Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Lili Reisenbichler

Lili on a motorbike

Lili Reisenbichler raced in German touring car championships from 1974 to 1987, including touring-based prototypes in sportscar races.

Slovenian-born but living in Germany, she got into motorsport through her partner, a Mercedes engineer. Her first racing cars were a Ford Escort and an NSU TT. In the former, she appeared in her first major race in 1975: the Hockenheim 100 Miles. She was seventh in Group 1. The car was an RS2000. In the same car, she tackled the Sembach DRP round, and was fifth in class. Early in the season, she had taken part in another non-championship event, a street race at Saarlouis. She was sixth, and fourth in her class.

For the next few seasons, she made occasional appearances in circuit races and hillclimbs in Germany and Austria. In 1977, she raced an NSU TT in the Mainz-Finthen round of the DRM, finishing seventh in class. In the same car, at the same track, she also tackled a round of the DRP series, finishing second in class. Later in the season, she was fifth in class at Kassel-Calden, another airfield circuit.

In 1978, she teamed up with Heidi Blechinger for the Grosser Preis der Tourenwagen at the Nürburgring. They drove an Audi  50 together, and were ninth in class. Driving solo, Lili took the Audi to a class fourth in the 100 Meilen Hockenheim. This was the start of a part-season in the Audi, sponsored by Duckhams; her other results were a ninth in class at Saarlouis, and eleventh at Hockenheim again.

She also competed in the Nürburgring 24 Hours in an Alpine-Renault, but the results are not readily available.

Lili encountered various problems with funding in the early part of her career, in common with many other drivers, but she was better at finding solutions to this than most. She stayed clear of genuine scandal, but was not afraid of using her good looks and lively personality as a selling point. As well as this, she worked in various jobs to finance her motorsport habit. This made her either very popular, or unpopular, depending on whose opinion was sought.

In 1979, her career started to take off, albeit slowly. She got herself a seat with the Warsteiner team in a BMW M1, and entered the ADAC Bilstein Super-Sprint at the Nürburgring. She was eleventh overall in Division 1, against a series of Porsches, and fourth in class. She also continued to race the Audi, and was in second place in one race at Zandvoort, when she went onto the grass and suffered an embarrassing roll, thankfully unharmed.  

The start of the new decade saw Lili taking another step up in the motorsport world. She started with another run in a BMW M1, driving for Team Airpress Wind Deflectors. She was ninth at the Hockenheim DRM round (the Jim Clark Trophy). Not long after, she teamed up with Ford Berkenkamp Racing, initially for the Nürburgring 1000km. The team put her in two of its cars, a Capri and an Escort. She did not finish in the Capri, but was seventeenth, with a class win, in the Escort. Her co-drivers were Dieter Selzer and Günther Braumüller. A similar arrangement ensued for the Nürburgring Grand Prix meeting, although it was less successful for Lili. Later in the season, she drove solo for the team in an Escort, and was eighteenth at Salzburg and twentieth at Hockenheim, in the DRM. In the second-tier DRP touring car championship, she drove a new Ford Fiesta. She was third in class at Avus, and would have been second at Hockenheim, had she not been disqualified. The reasons for this are unclear.

A second season with the Berkenkamp Ford operation followed in 1981, with a much expanded programme for Lili. In the first three rounds of the DRM, she scored three top-ten finishes, two ninths and an eighth. The rest of the DRM season was rather inconsistent for both her and team-mate Dieter Selzer, mostly just missing the top ten. Her highlight of the latter part of the season was a tenth place, at the Nürburgring Supersprint.

She stayed in the DRM in 1982, but moved teams to Zakspeed Ford, one of the leading touring car stables of the time. Their Capri prototype remains the stuff of legends. Lili got to drive it this year. Her season began badly, and she dropped out of the first DRM round, at Zolder, on only her second lap. None of her other three races in the Capri led to a finish, either.

In 1983, she was part of the Berlin-based Autoveri team, driving a Ford Escort. She was entered into the German and Central European rounds of the ETCC, and managed to finish one, the Brno Grand Prix, in 27th place. For the Touring Car Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, she was paired with Jürgen Hammelman and the American driver, Deborah Gregg, but they did not finish. She entered the Spa 24 Hours, but only got in as a reserve driver, and did not race.

The main, professional part of her career finishes here, at the age of 35. She continued to race occasionally until about 1987, but not in major events. Her business acumen and media experience meant that she was not out of work for long, and she became a successful journalist and photographer, covering a range of subjects, as well sitting on the board of a furniture company, and running a film production company.

In recent years, she has been competing occasionally in historics in Germany. She has driven a BMW in classic rallies.

(Image copyright Kräling Picture Agency)

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