Brno 1987: Heavyweights and lightweight women / sports cars

Brno 1987: Heavyweights and lightweight women / sports cars

A story from another time: Our correspondent Friedbert Holz was BMW’s press spokesman for the fast trade for many years. This time: a wild ride behind the Iron Curtain.

The racing calendar for the first and only World Touring Car Championship was as demanding as it was exotic. In 1987 it not only required great equipment from the team, and a trip to Southeast Asia, it also included a date in the Eastern Bloc, then still behind the Iron Curtain, in Brno in the Czech Republic. On the other hand, the newly built route attracted people to travel there, as the historic Brno race was still held on the usual country roads.

I was also interested in this idea of ​​a very special trip, so I arranged a BMW trip there for a few journalists. Experts advised us that just getting there could be difficult because we needed the right papers. We also wanted to travel as a small group, with laptops in our luggage and cameras, which at the time were not very popular travel accessories for Western tourists who wanted to go to the East, which was still heavily regulated at the time.

Since our guests came from all over Germany and Switzerland, we planned the trip like this: We met at Vienna Schwechat Airport and from there we drove two BMW Austria cars through Bratislava in Slovakia to Brno. As expected, crossing the border was not easy – every time our cars and luggage were checked carefully, even with big mirrors under the cars and drug dogs. Fortunately, our guests remained very patient and endured all this harassment unscathed.

When we arrived at the only hotel in Brno approved for Western visitors, we already felt like we were in the paddock: almost all the drivers, team members, officials and us from the press were staying in this large, outdated area. We didn’t even notice that there were many beautiful women sitting in the hotel lobby. But Harald Grohs, who had arrived at the axle in his private Ferrari, immediately smelled the grill: “This place is full of hooks.” “Nippel” had a completely different concern that day: he had been stopped on the road by the police, who had made him pay for his apparent excessive speed.

In fact, several people in the racing business confirmed to us that they had been openly spoken to by the women in question when they had the keys to their rooms. It is not known who used their services, nor is it known how many people whose stomachs were not quite compatible with the Czech food offering. Some tried to compensate for this deficiency with the appropriate amount of Czech schnapps, which was evident the next day.

In any case, on the race track, the exciting mountain and valley track and the successful infrastructure, almost everything went according to our expectations. It’s just the so-called press room that we were used to. There were only a few telephones and one fax machine (!) – and so after the end of the race there was a fair race for the position of the journalist pole, there was no internet yet! At least our guests were able to get their letters to their editorial offices on time, although time was of the essence. Because we had to cross the border, which was almost as fortified as Fort Knox, back to Austria.

Ultimately, that too was successful, but the race results did not meet BMW’s expectations: two high-speed Ford Sierra Cosworths won this World Championship race, the third and therefore the best M3 drivers were Olivier Grouillard/Luis-Perez Sala ahead of three. Markus Oestreich/Roberto Ravaglia/Roland Ratzenberger and Johnny Cecotto/Gianfranco Brancatelli. But we had learned that the trip to the Eastern Camp was still a small matter…