Vern Schuppan

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Vern Schuppan
File:Schholhay 83-98 (1).JPG
Closeup of the Porsche 956 in which Schuppan and co-drivers Al Holbert and Hurley Haywood won the 1983 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Born (1943-03-19) 19 March 1943 (age 77)
Booleroo Centre, South Australia
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality Australia Australian
Active years 1972, 19741975, 1977
Teams BRM, Ensign, Hill, Surtees
Entries 13 (9 starts)
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 0
Career points 0
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First entry 1972 Belgian Grand Prix
Last entry 1977 Dutch Grand Prix

Vernon "Vern" Schuppan (born 19 March 1943 in Booleroo Centre, South Australia) is a retired Australian motor racing driver. Schuppan drove in various categories, participating in Formula One, the Indianapolis 500 and most successfully in sports car racing.

Although he considers himself to be an single-seater driver, Schuppan's biggest career victory was with the factory backed Rothmans Porsche team when he partnered Americans Hurley Haywood and Al Holbert to win the 1983 24 Hours of Le Mans driving the Porsche 956.

Early career and Formula One

After a successful karting career in which he won numerous Australian state and national titles, Schuppan made the decision to pursue a career in motor racing. He and his wife Jennifer ventured to Great Britain (with a self-imposed 2 year limit of making it big) to allow him to participate in the British Formula Atlantic Championship, which he won, leading to a test with BRM. As BRM's test driver he qualified for the 1972 Belgian Grand Prix at Nivelles-Baulers, but he did not start the race because team mate Helmut Marko commandeered his car, though he did compete in some non-championship races with BRM.

In 1974 Schuppan went to Team Ensign, débuting again in the Belgian Grand Prix where he finished in 15th position. In Monaco he retired on lap four because of an accident. Schuppan was disqualified in both Sweden and the Netherlands; in Sweden because he started illegally from 26th place on the grid and in the Netherlands for receiving a tyre change outside of the pits. Schuppan failed to qualify in France or Britain. He retired in Germany on lap four because of gearbox problems.

In 1975 he raced in one race in Sweden for Embassy Racing With Graham Hill team, retiring from the race with transmission problems. In 1977 Schuppan raced for Surtees, finishing 12th in Britain and a career best seventh in Germany. He finished 16th in Austria, but failed to qualify for his final Formula One race in the Netherlands. Schuppan would later describe Surtees team boss, 1964 World Champion John Surtees, as an autocratic owner who "always knew best and wouldn't listen to his drivers" and believes his time with the team was hampered by not being given equal equipment to his team mate Vittorio Brambilla.

Sports cars

Schuppan has had a very successful sports car career, winning the 1983 24 Hours of Le Mans for Porsche's official factory team with Al Holbert and Hurley Haywood in a Rothmans Porsche 956 (#3). Holbert drove the final lap of the race with an overheating (and steaming) engine caused by an airflow blockage to the radiator that cooled the heads, it seized as he crossed the finish line. The second placed car, the #1 Rothmans Porsche of defending winners Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell (driving) was only 17 seconds behind their team mates at the end of 24 hours of racing.

By winning Le Mans in 1983, Schuppan became only the second Australian to win the French classic, following in the footsteps of 1928 winner Bernard Rubin. Although Rubin was born in Australia, Schuppan is often mistaken for being the first Aussie winner.

Vern Schuppan also finished second at Le Mans in 1977 driving a Mirage GR8-Renault turbo with French F1 driver Jean-Pierre Jarier, and second in 1982 in a Rothmans Porsche 956 with Jochen Mass. He also finished third in 1975 with Jean-Pierre Jaussaud in a Mirage GR8-Ford Cosworth DFV.

After winning at Le Mans, Schuppan went on to win the 1983 Japanese Sports-Prototype Championship.

He finished sixth at the 1984 24 Hours of Le Mans driving with Jarier and fellow Australian, 1980 World Champion Alan Jones making his Le Mans début (and indeed his only start), in a Kremer Racing Porsche 956B after the factory backed Rothmans team boycotted the event over the Automobile Club de l'Ouest's new fuel restriction rules. Initially Porsche were not going to release their drivers for the race, but finally relented less than two weeks before the race and Manfred and Erwin Kremer were more than happy for the defending race winner to join them. Schuppan and Jones fought for the lead in the first few hours of the race with the Lancia LC2 of Bob Wollek and Alessandro Nannini, until the nose of the 956 was damaged by a spinning Roger Dorchy at Mulsanne Corner, losing the team a few laps in repairs. The Kenwood sponsored 956 fought back to be again fighting for the lead, and near the end of the race Jarier was 2 laps down but catching the leading Joest Racing Porsche driven by Klaus Ludwig and Henri Pescarolo (the eventual winners) by over 10 seconds per lap. He then pitted for Schuppan to run the car to the flag. Schuppan got in only one and a half laps before the car broke a conrod with just 90 minutes left to run. As Automobile Club de l'Ouest rules state that for a car to be classified as a finisher it must finish the last lap within a certain time, Schuppan fired up the Porsche and headed out for one last lap and a 6th-place finish.

He had a number of other podium finishes in the World Sports Car Championship, including second in the 1973 and 1982 Spa 1000 km, third in the 1983 and 1984 Fuji 1000 km and third in the 1985 Selangor 800 km race. Schuppan also placed third in the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship in 1984, 1985 and 1986.

Other categories

Schuppan competed in three Indianapolis 500 races. These were 1976 (where he won the Rookie of the Year award), 1979 and 1981, with a best result of third in 1981 driving a McLaren-Ford. In all, he started 32 CART and USAC Championship races. He won the 1974 and 1976 Macau Grand Prix races, dominating the 1974 race, winning by four laps.

He also won the 1971 British Formula Atlantic Championship [1] and the Singapore Grand Prix in 1973. He was second in 1972 and also second in the Malaysian Grand Prix in 1972. He raced Formula 5000 in Europe between 1974-1975 [2] and in North America 1974-1976 [3] with some success.

In his home country Australia, Schuppan won the 1976 Rothmans International Series run for Formula 5000 cars, driving a Lola T332-Chevrolet. He placed second in the 1976 Australian Grand Prix at Sandown Park in Melbourne driving an Elfin MR8 Chevrolet, only half a second behind winner John Goss in a Matich A53-Repco Holden. He was also runner up in the 1978 Rothmans International Series, driving an Elfin MR8-Chevrolet for fellow South Australian Garrie Cooper, the owner and founder of Elfin Sports Cars and his factory run Ansett Team Elfin.

When Schuppan was regularly returning home to Australia to race he was also a popular choice as a co-driver for top touring car teams such as Allan Moffat Racing, Dick Johnson Racing and the Peter Brock run Holden Dealer Team in the Sandown 400 and Bathurst 1000 races in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His best finish at Bathurst was a fifth place with Dick Johnson in 1978 driving a Ford XC Falcon. He drove for the Holden Dealer Team in 1981, partnering John Harvey in a Holden VC Commodore to 4th place in the Hang Ten 400 after starting the race, but never got to drive the car at Bathurst after a broken front wheel sent Harvey into the guardrail and retirement on lap 37.

Allan Moffat and Schuppan started on pole and were leading the 1976 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 when their XB Falcon GT Hardtop retired with engine failure in lap 87. In a 2013 interview with "Australian Muscle Car" magazine Schuppan told that Moffat's Falcon was the best touring car he ever drove.

Other activities

With Japanese backing, Schuppan produced firstly minimally modified 962 race cars with street registration. The first, registered in the UK as H726 LDP, retained the original bodywork and honeycomb chassis from its racing career. Later a road going evolution of the Porsche 962 called the Schuppan 962CR was developed, using very different bodywork. At the then price of 195 million yen (1.5 million USD) only six were built.

Payment failed to arrive for two of the vehicles after they were shipped to Japan. This, coupled with the high cost of the car's construction and the worldwide recession, forced Schuppan to declare bankruptcy. Schuppan then also co-owned an Indy Lights team with Stefan Johansson, the pair managed the career of New Zealand born driver Scott Dixon until Schuppan and Johansson had a falling out resulting in Vern leaving the partnership.

In May 2006, Schuppan was elected into the Club International des Anciens Pilotes de Grand Prix F1, an eminent organisation based in Monaco.[4]

Vern Schuppan also played an important role in bringing Formula One to the city of Adelaide in his home state of South Australia. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone had originally favoured the Australian Grand Prix to be held in Sydney. However, the Premier of South Australia Mr John Bannon, asked Schuppan (who knew Ecclestone personally) to come and take a look at Adelaide. Ultimately Ecclestone was so impressed the Grand Prix was held in the "City of Churches" for 10 years from 1985-1995.

As of 2014, Vern Schuppan lives in Adelaide with Jennifer, his wife of over 45 years. The couple live in a converted warehouse adjacent to the Adelaide Street Circuit which hosted the Australian Grand Prix and currently hosts the Clipsal 500 on a modified version of the circuit for V8 Supercars. Despite his over 40 years of international motorsport, Schuppan describes living in a city as a new experience. He is also a regular supporter of the Targa Adelaide tarmac rally.

Racing record

Complete Formula One World Championship results


Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 WDC Points
1974 Team Ensign Ensign N174 Cosworth V8 ARG BRA RSA ESP BEL
1975 Embassy Racing With Graham Hill Hill GH1 Cosworth V8 ARG BRA RSA ESP MON BEL SWE
1977 Team Surtees Surtees TS19 Cosworth V8 ARG BRA RSA USW ESP MON BEL SWE FRA GBR

Indy 500 results

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish
1976 Eagle Offy 17th 18th
1977 Wildcat Offy DNQ
1979 Wildcat DGS 22nd 21st
1980 McLaren N/A DNQ
1981 McLaren Cosworth 18th 3rd
1982 Penske Cosworth DNQ

Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans Results

Class winners in bold. Cars failing to complete 70% of the winner's distance marked as Not Classified (NC).

Year Pos Class No Team Co-Drivers Chassis Tyre Laps
1989 13 C1 55 Australia Team Schuppan Sweden Eje Elgh
Australia Gary Brabham
Porsche 962C D 321
1988 34
C1 18 West Germany Porsche AG France Bob Wollek
South Africa Sarel van der Merwe
Porsche 962C D 192
1987 39
C1 18 West Germany Rothmans Porsche AG France Bob Wollek
West Germany Jochen Mass
Porsche 962C D 16
1986 27
C1 2 West Germany Rothmans Porsche West Germany Jochen Mass
France Bob Wollek
Porsche 962C D 180
1986 47
C1 3 West Germany Rothmans Porsche United States Drake Olson Porsche 962C D 41
1985 32
C1 3 West Germany Rothmans Porsche United States Al Holbert
United Kingdom John Watson
Porsche 962C D 299
1984 6 C1 11 West Germany Porsche Kremer Racing Australia Alan Jones
France Jean-Pierre Jarier
Porsche 956B D 337
1983 1 C 3 West Germany Rothmans Porsche United States Hurley Haywood
United States Al Holbert
Porsche 956 D 370
1982 2 C 2 West Germany Rothmans Porsche System West Germany Jochen Mass Porsche 956 D 356
1981 12 S
12 West Germany Porsche System West Germany Jochen Mass
United States Hurley Haywood
Porsche 936 D 312
1979 24
10 United States Grand Touring Cars Ltd.
France Ford Concessionaires France
France Jean-Pierre Jaussaud
United Kingdom David Hobbs
Mirage M10 G 121
1979 26
11 United States Grand Touring Cars Inc.
France Ford Concessionaires France
United Kingdom Derek Bell
United Kingdom David Hobbs
Mirage M10 G 262
1978 10 S
10 United States Grand Touring Cars Inc. France Jacques Laffite
United States Sam Posey
Mirage M9 G 293
1977 2 S
10 United States Grand Touring Cars Inc.
France Mirage Renault
France Jean-Pierre Jarier Mirage GR8 G 331
1976 5 S
11 United States Grand Touring Cars Inc. United Kingdom Derek Bell Mirage GR8 G 326
1975 3 S
10 United Kingdom Gulf Research Racing Co. France Jean-Pierre Jaussaud Mirage GR8 G 330
1974 41
12 United Kingdom Gulf Research Racing Co. Sweden Reine Wisell Mirage GR7 F 49
1973 44
9 United Kingdom Gulf Research Racing United Kingdom Mike Hailwood
United Kingdom John Watson
Mirage M6 F 112

† Years he was cross entered.

Complete Bathurst 1000 results

Year Pos Class No Team Co-Drivers Chassis Laps
1976 DNF 3001cc - 6000cc 1 Australia Moffat Ford Dealers Canada Allan Moffat Ford XB Falcon GT Hardtop 87
Ford 351 5.8 L V8
1977 DNF 3001cc - 6000cc 13 Australia Dick Johnson Racing Australia Dick Johnson Ford XB Falcon GT Hardtop 124
Ford 351 5.8 L V8
1978 5 Over 3000cc 17 Australia Dick Johnson Racing Australia Dick Johnson Ford XC Falcon GS500 Hardtop 153
Ford 351 5.8 L V8
1981 DNF 8 Cylinder & Over 25 Australia Marlboro Holden Dealer Team Australia John Harvey Holden VC Commodore 37
Holden 308 5.0 L V8


  1. 1971 British Formula Atlantic Results, Retrieved 27 October 2011
  2. European F5000 races, Retrieved 27 October 2011
  3. US F5000 races, Retrieved 27 October 2011
  4. AAP (30 May 2006). "Schuppan elected to eminent F1 club". The Age. John Fairfax Holdings. Retrieved 31 May 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Sporting positions
Preceded by
British Formula Atlantic champion
Succeeded by
Bill Gubelmann
Preceded by
John MacDonald
Macau GP

Succeeded by
John MacDonald
Preceded by
Bill Puterbaugh
Indianapolis 500
Rookie of the Year

Succeeded by
Jerry Sneva
Preceded by
John MacDonald
Macau Grand Prix

Succeeded by
Riccardo Patrese
Preceded by
Jacky Ickx
Derek Bell
Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
1983 with:
Al Holbert
Hurley Haywood
Succeeded by
Klaus Ludwig
Henri Pescarolo