Pedro Rodriguez

Full Name:
Pedro Rodriguez de la Vega
Born:
18th January 1940
Mexico City
Died:
11th July 1971 (Aged 31)
Nuremberg, Bavaria (D), Norisring sports car race
Nationality:
Mexican
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

The older of the Rodríguez brothers may have been the slower to develop but he was one of the world’s elite drivers by the beginning of the 1970s. Twice a Grand Prix winner, it was in sports cars that he was really special. The sight of Pedro Rodríguez’s Gulf Porsche 917K on the edge of adhesion during the wet 1970 BOAC 1000Kms at Brands Hatch is one of the iconic images of the era.

Family background and early racing career

The sons of a wealthy México City contractor, they raced motorcycles and Pedro won his very first race on a 125cc Adler when 12 years old. National champion two years later, he then raced a Jaguar XK120 with which he won his class on his debut at Avándaro.

Rodríguez retired a North American Racing Team Ferrari 500TR on his European debut in the 1958 Le Mans 24 Hours. He continued with the team and finished second in the Nassau Trophy in 1958, repeating the result in both that race and the 1960 Cuban GP.

Sports car success

In 1961 Pedro and Ricardo Rodríguez shared the winning NART Ferrari in the non-championship Paris 1000Kms at Montlhéry. They were also placed in the Sebring 12 Hours (third) and Nürburgring 1000Kms (second) before challenging for the lead at Le Mans only to suffer engine failure two hours from the finish.

They repeated their victory in Paris in 1962 and were leading at Le Mans once more when the transmission broke. A university graduate in business administration, Pedro also found time to establish a Mercedes-Benz dealership in México City. However, the Rodríguez story took a tragic twist during practice for the 1962 Mexican GP when Ricardo crashed in the Peraltada and was killed.

Formula 1 debut for Lotus

Pedro Rodríguez briefly retired from racing but he returned at the start of 1963 to continue his measured progress. He made his GP debut driving a works Lotus 25-Climax in that year’s United States and Mexican GPs. He continued to race sports cars at the time, normally in North America. Success included the Canadian GP sports car race on two occasions and victory in the 1964 Daytona Continental when sharing a Ferrari 250GTO with Phil Hill.

Rodríguez’s early Formula 1 career was a sporadic affair – driving a NART Ferrari in selected North American races during 1964 and 1965. There was promise nonetheless with Rodríguez sixth in the 1964 Mexican GP and fifth at Watkins Glen a year later.

Grand Prix winner for Cooper

Having started four GPs with Lotus in 1966, Rodríguez joined Cooper-Maserati for the South African GP that opened the 1967 World Championship. It proved to be a dramatic race of attrition. Rhodesian journeyman John Love was set for a surprise victory before his late stop for fuel handed a maiden victory to Rodríguez. Hired as a consequence, he finished fifth at Monaco and Silverstone and was sixth in the world championship. That was despite missing three races after breaking his foot and nose in a Formula 2 race at Enna-Pergusa.

Impressive for BRM and victory at Le Mans

He moved to BRM for 1968 and became de facto team leader when Mike Spence was killed at Indianapolis. Rodríguez enhanced his growing reputation with strong performances in the less-than-satisfactory BRM P133 – finishing second in Belgium and third in Holland and Canada. There was sports car success as well, with victory in the 1968 Le Mans 24 Hours when sharing John Wyer’s Ford GT40 with Lucien Bianchi.

The strange machinations that were BRM management of the time resulted in Rodríguez not getting a works ride for 1969 – starting the year in Reg Parnell Racing’s old BRM P126 before joining Ferrari from the British GP. A couple of points finishes reminded BRM owner Louis Stanley of the Mexican’s talents and Rodríguez was restored to the team for 1970.

Starring for BRM and John Wyer

That was his greatest season both in F1 and sports cars. The highlight of the former was victory in the Belgian GP (BRM’s first in four years) but it was in Wyer’s Gulf Porsche that Rodríguez was described as a “great”. He outshone the team’s star pairing of Jo Siffert and Brian Redman and won four times in the world championship with regular co-driver Leo Kinnunen.

Rodríguez had turned his fortunes around in dramatic fashion in 1970. He was now one of the sport’s highest paid drivers and he continued with BRM and Wyer for the following season. He won the Daytona 24 Hours for a second successive season and scored further sports car success at Monza, Spa-Francorchamps and the Osterreichring. He also won the Oulton Park’s non-championship Spring Trophy for BRM and finished second in the Dutch GP in what was his penultimate GP.

He was leading an Interserie race at the Norisring with Herbert Müller’s Ferrari 512M when he crashed at the tight right-handler by the Steintribüne that dominates the circuit. A puncture was suspected to be the cause and he crashed at devastating speed. Although the fire that engulfed the car was extinguished, it took time to cut the critically injured Rodríguez free. Eventually extricated and taken to hospital, he died later that day.

Calm and approachable out of the car, he was aggressive and spectacular in it. He was an endurance racing great who died just as that was becoming apparent.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1971 F1 World Championship
Yardley Team BRM
5 0 1 0
0% win rate
9th 9
1971 International Championship of Makes
John Wyer Automotive Engineering
8 3 6 4 47
1970 F1 World Championship
Yardley Team BRM
13 0 2 1
8% win rate
7th 23
1970 International Championship of Makes
John Wyer Automotive Engineering
7 0 5 4 41
1969 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
Reg Parnell Racing
North American Racing Team
8 0 0 0
0% win rate
13th 3
1969 International Championship of Makes
Scuderia Ferrari
Equipe Matra Elf
4 0 1 0 12
1968 F1 World Championship
Owen Racing Organisation
12 0 3 0
0% win rate
6th 18
1968 European F2 Trophy
Ron Harris Racing Division
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1968 International Championship of Makes
John Wyer Automotive Engineering
David Piper
2 0 1 1 10
1968 Tasman Cup
Owen Racing Organisation
8 0 1 0
0% win rate
7th 8
1968 Temporada F2 Championship
Ron Harris Racing Division
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
10th 1.8
1967 F1 World Championship
Cooper Car Co
8 0 1 1
13% win rate
6th 15
1967 European F2 Trophy
Ron Harris Racing Division
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1967 International Championship of Makes
North American Racing Team
2 0 1 0 4
1966 F1 World Championship
Team Lotus
Ron Harris Team Lotus
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1966 International Championship of Makes
North American Racing Team
3 0 1 0 7
1965 F1 World Championship
North American Racing Team
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
14th 2
1965 International Championship of Makes
North American Racing Team
2 1 1 1 9
1964 F1 World Championship
North American Racing Team
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
19th 1
1964 International Championship of Makes
North American Racing Team
2 0 1 1 9
1963 F1 World Championship
Team Lotus
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1963 Speed and Endurance World Challenge
North American Racing Team
2 1 1 0 8
1962 Speed World Challenge
Scuderia Ferrari
1 0 0 0 0
1961 World Sportscar Championship
North American Racing Team
3 0 2 0 10
1960 World Sportscar Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
1 0 0 0 0
1959 World Sportscar Championship
Automobili OSCA
1 0 0 0 0
1958 World Sportscar Championship
North American Racing Team
1 0 0 0 0

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