Jo Siffert

Full Name:
Joseph Siffert
Born:
7th July 1936
Fribourg, Fribourg Canton
Died:
24th October 1971 (Aged 35)
Brands Hatch, Kent (GB), Rothmans F1 Victory Race
Nationality:
Swiss
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

It is not always the number of Grand Prix victories or championship titles that determines if someone is a star or not. Witness Gilles Villeneuve, Patrick Depailler or, indeed, Chris Amon to name a few. Add to that list Joseph Siffert – the veteran of 96 GP starts that included just two wins. However, his sports car exploits and exciting driving style ensured enduring popularity in the grandstands.

Early racing career and Formula 1 debut

The son of a Swiss car dealer, "Seppi" (his childhood nickname) began racing on bikes and he won the 350cc national title in 1958 with a Gilera. He tried cars two years later and victory in the International Formula Junior Championship followed in 1961. He graduated to Formula 1 in 1962 with an Ecurie Filipinetti Lotus 21-Climax for minor events and five rounds of the world championship.

He failed to qualify in Monaco and Italy but was 10th on his championship debut in Belgium. With a Lotus 24-BRM acquired for 1963, Siffert was second at Imola and beat a weak field at Syracuse in the early-season non-championship races. He also finished sixth in the French GP at Reims to score his first championship point.

Switch to Rob Walker Racing

He switched to a Brabham BT11-BRM for 1964 and surprised the motor racing fraternity by beating world champion Jim Clark in the Mediterranean GP at Enna-Pergusa by just 0.1 seconds. Third in the 1964 United States GP, his car was entered by Rob Walker in 1965 at the start of a relationship that would last for the rest of the decade. When Siffert repeated his Mediterranean GP victory in 1965 (again beating Clark in a slipstreaming duel) it was obvious that there was something about this charismatic gentleman.

Siffert made his first inroads into sports car racing during 1966 and he finished fourth in that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours with a works Porsche 906/6LH and Colin Davis. However, two F1 seasons with Walker’s Cooper T81-Maserati proved largely frustrating with fourth place finishes at Watkins Glen in 1966 and in the following year’s French and United States GPs his only points scores.

A winner in sports cars and F1

It was in 1968 that this popular also-ran turned into a winner – first in sports cars and then in F1. The endurance racing season began with Siffert being classified in first and second positions in the Daytona 24 Hours having driven both leading works Porsche 907s during the race. His position as a star of this form of the sport was confirmed with further victories at Sebring, the Nürburgring and Zeltweg.

With the Cooper-Maserati now well beyond its sell-by date, Walker acquired a Lotus 49-Ford which Siffert raced for the first time in the 1968 Spanish GP. He qualified third in Monaco and withstood intense pressure from Amon at Brands Hatch to score a narrow maiden GP victory. He ended the season by qualifying on pole position for the Mexican GP, as he had done for that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

His sports car success continued in 1969 with Siffert now forging a winning partnership for Porsche with Brian Redman. He won six times that year as the German manufacturer won the World Sportscar Championship for the first time.

Formula 1 with March and BRM

He also scored successive podium finishes in the 1969 Monaco (third) and Dutch GPs (second) in what was the last of his five seasons with Rob Walker’s privateers. A move to the new March team for 1970 proved frustrating but the success continued in endurance racing. Siffert and Redman shared one of John Wyer’s Gulf Porsche 917 with new star Pedro Rodríguez in a sister car. The Mexican impressed but the Siffert/Redman combination also won three times.

The 1971 season brought another mix of F1 and sports cars. He joined Rodríguez in the Yardley BRM F1 team and continued with Wyer’s Gulf-sponsored team in the latter. The Mexican was killed in a minor sports car race in July but Siffert raised BRM’s morale with a dominant victory a month later in the Austrian GP. Siffert qualified his V12 BRM P160 on pole position, set the race’s fastest lap and led all the way to record his second GP victory despite a last-lap puncture.

Fourth equal in that year’s F1 standings, he qualified on pole position for the World Championship Victory Race at Brands Hatch. However, his suspension failed approaching Hawthorn’s Bend while running in fourth position and he crashed over the barriers. His car caught fire as it came to rest and Jo Siffert was dead by the time help arrived.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1971 F1 World Championship
Yardley Team BRM
11 1 2 1
10% win rate
4th 19
1971 International Championship of Makes
John Wyer Automotive Engineering
8 1 6 1 38
1971 European F2 Trophy
Siffert Racing Team
2 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1970 International Championship of Makes
John Wyer Automotive Engineering
7 2 5 3 39
1970 F1 World Championship
March Engineering
12 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1970 European F2 Trophy
BMW
5 0 2 1
20% win rate
0
1969 International Championship of Makes
Porsche System Engineering
Porsche Konstruktionen
Squadra Tartaruga
Hart Ski Racing Team
7 3 6 6 48
1969 F1 World Championship
Rob Walker/Jack Durlacher Racing
11 0 2 0
0% win rate
9th 15
1969 European F2 Trophy
BMW
3 1 1 0
0% win rate
0
1968 Temporada F2 Championship
Tecno Racing Team
4 1 1 0
0% win rate
7th 8.8
1968 International Championship of Makes
Porsche System Engineering
6 3 5 4 35
1968 European F2 Trophy
BMW
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1968 F1 World Championship
Rob Walker/Jack Durlacher Racing
12 1 1 1
9% win rate
7th 12
1967/1967 RAC British F2 Championship
BMW
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1967 F1 World Championship
Rob Walker Racing
10 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
11th 6
1967 International Championship of Makes
Porsche System Engineering
7 0 2 0 21
1967 European F2 Trophy
BMW
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1966 Autocar British F2 Championship
Joakim Bonnier
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1966 F1 World Championship
Rob Walker Racing
8 0 0 0
0% win rate
14th 3
1966 International Championship of Makes
Porsche System Engineering
Charles Vogele
3 0 0 0 6
1965 Autocar British F2 Championship
Ecurie Alf Francis
0 (1) 0 0 0 0
1965 F1 World Championship
Rob Walker Racing
10 0 0 0
0% win rate
11th 5
1965 International Championship of Makes
J Simone
1 0 0 0 0
1964 F1 World Championship
Siffert Racing Team
Rob Walker Racing
10 0 1 0
0% win rate
10th 7
1963 F1 World Championship
Siffert Racing Team
9 0 0 0
0% win rate
15th 1
1962 F1 World Championship
Ecurie Filipinetti
3 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1961 1961 International Formula Junior Championship 1st -

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