Rolf Stommelen

Full Name:
Rolf-Johann Stommelen
Born:
11th July 1943
Siegen, North Rhine-Westphalia
Died:
24th April 1983 (Aged 39)
Riverside, California (USA), IMSA race
Nationality:
German
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Rolf Stommelen was the consummate professional. He excelled in sports cars and was a veteran of 54 Grand Prix starts. However, the closest he came to winning in Formula 1 ended in tragedy.

Early racing career

The bespectacled Stommelen first raced a Porsche 904 GTS in national events during 1964 and he joined the works team three years later for sports cars and hillclimbs. Winner of the 1967 Targa Florio with Paul Hawkins and a Porsche 910, he finished as an impressive runner-up in the European Hillclimb Championship. He survived a couple of violent accidents at the time before enjoying further success in 1968 – Stommelen winning the Daytona 24 Hours and finishing third at Le Mans.

However, Stommelen’s ambitions were not confined to endurance racing and he raced a single-seater for the very first time in the 1969 German Grand Prix no less. He finished fourth in the Fla 2 class with his Roy Winkelmann Racing Lotus 59B-Cosworth ablaze after his fuel tank split.

Formula 1 with Brabham and Surtees

That performance persuaded Stommelen to concentrate on F1 in 1970 with sponsorship from Auto Motor und Sport magazine and a works Brabham BT33-Ford. Early disappointment gave way to points finishes with Stommelen fifth on three occasions and a fine third in Austria after climbing from 17th on the grid.

He drove for Surtees in F1 and Alfa Romeo in sports cars during 1971 and made a promising start to the year in Argentina. Third in the Buenos Aires 1000Kms with an Alfa Romeo T33/3 and Nanni Galli, he qualified on pole position for the non-championship Argentine GP. A consistent finisher in endurance races, he only mustered a couple of top-six finishes during a difficult F1 campaign.

Stuttering F1 career and tragedy

Worse was to come in 1972 with the strange Eifelland 21-Ford – a re-bodied March 721 funded by his long-time sponsors. In just two years, the German had gone from promising F1 newcomer to being without a ride. His sports car success with Alfa Romeo continued in 1973 and 1974 but occasional GP starts for Brabham and Graham Hill Racing respectively were without particular highlight.

However, Stommelen remained with Hill’s Embassy-sponsored team in 1975 and appeared on the verge of glory in the Spanish GP. Leading a GP for the first time, the Hill GH1’s rear wing suddenly broke at over 150mph and the car crashed over the barriers. Stommelen fractured both his legs but two journalists, a marshal and a spectator all lost their lives.

Successful sports car driver

Stommelen returned by the end of the season and joined Porsche’s sports car team for 1976. Further F1 opportunities were limited to occasional drives for Brabham and Hesketh (finishing sixth at the Nürburgring for the former) and a disappointing 1978 campaign with the new Arrows team.

However, Stommelen starred in endurance racing. He won races in the World Sportscar Championship during 1976 and 1977 and was crowned German Champion that latter year with Georg Loos’ Gelo Racing Porsche 935. Winner of the Daytona 24 Hours on four occasions, he could not repeat that success at Le Mans. The closest he came was in 1979 when he finished second with Dick Barbour’s 935 although his starring role was overshadowed by the fame of his co-driver Paul Newman.

Now racing less, Stommelen drove John Fitzpatrick Racing’s Porsche 935 in the 1983 Riverside IMSA race. He was running in second position shortly before half distance when the engine cover and rear wing flew off at the fast Turn 9. The car was pitched into a sickening roll and the seriously injured Stommelen was transported to hospital nearby only to suffer a fatal heart attack brought on by the trauma.

Sports car racing lost a most popular veteran whose ready charm was matched by his success on both sides of the Atlantic.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1983 World Endurance Championship
Joest Racing
1 0 1 0 25th 12
1982 World Endurance Championship
Martini Racing (Lancia)
Porsche Kremer Racing
Jean Rondeau
4 0 2 0 9th 30
1982 IMSA Camel GT Championship
JLP Racing
1 0 1 1 0
1981 World Endurance Championship
Alwin Springer
5 2 2 2 16th 60
1981 IMSA Camel GT Championship
Andial Meister Racing
Alwin Springer
3 2 3 3 0
1980 World Championship of Makes
Joest Racing
Porsche Kremer Racing
3 1 2 2 40
1980 IMSA Camel GT Championship
Joest Racing
1 0 1 1 0
1979 World Championship of Makes
Dick Barbour Racing
Joest Racing
3 3 1 0 23
1978 F1 World Championship
Arrows Racing Team
9 (5) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1978 World Championship of Makes
Dick Barbour Racing
Brumos Porsche
3 1 2 1 35
1978 IMSA Camel GT Championship
Brumos Porsche
1 0 1 1 0
1977 Deutsche Rennsportmeisterschaft 1st -
1977 World Championship of Makes
Georg Loos
Martini Racing (Porsche)
4 0 3 2 52
1977 World Championship of Sportscars 2 0 0 0 2
1976 European F2 Championship
Rolf Stommelen
March Engineering
Fred Opert Racing
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1976 World Championship of Sportscars
Porsche System Engineering
Martini Racing (Porsche)
3 0 1 1 32
1976 World Championship of Makes
Martini Racing (Porsche)
Georg Loos
4 1 2 1 38
1976 F1 World Championship
Martini Racing (Brabham)
Hesketh Racing
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
19th 1
1975 F1 World Championship
Embassy Racing with Graham Hill
6 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1974 European F2 Championship
Team Ecuador
0 (1) 0 0 0 0
1974 World Championship of Makes
Autodelta
Georg Loos
4 0 3 0 51
1974 F1 World Championship
Embassy Racing with Graham Hill
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1973 F1 World Championship
Motor Racing Developments
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1973 European F2 Championship
Fina
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1972 F1 World Championship
Team Eifelland Caravans
8 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1972 World Championship of Makes
Autodelta
Dieter Quester
3 0 1 0 20
1971 F1 World Championship
Team Surtees
9 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
18th 3
1971 International Championship of Makes
Autodelta
4 0 3 0 19
1971 European F2 Trophy
Team Eifelland Caravans
2 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1970 F1 World Championship
Motor Racing Developments
10 (3) 0 1 0
0% win rate
11th 10
1970 International Championship of Makes
Autodelta
1 0 0 0 0
1970 European F2 Trophy
Eifelland Wohnwagenbau
6 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1969 F1 World Championship
Roy Winkelmann Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1969 International Championship of Makes
Porsche System Engineering
6 1 3 0 18
1968 International Championship of Makes
Porsche System Engineering
5 1 5 1 28
1967 International Championship of Makes
Porsche System Engineering
2 0 1 1 10
1966 International Championship of Makes
Porsche System Engineering
1 0 0 0 0
1965 International Championship of Makes
Christian Poirot
1 0 0 0 0