Rindt’s Career Cut Short By Fatal Monza Crash
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published Nov. 3, 2010.
Jochen Rindt’s magnetic charisma and his fearless, passionate, win-or-leave-it-all-on-the-mat style captured the imagination of the media, the fans and his peers alike.
He raced in a violent era, a time when drivers died frequently. They possessed fatalistic attitudes and a cavalier approach to life.
Rindt once said, “Maybe I will not reach the age of 40…”
He was gone at 28, dying, like his hero Wolfgang von Trips, in a high-speed crash at Monza.
Rindt had said, “Nobody knows how long he will live. So, you have to do as much as you can, as fast as you can.”
Jochen Rindt certainly accomplished that.
Born April 18, 1942, in Mainz, Germany, he was orphaned in 1943 when his parents were killed in an Allied bombing raid. Rindt’s grandparents, who lived in Granz, Austria, took him in.
Whether it was because his doting grandparents spoiled him or because he was already expressing his celebrated free spiritedness, Rindt was a hellion.
As heir to his parents spice business, Rindt was expected to take his place there once he completed his education. But school was of little interest.
In fact, Rindt and his childhood buddy, Helmut Marko, now Red Bull’s motorsport consultant and arguably the most influential man in Formula One, were asked by their school’s administrator to transfer to another school because of their rebellious enterprises. Should they leave, they’d be given passing certificates.
Attempting to instill some discipline, Rindt’s grandparents sent him to England to finish his schooling. Rindt did no better there. But in England, he experienced an epiphany. He discovered he could make a race car dance.
From early on he possessed a love for speed and pursued it enthusiastically. After he broke his leg twice while downhill skiing, he switched to motocross racing. Auto racing was a natural progression.
He began in 1962 with saloon races and hill climbs. In 1963, he bought an old Formula Junior Cooper, beating better equipment and more experienced drivers in the Italian Formula Junior Championship.
Encouraged by his success, Rindt moved to Formula Two. With Ford of Austria’s backing, he formed his own team, running a Brabham-Cosworth. In early 1964, he startled the formula racing world by winning against Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Denny Hulme and a host of other European racing luminaries in the London Trophy race.