Clay Regazzoni

Full Name:
Gianclaudio Giuseppe "Clay" Regazzoni
Born:
5th September 1939
Mendrisio, Ticino Canton
Died:
15th December 2006 (Aged 67)
near Parma, Emilia-Romagna, road accident
Nationality:
Swiss
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Born on the Italian border of Switzerland where his father ran a bodywork shop, Clay Regazzoni made his competitive debut in 1963. That was with an Austin-Healey Sprite but “Regga” switched to a Mini Cooper for further local events a year later.

Career in Formula 3 and F2

He raced in Formula 3 for three seasons from 1965 and the uncompromising Regazzoni also qualified on pole position for his Formula 2 debut at Syracuse that year before crashing at the start. Flashes of promise in F3 Brabhams led to a works drive with Tecno in 1967 that included his first victory at Járama.

However, that achievement was overshadowed by his reckless last lap in the Preis der Nationen at Hockenheim. Regazzoni barged four cars off the road to secure second place and the team title for Switzerland. His ruthless tactics were roundly criticised and not for the last time.

He was promoted to Tecno’s F2 team in 1968 but concern about his driving standards remained among his peers. That was only heightened when he touched wheels with Chris Lambert on the fast back section at Zandvoort. Regazzoni emerged unscathed from his rolled car but the Englishman was killed. However, Regazzoni was undoubtedly fast and he won three times to clinch the 1970 European F2 Championship for Tecno.

Formula 1 with Ferrari

He had already attracted the attention of Ferrari by that time and he drove its F2 car in 1969. The Formula 1 team ran a collection of inexperienced drivers alongside Jacky Ickx in 1970 and Regazzoni made his Grand Prix debut at Zandvoort. He finished fourth in his first two GPs to earn a permanent drive with the team. He scored his first victory at Monza in his fifth GP start and finished second on three further occasions to clinch third in the world championship. Few rookie campaigns can have been more impressive.

However, Ferrari struggled in 1971 and 1972 and Regazzoni’s progress was hampered not least by a wrist broken playing football that latter season. He returned from that injury at the German GP and followed team-mate Ickx home in second position after crashing into Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell on the penultimate lap.

BRM and the return to Ferrari

It was not enough to retain his drive so Regazzoni moved to BRM in 1973 to partner a young Niki Lauda. He started his first race for the team in Argentina from pole position and led the opening 28 laps before being delayed. However, only the quick intervention of Mike Hailwood at Kyalami saved an unconscious Regazzoni from his burning car after a crash.

Luca di Montezemolo joined Ferrari to reorganise the underperforming team and he hired both Regazzoni and Lauda for 1974. Although slower than the Austrian over a single lap, Regazzoni led all the way of the German GP and was more consistent over the season. He remained a contender all year and only lost the title to Emerson Fittipaldi at the final round.

Lauda and Regazzoni remained Ferrari team-mates for two further seasons and the Swiss driver won a race each year. However, there were moments when the “old” Regazzoni resurfaced and his efforts supporting Lauda proved not enough for he was dropped to make way for Carlos Reutemann in 1977.

Fallow campaigns with Ensign and Shadow

Seasons with Ensign and Shadow followed as he languished in the midfield when never higher than fifth at the finish. He also retired from the 1977 Indianapolis 500 after qualifying a Theodore-sponsored McLaren M16E-Offenhauser in 29th position.

Successful switch to Williams

But he would have another chance to shine in F1. Williams wanted an experienced team-mate for Alan Jones in 1979 and Regazzoni made the most of his opportunity. Second in Monaco with the impressive Williams FW07-Ford was as competitive as he had been in years and when Jones retired from the British GP, it was Regazzoni who scored the team’s maiden GP victory.

He was fifth in the 1979 standings but was again dropped in favour of Reutemann. He rejoined Ensign and with Unipart sponsorship and the promising N180 chassis, much was hoped for in 1980. However, his brakes failed on the main straight at Long Beach and he crashed into Ricardo Zunino’s abandoned Brabham at 180mph. His car was launched into the barrier and Regazzoni suffered catastrophic spinal injuries.

Life after Formula 1

He was paralysed from the waist down as a result but at least he was alive. Clay Regazzoni was nothing if not a fighter. He championed hand controls to allow paraplegics to drive and he competed in such modified cars until 2000 – including the 1993 Sebring 12 Hours.

However, Regazzoni would eventually die at the wheel. He was surprised by a traffic jam on the motorway near Parma and crashed into a stationary lorry. He was working as a television commentator at the time of his death.

He was a fearsome and hard-as-nails racer who sometimes crossed the line of what was correct on track behaviour. But for three precious points, Regazzoni would have been 1974 World Champion. However he ultimately did not fulfil the rich promise he had shown during 1970.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1980 F1 World Championship
Unipart Racing Team
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1979 F1 World Championship
Albilad-Saudia Racing Team
15 0 5 1
7% win rate
5th 29 (32)
1979 European F2 Championship
Minardi Team
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1979 BMW M1 Procar
BMW Motorsport
8 0 2 0
0% win rate
3rd 61
1978 F1 World Championship
Shadow Racing Team
11 (5) 0 0 0
0% win rate
16th 4
1978 European F2 Championship
Minardi Team
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1977 F1 World Championship
Team Tissot Ensign with Castrol
15 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
17th 5
1977 European F2 Championship
Project 4 Racing
Ardmore Racing
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1977 USAC Citicorp Cup National Championship
Theodore Racing Team
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1976 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
15 1 4 1
7% win rate
5th 31
1975 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
14 0 3 1
8% win rate
5th 25
1974 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
15 1 7 1
7% win rate
2nd 52
1973 SCCA L&M F5000 Championship
Jones Eisert
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1973 Rothmans European F5000 Championship
Jones Eisert
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1973 F1 World Championship
Marlboro Team BRM
14 1 0 0
0% win rate
17th 2
1972 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
10 0 2 0
0% win rate
6th 15
1972 World Championship of Makes
Scuderia Ferrari
5 2 3 1 68
1971 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
11 1 3 0
0% win rate
7th 13
1971 European F2 Trophy
Shell-Arnold Team
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1971 International Championship of Makes
Scuderia Ferrari
1 1 1 0 6
1970 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
8 1 4 1
13% win rate
3rd 33
1970 European F2 Trophy
Tecno Racing Team
8 3 5 3
38% win rate
1st 44
1970 International Championship of Makes
Scuderia Ferrari
1 0 0 0 0
1969 European F2 Trophy
Scuderia Ferrari
Tecno Racing Team
4 (1) 1 0 0
0% win rate
10th 5
1968 European F2 Trophy
Tecno Racing Team
6 0 1 0
0% win rate
6th 13
1968 Temporada F2 Championship
Tecno Racing Team
4 1 0 0
0% win rate
9th 7
1967 Temporada F3 Championship
Martinelli-Sonvico
2 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
11th 2
1966 Temporada F3 Championship
Martinelli-Sonvico
2 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0