The loss of motor racing legend Niki Lauda back in May was a very sad day for me. Nikki had my outmost respect for what he went on to achieve shortly after his horrendous crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. To climb back into the cockpit of a Formula One car only 40 days later is quite remarkable, especially when you consider the severe burns he suffered, not to mention inhaling all those toxic fumes form the car’s burning fibreglass.
During his Formula One career, Lauda competed in 171 races, winning 25 of them. Out of these races, he secured 24 pole positions and 54 podium finishes, which was quite an achievement. However, Lauda raced in many other series during his racing career, some 316 in fact, the details of which not many people know about as his Formula One achievements have been the main focus of attention.
This wonderful new 376-page book entitled ‘Niki Lauda: His Competition History’ which was published at the end of last month by Evro Publishing, is written by Jon Saltinstall and looks at Lauda’s wider racing career in detail, which spanned from 1968 through to 1985, documenting each of his 316 races, race by race and looks at the rather eclectic mix of cars he drove.
What this book does, is to successfully show how the immensely talented, driven and determined Niki Lauda worked his way up the ladder and despite many a setback, left a remarkable legacy, earning the respect of colleagues and adversaries alike.
The books opens by telling the story of how Lauda began his climb up the racing ladder, against his family’s wishes it must be said, when in 1968 he started his racing career in a Mini, followed by a Formula Vee Kaimann in 1969. That followed with a disastrous Formula 3 season in 1970 before he switched to a Porsche sports car. He then took out a loan to buy himself a seat at March in 1971 where he had his debut race at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Lauda stayed with March in 1972 before moving to BRM in 1973, still paying his way with loans and using some of his income from racing touring cars. However, he had only managed to achieve one points-scoring finish in Formula One.
The book them goes on to talk about ‘The Ferrari Years’ when Lauda managed to fulfil his promise to Ferrari after receiving the call to Maranello, winning the Formula One World Championship in 1975 and 1977 for the team. However, tensions between him and the team in his final season, meant that they parted company and Lauda made the move to Brabham.
In ‘The Brabham Years’ Lauda won the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix in Brabham’s rather unusual looking ‘fan car’ but soon afterwards the team became less and less competitive and Lauda lost interest in ‘driving round in circles’ and decided to turn his attention to Lauda Air, his new Austrian airline.
However, in 1982, Lauda was tempted back to Formula One with McLaren and a very large salary and to many doubters’ surprise following a two-year absence from top level motorsport, he won his third race and in 1984 took his third World Championship.
It was then in 1985, having achieved 25 Grand Prix victories, Lauda finally decided it was time to retire from motor racing.
As many of us may know though, this was not the end of Lauda’s involvement in Formula One, as he was appointed Non-Executive Chairman of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd in 2012 and has played a highly visible role in recent Grand Prix. During his time as Non-Executive Chairman, Niki won both the drivers’ and constructors’ Formula One World Championships with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport five times in a row between 2014 and 2018. Sadly, he just missed seeing the team win this year’s Championship as well.
It would be remiss of me not to talk a little bit about the author, Jon Saltinstall, who grew up near Donington Park, where he watched his first motor race at the age of 12 after winning tickets in a local newspaper competition. Fascinated and obsessed with Formula One and its history, he pursued his interest while embarking on a career in banking. His admiration for Niki Lauda led him to embark on this book, which is his first, and after nine years, he completed it a matter of weeks before Niki Lauda sadly died. Jon still lives in Leicestershire and is married with two grown-up children.
Motor racing enthusiasts like myself, who remember the Lauda and Hunt rivalry, will love this comprehensive and richly illustrated examination of Niki Lauda’s entire competition history. With a delightful Foreward by John Watson, Preface by Doug Nye and Afterword by Kurt “Master” Bergman, who dominated Formula Vee with his Kaimann team, ‘Niki Lauda: His Competition History’ makes for the perfect Christmas gift for either a motor racing enthusiast family member, friend or present to yourself.
Publication date: 28 November 2019
UK price: £60.00
Format: 280x235mm Hardback
Illustration: 500 photos, mainly colour
For more information and to purchase a copy of the book, please visit the Evro Publishing website www.evropublishing.com where you can get £20 off the retail price when using reference code: Niki2019
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Book cover and illustrations courtesy of Evro Publishing