Erich Zakowski dies at 89, Master mechanic & Founder of the Zakspeed racing passed away

Erich Zakowski

An iconic figure’s loss deeply saddens the motorsport community: Renowned German figure Erich Zakowski, affectionately known as ‘Mister Zakspeed,’ peacefully passed away yesterday, a mere three weeks prior to his 90th birthday. His legacy, characterized by extraordinary accomplishments in the world of motorsport, has left an enduring imprint on the racing fraternity. In this homage, we take a moment to contemplate the exceptional life and invaluable contributions of a man who indelibly reshaped the motorsport landscape. 

The Passing of Erich Zakowski: A Racing Icon Says Farewell

On the morning of November 4, 2023, the motorsport community received somber news of the passing of Erich Zakowski, just three weeks prior to his 90th birthday on November 25. Zakowski, known for his contributions to German motorsport, left behind a legacy that transcends generations.

What happened to Erich?

A great German motorsport legend has left us: As per the reports, Erich passed away shortly before his 90th birthday.  In the ’70s and ’80s, the native East Prussia was not only one of the most dazzling but above all one of the most creative minds of German motorsport.

While the exact cause of his death remains undisclosed, his family members have not provided information about any illness he may have had. Given his age, it is presumed to be a result of natural causes. However, his passing represents an immense loss to the motorsport community.

Despite setbacks, Zakowski’s enduring legacy includes his fast Ford Escort and Ford Capri Turbo, which secured five championship titles in the German Racing Championship, surpassing any other DRM team. Success continued in touring car racing, notably with the Zakspeed-BMW M3.

A Quiet End: Reflections on an Eventful Life

In the later years, Erich Zakowski gradually distanced himself from his professional endeavors. His sons, Peter and Philipp, became integral figures in the motorsport world. After a period in the Canary Islands, Zakowski returned to Balkhausen, not far from the Nürburgring.

The motorsport community bids farewell to a true icon, grateful for the countless moments and emotions Erich Zakowski brought to the world of racing. His legacy will forever be intertwined with the spirit of motorsport.

Who was Erich Zakowski?

Erich Zakowski, born on November 25, 1933, in East Prussia, Germany, was not only a master mechanic but also a visionary figure in the world of motorsport. He is best known as the founder and the long-serving head of the renowned Zakspeed racing team.

Erich’s journey in the automotive world began after World War II when he, along with his mother and four siblings, had to flee from Prussia. Their journey led them to various cities, including Dortmund and Hamburg, before they finally settled in Niederzissen.

It was in Niederzissen that Erich Zakowski embarked on his path in the automotive industry. He completed his apprenticeship as an auto mechanic in Andernach and successfully passed his master’s examination.

Establishing Zakspeed and Racing Success

In 1968, Erich Zakowski took a significant step by establishing his own garage in Niederzissen, which would become the operational base for the Zakspeed racing team. Under the banner of “Zakowski Niederzissen tuning,” he initiated his racing endeavors, beginning with a Ford Escort at the Eifel race on the challenging Nürburgring circuit.

The 1970s and 1980s marked an era of remarkable achievements for Zakspeed under the visionary leadership of Erich Zakowski. The team firmly established itself in various racing series, with a significant presence in sports car racing, further enhancing its reputation in the motorsport community.

One of the most significant milestones came in 1985 when Zakspeed made its foray into the prestigious Formula 1 series. This move was a testament to Erich Zakowski’s ambition and commitment to pushing the boundaries of motorsport excellence.

After five years of active involvement in Formula 1 racing, Erich Zakowski decided to retire from the direct leadership of the team in 1990. He entrusted the reins of the Zakspeed racing legacy to his son, Peter, ensuring that the family’s dedication to motorsport continued to thrive.

Erich Zakowski’s enduring legacy in the world of motorsport is a testament to his passion, vision, and unwavering commitment to excellence. His contributions have left an indelible mark on the racing world, and his name will forever be associated with the pursuit of automotive and racing perfection.

“Messages of condolences and remembrance for Erich Zakowski”

Hansi Jansen:

“You notice that you are getting old yourself when you are slowly running out of idols. People who have always been present in some form throughout their lives and whose existence was simply self-evident. Erich Zakowski and Team Zakspeed are part of it. Take it easy Eric. Race in Peace. 😢”

Marco Werner:

“Motorsport legend Erich Zakowski has left the driver’s camp forever. Thank you Erich for the great times and all that you have done for German motorsport!”

Darius Drzensla:

“Dear Erich, you were a great person, a motorsport legend. Will miss your great conversations and stories a lot. My deepest condolences to the family. R.I.P Erich Zakowski 😞”


“Dear Erich, now it has ‘got’ you too. We all thought you’d keep us forever. You have always been a great friend and colleague. We miss you. Godspeed Erich Zakowski 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏”

Our deepest condolences for the loss of Erich Zakowski, a motorsport legend. 


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