Watch Jackie Stewart and ex-Beatle George Harrison get surprised by young Piquet
In 1979, George Harrison of the Beatles released his self-titled album, which featured the song “Faster,” inspired by his tour of the ’78 Formula 1 season with friends Jackie Stewart and Ronnie Peterson. Proceeds from its release went to the Gunnar Nilsson Cancer Foundation, set up after the Swedish driver’s death from the disease. The third round of the 1979 BMW M1 Procar Championship at Donington Park was also called the Gunnar Nilsson Memorial Trophy, so both Jackie and George felt obligated to be there.
Over forty years ago, the BMW M1 was designed to be a Group 5 racing machine that could cause trouble for Porsche. Yet once Lamborghini—at the time owned by the Swiss and contracted by BMW—spent most of the German cash developing the Cheetah prototype, which was powered by a rear-mounted Chrysler V-8 and intended for the U.S. military, that supercar deal turned sour. And as the project got delayed, Group 5 rules changed and BMW was forced to finish a Group 4 car it didn’t need.
Head of BMW Motorsport Jochen Neerpasch came up with a solution, organizing a one-make championship to aid BMW in building enough cars for Group 4 homologation in the World Championship for Makes. This support series for Formula 1, called the Procar BMW M1 Championship, started at Zolder, Belgium, in May 1979, with both F1 and GT drivers racing in identical 470-horsepower M1s.
Round 3 took the series to Donington Park, where Mario Andretti, Hans Stuck, Nelson Piquet, Alan Jones, Niki Lauda, James Hunt, John Watson, and plenty of other pros lined up on the starting grid. Jackie Stewart remained on the spectators side, expecting Hans Stuck to win. Celebrity guest George Harrison’s garage throughout the years would include an Aston Martin DB5, a Mini Cooper S, a Jaguar E-Type coupé, various high-end Mercedes-Benz models, and McLaren F1 chassis #025. But back in 1979 at Donington, he put his trust in Alan Jones’ skills.
Both of them were wrong.
With James Hunt in the wall and some M1 Procars’ brakes giving up by the end of this 30-lap race around the 1.9-mile Donington Circuit, it was young Nelson Piquet who conquered.
Knowing the place from his Formula 3 years, Brabham’s rookie couldn’t be stopped, winning not just the trophy, but a parade lap onboard what must be the most embarrassing choice for such a vehicle, a Princess.
In the end, the inaugural season of the Procar BMW M1 Championship was won by Niki Lauda. Then came 1980, when the overall victory went to Nelson Piquet. Even better, this was Piquet’s livery for the 1980 Nürburgring round:
With a Giugiaro-designed exterior and a BMW M88 straight-six tuned to 470 horsepower, what an excellent one-make series, Herr Neerpasch!