The Rat is 60! Hard to believe, isn’t it? But however high the number, it’s impossible to think of Niki Lauda as ‘old’. He remains as sharp, opinionated and deeply immersed in Grand Prix racing as ever 24 years after he walked away from the cockpit for the last time.
These days Lauda is a star TV pundit and is still a popular figure in the paddock. Alan Henry has known him for the best part of 40 years, so who better to celebrate an era-defining life in motor sport and write our cover story for the March issue?
I say era defining, but the truth is Lauda achieved much more. His career peaked at Ferrari in the 1970s when he was undoubtedly the most complete driver on the grid. And what a story: galvanising a rejuvenated Ferrari to a pair of World Championships, a colourful, amusing yet fierce rivalry with the great James Hunt and the most famous escape from an accident in the sport’s history. His subsequent return to the cockpit within six weeks is the stuff of legend.
But perhaps his greatest achievement was returning to Formula 1 over two years after retiring, and making his mark on the turbo era with a third title. Staggering, when you think about it. Within Alan’s interview, on page 45, we’ve run a big photograph of Lauda in the 1974 312B3, and the contrast to the 1985 McLaren MP4/2 pictured below it speaks volumes. The sport had changed dramatically in his time, and Niki had adapted brilliantly.
Beyond the interview, we feature the March 721G, a car that along with its predecessor, the ambitious 721X, almost ended Niki’s career before it really got going. Andrew Frankel visits Porsche’s fabulous new museum in Stuttgart (we all want to go, right now), Simon Taylor lunches with Mini legend Paddy Hopkirk, and for something a little different for Motor Sport’s readers, we meet the Schumacher of US drag racing. And I mean that literally…
Meanwhile, here at Motor Sport we are looking forward to the new season (we’re even starting to like the look of those new Grand Prix cars. Funny how quickly you get used to something), and another exciting year for the magazine is well and truly underway.
And to those of you who visited our stand at the Autosport International show at the NEC in January, thanks for stopping by. It was good to see so many people and I hope you enjoyed the show.