15 minutes of fame

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BSR-Volkswagen 389 Hockenheim, 1989 German Formula Three Championship

The bare facts of the 1989 German F3 opener at Hockenheim hinted that a new constructor was about to supplant Ralt and Reynard as the dominant force in the series. Delve deeper into the 1-2 finish for the pair of BSR chassis and it is easy to understand why this turned out to be the short-lived marque’s day in the sun.

Frank Krämer and Ellen Lohr were running fourth and fifth for much of the 14-lap race, only for a series of shunts over the final two laps to propel them to the top of the results sheets. It was only the fourth time one of long-time F3 entrant Bertram Schäfer’s creations had made it onto the podium.

It turned out to be the last. The catalyst for the switch of Bertram Schäfer Racing — hence — BSR from race team to constructor came after “the worst season of my career” in 1988. Schäfer’s own chassis were born out of the frustrations of an uncompetitive year using Ralt RT31 and works VW engines tuned by Schrick.

“It all gave me a big push to do something myself,” he remembers. “The first idea was to do something based on the Ralt, but then we decided to do our own car.”

The first BSR, the KS388, was designed by ex-Zakspeed Formula One engineer Johann Knapp. The car wasn’t ready for the opening round of 1988, but it made an immediate impact when F3 rookie Krämer finished fifth first time out at Hockenheim. A series of podiums encouraged the team to do a second version of the car, this time designed by Schäfer. for 1989.

The BSR 389A was all-new apart from the monocoque, which turned out to be Schäfer’s biggest mistake: “We eventually found out that the car was nowhere near as stiff as a Ralt or a Reynard, but we had to live with that situation right to the end of the season.”

A third, all-new BSR was built for 1990 and impressed in Otto Rensing’s hands during pre-season testing. But the team’s paymasters at VW wanted to play it safe and insisted that the team return to Ralts.

“Building our own car didn’t make commercial sense,” admits Schafer, “but I look back on those times with only good memories.”

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