Stefan Bellof

Beginning as an F2 sensation, Stefan Bellof was an emerging F1 and World Sportscar superstar before his journey was cut short too soon

When considering the list of Grand Prix greats it is perhaps strange to mention someone who only started 20 races and never finished higher than fourth (officially at least). But Stefan Bellof’s raw talent was evident during his all too short life – whether that be by winning his first two Formula 2 races, his starring role in the Porsche sports car team or the 1984 Monaco GP.

Formula 2 sensation during his early career

The son of a rally driver, he won the 1981 German Formula Ford title in his second season racing cars. German Formula 3 race wins followed in Bertram Schäfer’s Ralt RT3-Toyota before Bellof, with just three seasons of racing behind him, joined Maurer-BMW for the 1982 European F2 Championship.

The Gustav Brunner-designed MM82 was sinister in its black livery but by the end of his debut at a wet Silverstone it was the previously little known Bellof that had caught the eye. He won on debut and qualified on pole position at Hockenheim a fortnight later, winning once again.

However, the rival March team grew ever stronger as the year progressed and Bellof eventually slipped to fourth in the championship. A second season in the category was frustrating but Bellof established himself in the Rothmans Porsche sports car team during 1983. His pole lap at Silverstone was sensational, his accident at the Nürburgring spectacular and three victories alongside veteran Derek Bell confirmed his emerging status.

Formula 1 star and World Sportscar Champion

The 1984 season was a busy one, combining another year with Porsche and his debut in Formula 1. The former culminated in winning the World Endurance Championship’s drivers’ title but the latter was officially expunged from the record books.

Tyrrell, for which Bellof raced, relied on the old-fashioned Ford DFV engine and struggled to qualify against the more powerful turbos. Bellof’s greatest day came in the very wet 1984 Monaco GP when he was running third and closing in on both leaders only for the race to be stopped early. However, a fuel sample taken from team-mate Martin Brundle’s car in Detroit led to the team being excluded from the championship with all its results that year annulled.

Bellof continued his dual programme in 1985, with Tyrrell in F1 but switching to the Porsche privateer Brun Motorsport in sports cars. He finished fourth in the Detroit GP but did not win another endurance race. Just 22 days after the death of compatriot Manfred Winkelhock at Mosport Park, the sports car world and motor racing in general was rocked by another tragedy. Bellof had just started a stint in the Spa 1000Kms when he crashed at Eau Rouge as he tried to pass Jacky Ickx’s works car for the lead. Bellof hit the barriers head on and died in the circuit’s medical centre an hour later.

A raw and sometimes reckless talent, Stefan Bellof was lost before he could fully prove himself – tributes were freely given for a star in the making.

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