Markus Winkelhock was only five years old when his father Manfred was killed at Mosport Park in 1985. Undeterred, the youngster forged his own career in racing that included one bizarre Formula 1 appearance.
Early racing career
With further inspiration from his uncle Joachim, Winkelhock made his debut in Formula König during 1998 – finishing as runner-up with three race wins. Two years in Formula Renault were followed by the 2001 German Formula 3 Championship with Mücke Motorsport. He remained with the team and eventually finished fourth in the 2003 F3 Euroseries thanks to a consistent second half of the season.
Formula 1 with Spyker
A race winner again in the 2005 Formula Renault 3.5 season with Draco Multiracing, Winkelhock joined Midland F1 as its official test driver in 2006. When Christijan Albers was fired by the rebadged Spyker team in the middle of 2007, Winkelhock was promoted on a one-off basis for the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. He qualified in 22nd position and decided to start from the pitlane on intermediate tyres when rain started to fall on the parade lap.
While more experienced and faster rivals were caught out by the torrential deluge that followed, Winkelhock climbed into the lead on the second lap – staying there for six surreal laps behind the safety car. He soon dropped to the tail of the field once more before engine failure ended his race but Winkelhock had become only the eighth driver to that date to lead on his GP debut.
GT1 World Champion
He returned to the DTM in 2008 with a Team Rosberg Audi A4. His two previous seasons in that series (2004 and 2007) had yielded just one ninth place. He twice finished fourth in 2009 as he came 10th overall. That was Winkelhock’s penultimate season with the team and in the series.
He switched to the GT1 World Championship in 2011 with Münnick Motorsport’s All-Inkl Lamborghini Murciélago R-SV and Winkelhock was both fast and error-free. He and regular co-driver Marc Basseng won at Zolder and were the fifth best combination in the championship. That was the prelude to a successful if controversial campaign in 2012.
Winners of the Nürburgring 24 Hours with a Phoenix Audi R8 LMS, their Mercedes-Benz SLS proved a consistent top-five finisher in GT1 that year. Winkelhock and Basseng entered the final round at Donington Park in the points lead despite not winning a race. He crashed into title rival Yelmer Buurman’s BMW and, with both cars out of the running, Winkelhock and Basseng were confirmed as the final GT1 world champions.
Winkelhock switched to Blancpain GTs in 2013 and won the 24-hour races at both Spa-Francorchamps and the Nürburgring a year later.