension maladies.

Earlier in the year in January Roberto became a naturalized American citizen and he made USA his adopted homeland.

In 1991 he again had a Alfa V8 behind for the Indy 500. This time he was out after 23 laps after have contact with Kevin Cogan and the outside concrete wall. His Indy fortunes were in rapid decline now and in 1992 it went from bad to worse. Although qualifying went really well, his powerful Buick V6 allowing him to set a record speed of 232.482mph and bag the Indy 500 pole, a rookie mistake took him out even before the race even got underway. Coming out of Turn Two on the second warm-up parade lap Roberto floored the pedal and tractionless cold tires put him in a spin out on the infield grass where he damaged the suspension. Amazingly, the polesitter was out…

He did earn a full-time ride for Kenny Bernstein for 1993 but the Budweiser-liveried Lola did not achieve much success. Roberto again crashed out of Indy after contact with Michael Andretti´s younger brother Jeff. Roberto's best result was a fourth place at New Hampshire.

For the 1994 Indy 500 Roberto was back in his old 1992 chassis. Roberto qualified the now two-year-old Lola T92/01-Buick in 20th spot but again this unfortunate car put him out first in the race. He crashed the car on lap 20. Roberto surely must have hoped that this car would be buried and put to rest there and then. 33rd place for the second time in three years and with the same car…

For 1995 Roberto was demoted to the Pagan Racing outfit, driving a year-old Reynard 94I. He actually did put in a spirited drive and finished a creditable 12th after fighting an ill-handling car. With lesser competition during the first year of the now IRL-sanctioned Indy 500 in 1996 Roberto had his best car for years and finished 5th in a Ford XB-powered Reynard 95I, again driving for Pagan Racing. The new IRL series provided Roberto, now aged 38, with a lifeline in Indy-style singleseaters: in 1997 Roberto remained on Pagan Racing's payroll, now driving the new dedicated, unblown, production-derived V8 powered IRL cars. Roberto finished 7th in the overall standings for the 1997 season driving a Dallara with Infiniti power. Mechanical problems let him down in the Indy 500 and he finished a lowly 27th after qualifying 19th. His best finish of the year was a sixth in Loudon.

He began 1998 entering his fourth year with the Pagan Racing team but switched to Price Cobb's CBR team in the latter part of the season. He led 22 laps of the Lone Star 500 at Texas, becoming first Nissan Infiniti-powered driver to lead a lap in Indy Racing League competition. He finished fourth. A problematic month at Indy again held him back and he finished in a lowly 22nd place. But he was awarded the Scott Brayton Driver's Trophy for a driver who exemplifies the character and racing spirit of late driver Scott Brayton. For 1999 Roberto again was entered by Price Cobb but his season finished at the Indy 500 because the team folded after Roberto finishing 25th.

For the new millenium Roberto was still without a ride late in the month of May. AJ Foyt offered Roberto to qualify the #41 car. Despite little practice in the car he ran 220mph in practice but was unable to better 218 in qualifying proper. He was forced to abort two attempts in the #41 G-Force before he was trying out the Hideshi Matsuda 20T spare. He managed to put in three practice laps in the #20T Dallara running at 207 and then got out on the track for qualifying nine minutes before the end of qualifying. Unable to get the car up to decent speed during the first lap meant an another abortive attempt and it was all over for him for this year. For the first time Roberto failed to qualify for the Indy 500.

Only a few minutes remained of the session but this gentlemanly abortive attempt did mean that one more car would have a shot making it onto the Indy grid. Billy Boat grasped the opportunity and made the cut. Guerrero has no hard feelings about what happened at Indy. He said the outcome was extremely disappointing, but adds that he went there without a ride and said his opportunity with Foyt looked for a while like it had come down from heaven.The cars, Guerrero added, were always great, and it was found later after his aborted run that the sluggish speed of the car had nothing to do with his driving.

"It was a problem with the battery, and that's what kept the speeds down," he said. "So it ended going from being the best opportunity I would have to being pretty bad. But there's no point crying about it. You put your head down and keep trying. So we'll just keep trying and see what happens."

At this very moment Roberto is back in the IRL driving a 1999 G-Force for Corey Coulson at the new Kentucky Speedway. Guerrero, who will be 42 on November 16, admits that he has thought about retiring, but then says to himself, Why? "I still think I can do as good a job as anybody out there. I'm in better shape physically now than I was when I was 20 years old."

Guerrero is also involved in the second-division of NASCAR racing, the Busch Series. The plan is to test and prepare to race in the season finale at the Homestead-Miami track. Roberto will drive there and at the other high-speed tracks next season while his brother Jaime works toward getting cleared to drive in NASCAR high-banked events. If both the Indy Racing and Busch arrangements work out, Roberto could be a busy driver in 2001.

"I'm just keeping all my options open," he said. "It would be very nice to have to make that choice between an IRL team and a Busch team. It would be a very tough decision. I think I would have to weigh both teams and what the possibilities would be, but I still have a very soft spot for the Indycars. I feel if I had a decent opportunity to do Indycars, I think I would go that way."

Now also a part owner of a gym in Dana Point, California, called The Sweat Shop, it seems that we have not seen the last of Roberto for quite some time yet…

Reader's Why by Leo Brevoort

Two drivers from unlikely racing nations. Roberto Guerrero is the only Colombian ever in the Formula One World Championship, although the second one may appear in 2001 in the Williams team. Johnny Cecotto is one of three Venezualans, but Ettore Chimeri and Piero Drogo only competed one Grand Prix each. Alberto Johnny Cecotto was a mercurial talent in motocycle racing and a debut into Grand Prix racing has hardly ever been more impressive. But it started all in Caracas, where Johnny was born on January 25th of 1956. His father Giovanni owned a garage for the repair and maintance of cars and in his spare time raced a Norton 500cc in the Venezualan Championship. Giovanni himself wasnt without talent either, because he won the championship. So Johnny grew up in the right environment for a career in motorsports. On his 16th birthday he got a Honda 750cc from his father, which he started racing immediately (don't ask me how he got the racing licence). After two races he got a Kawasaki, but didn't race that bike for too long either. Yamaha importer Andrea Ippolito recognized Cecottos potential and offered him works racers for the 250cc and 350cc classes. Johnny didn't disappoint Ippolito and won the national championships in 1973 and 1974 and the South American championship in 1974. Then it became time for an international career.

As warm-up to the coming Grand Prix season Cecotto went to Daytona to attend the 1975 200 miles race. He qualified his 750cc Yamaha in last place, but the race was something else. He cut through the field like a knife through warm butter and after the finish he was directed to Victory Lane. Cecotto had finished third behind Gene Romero and Steve Baker, completing a 1-2-3 finish for Yamaha. Johnny's Grand Prix debut was even more impressive. He took part in the 250cc and 350cc races at the Paul Ricard circuit. In the 250cc he challenged for the lead the entire race and overtook Japanese rider Takai on the final lap to score a debut victory. In the 350cc Johnny started from pole and sped into the lead, closely followed by the great Giacomo Agostini. Agostini however couldn't match Cecotto's pace and Johnny won again! That year Cecotto took another 250cc victory in Spa and ended up fourth in the championship. In 350cc he did even better. He won another three races and with Agostini's total of two victories, he became the youngest ever World Champion. He ended the seven year reign of Agostini in the 350cc in only his first season! It seemed Cecotto was destined for greatness.

Cecotto also won a number of 750cc races like the 200 miles of Imola or the race on the Chimay circuit in Belgium. He again started the next season in Daytona and this time he won, outpacing Patrick Pons and Steve Baker. So he became the youngest ever winner of this event too. The Grand Prix season went off with a rocky start for Johnny. On his first outing with the Yamaha 500cc he crashed the machine three times and turned it into a pile of debris. On a reserve bike he raced to second second place behind Barry Sheene, but this would the only points for him in the 500cc championship. Cecottos main focus was on the 350cc to defend his title. Although he won the Grand Prix at the Salzburgring and Mugello, Walter Villa on a AMF-Harley won four races and took the title.

1977 was a bad year for Cecotto since a severe crash at the Salzburgring put him out of contention for much of the season. Nevertheless he managed two wins in the 350cc (San Carlos and Brno) and 500cc (Imatra and Brno). In the 750cc Cecotto had a single points finish at Zolder (4th) and in all other races he retired with technical problems. In 1978 things were much better. Not in the Grand Prix however, where he scored a single 500cc victory in Assen and ended up third in the championship behind teammate Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene on Suzuki. But the Formula 750cc was another story. He had an epic fight with Kenny Roberts, but also riders like Sarron, Bonera, Pons and Baker had a piece of the action. Cecotto won three races against Roberts' five, but the Venezuelan became the World Champion. He tried to defend the title in 1979, but despite four victories he lost the championship to Patrick Pons.

In the next two years Johnny Cecotto slowly disappeared from the Grand Prix result sheets. He scored another handful of podium finishes and a final victory in the 350cc race at Misano in 1980. He started thinking about racing on four wheels rather than two and made his debut in Formula Two in 1980. In the 1930s it was quite normal a motocycle driver moved up to car racing. Nuvolari, Varzi and Rosemeyer all had been fast on two wheels. After the war things changed and John Surtees and Mike Hailwood were more or less the last of a kind. So Cecotto didn't make it easy on himself. In 1981 he quit motocycle racing altogether and focused on Formula Two. His best result was a third place at Thruxton with a Minardi, but halfway through the season he changed to a March chassis and took another three 6th places at Donington, Misano and Mantorp. 1982 was a very good year for Cecotto. Still in Formula Two, he won three races at Thruxton, Pau and Mantorp and finished second in the championship, only one point behind Corrado Fabi.

Johnny's Formula Two performance was strong enough to land him a Formula One seat for the 1983 season. He signed with the Theodore team, alongside Roberto Guerrero. The team used an updated 1981 Ensign and so it was no surprise that both drivers were usually at the wrong end of the grid. In Long Beach Cecotto however managed to score Theodores second and last championship point, and Johnny's one and only. This was a spectacular race, in which Tambay led from the start for Ferrari. He stayed in the lead until Rosberg tried to overtake him on lap 26 and both cars collided. This handed the lead to Laffite, but he was soon overtaken by both McLarens of Watson and Lauda, who came from 22nd and 23rd on the grid. Watson drove to a fine victory. Both Theodores had started from row 9 and had a rather good race. Guerrero retired with a broken gearbox, but Cecotto ran to the end and profited from the retirements of the frontrunners.

1983 was the final year for Theodore in Formula One. The team was founded by Hong Kong based business man Teddy Yip and basically started as it ended: with an outdated Ensign. In 1977 Yip entered an Ensign for Patrick Tambay without much success. The next year he first used an old Wolf before fielding the first Theodore car, designed by Ron Tauranac. The car was not particularly fast, but the abilities of its driver, Keke Rosberg, took it to one victory: the International Trophy at Silverstone in the rain. In 1978 Theodore was absent, but the team returned in 1979 when Yip took over the remains of Shadow and entered the cars under the Theodore racing banner. Since the Shadow cars were rather outdated, an all new car was developed for 1980. The TY01 and its successor TY02 never were very impressive and Theodore moved further to the back of the grid. At the end of 1982 Yip merged Theodore with Ensign and updated the N181 design. Although the car was designed for the 1981 season, Guerrero had used it all through 1982 as well. Needless to say that the N183 didn't do wonders, and Cecotto's sixth place in Long Beach was the last point for the team. Theodore ceased to exist at the end of the season and Teddy Yip turned his attention to Indycar racing.

So Johnny Cecotto had to look for a new employer for 1984 and found one in the Toleman team. He raced the Hart-powered cars alongside rookie Ayrton Senna and both both drivers were very equal on many occasions. Johnny's season however ended in round 10 at Brands Hatch. He had a horrendous crash during practice and wasn't able to race again that year. Unfortunately the crash didn't just end his season, it also ended his Formula One career. Johnny never raced a Formula One car again. Instead he switched to touring cars and his long-lasting relationship with BMW has brought him numerous race wins and championships all over Europe. In 1989 he was the Italian Touring Car Champion, in 1994 he won the DTM in Germany and in 1998 he won the STW (2-litre class), also in Germany. He also participated in (long distance) sportscar races together with Nelson Piquet and won a number of races in the South American championship. So two wheels or four, Cecotto was extremely quick on them. It's a shame his Formula One career never really took off, because his performances in other series showed he had what it takes. After Cecotto motocycle champions became a rare kind in Formula One. Damon Hill was the last one, but he only won a national Yamaha RD series, hardly comparible to the Moto Grand Prix achievements of Cecotto.