Though it is seen as one of the more regal and highbrow sports, the world of F1 always has a surprise up its sleeve, or mythical characters lurking in the background.
While today’s scene is dominated by the likes of Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, and their respective Mercedes and Red Bull teams – this was not always the case.
In years gone by certain figures have stood out against the rest, with their larger-than-life personalities and tall tales to boot.
Motorsport journalist Roger Benoit, via German publication Blick, recounts one such individual who treated the world of F1 as his playground and left many colleagues and rivals alike aghast.
Belgian entrepreneur Jean-Pierre van Rossem found himself in the world of racing and F1 after looking to entertain himself away from being a stock market guru.
In a wild life which had movie-script anecdotes at every twist and turn, Van Rossem dipped his toes into the world of F1 while on his way to eventually becoming a convicted fraudster and member of parliament.
In 1989 he first sponsored and then became the majority owner of the Moneytron Onyx team, which at the time placed 10th of the 21 competing teams in the sport.
Writing in Blick, Benoit recounts the illusive figure of F1.
“There was once a guy named Jean-Pierre Van Rossem who was in charge at Onyx. It felt like it came from the underworld.
“He had one foot in the Belgian parliament and the other in prison. He always came roaring up in his Ferrari and the scantily clad women got out at the back. But that didn’t bother anyone at the time.
“Anyone who could bring a shoebox to the start was allowed to start. There was a similar person whose name I can’t remember now.
“If the English journalists criticized him too much, he would simply have them packed into a car and throw them out of the car somewhere in the middle of nowhere.”
The biggest success Van Rossem achieved with his team was third place at the 1989 Portuguese Grand Prix with driver Stefan Johansson.
The team signed an agreement with Porsche to use the V12 that Footwork later went on to use in competition.
Despite this, which was widely commended as good business at the time, the deal was cancelled when Van Rossem spontaneously announced the deal on Belgian television prior to the initial announcement.
According to reports from the time, that same night the stock mogul made the news again after taking to the streets and driving his Porsche to the local town square and setting fire to it.
F1 may now be a much more serious sport than it was during the days of yesteryear, but it’s hard to argue that characters of the colourful nature of Van Rossem are not missed.
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