Founded in the 1960s as a junior formula team, Mo Nunn’s Ensign outfit was bankrolled into the big time in 1973 by Rikky von Opel – a scion of the Opel car manufacturing dynasty – who entered six races with them that year, finishing two. Opel suddenly left after the first race of the 1974 season, leaving Ensign scrambling for drivers. 1975 brought Dutch sponsorship and drivers and a first point from Gijs van Lennep at his home race, then an ageing Chris Amon and Jacky Ickx for 1976 and more points, followed in 1977 by the surprising capture of Clay Regazzoni, released by Ferrari – he preferred a small, friendly team to an offer from Brabham. Regazzoni scored just three times in 1977 and left for fellow strugglers Shadow, and in 1978 Ensign employed six different drivers including “Flyin’ Hawaiian” Danny Ongais, debutante Nelson Piquet and Irishman Derek Daly who scored the team’s only point at the last race. 1979 and 1980 were both point-less for the team, even with the return of Regazzoni for the first four races of 1980 and heading into 1981 prospects did not look great for Marc Surer to improve on matters.
Born in northern Switzerland, Marc Surer came into racing relatively late in life, debuting in Formula Two at 25. By his third season in 1978 he was placed second and then won the European F2 championships the following year despite only winning two of the twelve races. This was enough to get him a drive with Ensign for the last three races of the season, moved to ATS for 1980, before returning to Ensign for the 1981 season.