Jochen Rindt - 30 Years On.



We used to call it Formula Rindt. Once a year we would trek down to Crystal Palace to watch Jochen demolish the finest names in motor racing in a formula he made his own. They would start, he would come round and then there would be an ever increasing gap to the rest of the field. A field which included, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill et al.

Sadly, neither the circuit nor the man still exist today but some of the memories which remain burn as bright as Jochen's star ever did.

Of course in those days, it wasn't just a case of "doing F1". Drivers also did full seasons in F2 and quite often, if the drive appealed, saloon cars as well. The net result was a season which would often consist of over 35 races.. But it all started in 1964, years before that dramatic season in 1970. Then an unknown started from pole position at Mallory Park which then hosted on of the seasons premier events, the Grovewood Trophy. True he only finished 3rd, but the writing was on the wall and the following day at Crystal Palace, the writing was in luminous letters!!

The event consisted of 2 heats and a final. Heat 1 was won by Graham Hill who masterfully overtook Jim Clark (are you starting to get the picture here?) and the second was won by Rindt ahead of David Hobbs and Alan Rees. For the final, Hill was on pole and led off from the start, but was quickly overtaken by Rees. Rindt followed him through and was now attacking Rees ( who at that time was one of Britains shining stars) It took him until lap 14 to get by Rees, but thereafter he pulled away to win by 1.4 seconds a lap. It was to become a regular occurrence at Crystal Palace and elsewhere as well. In 1964 Rindt had but one GP outing and that an inauspicious event, Fittingly it was the Austrian GP, driving a Rob Walker Brabham BT 11, retiring eventually with steering problems. He had qualified a very respectable 13th about 2 seconds behind pole sitter Hill and was a head of such names as Chris Amon, Phil Hill and Mike Hailwood. His career at that point was driven to a certain degree by commercialism as he was developing a strong relationship with Winkelmann Racing in F2, who used BP products. Although he would have loved to have driven for Rob Walker in 1965, Rob was contracted to Esso. Jochen therefore was eased into a Cooper seat.

Here was a contradiction as the Cooper was by no means a competitive car, whereas Winkelmann Racing were acknowledged to be one of the best teams in F2.

It was Alan Rees, no doubt impressed by what he has seen at the Palace, who suggested that Rindt join Winkelmann as part of the two car team

Over at Cooper, Jochen suffered what can only be described as a character building season. Even by that time John Cooper's best days had passed and the car Rindt had to throw around was a heavy and ungainly item indeed. In the first race in South Africa, Rindt qualified 3.2 seconds off Clark's pole time and it was to be so for the rest of the season. There were 9 GPs that year and it says something that he managed to score points in the German and US GP's The rest was all about retirements , apart from Monaco where he failed to qualify. By contrast in F2, he was by now regularly on the podium with a Brabham BT16, scoring 2 wins. Oh and he won the Le Mans 24 Hours.....

Nil Downforce.

Rindt with the the less than perfect Cooper Maserati at of all places, the Nurburgring.






The Le Mans story was the highlight of that otherwise awful season. Rindt was, at first, not keen to do the race, but eventually agreed to drive a NART Ferrari 275LM. He was paired with Masten Gregory, who had not exactly covered himself in glory thus far.

To make matters, more interesting, they were up against the works Ford 7 litre GT40's driven by oh, let's see, Bruce McLaren, Phil Hill, Chris Amon and Ken Miles. Would you bet on the Ferrari?? In addition to this the field also contained smaller engined GT40's and Ferrari P2's (John Surtees, Ludovicio Scarfiotti, etc.) Leo Mehl tells a lovely story about being approached by Luigi Chinetti who ran the NART cars, for some tyres. Mehl only had some less than pristine rain tyres which he duly handed over. I suppose it says something about Rindt, that he loved them....

Predictably the opening stages featured the works 7 litre Fords, but the Ferrari, starting 11th was up to 8th by the end of the first hour.. Just after Rindt handed over to Gregory, the Ferrari faltered, and Rindt, needing little persuading, packed his bags. However, whilst he was still trying to get his car out of the paddock, the car was fixed and he was dragged back and into his race suit. They rejoined the race in 18th position and they had no choice at this stage to drive as fast as they could for the rest of the race. Through the night it kept going. 14th by midnight and the works Fords had gone. The faster Ferrari P2's were suffering which persistent brake discs cracking and by dawn the "Dangerous brothers" were in second place, led only by a similar 275LM entered by a Belgian team and driven by and industrialist and a night club owner..... For some reason the Maranello team manager came down the pits and asked Chinetti to hold hi s guys back so that the Equipe Belge car could win. Chinetti, himself a three times winner of the Classic, asked the Maranello guy to leave, except not in so many words. Rindt thrashed the Ferrari as if it was a F2 car, cutting into the lead car's advantage, consuming tyres and brake pads at an alarming rate. Eventually the lead car threw a tyre and badly wrecked the bodywork. So, incredibly, down on power, steering vibrating like a traction engine, the NART car took the lead. The last hour came and it seemed as if a further twist to this amazing race would be added. The diff began to break up and Gregory was reduced to coasting though corners, gently applying the power after the exit. the car crossed the line to win. And the diff collapsed as he drove into the paddock. Incredibly, it was Leo Mehl's and Goodyears, first Le Mans win, taking the glory with the crappiest set of tyres imaginable. Incredibly Jochen returned twice more but failed to finish again. For all he won it at the first time of asking, it was not to his liking.

During 1966 and 67, Rindt continued to campaign the Cooper Maserati. It was a brute of a car and easily outstripped by the more nimbler (and reliable) cars which it competed against. All that notwithstanding, Rindt continued to wring the best out of it and on more than one occasion confounded expectations, most notably at Spa in 1966 where he finished 2nd. Significantly of course since Spa places so much emphasis on the driver ability. This excellent result was followed up by a 4th at the French GP, 5th in Britain, 3rd in Germany, 4th in Italy and another 2nd in the US GP at Watkins Glen. Anybody with half an eye for a good driver must have known that here was a man bound for bigger and better things if he were only given half a chance.
The GP season was dovetailed neatly with the F2 series, campaigned consistently with the Roy Winkelmann Racing team and the Brabham BT18. Incredibly though (or not, this was the mid 60's after all) Rindt also drove for Autodelta in saloon races, with an Alfa GTA, Porsche System Engineering in sports car racing with a Carrera 6 and one outing for Ronnie Hoare's team in a GT40 at an Austrian GP at Zeltweg, where he ran to 9th place.

Busy times in those days and topped in 1967 by a massive 38-race programme. Whilst in those days the GP programme was still limited to 10 races in which he netted one 4th place in Belgium and 9 DNF's, in F2 he became virtually unbeatable. The new FIA regs called for 1600cc engines and RWR had taken the new Brabham BT23 for the new season. With this beautiful chassis married to the raunchy FVA engine, Rindt went on the rampage and absolutely demolished the field wherever they raced.

All in all he contested 21 races in F2, gaining 13 wins and 5 2nd places. It was not all hearts and flowers however. Several notables of the day, in particular, Ron Dennis who was then chief mechanic for Cooper Maserati, and Denis Jenkinson, found him arrogant and big headed. (The Schumacher of his day perhaps). This attitude almost certainly coloured Jenk's otherwise sound judgment when he wagered his legendary beard against Jochen winning a race in the 1969 season after he joined Lotus.

F1 being the raison d'être that it is, Rindt was never going to stay at Cooper with such a dire car and no prospect of anything better. He had given it three years, in which he could have written of his then fledgling career very easily. In 1968 however, Brabham was a strong team again and it took little persuasion for Jochen to join "Black Jack" in his own team. Brabham had an engine supply from the Australian manufacturer Repco and big things were expected. Once again though, it was a disastrous season. Denny Hulme leaving Brabham created the vacancy. The team had made its mark in the new 3-litre formula with a succession of victories. The car was neat and responsive and Rindt expected to do well.
In reality it was a season almost as bad as if he had stayed at Cooper. He scored 2 3rd places at the opener in Kyalami and in Germany. The rest were all retirements with a frustrating litany of failures and breakages. Nevertheless, it was not a season of acrimony. Jack and Jochen admired each other enormously and this regard was also shared by Ron Tauranac, who rated Jochen highly; "Jochen was always very pro - Brabham…. in those days we were watching costs and used to share rooms. He was a good bloke to be with".
All consolation was derived from his season with Roy Winkelmann in his next to last season in F2, where Rindt scored 9 wins with the development 23C with its Cosworth FVA engine.



So it was, that at the end of 1968 a deal was done which would bring the 2 most charismatic figures in F1 together for the 1969 series.
Rindt and Colin Chapman, boss of Lotus.
Of course even that wasn't straightforward. After Jim Clark's tragic and early death, Chapman had tried to land Jackie Stewart to drive alongside Graham Hill, who had picked up the mantle of team leader and indeed, won the 68 title for Lotus. However, were it not for the problems which he had with the new Matra, several observers suggested that Stewart would have won the title and not Hill.
So with Hill and Rindt, experience and sheer speed, Chapman looked to have a good mix. He stirred the pot a bit by also trying to have Mario Andretti to drive as many races as his American programme would allow. Any feelings Jochen had on this were negated by the fact that, at last he had his hands on a DFV powered F1 car.

In 1969 "winter" series were still very much the thing and Rindt had raced in 10 races before his 1st GP for Lotus. For the last season in F2 Winkelmann Racing had switched to the Lotus 59B, still with the FVA in the back and Jochen had notched up 3 wins and 3 2nds from the 10 F2 races, which was perhaps as well.
Ironically, he qualified 2nd in South Africa behind Jack's Bt26A, but more significantly, ahead of Hill and Andretti. Briefly he held 2nd place but fell out with fuel pump problems. 2 wins and a 2nd in F2 prefaced the Spanish GP and in these heady days of experimentation, bravado was measured in how big yours was (wings that is).

At Montjuich Park, Chapman had the biggest (and it has to be said, flimsiest looking) wings on the 49B. Nevertheless, Rindt annexed pole by a goodly margin and tore off when the flag dropped into the lead. Hill moved up to 3rd but on lap 9, under full load, the wing collapsed as he crested the rise beyond the pits, pitching him heavily into the armco. Hill, unhurt, knew the wing had collapsed and caused the crash and he watched as Rindt went past, his wing progressively buckling under the load as it passed him. Hill sent a mechanic back to warn the Lotus pit to pull him in
On lap 20, the same fate befell Rindt at the same place. Hill's car was still by the side of the track and Rindt's car collided with it before flipping over trapping him inside. Hill was first on the scene and helped to extract Rindt.


All this somehow seemed to raise the Rindt mystique in some way and it was after Spain that Jenks finally rose to the bait and bet his beard against Rindt winning in 1969, most notably with John Webb, the then owner of Brands Hatch.

It looked quite safe for all the rest of the season. Had he bet on F2 of course he would have been scalped. Rindt secured another 4 wins with RWR, his only respite in F1 being a 2nd place in the Oulton Park Gold Cup in the car he hated the most, the Lotus 63.
By Italy though, the signs were there for those who wished to read them and Rindt lost out to Stewart by eight-hundredths of a second after a typical (then) drag to the line.
It was fitting that Jenk's beard finally went to a win which Stirling Moss thought, " equalled any of the great GP's he had seen".


And so, 1970 arrived and whilst Lotus in 1969 had run an entirely conventional car in the 49 and its derivatives, Chapman, like US based Jim Hall and his Chaparral's, was not about to stand still. The Lotus 72 was like no other racing car which had gone before it. Instead of being separated by about 6 months from the 49, it seemed to come from another galaxy almost, so radical were its looks. Being Chapman, the 72 wasn't restricted to being a good looker. Add, inboard disc brakes, torsion bar suspension, side mounted water radiators and that profile to die for and it added up to a jaw dropping car

As it happened, the 72 would not be ready at the start of the season and Rindt had to start in the 49, upgraded to C specification. It was not an auspicious start. He retired in South Africa with the 49C and in Spain, where the 72 made its debut, with engine problems. In Spain, the 72 threw a front shaft which pitched Jochen into a a terminal spin. He walked back tot he pits and told Colin Chapman that " He wasn't;t going to drive the car ever again". He did of course, but Chapman did withdraw the car for the next round at Monaco. Thus Jochen found himself in the nimble 49C again. He was now running his own F2 team with Lotus 69's and he continued to win almost as he pleased; 1st in the heat and final of the Wills Trophy at Thruxton, 1st at Pau and 1st at the Eifelrennen.

Anyone who saw that race, live or on TV cannot fail to forget it. In those days of course we were treated to but 2 GP's a year. The British GP and Monaco. From the start. Brabham set off fully in command and was looking unbeatable at the front. For most of the 80 laps Rindt seemed content to drive round in 6th or 7th place, looking completely out of it. Half way through the race, Brabham was 2.6 seconds ahead of Chris Amon and 15.2 ahead of Rindt. 3/4 of the way through and the gaps were much the same. Then Amon dropped out with suspension failure and maybe Rindt started to think he could at least get on the podium. 10 laps to go and the gap was down to 11.45 seconds. 6 laps, 9 seconds.

FLYING. Rindt in pursuit of Brabham in the 1970 Monaco GP.

Then Brabham was slowed by Siffert and the gap was 4 seconds with just 3 laps to go. Rindt now was driving as if possessed, hurling the 49C from lock to lock. I have one picture in my mind of him literally flying through Casino Square on the final lap where Brabham still had 1.5 seconds in hand. At the chicane Rindt took at least half of that out of Brabham and as they approached the Gasworks chicane. With at least one eye on Rindt, Jack came up to lap Piers Courage, missed his braking point and slid, incredibly into the straw bales (Yes this was 1970) Rindt was through and took the flag. Unbelievable.

At Spa he was still in the 49C and duly retired, but at the Dutch GP, the definitive 72 finally made an appearance and Rindt duly demolished the opposition. It was to be a joyless victory however as his great friend Piers Courage crashed and was killed in the inferno which ensued.

Rindt won again in France at Clermont Ferrand and then again at Brands when Brabham ran out of fuel and it all seemed rather jolly. But behind the scenes, there was war. Chapman and Rindt were continually at loggerheads over the 72, which Rindt hated, Chapman was obsessed with saving weight and Jochen felt that this made the car to unstable and fragile.

Nevertheless in hung together at Hockenheim for Jochen to score what would be his last GP victory and it seemed to hard to find someone who would bet against Rindt and Chapman winning when they seemed to ride every piece of luck going.

For my part it was good to see Jochen at the Oulton Park Gold Cup in August of that year. Still a massively popular F1 event. We used to hover by the paddock gate and when a truck came through sneak though on the blind side of the gate man into the paddock. (Could we afford a pound in those days to get in? Not likely) On this day I had effected my move with stunning smoothness when who should I see as i turned into the paddock but Rindt looking at me and smirking. He pulled a wry face but gave me the thumbs up and nodded as he walked past. He scored a heat win and w as second overall. How good it would have been to have his name on the trophy.

So it was 2 weeks later that Jochen went out top [practice for the Italian GP at Monza. The Ferrari's with their flat 12 engines were monstering the practice and Chapman sent Rindt out with e 72 shorn of all its wings. What a horrible car it looked , Miles, Rindt's team mate was horrified and said the car felt really unstable.

Braking for the Parabolica, the 72 began to weave and suddenly speared off to the left into the armco. The chisel nose of the 72 rammed under the barrier which was insecure anyway. Rindt never fastened his crotch straps and was plunged into the cockpit severing his jugular vein on the seat belt buckle.

Later it was found that one of the front shafts had sheared again. Unstable, cold tyres, what a combination for disaster.

And the season dragged on. Incredibly, it seemed as if it might all come to nought. Jochen at the time of his death had a ridiculously low points tally; 45, which would surely be overhauled and we would have lost a great driver who would never figure in the statistics. At the final round, Ickx could still win the title if he won. We were left thanking a young Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, to emerge onto the scene to take the win and ensure Jochen's rightful place in F1' Hall of Fame.

He may not have gone on for ever; there was more than one rumour which suggested he may have retired at the end of 1970. Now we shall never know. All I know is, he brought us so much pleasure with his breathtaking speed and unbelievable arrogance. How he deserves the title.

Jochen Rindt World Champion 1970

The funeral at Graz