Otmar Szafnauer

The son of a Romanian mother and an American of German descent, Szafnauer was born in Romania and grew up there during the Communist era. His father was unusual in that he had a car and started driving karts at the age of four. His father decided that he wanted to leave Romania and tried to cross the border but was arrested and jailed. When he was released in 1972 the family moved to Detroit. It was there in 1982 that he first saw F1 cars racing and he was bitten by the bug and after getting a Master's Degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Detroit he joined the Ford Motor Company in 1986. While working for Ford he attended the Jim Russell Racing School and as a result started racing in Formula Ford in 1991. He was too old to make a professional career as a driver and his racing ended when he destroyed his car at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1995. In 1993 however his interest in racing had led the company to appoint him programmes manager of Ford Racing in the US. Through this he got to know Adrian Reynard and in 1998 Reynard asked him to become Operations Director at British American Racing in 1998. In 2001 Bobby Rahal recruited Szafnauer to be chief operating officer at Jaguar Racing but a week before he was due to start Rahal was pushed out and Otmar's presence was no longer required. After several months in the wilderness Honda hired him to help out is engineers in F1 and Szafnauer became Vice President of Honda Racing Developments.