Winning in an inferior car was not untypical for Jochen. It started 1962 in Aspern where his Alfa Romeo Giulia TI beat over 3 liter Jaguars in a saloon car race. It should be mentioned that Jochen had bought this Conrero prepared car from Ossi Vogl, an Alfa dealer in Graz, who promised him free technical support provided he did reasonably well with it. Well, the dealer had to live up to his promise!
It was repeated together with Masten Gregory at a much more
prestigeous event: Le Mans 1965 and the NART entered Ferrari 250LM
. Jochen was the first Austrian to win Le Mans. Helmut Marko (1971) and
A. Wurz (1996) would follow his example. And Bob Tullius will explain
you, on one of the tapes listed below, why he did not cross
the finish line first at the first Trans Am race ever, 1966 at Sebring
. Jochen won in an Alfa GTA ,
running ahead of everybody else even though he was not payed to win
Jochen Rindt seemed to have been extremely hard on his machinery, to say the least, particularly in his early days. He gained this reputation particularly during the three years with Cooper where he tried very hard to keep up with competition in superior cars, people which he would defeat routinely in Formula II events. Either the car broke or he put it somewhere near the very front by the end of the race.
Reading H. Prueller's book it seems that all Austrians from the Graz region have similar life experiences. From broken legs from skiing accidents to motorcycle races. The Ries has always been one of my favorites and everytime I visit home I make sure I have a few runs over it. Bored by the driving situation in Illinois I even took a three day race car driving course; well, and speeding tickets we all collect!
Jochen supposedly collected quite a number of speeding tickets during the early stages of his career when his "practice sessions" were held on twisty public roads, of which there were many around Graz. Many of them were run against his friend Helmut Marko. Rumor has it that they did Graz-Bruck, a 50 km run, in about the same time you can do it now mostly on Autobahn bypassing all the little villages and going through tunnels, provided you can go the speed limit all the way. Similarly, he practiced with his E-Type at Monaco late in the evening prior to a Formula Junior race.
Things changed once he had made a name of himself, at least within Austria. One late evening on the old road from Graz to Bruck, he was stopped for speeding. When the officer recognized Jochen he smiled and let him go wishing him good luck in his races to come.
For Austrian TV, it seemed that Heinz Prueller had the exclusive right to interview Jochen Rindt. Usually somewhere close to high--revving race car engines, Jochen with cotton in his ears and Prueller screaming questions into his microphone, more "Brueller" than Prueller. Although arguably Niki Lauda and, depending on how you count, Gerhard Berger were/are more successful in F1, none of them stirred our souls quite like Jochen.
Technically, of course, Jochen was German, his father was German, his mother Austrian, however, he raced under Austrian licence. But as far as I am concerened Jochen was Austrian through and through: he could exhibit extreme arrogance and juvenile "Uebermut", but could also be quite sentimental. Regardless of his external displays, he was certainly serious about racing.
When asked by an Austrian Reporter during practice for Le Mans 1965 how he got along with Masten Gregory, Jochen laughed and supposedly replied half joking: "What do you mean, your codriver is your worst enemy!"
To Roy Salvadori who was his team manager during his Cooper days
he once supposedly said: "The most charming thing about you is your
It seems that either you liked him or you hated him, and he was
the same with people around him. Although successful in business (he
had his own race car show and his own F2 racing team in 1970) he was
probably not very diplomatic on a personal level. He certainly said
what was on his mind, ultimately justified or not. This did not go well
with many around him.
On the other hand, he was a close friend of Jackie Stewart, Jack
Piers Courage and others who were his main opponents. Would anybody
any two among N. Mansell, M. Schumacher, D. Hill, A. Prost, or the late
A. Senna good friends?
I also remember that Saturday late afternoon, Sept. 5, 1970, while maintaining my bicyle, when the news about Jochen's fatal crash in practice at Monza was announced on the radio. By that time we all expected that he would live through his racing days, with his wild "stab and steer" days behind him. It appears that everybody who I talk to and was aware of JR can remember exacly what he/she was doing when they learned about Jochen's fatal accident, even after 25 years.
I remember Jackie Steward with tears in his eyes later on TV - and all of Austria grieved with him. For many years I lost interest in cars altogether. The fact that he became F1 champion that year was no consolation to us.
In looking through the literature and talking to people who knew him or saw him drive a racing car, I have reached the conclusion that he had fans all over the world and is still remembered for his driving style by spectators. In us Austrians, Jochen has generated confidence and an enormous enthusiasm for auto racing, F1 in particular, which remains unbroken to the present day. Automobile racing on TV is second only to skiing and soccer. It is safe to say that without him there would be no Austroring (now A1 Ring) near Zeltweg or Salzburgring. In this sense it is true, Jochen lives! In fact, unlike the rest of us, he has not even aged!
On September 5, 2000 a bronze plate was unveiled at the
entrance to his childhood home, Ruckerlberggürtel 16
in presence of Nina and Natascha Rindt. In a simple
I was fortunate to attend with my daughter, one could talk to
who knew him as a child and had
witnessed his early successes in racing everything from scooters to his first cars.
(Hazleton, ISBN: 0-905138-79-1, 1990). If this book is still available - get a copy! In my opinion, Alan Henry has done a superb job of portraying both the controversial personality of Jochen Rindt, as well as the racing atmosphere of the sixties. I don't know how often I've read it - and will in the future.
Wo geht's lang?