Formula 1, sports-prototypes, the Nürburgring, his father, returning to single-seaters and racing trucks. We gave Hans Stuck a bundle of photographs and let the great man take a stroll down memory lane.
1. The Nürburgring
These are classic Nürburgring jump shots. There were loads of jumping places on the Nordschleife which are now gone. The drivers knew the photographers were there; it was like a jumping contest. We were crazy in those days. Obviously every car was different over the jumps. In a single-seater it was pretty scary. You really had to squeeze your butt.
2. His father
I remember my dad racing in some of his events; I accompanied him during his last few races around 1960. It was always good fun to be with him.
I remember he was competing in a hillclimb and I went up in the cable car before his run and waited for him to come up. There was a board at the top where the drivers’ times were put up. He was last to make his run and all his opponents were at the top waiting to see what time he would achieve. And he came up with the fastest time. One guy said, ‘This is really shit. We can’t beat this old fart.’ I don’t think they knew I was his son. But that was cool. I was pretty proud of my dad and was allowed to steer the car back down the hill. I had a great time with him. I grew up in a pretty rural part of Germany where people were mostly farmers. The people there had no relationship to what my dad did. We were a bit suspect to them. But my childhood was exciting.
3. BMW 700
My fuel infection came pretty early as I had a go-kart that we ran on our property. My driving lessons came from my dad, who taught me to drive in a BMW 700. The lessons were on the Nürburgring Nordschleife when I was about 14. I sat on a couple of cushions and my lap times were about 15 minutes — not so bad. This was in about 1965-66. He was in the passenger seat and I remember him being very scared. I am trying to buy a BMW 700 — it was not only my first street car, it was my dad’s last race car. But 700s are pretty hard to find. One is in Holland and one is in Northern Germany.
4. Making a name for himself
This is from my first race in 1969. I did a lot of the BMW Sports Driving School events at the ‘Ring, and one of the instructors was a guy called Hans Peter Koepchen. You can see his name on the front of this car. I won a driving course and he said to my dad, ‘Now your son has a licence I would like to race him.’ My dad was undecided, because he knew that once I started racing maybe I would have 40 years of it ahead of me. He had a life of ups and downs and all kinds of injuries, and he knew I would have the same. But there was no chance to say no. So I did the Nürburgring 500K race and finished third in class. The throttle linkage was always jumping out, so I had to stop 17 times, open the bonnet and put it back on again. It was a good result if you take that into account. I remember I was wearing jeans, a polo shirt and no seat belts. Because I knew the Nürburgring so well, doing this first race wasn’t all that exciting; it was not out of the ordinary for me, if you see what I mean. I have a BMW 2002Ti now.
5. Ford Capri RS2600
This was the start of my professional career. Jochen Neerpasch, then Ford Racing director, called to say he wanted me in the team and to race in the German Touring Car Championship in 1972. I won the championship that year and also won the Spa 24 Hours with Jochen Mass. In the middle of ’72 Neerpasch came to me and said, ‘I can tell you a secret. Next year I will move to BMW and I want to take you with me.’ And that’s how I moved back to BMW. Putting a championship together came naturally. In those days, if you had a road-going BMW 1602Ti it was not hugely different from a touring car racer. They were much, much closer to a road car than a race car is today. Plus there were not that many speed limits then in Germany, so there were lots of places for practicing. I liked the Capri. It was light, front-engined, rear-wheel drive. It was a good car to drive: it had good power. You can see the front-right wheel lifting here, but cars were run a lot softer and chassis were not as developed in those days.
6. Formula 2
At BMW, Jochen Neerspach wanted to help me build up my career. I did some touring car races with BMW in 1973 and a couple of F2 races with Jean-Pierre Jarier as my team-mate. Then in 1974 I did F2 and drove in F1 as well. It was great getting sideways in this F2 car. Particularly in the wet. After only doing a couple of F2 races, moving up to F1 was quite tricky. I think I have said this before: my first F1 race was in Argentina and I did my first couple of laps and felt pretty good. Around a double right-hander, though, Niki Lauda passed me round the outside, and I thought, ‘Shit. I have a problem.’ I was not shy, though, so I went to see Carlos Reutemann and said, ‘Hi. My name is Hans Stuck. I am new here. I need some ideas about how to work this track.’ He helped. It was like jumping into cold water, but I qualified OK.
7. 1977 US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen
This was the last F1 race of 1977. Before the race meeting Bernie told me that if I wanted to drive for him in 1978 I would have to win the race. Parmalat was going to sponsor the team in ’78 and had to have a grand prix winner at the wheel. I went out and put the car on pole, but the clutch cable was always breaking, and I knew it would in the race. It did and I had to engage gears without the clutch. I remember shifting down from third and it jumped out of gear. I spun and couldn’t restart. That was it. All my hopes for Formula 1 were gone. I remember stepping out of the car and looking at it and knowing the high end of my F1 career was over. But I got two podiums in F1, in Germany and in Austria, and got a fourth in Monaco. I spent that whole race right behind Emerson and could not pass him.
8. Procar in 1979
It was great to battle with the other F1 drivers. There’s a lot of comparison between this and Grand Prix Masters now. This shot must have been taken in practice after I touched the barriers. In the race there was an oil leak with my engine and I went off on my own oil down by the swimming pool area. I put the car over the barriers. Bernie was upset as the Formula 3 race had to be postponed for two hours while they repaired the guardrail.
9. M1 in the 1981 Nürburgring 1000km
This was the only M1 to win an FIA long-distance race, but the event had a dark shadow about it as Herbert Müller died. We won the race mainly because when Herbert crashed, there was a big wall of fire, and it was only Nelson Piquet, my co-driver, who drove right through the flames, and we then had one more lap than the others. The win is in the books, but it doesn’t mean a lot to me. Driving with Nelson was good, though. He was a fast guy, but at the ‘Ring he was lacking about 10-15 seconds. He said F***ing Stuck. That f***ing Stuck. How is he doing this?’ Obviously there was no telemetry in those days, so he couldn’t check where I was gaining time. So he had to rely on my explanations, and I gave him a lot. But he said I was unbelievable at the ‘Ring.
10. World Endurance Championship
I called Professor Helmuth Bon at Porsche. I had done some races with Stefan Bellof, but then he left the team. Bott said, ‘Do you want to drive?’ And I drove to Stuttgart very fast and did the handshake. This was a big turn in my career. I learned a lot. I won the World Endurance Championship that year . And I got to win Le Mans, win Sebring, drive with Derek Bell and Jacky Ickx… Those years were my career highlights.
11. 1987 Le Mans victory
I only lost the World Sportscar [Sports-Prototype World Championship] title in 1987 because Derek Bell and I did not drive together at the Norisring that year. We both finished outside the points in that race, but Derek was ahead. At the time nobody really checked and everyone said we were co-champions. Jürgen Barth was at Porsche at the time and he didn’t like me at all. He pointed out the difference between our non-finishes, and said ‘Bell is the champion’. He set us up. There are no regrets, though. We were good friends then, and even better friends now. Derek was upset as well. But to be runner-up to him was like winning. Driving with him was fantastic as we had a clear work sheet. I was a bit faster and a bit more committed for qualifying, so he let me qualify. He was very good at keeping good consumption in the race. I knew that when he took the car over he would not do anything wrong. And we beat the Jaguars that year. I stayed out for a triple stint at night; the track was drying out and it was a hard stint.
12. Audi in Trans-Am, 1988
Audi wanted to start circuit racing. I said: ‘Audi? Is this a race car?’ They had had success in rallying and this was the start of the race programme. I had lots of fun, lots of success. Being with Walter Rörhl and working with the team was good. I then went on, with Audi, to win the GTCC for the second time [in 1990], 18 years after the first GTCC championship. At first I said, ‘With an Audi 200? This is impossible. How can you do this?’ But they made it into a real race car. They kept giving us more weight and kept improving the car. And kept on winning.
13. Touring Car World Cup, Donington 1994
This was a time when Audi got a little difficult to work with. Dr Ulrich came in and he did not want me as a driver. I didn’t like those small-horsepower cars. Most drivers said they lacked power.
This was one of those weekends that are really cool. I won both races, had pole position and in both races had the fastest lap. In the ITC there were so many technical things to do. We had so much data — it was impossible to work it all out — that on the day, when you had everything correct, you were unbeatable. So much of success is in the mind, though. When someone asks me to race something new. I always want to try it. Michael Schumacher told me once: ‘You are so lucky. You can do so many things that I can never do.’ I don’t imagine Michael will continue racing after he leaves F1, though. I can’t wait to have him in Grand Prix Masters, but by the time he is old enough, I will be far too old. That’s for sure… You have to stay sharp, keep learning. Ronnie Peterson taught me this. He was the kind of guy who really took to a race car, even if it was new to him. He did laps in the car, drove it to the maximum, and then worked on it. He drove it to the max, then complained. That’s what I try to do as well. A lot of guys just do two laps and come in and change things.
15. Racing a diesel
I won the first Nürburgring 24 Hours in 1970; 28 years later I won again. When people look at the list of winners they must think it is father and son. We knew that we could go a long way on one tank of gas. It is knowledge that lets you have success round the Nordschleife. You have to have no fear, but it is experience that counts. I have had a couple of years when I have done almost nothing on the Nordschleife, and then suddenly I lose a minute. The track changes so much. Asphalt, changed here and there, for instance. I am still learning it, too.
16. BMW in American Le Mans Series
It was a good season in the ALMS. This is at Sears Point, one of my favourite tracks. It is like a miniature Nürburgring. It has lots of ups and downs and is very demanding. Racing in the GT class is not easy, but it is good schooling for when you are in a fast car. By driving a GT car, you learn to respect the faster cars. There are occasions with GT cars where you dare not get offline. Sometimes you just can’t let the faster cars by. You have to have one eye on a mirror and one on the track ahead the whole time. It is good to have the experience from both sides.
17. Truck racing
MAN is a corporate sponsor of the BMW Sauber F1 Team. They asked if I wanted to race the truck and I can assure you, it will not be the last truck race I enter. I loved it. It is very competitive. Sideways action. Lots of power. There is a 200-litre water barrel in the back for cooling the brakes, and all the water is gone after a 30-minute race. The brakes would not last one lap of the Nordschleife.
18. Grand Prix Masters
A truck race was probably the worst preparation I could do for Grand Prix Masters. I did the GPM test last year to see if I still had the ability to drive a single-seater. I was wondering if I would even fit in the car. After three laps I thought, ‘Holy Shit!’ I realised I have been missing so much for the last 20 years. It is a real race car. It is so much fun. Kyalami was cool; Qatar was not so good as I crashed with Stefan Johansson. Silverstone was very difficult as Becketts and Stowe are very fast. I was happy to qualify ninth and then move up to fourth in the race. I like to race in the rain. It was very slippery and I had one spin, but lots of drivers had more. I have to compliment Christian Danner. The way he drove that day was like Jesus walking on water. Fantastic. It’s great to race the other drivers and the camaraderie is really good.
This is my son Johannes (19) behind the wheel [at Magny Cours]. This year is his best race year so far. He has done well in the Minis and in other races. He is still focused on school as well, but he’s got the smell of victory. My younger son, Ferdinand (15), is karting now and doing well. In 2009 we want to enter the Nürburgring 24 Hours with Stuck-Stuck-Stuck.