Former sportscar driver and successful team owner Willibald (Willi) Kauhsen decided to enter Formula 1 world in 1978. At first, since he did not have time to develop his own chassis, Kauhsen planned to take over someone else’s car. The choice fell on the Japanese Kojima KE009, a car that had been entered for the 1977 Japanese Grand Prix by Kojima Engineering for Noritake Takahara and by Kojima’s customer team Heros Racing for Kazuyoshi Hoshino. In the spring of 1978 negotiations were well advanced and advertising photos were even taken with Willi Kauhsen. But few weeks later the idea failed. The reason is usually given that Kauhsen did not have the necessary financial resources to transport cars and other materials from Japan to Europe. As a result, Kauhsen decided to develop his own car for the 1979 Formula 1 season. At the end of 1977 he commissioned professors Hans Gerhard, Carl Cramer and Eduard Jäger from the Aachen University of Applied Sciences to carry out aerodynamics studies for their own Formula 1 car. The studies were completed in the spring of 1978, around the time the takeover of the Kojima project failed. Bringing in designer Klaus Kapitza from Ford, Kauhsen planned to construct a copy of the Lotus 79, a car that had dominated the 1978 championship due to the use of ground effects. The Cosworth DFV eight-cylinder was selected as the engine. The first prototype, the WK-001, was built in September 1978. It was an extremely compact car with an extraordinary aerodynamic solution: the rear wing sat in front of the rear axle and was connected to the side skirts by wide pillars. The side skirts also contained the coolers and some additional tanks that could not be accommodated in other places. In November 1978 the WK001 was tested several times. First Gianfranco Brancatelli undertook private test at Paul Ricard circuit, a little later the Austrian Harald Ertl climbed into the Kauhsen and damaged the car considerably in an accident. Then Kauhsen took part in the official FOCA test drives in Le Castellet, which took place in early December 1978. Patrick Nève, a Belgian racing driver who had driven a used March in 1977 for Frank Williams’ newly formed team, was at the wheel. Not surprisingly, his best lap was six seconds behind the fastest cars, the Ligier. Following the tests results Kauhsen team built three more cars in early 1979. Fourth Kauhsen (WK004), which finally debuted in F1 in 1979, was significantly different from WK001. The car was the first of Kauhsens to have a front wing. The unusual design of the rear wing was omitted; instead, the rear wing was now positioned behind the rear axle, as in other F1 cars. However, the ground effect remained disturbed by the coolers, exhaust manifolds and tanks housed in the side pods. Italian driver Gianfranco Brancatelli was signed. He made the Kauhsen début appearance at the first race of the 1979 British Formula One season in Zolder, albeit retiring early in the race due to engine issues. With another redesigned car Brancatelli appeared at the Spanish Grand Prix, but failed to qualify for the race, being the slowest out of the 27 entries. The story repeated again at the next race in Belgium, and with the lack of funds Willi Kauhsen withdrew from Formula One and closed the team.
|1978||F1||Le Castellet Tests|
|Patrick Neve||Willi Kauhsen Racing Team|