A World Champion that hardly ever won
- Mattijs Diepraam
- 8W February 2000 issue
1982 South African GP
Today, we have got used to mercurial young Brazilians blasting the opposition in Europe's feeder categories to F1. Being spoilt rotten, we sometimes tend to forget Brazil also produces a couple of steady, workmanlike drivers who at best are contenders but hardly champions. Mauricio Gugelmin is one to come to mind. Raul Boesel is another.
Raul has been around for a while now, and has had top-line drives in almost every acclaimed single-seater and sportscar series. He's hardly ever won though, and failed to make an impression during his two seasons of Formula One. Still Boesel is a World Champion, his 1987 sportscar title greatly enhancing his stature, which undoubtedly came in handy when negotiating a return to Indycars. But in typical Boesel style it was won through consistency rather than dominance and excessive speed.
It's the sort of approach Raul might well have taken along with him from touring cars, since the Brazilian didn't climb the usual single-seater stairs until after having decided to track many of his countrymen to Britain in an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Emerson Fittipaldi. As it was, Nelson Piquet beat him to it. Nevertheless, in 1980, his opening season in Europe, driving Formula Ford alongside the likes of Tommy Byrne and countryman Roberto Moreno, Raul was a class act, considering the fact this was his first year in single-seaters. He acquitted himself well, taking eight wins in the process. Eager to move on, Raul then jumped straight to British F3, where he proved to be a consistent finisher, taking 16 points finishes in 20 rounds to finish third in the championship.
With just two lower-formulae seasons behind his belt, Boesel tried to brave it into F1. His money bag well filled with Brazilian money after his success in F3, he succeeded in finding a berth with the restructuring RAM March outfit. Owner John MacDonald had taken on seasoned campaigner Jochen Mass as lead driver to the team and was looking for a junior driver to back up the German. With Rothmans money underway and a talented young designer named Adrian Reynard taking over from Robin Herd, things were looking promising. The 821 certainly looked purposeful and smart, especially with the Rothmans livery taking its place from the second Grand Prix onwards.
But looks deceived and the car was basically outdated. Although Reynard had managed to take big strides forward with the 811-derived machine, the opposition had not been sleeping and the RAM team were still trailing. Immediate results were zero and Boesel looked to be in over his head. As soon as the Monaco Grand Prix Rothmans announced they would not pour any more cash into the project, virtually rendering RAM's efforts into a complete waste of everybody's time and money. This was exaggerated by the tyre contract wranglings the team got itself into. The year was started out with Pirelli, but the Italian rubber seriously underperformed. This led MacDonald into the premature decision to switch to Avon since shortly after the company withdrew from racing! MacDonald did manage to secure the complete remaining stock of Avon tyres but since there was no support or development from the tyre company, performance tumbled even further. Switching to Michelin for the final races was a lost cause because of the short available time to build up a relationship. Ironically, while the RAM rued their initial decision, Pirelli got their act together during the season.
For 1983 Raul was lucky to find a berth at Ligier, thanks to his sizeable Cafe do Brasil wallet. He picked the wrong season, as Ligier slumped with its awkward, sidepod-less JS21, one of many eighties expertimental Ligier designs which went completely up the wrong alley. With no points out of two seasons of F1 nor a single qualifying performance of note, Raul deservedly became one of F1's many rejects.
Since 1983, Boesel has had an enduring career in sportscars, culminating in the 1987 World Endurance crown for Jaguar (the year in which he did the only winning of his international career), before returning to single-seaters in the United States. Tellingly, in his long streak of seasons in CART and IRL, Raul has never managed to win a race. Yet he scored many podiums in his many seasons with the Dick Simon and Tom Shierson teams and was always there of thereabouts, doing just enough to offer him a season's postponement to retirement. Moving to the championship-winning Team Green in 1996, helped by a financial injection by Brazilian brewer Brahma, proved to be a huge disappointment, and it effectively lost him any chance of a full-time ride for 1997, his drive being taken by Parker Johnstone. After a year's lay-off he managed to clinch a deal with the McCormack IRL outfit, but he was unable to match the pace of Tony Stewart, Robbie Buhl or Kenny Brack.
Now a Brazilian supersub, Boesel filled in for the suspended Paul Tracy at the 1999 season opener at Homestead before being drummed up to get some experience into Dan Gurney's languishing Eagle-Toyota 987. For the 2000 season he was unemployed again, so we can suspect a quiet finish to a solid international career untypical of the meteoric Brazilian fast-movers we have got used to.
Reader's Why by John Cross
Here is Raul making his Grand Prix debut. Sadly he would never score a point in his two seasons of Formula 1 and his only major success would come in sportscars five years later.
Born on 4th December 1957 in Curitiba, Brazil, Raul de Mesquita Boesel always loved the speed and the challenge of competition. Growing up, young Boesel ran with another type of horsepower. He competed in horse show jumping for several years winning twice in a row his state championship of Parana and several other competitions in his native country. He became interested in motor sport when he went to help a friend in a go-kart event, and on that particular day he decided what he wanted to do. So in 1974 he started his racing career in go karting at age 16 in his home town of Curitiba. In 1975 Raul got his first title with the "City of Curitiba Championship". In 1978 he made his debut in Brazilian Stock Car racing, becoming the runner up in the state of Parana. The following year, a fourth place finish in the Brazilian Stock Car Championship earned him the "Rookie of the Year" award, voted by the racing press. In 1980 Raul moved to England and competed in Formula Ford. Driving for Van Diemen he became the runner up in both the RAC and Townsend Thoresen championships, winning 9 out of 27 races. He then moved up to F3, finishing 3rd in the British Formula 3 Championship with three victories and 12 top three finishes driving for Murray Taylor racing.
For 1982, he landed a Formula 1 drive with March Engineering, although sadly the car was not competitive. The March 821's main claim to fame would be Mass's horrendous accident at Paul Ricard during the French GP which put the final nail in the coffin of the clearance ground-effect wing-cars. Tragically, it was also Mass whom Villeneuve crashed into during practise for the Belgian GP which ended the brilliant Canadian's life.
The race was the first round of the championship and practise was dominated by the turbos, with Arnoux's Renault on pole followed by Piquet's new Brabham-BMW BT50 (making its debut), Villeneuve's Ferrari, Patrese's Brabham, Prost's Renault and Pironi's Ferrari. Raul qualified 21st, 5.7 secs slower than pole but ahead of team-mate Jochen Mass. Arnoux made the early running from Piquet, Villeneuve, Patrese, Prost and Pironi (running in grid order). Piquet spun off on lap 4, Patrese and Villeneuve blew their turbos by quarter distance, then Pironi had to stop at the pits. So the Renaults dominated from the Williams pair, with Prost overtaking Arnoux on lap 14. Then Prost had a puncture, rejoined in 8th and drove brilliantly (setting fastest lap) to carve through the field and retake the lead just 26 laps later, as Arnoux's tyres were wearing - he would also lose 2nd place to Reutemann a few laps from the end. Pironi had regained 2nd until a misfire dropped him back. The final results were:
1. Alain Prost, Renault RE30B, 1:32:08.401 (205.779 km/h)
2. Carlos Reutemann, Williams-Ford FW07C, - 14.946
3. René Arnoux, Renault RE30B, - 27.900
4. Niki Lauda, McLaren-Ford MP4, - 32.113
5. Keke Rosberg, Williams-Ford FW07C, - 46.139
6. John Watson, McLaren-Ford MP4B, - 50.993
15. Raul Boesel, March-Ford 821, - 5 laps
Fastest lap: Alain Prost, 1:08.278 (201.974 km/h on lap 49)
Raul's best results that year were a ninth at Long Beach and an eighth at the Belgian Grand Prix. In 1983 he competed a second season of F1 with Ligier taking a career-best seventh in the US Grand Prix of Long Beach. Then in 1984 he competed in the South America Formula 2 Championship, winning the Rio de Janeiro race and becoming the first Brazilian to win in this racing series. In 1985 he made his debut in Indy Car driving for the Dick Simon Racing. He became the fastest rookie qualifier for the Indianapolis 500 race in his first experience on an oval track. His best finish was an eighth at Elkhart Lake. He stayed with Simon in 1986, starting all 17 events and finishing 13th in the drivers standings. He was voted "Most Improved Driver of the Year" by his peers with eight top ten finishes, with his best results being fifth in the Michigan and Pocono 500 milers. He started second on the grid at the Miami finale. 1987 saw Raul switch to sports cars and he really came good, winning Jaguar's first world sportscar title with five victories in eight starts for Tom Walkinshaw racing. He replaced Roberto Guerrero for the final two Indy Car events at Laguna Seca and Miami, finishing 16th and 6th.
He started 1988 by winning the 24 Hours of Daytona with the TWR/Jaguar team, then returned to Indy Car racing driving for the Domino's Pizza Team and finished eight races in the top ten, including two fourth place finishes at Long Beach and Milwaukee. He stayed with Domino's Pizza Team Shierson in 1989 and finished an excellent third at Indianapolis after watching Fittipaldi and Unser clash on the penultimate lap. He was named to replace injured Scott Pruett at Truesports for 1990 season and scored eight top ten finishes earning twelfth place in the PPG points standings. His best finishes were a pair of sixths at Milwaukee and Detroit. In 1991 he switched back to sports cars with TWR/Jaguar in the United States (IMSA) and Europe. He won the Miami Grand Prix (finishing 6th in the IMSA series) and finished 2nd at the Le Mans 24 Hours. He started the 1992 season at Indianapolis replacing the injured Hiro Matsushita at Dick Simon Racing. He then finished second at Detroit and secured sponsorship for the remainder of the season, logging ten top ten finishes from thirteen starts, including third at the Marlboro 500.
1993 saw his best ever season in IndyCars, ending up fifth overall after finishing in the points in 15 of the 16 races. He scored his first career IndyCar pole at Milwaukee and finished second three times. He also completed the most miles of all the drivers (3,543.352 of 3,658.902) and tied with Bobby Rahal for the most top ten finishes - thirteen. At the Indianapolis 500 he started on the front row of the grid alongside polesitter Arie Luyendyk and Mario Andretti, qualifying third. He then led the first 17 laps of race and finally finished a fine fourth, despite two stop and go penalties. He continued with Dick Simon in 1994 and again started on the front row at Indianapolis but dropped out to finish twenty first. He scored the second pole of his career at Milwaukee, led the most laps at Michigan but an engine problem late in the race denied him of his first IndyCar victory. He finished second at Laguna Seca and scored three other Top Five finishes, ending up 7th in the PPG series. In 1995 he switched to the Rahal-Hogan team but had a disappointing season with his best result being 5th at Portland and he was only 16th in the series. 1996 saw Raul switch to Team Green but he had a very difficult year due to continuous mechanical failures with the new Ford Cosworth XD engine. 1997 was better for Raul - he started on pole for the inaugural Motorola 300 race in St. Louis driving for Patrick Racing and crossed the finish line in 3rd place at Portland in one of the closest finishes in Indy Car (CART) racing history. He finished 11 races in the top ten, 4 of which were top five finishes, ending up 10th in the championship. For 1998 Raul wanted to try again for the Indianapolis 500, so he switched to the Pep Boys Indy Racing League driving for the Transworld Racing/McCormack Motorsport, with little success. On non-conflicting weekends, he drove sportscars for the Panoz Racing Team in the GT1 class, finishing 4th on the Sports Car Club of America Championship.
Raul began 1999 filling in for Team Kool Green when Paul Tracy was unable to drive. The IRL season opened with the first three races of the season for McCormack Motorsports, finishing 5th at the first race in Orlando. Prior to the Indianapolis 500, Raul switched teams, driving for the Brant Racing/Riley & Scott Team. Towards the end of the season, he drove for Dan Gurney's All American Racers in Chicago and Fontana.