Jochen Rindt

Full Name:
Karl-Jochen Rindt
Born:
18th April 1942
Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate (D)
Died:
5th September 1970 (Aged 28)
Monza, Lombardy (I), Italian GP practice
Nationality:
Austrian
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Jochen Rindt is best known as Formula 1’s only posthumous world champion, for dominating the lesser Formula 2 category at the start of 1600cc era and for winning the Le Mans 24 Hours when just 23 years old. All are factually correct but the former, sombre statement rather masks the considerable natural talents of one of Grand Prix racing’s finest. He was a strong-willed individual who challenged authority and spoke his mind, whether that was a schoolboy or F1 star.

Childhood and early racing career

Rindt was born in Germany during World War II to a wealthy German father, who owned a spice mill, and Austrian mother. His parents were both killed in an Allied air raid on Hamburg so the 15-month-old was raised by his mother’s parents in Graz. Afforded the best education in Austria, he was sent to Chichester in West Sussex to learn English during one summer holiday. It was during that time he visited Goodwood and fell in love with the sport.

On his 18th birthday, Rindt was given a Simca Montlhéry by his grandfather with which he began his competition career in local rallies. He travelled to Aachen in 1962 to study economics but never went back – preferring to race the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Ti his grandmother had given him instead.

Using money inherited on his 21st birthday, Rindt acquired Kurt Bardi-Barry’s year-old Formula Junior Cooper T59-Ford in 1963. Entered under the Ecurie Vienne banner, his campaign began from pole position at Vallelunga and Rindt won the next race at Casenático. He also drove the car in that year’s Austrian GP, a non-championship event held at the bumpy Zeltweg airfield circuit. Despite driving an underpowered FJ car against contemporary F1 machinery, Rindt was running sixth when he retired.

Formula 2 breakthrough and Grand Prix debut

By now Rindt had sold his road car and mill he had inherited to buy a Brabham BT10-Cosworth for the 1964 F2 season. It was during the Whitsun weekend that the previously unheralded Rindt truly came to the fore. Racing against established F1 stars such as Jim Clark and Graham Hill, he was the fastest qualifier at Mallory Park. Third at the finish after stalling at the start that day, he then beat them all at Crystal Palace on the Bank Holiday Monday. The Austrian GP was a world championship event in 1964 so Rindt hired Rob Walker’s Brabham BT11-BRM for his GP debut.

Formula 1 with Cooper and victory at Le Mans

His evident promise led to a three-year contract with Cooper although the former champions were in slow decline. The 1965 F1 season was spent driving the unreliable Cooper T77-Climax as Bruce McLaren’s team-mate. Rindt finished in the points on just two occasions: fourth at the Nürburgring and sixth in the USA during what was a learning year. His highlight came at Le Mans where Rindt shared the winning NART Ferrari 250LM with Masten Gregory. American Ed Hugus also claimed to have taken the wheel for a stint during the night when Rindt could not be found and the bespectacled Gregory was struggling to see in the rain.

New 3-litre F1 rules were introduced in 1966 and Cooper arranged for a supply of Maserati V12 engines whose origins dated back to the late 1950s. The resulting T81 was an overweight, but powerful beast and, with McLaren leaving to start his own team, Rindt began the year as number one driver. The mid-season arrival of former world champion John Surtees from Ferrari placed Rindt’s status in question but the likeable Austrian scored fine second-place finishes in the treacherously wet Belgian GP and at Watkins Glen nonetheless. He was also third at the Nürburgring (again in the wet) and finished a promising, if distant, third in the world championship.

His final F1 season with Cooper in 1967 was a frustrating disappointment that included just two fourth place finishes. The modified T81B handled well, but the Maserati engine lacked both power and reliability. Team-mate Pedro Rodríguez scored a fortuitous win in the opening race of the season and further engine developments failed to improve matters. That the Cooper-Maserati should finish third in the constructors’ championship was down to the travails of others rather than the team’s outright performance or ability to last the distance come raceday.

With European drivers having won the Indianapolis 500 for the previous two years, it was no surprise that a phalanx of F1 stars appeared on the entry list for 1967. Rindt’s Friedkin Enterprises Eagle-Ford burst into flames when he crashed during practice and he qualified on the last row after switching to an All-American Racers entry. He fared no better in the race for, already delayed in the pits, Rindt retired with smoke bellowing from his Ford/Weslake engine shortly after half distance.

It was a different story in Formula 2 however with Rindt’s Roy Winkelmann Racing Brabham BT23-Cosworth dominant. Ineligible to score points in the new European F2 Trophy, the Austrian won at Snetterton, Silverstone, Nürburgring, Tulln-Langenlebarn and Brands Hatch to earn the nickname “King of F2”. That year was also memorable for personal reasons – Rindt marrying Finnish model Nina Lincoln whose father Curt had won that country's national Formula 3 title in 1959.

Rindt moves to Brabham in search of an elusive first F1 win

Frustrated by the inadequacies of the Cooper-Maserati project, Rindt joined world champions Brabham for the 1968 season. As before, it was the right move at precisely the wrong time. Having won the title for the last two seasons, Brabham’s Repco engines were now plagued by reliability issues and were no match for the newer Ford DFV. Rindt began the year by finishing third in South Africa and repeated that result at the Nürburgring, but he failed to finish any other championship round. He also retired a Brabham BT25-Repco after just five laps of his second appearance in the Indianapolis 500. Again it was in F2 that Rindt reminded any doubters that he was a race winner – successful in the championship rounds at Thruxton, Crystal Palace, Tulln-Langenlebarn and Enna-Pergusa.

Success and tragedy with Lotus

Rindt left Brabham after a single season and joined reigning champions Lotus for 1969. The partnership began with Tasman victories at Wigram and Warwick Farm and it soon became evident that he had the edge over new team-mate Graham Hill. However, having enjoyed a good relationship with Jack Brabham in spite their disappointing season together, working with Colin Chapman was in sharp contrast. Their friction was exacerbated by mechanical failures in the first three races of the season, including Rindt breaking his jaw in a frightening accident after his aerofoil collapsed while leading the Spanish GP. Forced to retire in France due to suffering from double vision, Rindt was back to form a fortnight latter when he battled champion elect Jackie Stewart for the lead of the British GP. Finally, having finished on the podium in Italy and Canada and after 49 unsuccessful attempts, Rindt scored a dominant maiden GP victory at Watkins Glen to claim $50,000 in prize money. It was a success that cost Motor Sport’s Denis Jenkinson his beard due to an earlier wager. It was still a bitter sweet day for Team Lotus for Hill broke his legs after crashing when a tyre suddenly deflated. Fourth in the 1969 standings, five pole positions that season reflected Rindt’s natural speed and that he was now at the top of his game.

He ignored other offers to remain with Lotus in 1970 as tensions with Chapman visibly eased. Beginning the year driving the venerable Lotus 49C-Ford, Rindt was second in the Race of Champions before harrying Jack Brabham into a mistake on the last corner of the Monaco GP. Rindt was through to snatch an unexpected dramatic last-gasp victory. He had driven the new wedge-shaped Lotus 72-Ford in the Spanish GP but it was Zandvoort before the car was truly race-ready.

Rindt scored a dominant victory that day but it was a joyless occasion due to the death of his great friend Piers Courage. There were rumours that Rindt contemplated retirement but he remained committed to racing in 1970 and 1971. Victory at Clermont-Ferrand gave Rindt the championship lead and he was on hand to win the British GP when Brabham ran out of fuel on the last lap. Rindt made it four-in-a-row after a classic slipstreaming duel with Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari in the German GP, held at Hockenheim while the Nürburgring was renovated. Now in a commanding championship lead, Rindt was trying his car without wings when he crashed entering Monza’s Parabolica during qualifying for the Italian GP. The Lotus 72 hit the barriers at approximately 150mph and he sustained chest injuries from which he died before reaching hospital.

With three races still remaining, any one of five drivers could still have overhauled Rindt’s points total and scored a hollow, unwanted title. Four weeks after Rindt’s death, his replacement Emerson Fittipaldi won the United States GP at Watkins Glen to confirm Rindt as the posthumous World Champion of 1970.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1970 F1 World Championship
Gold Leaf Team Lotus
9 (1) 3 5 5
56% win rate
1st 45
1970 European F2 Trophy
Jochen Rindt Racing
3 2 1 1
34% win rate
0
1969 Rothmans Tasman Championship
Gold Leaf Team Lotus
7 5 4 2
29% win rate
2nd 30
1969 European F2 Trophy
Roy Winkelmann Racing
4 1 2 2
50% win rate
0
1969 F1 World Championship
Gold Leaf Team Lotus
10 5 3 1
10% win rate
4th 22
1968 Temporada F2 Championship
Roy Winkelmann Racing
4 1 3 0
0% win rate
2nd 21
1968 USAC National Championship
Motor Racing Developments
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1968 F1 World Championship
Brabham Racing Organisation
12 2 2 0
0% win rate
12th 8
1968 European F2 Trophy
Roy Winkelmann Racing
6 4 5 4
67% win rate
0
1967/1967 RAC British F2 Championship
Roy Winkelmann Racing
3 3 3 3
100% win rate
1st 27
1967 USAC National Championship
All-American Racers
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1967 1967 French F2 Championship 1st -
1967 European F2 Trophy
Roy Winkelmann Racing
6 3 5 5
84% win rate
0
1967 F1 World Championship
Cooper Car Co
10 0 0 0
0% win rate
11th 6
1967 International Championship of Makes
Porsche System Engineering
2 0 1 0 4
1966 Autocar British F2 Championship
Roy Winkelmann Racing
3 1 2 1
34% win rate
2nd 16
1966 International Championship of Makes
Comstock Racing Team
1 0 0 0 0
1966 F1 World Championship
Cooper Car Co
9 0 3 0
0% win rate
3rd 22 (24)
1965 Autocar British F2 Championship
Roy Winkelmann Racing
4 1 0 0
0% win rate
10th 3
1965 International Championship of Makes
North American Racing Team
Porsche System Engineering
2 0 2 1 13
1965 F1 World Championship
Cooper Car Co
9 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
13th 4
1964 Autocar British F2 Championship
Jochen Rindt
4 1 2 1
25% win rate
0
1964 International Championship of Makes
North American Racing Team
1 0 0 0 0
1964 F1 World Championship
Rob Walker Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0

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