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F1 A racer through and through - Ratzenberger remembered

Discussion in 'Motorsport' started by Zorg, Apr 30, 2014.

  1. Zorg

    Zorg Zorg Addict

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    On May 5th 1994 many representatives of Formula One and the world motor racing community attended the funeral in São Paulo of one of the greatest drivers ever to have graced the sport, three time World Champion Ayrton Senna. Two important faces were not there, however: Bernie Ecclestone, president of FOM and friend of Senna, had been asked not to attend by the family, and Max Mosley, the then president of the FIA, who had chosen not to go. He chose instead to attend the funeral two days later in Salzburg of Senna’s fellow racing driver, Roland Ratzenberger, who was also killed that same weekend at Imola. When asked later about this, Mosley explained, ‘Roland had been forgotten. So I went to his funeral because everyone went to Senna’s. I thought it was important that somebody went to his.’

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    Roland Ratzenberger – July 1960 – April 1994 – credit: Cahier Archive


    Ratzenberger was born in Salzburg, Austria on the 4th July 1960, just three and a half months after Senna, but it had taken him a lot longer to get his break into Formula One. He was a late starter in motorsport, only beginning his career in German Formula Ford in 1983 at the age of twenty three. Conscious of his age and fearing that it would go against him with team bosses and sponsors, he often claimed to have been born in 1962, taking two years off his age. Over the next two seasons he built a reputation as a solid workmanlike driver in Formula Ford championships. He finished second in the German competition in 1985 and in the same year he took first place in both the Austrian and the Central European championships. After these successes he decided to take the chance of entering the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch that year. He finished on the podium, having taken second place and in 1986 he went one place better and won the event. This was enough to help him make the move up into British Formula 3.

    He spent two seasons in F3, racing first for West Surrey Racing, then the following season for Madgwick Motorsport. Both years he finished twelfth, but at the same time he also showed his versatility as a racing driver by taking part in the inaugural season of the World Touring Car Championship in 1987, driving a BMW M3 for the Schnitzer race team. He managed two second place finished for the team that year, but unfortunately for Ratzenberger’s career, the WTCC did not continue the following season and did not restart until 2005. He raced briefly the following year in the British Touring Car Championship towards the end of the season for the Demon Tweeks team, but after the disappointments of 1988, he changed formula once again and the following year moved to the British Formula 3000 competition, where he took one win and finished the season third overall.

    More importantly, 1989 was the first year in which he took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving a Porsche 962 with Maurizio Sandro Sala and Walter Lechner for Brun Motorsport. They had to retire in the third hour of that race, but Ratzenberger continued to take part at Le Mans for the rest of his short life, racing again for Brun in 1991 and for the Japanese SARD team in 1990, 1992 and 1993 when he gained his best finish in the race, finishing in fifth place driving a Toyota 93 C-V with Mauro Martini and Naoki Nagasaka.

    In the early nineties Ratzenberger moved his career to Japan. He competed in the Japanese Sports Prototype Championship for SARD, winning two races between 1990 and 1991. At the same time he was also taking part in the Japanese Touring Car Championship where he finished seventh in both seasons.

    In 1992 he returned to racing in single seaters, taking part in Japanese Formula 3000, later to become Formula Nippon. In one race at the Fuji circuit he came to the assistance of fellow driver Anthony Reid, who had crashed with such an impact that his crash helmet had been ripped off of his head. After observing the response of the stewards to this incident, Ratzenberger collaborated with a local journalist to write an article condemning the safety standards at the circuit.

    He finished his first season in Japanese F3000 in seventh place, one above his former SARD team mate, Eddie Irvine. The following year Ratzenberger finished in eleventh place while Irvine went onto finish the season as runner up and began his Formula One career driving for Jordan in the last two races of the 1993 season.

    The following year Ratzenberger also made the move to Formula One, joining the new Simtek race team alongside David Brabham, the son of Australian triple world champion Jack Brabham. His debut at Interlagos in Brazil was disappointing as he failed to qualify, having been delayed by mechanical problems during practice and then a rain storm during qualifying prevented him from setting a representative time. In the following race he was more fortunate as it was the Pacific Grand Prix, held at the Aida circuit in Japan, where his experience racing in that country meant he was the only driver to have raced that circuit before. He qualified in twenty sixth place, but finished the race in eleventh, albeit five laps behind the winner, Michael Schumacher driving for Benetton in what would prove to be the first of his world championship winning years. That race, however, turned out to be the only Formula One race that Ratzenberger would actually take part in.

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    Roland Ratzenberger – San Mario GP weekend – credit: Cahier Archive


    The next race was the San Marino Grand Prix, although the race actually took place at the Imola circuit across the border from the small republic of San Marino, in neighbouring Italy. Things did not go well from the start – in Friday qualifying Rubens Barrichello, driving for Jordan, hit a kerb and was launched into the air, hitting the top of a tyre barrier and rolling several times before coming to rest upside down. Barrichello was knocked unconscious and after treatment in nearby Bologna he was unable to take part in the rest of the race weekend.

    In the Saturday qualifying things turned much, much worse. In the last twenty minutes of final qualifying, Ratzenberger ran over a kerb at the Acque Minerali chicane which is believed to have damaged his front wing. Rather than return to the pits he carried on into another fast lap. Travelling at nearly 200 mph approaching the flat out Villeneuve Curva it is thought that he suffered a front wing failure and as a result could not negotiate the curve and crashed almost head on into the concrete barrier wall opposite. He suffered a basal skull fracture in the massive impact and was airlifted to the Maggiore Hospital in Bologna, the same one that had treated Barrichello the previous day. Sadly there was nothing that could be done to save him and Roland Ratzenberger died of his injuries the same day. This was Formula One’s first race weekend fatality since Riccardo Paletti at the Canadian Grand Prix in 1982 and the first driver fatality since Elio de Angelis in a testing accident in 1986. Unfortunately it was only to be one day until the next one.

    Ratzenberger never had the chance to show what he would have been capable of as an F1 driver. Before his crash he had set a time which would have allowed him to qualify to take part in the race and he may have done enough in his first few races to gain the seat at Simtek on a more permanent basis. The indication from his previous career is that although he is unlikely to have challenged for a world championship he would have been a reliable, if unspectacular driver, however we will never know. What is certain is that after the events of that tragic weekend at Imola, steps were taken to improve the safety of F1 and in the twenty years since then thankfully no drivers have been killed.

    As the quote from Max Mosley at the start of the article made clear, in the immediate aftermath of the double tragedy, the death of Roland Ratzenberger was all too often overlooked, although not by his team mates as Simtek ran the rest of the season with ‘For Roland’ painted on the cars’ airboxes. His former team mate Eddie Irvine took his place driving for SARD at Le Mans that year, with Ratzenberger’s name still on the side of the car and he helped bring it home in second place.

    Now twenty years later, as we remember the events of that weekend at Imola, we must make sure we recall both of the drivers who lost their lives there. Roland and Ayrton, born just months apart and who followed two very different career paths, but whose lives ended just hours apart on the same circuit, we remember you both.

    Author information

    [​IMG]
    Graham Moggipaldi

    This article "Roland Ratzenberger" originally found on Badger GP

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  2. Zorg

    Zorg Zorg Addict

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    Roland Ratzenberger embodied the spirit and drive that often define sporting greats. He was that rarest of characters: charismatic, yet humble; shy, yet vivacious; able to climb the ladder without breeding enmity. Twenty years after his fatal accident at Imola, we pay tribute to a life dedicated, and ultimately surrendered, to a singular passion - motor racing

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    http://formula1.com - home of Formula One World Championship Limited.
     
    #2 Zorg, Apr 30, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2014
  3. t-tony

    t-tony Zorg Expert (I)
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    Totally agree Gaz, we will never forget returning from our first visit to Florida as is was on that fateful weekend.
     
  4. hard top

    hard top Zorg Expert (I)
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    "While not blessed with the same natural gifts as Ayrton Senna, the man he will forever be linked with following that tragic weekend at Imola",

    I was watching it live (did not see qualifying) and saw Senna go off via his onboard and you knew it was bad. BBC stopped broadcasting but Dutch/German TV kept on filming from a chopper above his car. Bad taste in my opinion but you know what? We all kept watching........:(
     
  5. badman gee

    badman gee Guest

    We all watched because were all sickos!
     
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  6. t-tony

    t-tony Zorg Expert (I)
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    No different to the rubberneckers going past an accident on the road guys, it's sad but we all do it.
     
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  7. GazHyde

    GazHyde The Gaz Monkey
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    I didn't get chance to add my thoughts yesterday, and I still remember that weekend vividly. From the first article, this quote sticks out more than anything else. I

    I'm probably one of the small percentage that marks the passing of two drivers that weekend, as it's always Senna who gets mentioned first and then Roland almost as an after thought.

    This year I'm pleased that more of the Motorsport media are choosing to remember both drivers.

    As for being a sicko, or a rubbernecker - I remember watching riveted to the chair on race day with shock and utter disbelief. I think it was compounded because of Roland's death the previous day, surely not two in one weekend? You could tell immediately that something had gone badly wrong by the scale of the impact.

    If genuine shock make me a sicko, then I guess I'm a sicko. Sometimes sport goes a little deeper in people's emotions than it should, and this was a real nerve hitter for me.
     
    #7 GazHyde, May 1, 2014
    Last edited: May 1, 2014
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  8. hard top

    hard top Zorg Expert (I)
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    Ask any true F1 fan old enough to remember... 'where were you when' and both drivers are discussed, in qualifying and the race.

    As for Mosley, he probably picked up a little black number in leather, with shiny silver epaulettes, on his way home.
    [​IMG]

    "Max Mosley, former president of the FIA and Formula One racing is still battling Google. Even though Mosley has managed to collect more than $100,000 in damages from News Corp. in two countries, he's not satisfied until the Google search engine has a special algorithm to detect and delete certain content, specifically of him participating in an S&M party with multiple prostitutes".
     
  9. GazHyde

    GazHyde The Gaz Monkey
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    That's probably what I'm getting at Mike ;)

    As for what Max gets up to in his own time, I'm not really sure on the relevance... :facepalm:
     
  10. hard top

    hard top Zorg Expert (I)
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    Senna was top dog at the time and his name has become sinonimos with the F1 brand, look at Hamilton's helmets during his racing career.
    "For the GP in Brazil in 2011, Hamilton wore a special helmet that was a fusion of his post 2011 helmet, and that of Ayrton Senna. The helmet was auctioned after the race in aid of the Ayrton Senna Foundation".
    Roland Ratzenberger was driving in his third grand prix, so was obviously not that well known in the F1 circus. I know that this is not an excuse but go out and ask people about Martin Donnelly.

    As for Mad Max........
    He was in Salzburg and later on was a naughty boy in London...ha ha.
    I have never liked the guy and maybe I am reading between the lines here “I went to Ratzenberger’s funeral rather than to Senna’s where all the great and good of Formula One were because I felt somebody needed to support him and his family,” Mosley said.
    But you have to take your leather peaked cap off to him Gaz for making $100,000 out of a bit of 'slap and tickle' as he would probably call it.
     
  11. t-tony

    t-tony Zorg Expert (I)
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    And but for the grace of God there could easily have been 3 that same weekend because Reubens Barrichello was extremely lucky in his crash in Friday practice.
     
  12. Zorg

    Zorg Zorg Addict

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    F1 Drivers attend Senna-Ratzenberger memorial event

    Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were amongst a host of F1 drivers past and present who attended a memorial service at Imola on Thursday to mark the 20th anniversary of the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger. In an emotional ceremony at Tamburello corner attended by thousands of fans and members of Senna's family, the Ferrari duo were joined by Marussia's Jules Bianchi and a number of former F1 drivers in paying their respects

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    #12 Zorg, May 1, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2014

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