The Legend of Jochen Rindt

>There is a vivacious competition, on the one hand between the followers to be at the first place to the lords, on the other hand between the lords to possess the most and the most determined followers. That confers prestige, that confers power.< Tacitus (55-117 A.D.)


Yes indeed, he had a dream. He had a dream of the overcoming of time and space, of the penetration into absolutely new spheres, of the development of different dimensions, and in 1970, one year after men had entered another planet for the first time, absolutely everything seemed to be possible. "I will possibly not reach the age of 40, but I will have experienced more things than any other man until that time," he once expressed both self-critical and self-confident, at the same time wise and with the regard of the future. And this life at the limits of human imagination ended after only 28 years. Within a fraction of a second. That was never unusual in this kind of sport, because there is a potential danger everywhere. This competition is based on speed and by that on the naked , cold elemental force - we have forgotten this fact when modern safety technology reduced this danger so dramatically.

Grand Prix drivers, at least the successful ones among them, used to have biographies being out of the criterions of bourgeois society. In this context there had been no differences between the lives of Fangio, Moss or Clark. But these men were integrated in the traditions of their homecountries, they had a socialization corresponding to their current time and they had their basis within their families. Karl Jochen Rindt, born on the 18th April 1942, had not. And he had not been able to do so, too. This war-baby in a Germany successively looking forward to the end of its state`s existence, son of a spice manufacturer from Mainz at the river Rhine (the company´s name was Klein & Rindt) had never experienced his parents consciously as thousands of kids at that time, too. They died far away from home in one of the disastrous bomb attacks against the city of Hamburg in summer 1943. Natascha, Jochen Rindts daughter, his only child, will share the history of his father some three decades later. When he did not return from the Parabolica curve of Monza (where also died German Ferrari driver Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips in 1961) at this hot afternoon of the 5th September 1970, she was only two years old.

In the Federal Republic of Germany, the old one as well as the new, there had always been the attempt to make a German out of Jochen Rindt for so many decades. That had its reason in the fact, that he had never given up his citizenship and was forced by the burning desire to get possession of a part of the glory of this also under Grand Prix circumstances extraordinary personality. Sociologists in this case would consider that a great misunderstanding at least. In fact, already the teenage Jochen Rindt used to have regular, but not very intensive contacts to Mainz, to the factory of his parents that`s legal heir he was, and where he had originally had come from he had never denied, not even to his friends being of the same age. Sometimes it made him a little proud. That what is called primary socialization was influenced by the town he had grown up, Graz, the capital of Austrian federal state Steiermark with its old university and the complex industry. There had been his maternal grandfather, a doctor of law and respected advocate, school days standing in absolute contrast to what the members of the educated class do exspect, but at least with the A-levels degree as the result, a first study trip to England, but above all these every time present, really crazy friends being only interested in cars and, less intensively, in skiing. Two of them later became Grand prix drivers, too: Dr Helmut Marko, who first had studied law, and Harald Ertl, originally coming from Zell am See, but being at the same boarding school in Bad Aussee.

Later, when the Grand Prix became the home for Jochen Rindt, when he had married the Finnish model Nina Lincoln (whose ancestors come from Russia and Sweden and her father had been a well-known racing driver) and Rindt entered his last domicile at the Lake Geneva, his identity became a European one. The man with the intensive Graz dialect, founder of the Austrian glory in Formula One, only spoke English in his small family of his own.

This multi-cultural personality had opponents, maybe rivals, but no enemies. Small thinking quarrelling to put into the media, at that time in most cases newspapers and magazines, he never had thought of, in spite of the fact, he expressed his opinion in a very direct way. It was typical for him, that he made opposite arguments, very often only threadbare excuses, fading away like smoke. Only this way he was able to come through the the humilating time within the team of John Cooper, who could run his company only by reputation and tradition but not by technological innovation during the mid-sixties. And Colin Chapman, as an engineer surely one of the greatest genius of the 20th century, as a businessman of lower quality, who often ran into the wrong direction as a human being (maybe into a dead-end-road or a one-way-street), in spite of being not unsensitive, he was able to be convinced, if in fact possible, in a long and for both sides painfull process. His charm, his warmheartedness in dealing with people ( who insists on something different has never got to know him really), but als his great charisma could hide the concrete block he had ever been, when there was a debate on general principles of technology. Maurice Phillippe, the designer, who put Chapmans body of thoughts onto paper, himself no ideological prophet, but a craftsman of immense expertise, gave a depressive impression even in 1970. Depressions also caused his tragic end one and a half centuries later.

Chapman but also Phillippe never had really assimilated the loss of Jim Clark. They have repressed it as perfectly as they could and like many, many others, too, but they were emotionally and morally much deeper involved. Surely they had constructed the most competitive car at that time, the Lotus Ford 49, when modern aerodynamics made such a rapid progress causing a struggle for existance, and Graham Hill won the championship in 1968 against designate Clark successor Jackie Stewart from Ken Tyrrells Matra International team. The warning shot coming from Jackie Olivers accident in Rouen, when the two-metre-high rear wing broke off for the first time, had been ignored by Chapman (in contrast to that, he tried to make unsure both the public and the other competitors by telling the opposite of the truth). As well as the fact, that his desired canditate for the free cockpit of Clark, Mario Andretti, was not able to do that job for juridical and practical reasons. Both sides were not respecting the real facts of the case. Jochen Rindt, who was looking forward into a more or less unsecure future within the team of Jack Brabham because the Australian Repco V8 units were only able to stand twice a whole Grand Prix distance during the complete season, knew how much pressure he was confronted with because since his debut in Zeltweg 1964, in a private Brabham B.R.M. of the Rob Walker team on the old airfield circuit, he had not been in the condition for a Grand Prix win.

Indeed, Rindt was ever in demand for a lot of teams, he dominated Formula 2, this second great battle field for the world`s elite (where they met many highly qualified newcomers), only comparable to Fangio and Clark in Grand Prix racing. But he had got, absolutely wrong, the image of dealing extremely tough with the equipment, especially with the engines, and therefore being himself responsible for many retirements, as it was in the belief in some people and parts of the press. Roy Winkelmann, the Formula 2 boss, and Ron Dennis, Rindts mechanic at the Cooper and Brabham facilities, never shared this opinion, but they often had a lot to do with convincing certain journalists of the real facts.

This is indeed a sport for pioneers, adventurers and creative brains no matter of which kind of mentality, and this conclusion does not stand in contradiction to the fact, that Grand Prix as a competition has got its origins in economic reasons. Bernie Ecclestone, for Rindt a close friend and a competent personal manager at the same time, a sworn community based on loyalty, respect but also individual independence, has understood that first and best. From technological debates he nearly ever took a certain distance for natural reasons, with the only exception of questions of moral quality being discussed. The technology of Grand Prix racing always penetrates into regions nearly no man has ever explored before. Only the calculating of security factors is a science only a few engineers can master and for this reason their personal responsibility is as greater the more they dare into the unknown, the never to be seen. Where to draw up the border is not a question of collective moral, behind that very often is hidden deepest hypocrisy, but of the individual conscience, and that, no juridical authority, no somehow installed institution of maximum power can ever judge. Naturally, technology is not unbiased, never ends in itself (otherwise it will become a detestable crime), because the high standard applied is the service for the human being. Therefore the choice between the conflicting rights of risk and possible usefulness ever is essential, especially if that is a theoretical chance. Grand Prix engineers, the da Vincis, Michelangelos and Wernher von Brauns of the post-industrial age, are alone in this process of decisionmaking. And their glory, many times so much greater, is dominated by that of the drivers. But: The risk the engineer takes is realized for the driver and therefore this apparent imbalance has got it`s legitimacy.

When Jochen Rindt, suffering in the Cooper Maserati and the Brabham Repco under so many retirements by technical defects (an exception was the 1966 season when he became third in the worldchampionship), but not under highly dangerous breaks of suspensions and later those of the wings ,too, decided to accept Chapmans offer for 1969 including the betterment of his personal financial situation, he got seroius sorrows about this problem area. It was difficult for him to come to a relationship with Team Lotus, on the human and the contractual side. Although Rindt and Chapman came closer after the desastrous quarrells of their beginning, Chapman felt something like fatherly affection for his driver he first had not been able to understand (Rindt was the first non-Briton in the Lotus cockpit), for Rindt always remained this distance (it was emotional self-protection), this deep suspiciousness he was otherwise absolutely against. When he was asked about his relations to the Team Lotus Rindt called it "a pure business connection", while his friend but rival Jackie Stewart considered Matra International as one big family. The safety image of Lotus was a very bad one since the very beginning of the team; and in many cases it had been absolutely correct and not only caused by sensational reports of the press. During the pioneering work of lightweight construction usually a lot of accidents were not foreseeable and therefore they were not really accepted as the price to be paid for quickness. Constructors like Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren, themselves having experienced a long career as drivers, defined the term responsibilty a lot more restrictively. If we look at the situation of the years 1969 and 1970 from the point of view of today, we take the criterions of the present as our standard. But in 25 years our children will laugh at our knowledges with all it`s primitiveness. I am absolutely sure. Will they understand us then? If we look back more than a quarter of a century we talk about historical dimensions, not about contemporary history, because life in Formula One is so intensive. You cannot compare the middle ages with the situation of modern industrial nations using the standards of our time and Montjuich is not Montmelo. This rear wing high above the Lotus Ford 49, already 2 years of age, was based on thin steel pipes. The wing itself had been widened out by additional aluminum pieces making it jut out the rear tyres. But there is a hillock at the banana bent start and finish straight making the cars jumping pretty high, shortly before the braking zone for the hairpin left, where - during the the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix - both the wings of Graham Hill and leading Jochen Rindt broke off, the cars began to fly, before Rindts wreck crashed into that of Hill. Jochen Rindt had been able before to convince the Automobil Club of Catalonia and it`s more or less conservative thinking president Fabregas to protect the circuit by crash-barriers for the first time as he later could switch the German Grand Prix from the extremely dangerous Nürburgring-Nordschleife, that`s demarcation consisted out of fast growing hedge-rows, to the lot more safe Hockenheim Motodrom - and he did it against massive criticism.

In the Clinica Soler-Roig, owned by the father of former Lotus-, March- and B.R.M.- driver Alex Soler-Roig being the hospital`s senior consultant, Rindt did not only find excellent medical treatment of his relatively little injuries ( broken nasal bone and a concussion), he also got good mental care by the engaged professor making him return into the cockpit very early. No matter that he got such a sudden feeling of nausea as the consequence of the concussion during the Grand Prix of France at Clermont Ferrand, the French Nürburgring, to make him retire from the race.

Nevertheless his rivals spoke of him with highest respect. Graham Hill, and, especially Jack Brabham, were in the autumn of their careers. But there were young Brabham-and Ferrari driver Jacky Ickx, Chris Amon, the New Zealander, always confronted with a lot of bad luck both in his racing and private life and never winning a single Grand Prix and Jackie Stewart, Rindt shared more than the common domicile at the Lake Geneva. They all were so very happy about when Rindt won his first ever Grand Prix at Watkins Glen 1969. The US-$ 50.000 prize money were a fortune but under the aspect, that he, in spite of being the fastest man in the business for years, had to wait forty-eight rounds for victory, more than hard earned money.

The American Masten Gregory was a little bit strange man. He drank milk like most other people their beer, played chess with passion and with his angular spectacles with the black rims he looked more similar to an intellectual, maybe an artist, than a racing driver. In the year 1959, when the back engined car learned to race, he was a member of the Cooper team and Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren, the greatest driver engineers in history, were his team mates. One time, during the Grand Prix of Portugal in Lisbon, there had been a dramatic incident, when suddenly a live telegraph cable crossed the track after Jack Brabham, who was hindered by a backmarker when lapping, had made cut off it´s pole. And in Reims Gregory collapsed by a heat-stroke. Also in sports car racing he caused a lot of spectacular incidents to give him, sensitive and aggressive ever since, an image to make every team manager not to sign a contract with. Luigi Chinetti from the North American Racing Team, powerful by being the importer for road Ferraris in the USA, a wealthy man, of course, three times - as a driver - winner of the 24 hours Endurance Race of Le Mans, as well as competent as successful, but as an entrant without any victory in France, had enough self-confidence to sign on even this Gregory for his Ferrari 250 LM as the partner of only twenty-three-years-old Jochen Rindt. But when already at the beginning of the 24 hours a defect at the distributor happened, the Ferrari lost ten laps, it seemed to be, that Le Mans would end with an early retirement for the N.A.R.T. crew. All those, who ever got the opinion the whole project was not able to succeed, had a little smile on their faces. Certainly, at this point Rindt knowing only the strategy of the sprint races, felt depressed about that. He was later pretty near to resign, when he was not able to see any chances for a win. For a place in the middle of the field he could not find any motivation and for this reason he sold himself sometimes under his real value. Gregory, this experienced veteran, managed to convince Rindt of those tactics under normal circumstances only can be accepted for Grand Prix racing: full throttle until the finish line. Driving in the Grand Prix style, always at the limit, is a hard business, physically and psychollogically. It can be practised without any symptoms of fatique making mistakes by loosing concentration as the logical consequence, only two or three hours. But Rindt and Gregory did it that way more than twenty hours, won, in spite of a broken differential during the last lap, but the American had substance enough to bring home the car by driving through the curves using only the neutral. For Gregory it was the victory of his life, satisfaction for all the negative events often caused by selfmade mistakes, before he died of a cardiac infarction only at the age of fifty-nine many years ago. But for Jochen Rindt it was the first climax of his career being amazing even under Grand Prix circumstances.

The other highlight, the triumph in the Grand Prix of Monaco 1970, was the beginning of his short, happy summer, crowned by the title of the world champion remaining him for ever, but it is the special tragedy in the short life of Jochen Rindt, he was not able to live long enough to see this so long desired victory on earth. He would be happy about it. Absolutely sure. as well as the win in Monte Carlo brought a silent happiness to him, when he put so much pressure on the leading Jack Brabham, being himself only eighth on the grid, that the Australian made a mistake as a novice, twohundred metres before the competitors reached the finish line. At this time Rindt´s car, the Lotus Ford 49, was three years old, when his rivals had new equipment available. Then that car was established that seemed to be a bad design during the first races because of his wrong suspension geometry: The Lotus Ford 72. With that mashine Jochen Rindt won in Zandvoort, Clermont Ferrand, Brands Hatch and Hockenheim four Grand Prix without any interuption and one of the greatest individual performances in history. It was also the departure into a new era, that of absolute aerodynamics. When young Emerson Fittipaldi (John Miles had retired from Grand Prix racing after Monza) in Watkins Glen secured Rindt`s title against Jacky Ickx by a win after Pedro Rodriguez running out of fuel in the lead and having to come into the pits for refuelling, he also drove a 72. Jochen Rindt had become world champion, exactly one year after his first Grand Prix win and at the same place, Watkins Glen in the US state of New York. On the grandstands the fans showed banners that`s inscription tells us more than thousands of stories from the mysterious world of Formula One and it´s message is valid even after decades, maybe in our time more true than in the old days: Jochen lives.

Twice he took serious efforts to establish himself as a constructor, in both cases with Robin Herd as the designer, who never was able to decide with whom he wanted to form an alliance with. Out of the first project, together with the Winkelmann team, later the McLaren Ford M7, keeping the whole heart of New Zealand within, was made; from the second one, surely a more adventurous affair, the company of March Enginneering Ltd. had been constructed. The firm was established in Bicester near Oxford and Leatherlade Farm, the headquarter of the legendary train robbers of 1963, is not far away. Ronald Biggs would surely have liked the story, but he still was fleeing that time. Eventually Jochen Rindt, this star full of doubts, not fear, neither a daredevil nor an engine killer, decided to sign a contract with Team Lotus in both cases absolutely consciously accepting the philosophy of the company, but not without criticism.

The Lotus Ford 72, wedge-shaped and with the Gurney flap on its nose-scone to avoid the interuption of the air flow (without that the whole concept of the car would not work), radiators on both sides, torsion rods instead of the normal suspension struts and special brake discs being inside the bodywork to reduce the springless masses: Ingenious but at the same time dangerous because these technological dimensions were never dared to be explored before. But also irresponsible?

No, if all rules of the science are strictly obeyed and all duties of care man is able to fulfill are absolutely respected. Otherwise yes. Shafts, axles, torsion rods etc. are loaded in longitudinal direction by torsion and therefore they have to be flexible. For this reason pipe-like cross sections are better for them, especially under the aspect of the torque that should be transmitted. The popular opinion, massive is robust and for that reason safe, is the wrong way, each multi-storey building, each motorway bridge otherwise would collapse. When the right front shaft cracked at Jochen Rindts Lotus Ford 72 while braking for the Parabolica curve, the reason was not the shaft being hollow for reducing weight of the complete package. A steel company Lotus bought the shaft from had made a mistake during their service, a scratch on the surface of the axle was the beginning of the break at high speed. The second mistake happened at the quality check not detecting the defect. It does not matter that Rindt drove without the rear wing, with the permission of Chapman and like many others in Monza, too, to get more speed on the long straights. And it does not matter that he had seat belts only fixed on four points than the usually six. That is not responsible for the accident and it´s consequences as well as the whole concept of the Lotus Ford 72 itself.

Sixty races that were called Grand Prix he drove, the first one in Zeltweg and the last one, too, even at the Österreichring. Six of them, ten per cent of all he won: Jochen Rindt, born in the terrible chaos of the World War II in Mainz, died on a hot summer afternoon in the Royal Park of Monza. Piers Courage and Bruce McLaren the Grand Prix familiy had also lost in 1970, he survived only for some weeks. Buried he was where he had his roots, in Graz, the second biggest city in Austria and where once the rise to one of the greatest Grand Prix nations had begun for this country with an old Volkswagen beetle. Yes, Jochen Rindt had a dream. If not here, it may be forever.

Klaus Ewald



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