1/4/1950 - 15/5/2010
Record updated 01-Apr-20
Loris Kessel was a Swiss racing driver who died in Montagnola in 2010 following a long illness. He participated in six Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on 2 May 1976. He scored no championship points. In 1976, he drove a Brabham for RAM and in 1977 he drove his own Apollon-Williams although this car was not a success.
Loris Kessel was born in Lugano and began his involvement with motor sports as a rally driver in the 1970s with an Alfa Romeo Spider.
He switched to single seaters driving at Brabham BT41 in the Swiss F3 Championship in 1973 and 1974 before graduating to Euro F2 the following year with a Ambrozium H7 Racing Team March 742 BMW. He briefly lead the opening race at Estoril before retiring with gearbox problems. Apart from a fourth place at Hockenheim in April and again in June he had little in the way of success. He also raced a Cheetah G501 Ford in a number of endurance races that year but unreliablity prevented and finishes. he had an entry for the Swiss Grand Prix at the end of the year but couldn't get a drive in time.
He made his F1 debut in 1976 in the non-championship Race of Champions driving RAM Racing Brabham BT42. After another non-chapionship event at the International Trophy at Silverstone he headed to Spain for the fourth round of the World Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix, where he missed qualifying by just over half a second. He had better luck two weeks late in Belgium, qualiying the Brabham BT44B Ford in 23rd spot. In a race of considerable attrition, he finished 12th, 7 laps down on Niki Lauda's Ferrari 312T. It would be his only classified finish and after four more F1 appearances, his season ended in legal acrimony with RAM in Italy.
For 1977 he raced at Monza in the 500Km Sports car race with Camathias in a Sauber C5 retiring with engine problems before making another attempt at F1, this time with the Jolly Club Williams FW03. The car did not arrive in Belgium and didn't participate in France. By now the FW03 had been aquired by Loris and turned into the Apollon-Williams which unsurprisingly failed to qualify for the Italian GP after crashing in practice. There ended Kessels flirtation with F1.
Kessel returned to F3, making occasional appearances until 1981, when he returned to Formula 2 with Horag Hotz Racing in their March 812 BMW finishing 12th in the 4th round of the European F2 Championship at the Nürburgring. He failed to finish on his next appearance in Round 6 at Mugello and again in Round 8 at Pergusa. In between he attempted to qualify the Merzario M1 BMW for Round 7 at Pau but didn't make it through pre-qualifying. His season did not improve and ended at Round 10 at Donnington when he switched to another March 812 run by Astra Team Merzario, finishing 19th.
Kessel returned to Endurance racing in 1983 with the Cheetah that had been developed by fellow Swiss, Chuck Graeminger in 1980 and 1981 to compete in the Group C World Championship. Kessel invested in the team in 1982 but the car was not ready until the following year when the Cheetah G603 appeared at Spa driven by Kessel and Laurent Ferrier. It failed to finish when its 3.3 litre Cosworth DFL exploded. Better results followed and a 8th at Imola and a 9th at Mugello held promiss of better thing to come. Unfortunately a legal dispute between Kessel and Graeminger ended the partnership and when in 1984 Graeminger launched the Cheetah G604-Aston Martin, Kessel was none too pleased.
Kessel was pretty much off the radar with only occasion endurance drives until in 1993 at Le Mans when he drove the Obermaier Racing Porsche 962C with Otto Altenbach and Jürgen Oppermann to a very respectable 7th overall. He also raced in the Lamborghini Supertrophy in the late 1990s and most recently competed in the Citation Cup in the FIA GT Championship driving a Ferrari 550 Maranello.
Away from racing his business, a well-established car dealership and workshop, continued growing and in 1995, Loris Kessel Auto S.A. was appointed the official Ferrari agent for Ticino and Grisons. In 2000 he formed his own racing team and became the main tuner for the 430 and the 430 Scuderia GT3 cars. Kessel Racing has become synonymous with the Ferrari GT programme, winning the 2007 FIA GT3 European Championship with Gilles Vannelet and Henri Moser. They also race in the FIA GT Championship as well as domestic GT championships in France, Italy and Germany, as well as one-make Ferrari series.
Sadly Loris Kessel died in Montagnola on May 15th 2010, he had been suffering from leukemia.
The business is now run by his son.