Fred Wacker

10/7/1918 - 16/6/1998

Fred Wacker
Wacker was the first American to finish on the podium in a post-war Grand Prix he was also President of the SCCA in 1951. Fred Wacker died 24 years ago, he was 80

Fred Wacker was from Chicago, United States. In late 1948 he was the founder and president of the Chicago region of the SCCA and in 1951 he became national president of the Sports Car Club of America. Between 1949 and 1953 he raced an MG and a Healeys before racing an Allard-Caddy . He was always a front-runner in Midwestern events.

In the 1950 he won the Sebring 6 Hours  with Frank Burrell and in 1951 he raced outside the US for the first time. In March he competed and finished 2nd in Buenos Aires and three months later he entered the Le Mans 24 Hours in a Cunningham C2-R Chrysler with George Rand. Back at Le Mans in 1953 in an OSCA MT4 1100 with Phil Hill, he once again failed to make it to the finish.

In 1953 he entered Formula 1 with a rented Gordini. He painted blue and white, but at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, Harry Schell, Gordini works driver, needed his engine so he was a DNS.

In the crash-ridden GP des Frontières at Chimay, Fred took a stunning third, just 2.5s off winner Trintignant taking the first victory for the T16. It was the first post-war Grand Prix podium finish for an American driver.

Next up was Nürburgring where in practice he survived a scary high-speed crash. During a wet race he finished ninth.

At Spa, Wacker drove in his his first Grand Prix. He qualified 15th and finished the race in 10th, two places behind Schell, to make it the first post-war Grand Prix in which two American were competing.

He missed Bremgarten due to labour problems at his Liquid Controls Corporation's Chicago factory, obliging him to return to the States a week before the race.

Then in practice for the 1953 Swiss Grand Prix he flipped the car on his in-lap and he was transported to hospital with a fractured skull, broken ribs, and friction burns over much of his body.

Late 1954, he was back in Europe and again driving a Gordini, this time in Gordini's familiar pale blue. He raced at Bremgarten but by now the two-year-old car was completely outclassed. However he managed to quality the T16 but on lap 10 of the race the transmission broke.

At the 1954 Italian Grand Prix at Monza Wacker shone. Driving the underpowered Gordini against cars specifically designed to the new 2.5-litre formula, Fred hung on to finish sixth, 5 laps down on winner Fangio.

Wacker did two more minor events before retiring from the sport. "I couldn't get a ride with any of the major teams, but in the end I just had to choose between motor racing and my manufacturing business, and I chose the latter."

Less than a month from his 80th birthday, Fred Wacker died in June 1998. The importance of the Wacker family in Chicago life can be clearly seen as a major street in the city's business district has been named after them. Wacker Drive is home of one of Chicago's new eyecatchers 333 Wacker Drive amongst many others.

Fred Wacker was the second American to compete in Formula One outside the Indianapolis 500.


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