Today marks the 50th anniversary of Austrian racing driver Jochen Rindt’s death in 1970 in a qualifying accident on the eve of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. He was just 28 years old.
Jochen Rindt had made his Formula 1 debut six years earlier in the 1964 Austrian Grand Prix and went on to start 60 Grand Prix, taking ten pole positions and winning six races and being on the podium 13 times in his short-lived career.
It was at the Parabolica that Rindt swerved in his Lotus, left the track and ran head-on into a stanchion. That season proved to be a lethal one, which had already lost Bruce McLaren and Piers Courage in racing accidents. The race went ahead but the remaining Lotus drivers withdrew. The race itself had a remarkable 28 lead changes with Clay Regazzoni, Jacky Ickx, Jackie Stewart and Pedro Rodríguez all in the lead at some point. But it was Regazzoni who claimed his first Grand Prix victory at the race in Monza.
Up until that race, Rindt had won five out of the nine races so far that season and based on the points he had already notched up to that point, Rindt actually won the 1970 World Championship 45 points ahead of Ickx and Regazzoni, being the only person to have done so posthumously in the history of Formula 1.
David Tremayne’s acclaimed biography of Jochen Rindt was first published ten years ago in 2010 but it seems fitting that, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Austrian’s death, Evro should revive the book in paperback form.
Rindt was widely acknowledged as the fastest man in Formula 1 by the time he reached his peak in 1970, when he tragically lost his life just four races before the end of the season. As his close friend Jackie Stewart noted in the book’s foreword, “David Tremayne is a wonderful writer who has done Jochen great justice in the words that he has chosen to depict a remarkable man and a remarkable career.”
Author David Tremayne has spent his career in motorsport journalism, with notable roles as executive editor of Motoring News, long-time Grand Prix correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, and more recently co-founder of GrandPrix+, the sport’s first and fastest e-magazine. Tremayne, who lives in County Durham, has written over 50 books, including Jim Clark: The Best of the Best published by Evro in 2018, and he is a three-times winner of the Guild of Motoring Writers’ ‘Journalist of the Year’ award.
The opening chapter of the book is amusingly entitled: ‘Who The Hell is Jocken Rindt?’ As prior to 18th May 1964, no one had heard of this young Austrian driver. That however all changed when he came out of nowhere to beat – Mr Motor Racing – Graham Hill in his own South London backyard in a Formula 2 race at Crystal Palace. He became an overnight sensation as people clamoured to know: Who the hell is Jochen Rindt?
Frank Williams, a little-known wannabe racer cum race car dealer back then, was a huge fan, having seen Rindt racing his aged Cooper in Austria and said to Doug Nye in 1982: “I proudly claim the title of having become Jochen’s first fan.” Rindt was fast and fearless and got the job done with a flamboyance matched only by his choice of clothes, Tremayne says.
There is a wonderful quote from Graham Hill in the book where Hill asked somebody: “Who is the boy alongside me?” “Jochen Rindt of Austria,” came the reply. “Never heard of him,” Graham answered. “Is he a skier?” As it happened, Jochen was a damn good skier. But in time Hill would come to know from the inside at Team Lotus just who Jochen Rindt was when it came to racing cars.
Chapter 2 is entitled ‘The Wild One’ and looks at Rindt’s early years from 1942 to 1964 and opens with a great quote from Helmust Marko, who says: “That was typical of Jochen’s character. Not where is the next horizon, but where is the biggest opposition? I want to beat them all. That was his attitude.”
In the following chapters, Tremayne goes through Rindt’s racing career in detail from his early racing days, including a surprise victory with Masten Gregory in the 1965 Le Mans 24 Hours in a NART-entered Ferrari 250LM. Rindt then went into Formula 1 with Cooper in 1965 and stayed there for three seasons. However, the once-great team was now on the decline and good results were hard to come by.
It was Jack Brabham who recognised Rindt’s superb talent bringing him into his high-flying team, which had just won back-to-back world titles, but the Austrian’s season was plagued by unreliability. And so Rindt went to Lotus for the 1969 season, and finally achieved his maiden Grand Prix victory at Watkins Glen.
Brabham said of Rindt: “Jochen was a hard driver but a clean driver. A lot of fun to drive with. You could really drive wheel-to-wheel with him in some absolutely unbelievable situations, and know you were okay. Incredible!”
As much as Rindt loved his time at Brabham, he told Rob Walker: “Listen Rob, I want to win the World Championship so badly that I’m even prepared to drive for Colin to do so.”
Bernie Ecclestone remembered the situation well. “At the end of ’68 we had the choice for Jochen of the Goodyear deal with Brabham, or the Firestone deal with Lotus. I said to him, ‘If you want to win the World Championship, you’ve got more chance with Lotus than with Brabham. If you want to stay alive, you’ve got more chance with Brabham than with Lotus’. And so Rindt made the move to Lotus in 1969.
It was a brilliant start to the 1970 season for Rindt in Colin Chapman’s radical new Lotus 72 which gave him four consecutive wins, enough to build a big lead in the points standings which allowed him to win the World Championship posthumously following his tragic death just four races from the end of the season. The world of motor racing lost an immensely talented young driver that fateful day at Monza on 5th September 1970.
And I will just close my review of this wonderful book with this lovely quote from Jochen Rindt about driving his Brabham: “Every time I climbed in this car it was like Christmas.”
Publication date: August 2020
UK Price: £14.99
Format: 198x129mm, paperback
Illustration: 29 photos
Jochen Rindt – Uncrowned King Of Formula 1
By David Tremayne
Published by Evro Publishing
Foreword by Sir Jackie Stewart
For more information and to purchase your own copy of the book, please visit the Evro Publishing website: www.evropublishing.com
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Illustrations courtesy of Evro Publishing