years ago, at the auction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, two of the lots on offer were trophies won by Jochen Rindt in his final season of 1970. One was from the French Grand Prix, run at the majestic Clermont Ferrand circuit (right up there with
Spa-Francorchamps, the Niirburgring and Rouen Les Essarts as far as I’m concerned), which Rindt won in the Lotus 72. The other, though, was of far greater consequence, for it was from Monaco, where Jochen scored the most fabled victory of his life in the Lotus 49. The trophy was in fine condition, and also included in the lot was a photograph of it being held aloft in the Royal Box (below), Rindt standing there with Prince Rainier and the divine Princess Grace. I looked on that scene myself, and remember that tears poured down Jochen’s face, evidence of the stress involved in those final laps
as he chased down Jack Brabham.
After Ayrton Senna set pole position at Monaco in 1988, two seconds clear of McLaren team-mate Prost, he spoke afterwards of some kind of out-of-body experience in the course of his fastest lap it was as if, he said, he were somehow above and ahead of the car, rather than in it, and the experience frightened him, for he knew it was beyond conscious understanding. Returning to the pits, he declined to go out again that day. Rindt was a far more down-to-earth character than Senna, but if in 1970 he had had a similar experience, it would have been no surprise for he, too, went beyond the bounds of what was logically possible. In qualifying he set a best time of 1min 25.9sec, and that seemed pretty good for what was now a vintage car. But in the race, once he had sight of Brabham, he found… something from somewhere,
there’s no other way to describe it, and put in consecutive laps at 1min 23.3sec and 1min 23.2ec almost a second faster than Jackie Stewart’s pole position time. As he announced Rindt’s time ‘tin record du tour sensational: une minute vingt-trois secondes deux dixiemesr the commentator’s voice quavered with emotion, and the gasp of the crowd, even in the post-race tumult, was audible. You could understand why Jochen trembled and wept. And now here was the trophy, available to the highest bidder, which I knew could
not be me, for I expected it to go for telephone numbers. Even if I were to get involved in the bidding, I suspected I would swiftly be left behind, so I simply listened as three, then two people went for it and then suddenly down came the hammer! It was at that moment that I took in yet again that I am not from the Ecclestone mould. Rindt’s trophy, remarkably, had gone for a little over £2000, and a dealer had bought it. I think he probably picked up the Clermont trophy, too. Within days an ad appeared in Autosport, and there was the Monaco trophy, offered, you will not be surprised to learn, at a figure many times the price paid at Goodwood. I can hope only that the trophy’s eventual purchaser was one to
whom it meant something.
I have my memories, though. I did witness the moment, at the last corner the old Gasworks Hairpin on the last lap, when Brabham understeered straight on into the barrier and Rindt, utterly disbelieving, took the lead in the last 10 seconds of the race. And a few hours later I was in Casino Square when Jochen and Nina emerged from the Gala in the Hotel de Paris, and walked swinging that trophy between them down the hill to the Tip-Top Bar, where the fans awaited.
There wasn’t a PR in sight. Forty years ago, come to think of it, there probably wasn’t one in Monaco. • Don’t miss our podcasts with Nigel and the team plus special guests on www.motorsportmagazine.co.uk