Rolf Stommelen

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Rolf Stommelen
Stommelen, Rolf am 1972-07-07.jpg
Born (1943-07-11)11 July 1943
Siegen, Germany
Died 24 April 1983(1983-04-24) (aged 39)
Riverside, California
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality Germany German
Active years 19691976, 1978
Teams Brabham, Surtees, March, Lola, Hill, Arrows, Eifelland
Races 63 (54 starts)
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 1
Career points 14
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First race 1970 South African Grand Prix
Last race 1978 Canadian Grand Prix

Rolf Johann Stommelen[1] (11 July 1943 – 24 April 1983) was a racing driver from Siegen, Germany. He participated in 63 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, achieving one podium, and scored a total of 14 championship points. He also participated in several non-Championship Formula One races.

One of the best endurance sports car racing drivers of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, Stommelen won the 24 Hours of Daytona 4 times; in 1968, 1978, 1980 and 1982 and the Targa Florio in 1967 in a Porsche 910.

Stommelen driving for Brabham at the 1976 German Grand Prix.
Stommelen driving a Porsche for Georg Loos in 1977.

Career[edit]

Stommelen won the pole position for the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Porsche 917 a year after finishing third in a Porsche 908. In this year, he became the first man to reach speeds exceeding 350 km/h (217 mph) on the Mulsanne Straight in his Porsche 917 LH. In 1970, he made his Formula One debut with Brabham with sponsorship obtained from the German magazine "Auto Motor und Sport" and raced both sportscars (Toj and Porsche works teams) and Formula 1 throughout the 1970s.

Unfortunately, he would play a role in the end of the Spanish Grand Prix's tenure at Montjuich Park in Barcelona when he crashed there in the 1975 race after the rear wing of his Embassy-Hill- Lola broke, resulting in the deaths of four spectators and him being seriously injured.

After his recovery, Stommelen returned to sports car racing, winning races for Alfa Romeo and also winning the 24 Hours of Daytona a further three times.

In 1976 Stommelen had the honor to drive the maiden race of the Porsche 936 at the 300 km Nürburgring race. With a black body and without the air-intake, the 936 of this race became known as the black widow. He qualified second, between the factory Renault Alpine A442 of Patrick Depailler and Jean-Pierre Jabouille on first and third. The Renault team was eager to win at Porsche's home soil. On the racing day in hard rain, Stommelen managed to overtake the Renault in front right after the start. Now in the lead, he rushed towards the Nordkehre, braked and let deliberately room for the Renaults in pursuit to overtake. The Renaults, wanting to take back the lead after 2 of 300 km, rushed past Stommelen into the water puddles and crashed into the catch-fences in tandem, with Stommelen taking back the lead again. This led to the saying "On the Nordschleife, you can never brake later than Rolf Stommelen!". After the sixth lap, the throttle cable of the 936 stuck in the "open" position. But instead of giving up, Stommelen continued the race by turning off the master switch at the bends to brake, and turning on the master switch again after the bends to accelerate throughout the rest of the race, mastering an unbelievable second place at the end of the race.[2]

In 1978 he was given the task by the Porsche factory to pilot the mighty Porsche 935 "Moby Dick" in Martini Colors. The 78 "Moby Dick" had a 3.2 liter Turbo Engine that produced 845 HP and Stommelen was with 235 mph (365 km/h) the fastest man on the Mulsanne Straight, faster than the prototypes like the Porsche 936 and the finally winning A442B. Due to high fuel-consumption of the engine, Stommelen had to pit too often to battle for the win.[3]

He continued at Le Mans with the Porsche 935, nearly winning the 24 hours of Le Mans with Dick Barbour and actor Paul Newman as co-drivers in 1979 in a Porsche 935, only to be set back by a 23 minute long pit stop caused by a stuck wheel nut. The Team would not have come so far, if Stommelen had not been constantly 25 seconds faster than his team mates per lap.

He also drove Toj SC320 prototype sportscars with some success against the works Alfa team (Toj was a small German manufacturer).[4]

He also competed in one NASCAR Grand National series event in 1971 at Talladega Superspeedway in a former Holman-Moody Ford which Mario Andretti used to win the 1967 Daytona 500, which was rebuilt as a Mercury Cyclone, with Jake Elder as crew chief. That car eventually was sold to independent driver Darrell Waltrip to use a year later in his Winston Cup Series debut in 1972, starting a career which led to Waltrip's International Motorsports Hall of Fame induction in April 2005.

He was also active in the German GT Championship Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft, winning the championship in 1977 for the Gelo Racing Team on Porsche 935. A master at the vicious Nurburgring, he was a constant winner of races held there.

In the 1980s he was still a sought after prototype pilot and raced successful on Kremer CK5, Lancia LC1 and Porsche 956.

Death[edit]

Stommelen was killed in a vicious crash during an IMSA Camel GT event at Riverside International Raceway on 24 April 1983. He was running a John Fitzpatrick entered Porsche 935 with codriver Derek Bell. Stommelen had just taken over the car from Derek Bell and was running the car at second place when the rear wing broke due to mechanical failure at 190 mph. The car became uncontrollable, slammed against a concrete wall, somersaulted and caught fire. Stommelen died of head injuries.[5]

Complete Formula One World Championship results[edit]

(key)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 WDC Points
1969 Roy Winkelmann Racing Ltd Lotus 59B F2 Ford Straight-4 RSA
ESP
MON
NED
FRA
GBR
GER
8
ITA
CAN
USA
MEX
NC 0
1970 Auto Motor Und Sport Brabham BT33 Cosworth V8 RSA
Ret
ESP
Ret
MON
DNQ
BEL
5
NED
DNQ
FRA
7
GBR
DNS
GER
5
AUT
3
ITA
5
CAN
Ret
USA
12
MEX
Ret
11th 10
1971 Auto Motor Und Sport-Eifelland Team Surtees Surtees TS7 Cosworth V8 RSA
12
20th 3
Surtees TS9 ESP
Ret
MON
6
NED
DSQ
FRA
11
GBR
5
GER
10
AUT
7
ITA
DNS
CAN
Ret
USA
1972 Team Eifelland Caravans Eifelland Type 21 Cosworth V8 ARG
RSA
13
ESP
Ret
MON
10
BEL
11
FRA
16
GBR
10
GER
Ret
AUT
15
ITA
CAN
USA
NC 0
1973 Ceramica Pagnossin Team MRD Brabham BT42 Cosworth V8 ARG
BRA
RSA
ESP
BEL
MON
SWE
FRA
GBR
NED
GER
11
AUT
Ret
ITA
12
CAN
12
USA
NC 0
1974 Embassy Racing Lola T370 Cosworth V8 ARG
BRA
RSA
ESP
BEL
MON
SWE
NED
FRA
GBR
GER
AUT
Ret
ITA
Ret
CAN
11
USA
12
NC 0
1975 Embassy Racing Lola T370 Cosworth V8 ARG
13
BRA
14
NC 0
Lola T371 RSA
7
Hill GH1 ESP
Ret
MON
BEL
SWE
NED
FRA
GBR
GER
AUT
16
ITA
Ret
USA
1976 Martini Racing Brabham BT45 Alfa Romeo Flat-12 BRA
RSA
USW
ESP
BEL
MON
SWE
FRA
GBR
GER
6
AUT
ITA
Ret
CAN
USA
JPN
20th 1
Hesketh Racing Hesketh 308D Cosworth V8 NED
12
1978 Arrows Racing Team Arrows FA1 Cosworth V8 ARG
BRA
RSA
9
USW
9
MON
Ret
BEL
Ret
ESP
14
SWE
14
FRA
15
GBR
DNQ
GER
DSQ
NC 0
Arrows A1 AUT
DNPQ
NED
DNPQ
ITA
DNPQ
USA
16
CAN
DNPQ

Non-Championship results[edit]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1971 Team Surtees Surtees TS9 Ford V8 ARG
Ret
ROC QUE SPR INT
RIN
7
OUL VIC
1975 Embassy Hill T370 Ford Cosworth DFV ROC
9
INT SUI
12

References[edit]

  1. ^ FIA Year Book of Automobile Sport 1979. Patrick Stephens Ltd. white p. 43. ISBN 0-85059-320-4. 
  2. ^ [1] Motorsport-info.de 300km Nuerburgring 1976
  3. ^ [2] Motorsport-info.de Le Mans 1978
  4. ^ http://www.peter-auto-racing.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12%3Afordgt40&catid=14&lang=dpx_uk
  5. ^ [3] IMSA Blog: A very sad Sunday