By Edwin Baaske | Photos by Theodor Barth
Eckhard Schimpf has brought together the most important cars from Jägermeister Racing — the team that sent greats like Graham Hill, Niki Lauda, Stefan Bellof, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Jochen Mass, and Jacky Ickx to the start from 1972 to 2000. He recently acquired a highlight from the United States: the legendary Porsche 911 Carrera RSR built in 1974.
A faraway look comes into his eyes, memories flood back, and a broad smile appears on his face. “It was like a reunion with an old friend,” he says. It has been quite a while since Eckhard Schimpf (77) last navigated the tight curves of the Motorsport Arena in Oschersleben, but his thoughts are clearly flying around the circuit again — in the orange 911 RSR from 1974. Change of location: Braunschweig. We stand before a building that is almost entirely black. An orange number on the outside is the only indication of what it contains: historic race cars with the famous paint job of the Jägermeister team. Icons of a bygone era — although everything smells brand-new. “We’re not quite finished yet,” says Schimpf, who used to be both manager and driver for the team in orange. He asks us not to take any photos. “We still need a little time to make everything presentable,” he explains, referring to the interior decoration. The cars themselves are all ready to go.
Schimpf is very close to achieving his goal. Together with his son Oliver (51), who is the CEO of a tech company, he wants to bring his team’s most attractive cars back to this black building in Braunschweig. “We’ve managed to gather all the important ones,” he says with evident satisfaction. The coup has succeeded. Supported by the family-owned Mast-Jägermeister company, father and son have bought back more than a dozen race cars sporting the Jägermeister livery from around the world. If the racing community had found out about their plan too soon, the cars would have been unaffordable, says Schimpf.
A major highlight of the collection is the radically streamlined Porsche RSR 3.0. Schimpf himself sat behind its wheel more than eighty times. It landed at the airport in Frankfurt just a few weeks ago. “We went through a poker game followed by an odyssey,” he says, describing the efforts to acquire the RSR. Schimpf’s métier is language. He was not a professional racer. He had to balance his duties as team manager and his participation in races with his career as a journalist for the local newspaper, the Braunschweiger Zeitung. A tolerant publisher and his passion for writing enabled him to split his time between the racetrack and the editorial office. He was successful in both milieus. In fact, he went on to spend a great many years in the chief editorial team of the respected daily.
The Porsche 911 RSR 3.0 has landed
He launched his hunt for the hunters (Jäger means “hunter” in German) in 2007, and at first the quest seemed uncomplicated. Schimpf clearly recalls how he and John Byrne, the man who bought the RSR back in the early 1980s, sat on the terrace of the Hyatt Hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea for four hours over cake and ice cream. “John told me I’d get my car back.” Schimpf was relieved. “But then a very wealthy Chinese fellow entered the picture, who also wanted to buy it.” And the poker game began. “I left the negotiations to Oliver, because I was just too emotional about it,” says Schimpf. So Oliver flew to San Francisco three or four times to visit John Byrne and his family. And finally the decision was made. “I gave my word, and that’s what counts,” said Byrne.