Team ESSEX Lotus - Andretti - Navy
TEAM ESSEX LOTUS
In July 1979, a radical American called David Thieme wanted to promote his ESSEX Petroleum interests to the audience of Formula One.
His presence at the 1979 Silverstone Grand Prix and subsequent encounter with Colin Chapman of Lotus gave rise to one of the most ambitious partnerships in the history of the sport and changed the face of corporate hospitality as we now know it.
Until Essex Motorsport arrived on the scene there was no celebration utilising the spectacle and thrills of F1 GPs to provide a backdrop to high-level entertaining. (apart from Hesketh Racing of course).
It’s true that most teams had some form of standard American motorhome for the drivers to use. But Essex commissioned a triple decker with showers, bar and a briefing room – all firsts – and dining space for over 130 which included a panoramic open-air top deck for spectating.
David Thieme's signature square glasses, goatee beard and black fedora set him apart in the F1 paddock in the late seventies.
So did the lavish hospitality parties of his company, the Essex Overseas Petroleum Corporation that sponsored Lotus in 1979 and 1980.
The enigmatic American who originally became wealthy thanks to his own industrial design firm before he switched to oil trading, popped out of nowhere to partner with Colin Chapman's reigning world championship outfit.
Alas, Thieme's luck ran out in April 1981 when he was arrested in Zurich for allegedly defrauding the Credit Swiss bank of $7.6M.
He was subsequently released on a $150,000 bail paid by his good friend Mansour Ojjeh, only to disappear into oblivion as swiftly as he had risen to prominence.
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