SOBIESŁAW ZASADA, the founder and main shareholder of Zasada Group, won fame as an international rally driver in the 1960s and ‘70s. Born on 27 January 1930, he was a boy scout and a member of the scouting sports team in 1945-1948; in 1946 he won the scouting athletics championship in Kraków. He was a member of the national athletics team in 1949-1952.
In February 1952 he won his first rally, with co-driver Ewa Goworowska – a classmate from Adam Asnyk High School in Bielsko-Biala, southern Poland; in December 1952 the two were married.
In February 1953, Mr Zasada suffered an open fracture of his right leg while skiing in Zakopane, Poland, and was facing amputation. He spent two years in rehabilitation, ending his athletics career.
In 1957 he opened a garage in Kraków, servicing all car brands with modern diagnostic equipment.
As “a man from behind the Iron Curtain”, an area where motoring and the car market practically didn’t exist at the time, Mr Zasada became the only driver from a communist state to become a representative of top rally car manufacturers, such as Steyr Puch, Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Mr Zasada’s greatest success is his three European rally championships, as well as three second-place finishes, at a time when the champion of Europe was de facto the world champion; the official name of the title was changed to World Champion by FIA, the sport’s governing body, in 1978.
Mr Zasada won his championships in competition against top sportsmen from teams including Alfa Romeo, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche.His titles include:
- 11 times Polish rally driving champion,
- winner of 148 rallies,
- five-time gold medallist for outstanding sporting achievement.
He has participated in the world’s most prestigious rallies, including:
London-Sydney, London-Mexico, Vuelta America del Sur, Gran Premio Argentino, Safari, Press on Regardless, Monte Carlo, the Alpine Cup, Acropolis, Thousand Lakes, Rally Sweden and Rally of Great Britain.
1967 – first prize from Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki for the sportsman who has done the most to promote Poland abroad: “Dear Mr Sobiesław,” Rapacki said during the presentation, “I am very glad that the committee chose you to receive this award. I say that I am very glad, because not only did the members of the committee offer their opinions, but our embassies did, as well. And it also fits with my personal opinion. (...) Achievements in sport speak for themselves. (...) Your successes abroad, your meetings with Poles abroad and with foreigners are unambiguous. You deserve this award. I wish you success in all of the fields that are taken into consideration when awarding this prize from our diplomatic service (...)";
1967 – Winner of Przegląd Sportowy newspaper’s contest for Poland’s best sportsman (five out of 10 competitions);
1968 – decorated with the Knight’s Cross;
1973 – 3-time world record holder in long-distance driving (25,000 km, 25,000 miles and 50,000 miles), in a Polski Fiat 125p;
1974 – Decorated with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta;
1977 – founded the firm Alpha in Kraków – an enterprise that exists today under the name Alpha Technology. The company started as a producer of zippers, gradually adding processing of artificial fibres, pressure casting of non-ferrous metals, centrifugal casting of zinc alloys, production of moulds, laser cutting and numerical bending of sheet metal, galvanisation and welding;
1981 – 1989– consultant in the development division of Porsche AG, while simultaneously running Alpha’s export business;
1990 – became the general representative of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche in Poland;
1995 – received the inaugural Superchampion prize for sporting, social and economic achievements; when presenting the award, President Lech Wałęsa, said: “Our hope is that this won’t be just one of many awards. The Candidate should not only claim great results in sporting events, but also maintain a great competitive spirit after the sporting career is over. He or she should continue promoting the country and contributing to its development. I believe that in naming Sobiesław Zasada as the first Superchampion, the publication couldn’t have made a better choice. As president, I am particularly pleased. I hope that when solving the problems they face, young people will learn from Mr Sobiesław’s example. I would like to have as many as possible of these examples, which so beautifully build and promote Poland.”
1996 – winner of the Kisiel prize from Wprost weekly as a “Pioneer of Polish entrepreneurship”;
1997 – at age 67, with his wife, Ewa, as co-driver, he competed in eliminations for the world rally championship in the Safari Rally in Kenya, taking second place in a Mitsubishi EVO IV;
With his wife, Ewa, as co-driver, Sobiesław Zasada has won more than 50 rallies.
2000 – honoured with the title of greatest sportsman of the five post-war decades by the Polish Automotive Union;
2000 – Commander’s Cross With Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta;
2001 – included in the Pantheon of the 20 best Polish sportspeople of the 20th century, selected by Przegląd Sportowy, the Polish Olympic Committee and sports journalists;
2001 – Winner of the prestigious Kalos Kagathos prize from Jagiellonian University;
2001 – Mr Zasada’s name was placed on Poland’s Sporting Walk of Fame in Cetniewo;
2001 and 2003, Mr Zasada won the Palma de Mallorca – Cabrera regatta.
2005 – he competed in the ARC 2005 Canary Islands – Lesser Antilles Regatta, winning the catamaran class;
2006 – “Voyage of the Year” prize: the highest distinction in Polish yachting;
2009 – Magellan Prize from the Kraków University of Economics, for lifetime achievements;
2012 – construction of a centre for improving driving skills (passenger cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles and go-karts);
Creator of numerous press, radio and television materials promoting motoring culture and the need to improve driver skills. President of the Polish Association of Driving Skills Improvement and Safe Driving.
Books: Car, Rally, Adventure (1969); Safe Speed (1971, 1992, 1993, 2002, 2007); Safe Journey (2009); Advice & Counsel (1978); My Rallies (1996), Safe Speed, Safari (2004), for which he received the “Stout Pen” award from the Polish Auto Club Journalists’ Association; Safe Journey (2010-2011).
Professionally active in important matters in the Group’s companies.