Essex Petroleum

David Thieme's father was the designer of glider aircraft for the US Army during World War II and after moving to New York Thieme attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, studying industrial design. In the late 1960s he went into the business of industrial design and made a fortune, investing some of his profits in oil. In 1973 he closed down the business and moved into oil instead, establishing the Essex Overseas Petroleum Corporation, buying oil when demand was low and then selling it at higher prices when there was a demand, usually caused by political instability. This enabled him to make large profits, particularly in the unstable Middle East. In 1977 he began working with funds from Credit Suisse which enabled him to make bigger trades. In 1979 Thieme was able to indulge his passion for motor racing, sponsoring the sidepods of World Champions Lotus with drivers Mario Andretti and Carlos Reutemann. That same year Thieme supported two Porsche 936s at Le Mans with drivers Bob Wollek, Hurley Haywood, Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman.

In 1980 Lotus built a series of 100 Turbo Esprit cars in Essex colours and Thieme announced that he was becoming the title sponsor of the team with Elio de Angelis and Mario Andretti and a third car on occasion for Nigel Mansell. Essex continued as the team's principal sponsor in 1981 but by then the oil markets had taken a serious downturn following the revolution in Iran and the start and the Iran-Iraq war and a disagreement with backer Credit Suisse resulted in Thieme being arrested in Zurich on charges brought by the banking giant. He was released after a fortnight (with his bail being paid by Akram Ojjeh) but by the middle of the year Essex had disappeared from the cars.