Kenny Acheson

The son of the owner of an Ulster brickworks, who raced for fun in Formula Ford in the 1970s, Kenny grew up around racing circuits, notably the Kirkiston track where he made his racing debut in Formula Ford at the age of 18. His father agreed to pay for the racing if Kenny gave up smoking and, driving a Crossle, he won the Irish national title of 1977 and moved to the British mainland to race for Royale. Sponsorship came from the concrete company RMC and, working with Royale designer Rory Byrne, Acheson won 29 races and three Formula Ford 1600 titles. This resulted in a Grovewood Award at the end of 1978.

He then embarked on a Formula 3 career with a private team in 1980 before joining forces with Murray Taylor Racing in 1981. The team was up against strong opposition from Stefan Johansson in one of Ron Dennisís Project 4 Racing cars and Roberto Guerrero and Thierry Tassin in Argos. Acheson emerged as the championship leader by the midseason but then Dennis acquired a new Ralt RT3 for Johansson and there was no holding him. The Swede beat Acheson to the title at the last race.

Kenny moved to Formula 2 with Docking Spitzley Racing in 1981 but at Pau his Toleman was taken out in ruthless fashion by Michele Alboreto and Kenny was lucky to survive the ensuing accident, which resulted in his car ending up in a tree. He suffered two badly broken legs but returned to action the following year with the Ralt Honda team. He finished seventh in the European Championship and moved across to the Maurer factory team in 1983. Later that year he made his F1 debut with an RMC-sponsored RAM March F1 car, but only succeeded in qualifying once.

There was no drive for him in 1984 but he returned to F1 in 1985 for two races with RAM. He did a one-off race that year in CART at Meadowlands but from the next few years his career was in Japan where he raced in Formula 3000 and in sports cars with Kunimitsu Takahashiís team. He was the Japanese Sports-Prototype Champion in 1987 and that helped him to get back on the map in Europe in 1988 with Sauber-Mercedes, which he joined fulltime in 1989. He finished second at Le Mans that year and won at Brands Hatch and Spa partnered by Mauro Baldi.

He moved to Nissan in 1990 and then in 1991 was a member of the Silk Cut Jaguar team at Le Mans, finishing third. In 1992 he was with Toyota and finished second again. When the sportscar World Championship disappeared Acheson switched to GTs in Japan with the SARD team. He continued to race until 1996 when he went to Daytona with the Lister team. In the closing minutes of the race he was hit by a slower car and had a heavy accident after which he decided that it was time to stop racing. He now lives in England where he runs his own business.