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OCTOBER 27, 2000

Happy Birthday Bernie

TOMORROW Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone will be celebrating his 70th birthday and while most of the Formula 1 circus is now on holiday Bernie continues to work away building up the F1 business in which has been involved full-time since the early 1970s.

In fact Ecclestone's links with the World Championship go back into the 1950s when he managed the career of Stuart Lewis-Evans. This led Bernie to buy a pair of Connaughts for the 1958 season and he ran them for a variety of drivers, including himself that year. Many people forget that Bernie was almost a Grand Prix driver himself. Although he failed to qualify at Monaco he could have raced at Silverstone that year but decided to hand his car over to team mate Jack Fairman.

After Lewis-Evans's death at the end of 1958 Ecclestone stayed away from the sport until the early 1960s when his friend and business associate Roy Salvadori introduced him to a young Austrian named Jochen Rindt. The two became business partners and Bernie was drawn back to the sport. By the end of the 1960s Ecclestone was running the Lotus factory Formula 2 team for Colin Chapman. In 1970 Rindt was killed at Monza in a Lotus F1 car.

Ecclestone again quit the sport but two years later he decided to return once again and bought the Brabham team from Ron Tauranac and set about turning it into a winning force. At the same time he was one of the founders of the Formula 1 Constructors Association in 1974, along with Chapman, Teddy Mayer, Max Mosley, Ken Tyrrell and Frank Williams.

That organization fought for the rights of the teams and by the early 1980s the teams had won the right to exploit the TV rights of Grand Prix racing. This was not a very successful business in the early days and eventually Ecclestone took over the business himself and has since built a remarkable empire and turned what was a specialist interest sport into a global industry. He is currently in the process of building a structure to take the sport on into the 21st century.

Creating such a circus is not done easily and Bernie has made a few enemies along the way, but everyone in Formula 1 knows that without Ecclestone the sport would not have developed as it has. Mr. E has never really sought recognition for his achievements and remains concentrated on the future, rather than dwelling on the past.