2. Ensign N173

S3950 Ensign N173 No.29 French GP 1973 – Rikky von Opel

Frederick „Rikky“ von Opel is one of the most eccentric characters that the formula 1 has ever seen. Von Opel was born as a great-grandson of Adam Opel in New York in 1948. With the age of 20 he started his career as a racing driver against his father’s will . Before that “Rikky” got the kick at bullfighting competitions in southern France or at sailing events of which his father was not informed. Von Opel also took part in bob-competitions – under the pseudonym John Ericson. And also his first car races von Opel didn’t do under his correct name. Up to the formula 3 he was known as Antonio Bronco. In 1972 Mo Nunn, the owner of the Ensign racing team, offered him a works contract for the British formula 3. But von Opel wanted more. He briefed Nunn to build a formula 1 car and financed the project by himself. At the French Grand Prix he made his debut in a dark British racing green lacquered N173 (original description MN173 – for Mo Nunn). The car and the driver were not too bad. He finished 15., which was the last position; three laps behind the winner Ronnie Peterson. In Silverstone, the Liechtenstein born von Opel could even reach the 13. place with the racing car powered by a Ford-Cosworth DFV8 engine. After that the project slowed down. In Zandvoort the suspension broke whereupon von Opel abandoned to start. At the German Grand Prix the team was absent for want of money. And the rest of the season was characterized by several breakdowns. In 1974, at the season opening in Argentina, von Opel was united with Ensign again. But because he didn’t feel comfortable with the successor car N174 he left the team (with all the money) and changed to Brabham.

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