Christian Danner

Professor Max Danner was an automotive engineer, the first head of Allianz's Institute of Automotive Engineering. In this role he became one of the leading researchers into road safety, pioneered crash testing techniques and campaigned for a variety of changes in the law to try to reduce the number of people killed in road accidents. It was slightly ironic that his son decided to go motor racing and began his career at 19 by racing a Renault 5 Turbo which, he is happy to admit, he crashed a great deal.

After three years in Renaults, the young Danner - a student of mechanical engineering at the time - was spotted by Manfred Cassani, who was looking for a driver for his Cassani Racing Team BMW M1 in the German Group 4 series in 1980. He also did a few Procar races that year and did well enough to be spotted by BMW Motorsport chief Dieter Stappert who signed him to drive for BMW in Formula 2, with the March factory team. Thrown in at the deep end, Danner struggled at first and gradually improved until the end of 1983 when he was a frontrunner.

Throughout this period and indeed well into the 1980s Danner was also a BMW works driver in European Touring Car series. His single-seater career nearly foundered in 1984 when BMW decided to withdraw from F2 but Danner scraped together the money to race with Bob Sparshott and in 1985 stayed with the team for the inaugural European Formula 3000 series. He became the first Formula 3000 champion, the first German driver in the modern era to win an international championship.

This earned him the opportunity to move into F1 with Zakspeed, and later Osella and then he was given a chance for a few races with Arrows after Marc Surer was injured in a rallying accident. At the end of the 1986 season Danner went back to Zakspeed and did well in 1987 but could not find a drive in 1988, in part because he was too tall to fit into the cars at that time. In 1989, however, he got a second chance with Rial and scored his best result with fourth place in Phoenix. After that his F1 career fizzled out and Danner went to Japan to race in Formula 3000 over there and moved on to a career in the 1990s in Indycars.

He continued to race touring cars and in 1992 won both the Spa and Nurburgring 24 Hour races and moved on to become an Alfa Romeo driver in the ITC, winning in 1995 in Helsinki and at the Norisring. He also tried his hand at team ownership with the Project Indy CART team in the mid-1990s. In recent years he has moved into TV commentary with RTL and is now a big star in Germany, also working as a consultant to a number of German companies in F1, notably Allianz.