Mainz-Finthen was a USAF base near Mannheim, and maybe 150kms from Hockenheim. In fact I think ’78 was one of the last times we raced there, because, the Americans didn’t want to give permission any more. It wasn’t such a bad circuit, but it was narrow and slippery, and they had tyres on the inside of the tight corners to stop us driving over the grass. Lap times were about 50secs, and as it was completely flat, you could see the entire circuit. Fitz took pole, ahead of Ludwig, myself, and Konrad. I can’t remember exactly what happened at the start, but I tried to outbrake someone, and either the brakes were cold or I had too much rear bias. I locked the rears and spun. All the other 935s went past and I was furious with myself.
The race seemed lost, because I was at the back. First I had to catch, then pass them all. It was a desperate drive, and I was pissed off because I had spun. It wasn’t easy to pass on that narrow, twisty circuit, but I know I did not pass anyone on the straight, but always into or out of corners.
Eventually I came up to Hezemans. There were two corners at the end of the straight, a slow one and then a fast one, where my team mate ‘John Winter’ rolled in practice. I don’t know why, but I was very fast at that second righthand corner.
About 200 metres on was a chicane. As I came out of the second corner faster than Hezemans, I caught him, and was alongside into the chicane. I was on the inside, and I don’t think he imagined I would have a chance to pass there, because of the short straight which preceded it. He probably didn’t pay enough attention, and when he saw I was on the inside he tried to close the door and we touched – he got a puncture, I was through.
Then I was busy catching Ludwig and trying to find a way past. For a long time I never saw Fitz, who was leading in the other Loos car, but eventually I caught him. I think he was blocked behind a slower car. He thought he would be able to out-brake him on the inside, and the guy shut the door, or hadn’t seen him. Fitz was slowed, and I went wide round both of them on the outside and into the lead.
I was very happy. The Kremers couldn’t believe anyone could pass so many cars on that track, and nor could I. Erwin Kremer said, “You are the greatest driver in the galaxy!” I enjoyed it most because it was a sprint. In endurance races often you’re far behind, and you win because others fail. But this was a question of driving better than anybody else. And because I beat his drivers, Loos hired Bob Wollek for ’79. But thanks to the engine development we’d started, that year the Kremer car was better than the factory’s…