Erich Zakowski’s team – based in Niederzissen, just by the Nürburgring – had a pedigree in touring car racing, starting life as the official Ford team in the German touring car championship of the late 1970s and constructing their own Group 2 Escorts and Group 5 Capris. By 1981, the team took the overall championship and in 1982 they moved into Endurance Racing, still preparing Ford chassis with F1 drivers of the future and past such as Jonathan Palmer, Desire Wilson, Manfred Winkelhock and Marc Surer in the driver’s seat. When Ford pulled out, Zakspeed began constructing their own chassis and also building their own turbocharged engines, and it was the latter that persuaded Erich to get into Formula One as a constructor. Enlisting Paul Brown, who had designed Formula Two cars for Maurer and Chevron, to assist, the team originally applied to enter the 1984 European Grand Prix but weren’t ready in time, and plan only to attend the European races in 1985 prior to a full challenge in 1986.
After winning the F2 title, testing extensively and putting in a decent race performance for Williams in 1983, there was a certain amount of hype around Palmer but really nobody could live up to anything in the dreadful RAM car. Palmer did at least usually beat his team-mate, which is about all you can ask of a driver in a situation like that. Nonetheless, it was a dreadful season all round, and he was glad to be out and with a new challenge – and one for which his long testing experience with Williams should stand him in good stead.