THE REALITIES of Jochen Rindt's life approximate the Mitty - type daydreams of most males. The girls he is seen with at the circuits look as though they're on parole from Bond St., Fifth Ave. or the Rue de la Paix. In almost every Western capital he knows the best night spots and eating places to go, and he goes. He is on terms of easy familiarity with important people (all the way to the rank of ambassador) in diverse walks of life and is trilingual. He has the authority of manner that gives waiters and such an unwonted turn of speed and politesse. He currently owns three cars: a Bertone Alfa that came as a gift from Alfa Romeo, a Porsche, and another whose name I can't remember. He bases one in Austria, his adopted country, one in England and one in the United States. It is a convenient arrangement since his life is largely spent in crisscrossing frontiers and oceans.
Then, of course, he just happens to be a brilIiant racing driver who, in just his second season of the Grands Prix, finished " third in the championship standings behind Jack Brabham and John Surtees.
The aggregate population of the constructors Grand Prix teams stand today at around seventeen drivers. One is about as likely to make this heaven-above-seventh under false pretenses as one is to be shot to the moon. Rindt, it therefore follows, made it strictly on merit. Moreover, as a German (or an Austrian.. as you prefer), he needed maybe a mite more merit than a competitive Briton to sell himself to Cooper. Britain isn't so bankrupt in native talent that her team bosses have to cast their nets internationally.
By the only meaningful yardstick, namely the Repco Brabham, it's true to say that all the other 1966 Formula 1 cars were uncompetitive. The Cooper-Maseratis that Rindt drove were heavy, a bit short on torque- and rather less so on power. They were also prone to minor immaturities affecting reliability. His failure to notch an actual win in a Championship race has therefore been excusable, practically inevitable in fact. But how is he as a loser?
The Belgian GP, which goes down in the annals of racing history as not merely Rindt's worthiest defeat but among the all-time best 2nd places for anybody, is the best for-instance to cite. Following the infamous lap one imbroglio at Spa that eliminated all but seven runners out of 15 (mostly through wild, aquaplaning spins on an unforeseeably deluged track), Jochen forced his Cooper past John Surtees Ferrari on lap four and led him for 20 of the total 28 laps. At this stage the Cooper lost its limited-slip differential and became lethal. Rindt nevertheless pressed on to place second behind Surtees under conditions involving transitions from bone dry to flooded.
Conforming to fashion he spun on lap one at around 140 mph and through 1440 geometrical degrees, calculated by multiplying 360 by the 4 times he gyrated nonstop. Jack Brabham, who had a combatant's close-up of this performance, says Jochen actually appeared to steer the car while spinning at well over a hundred. Jack adds that if it had happened to him in just that way, he'd likely have quit racing forever. The adjective brave and the noun courage have little currency in the matter-of-fact dialog of racing drivers but it's tacitly understood that young. Rindt isn't exactly craven. Reporting this year's British GP, Motor unbent to the extent of crediting him with "a braver drive than many a victory." He finished fifth, using rain tires on a track that was wet at the start but thereafter dried out fast and thoroughly.
Rindt, son of a German father and an Austrian mother, is an exception to Bismark's rule that "We Germans fear God and nothing else." He admits he might suffer martyrdoms of cold sweat if he hadn't developed a special anti-quake drill. Pre-race, and right up to about a minute before the start, he empties his head of everything to do with racing, delaying the switch-throwing until there simply isn't time left for dreaded Temperament to assert itself. He allows that his handling of a car could look hairy to the spectator, but it's like a goose being scared by boos-the goose just doesn't know what a harmless expression "boo" is. Rindt had previously raced Alfas in GT events and a Brabham-Ford in Formula Jr back home in Austria during 1962 and '63. But, Austria is a pretty benighted region in motorsport terms and I doubt if anyone in England had ever heard of him until he showed up for practice with a brand new F2 Brabham-Cosworth at the Crystal Palace circuit, London, May 1964. In every sense except the literal one, he set the palace on fire within moments of hitting the track (actually this hideous greenhouse was burned to the ground over 30 years ago). Among those with the presence of mind to get a clock on him was Roy Winkelmann, perspicacious operator of one of Britain's top F2 teams. Winkelmann notes, I had trouble believing my own eyes. This boy was going through corners visibly faster than Graham HilI and just running rings around drivers of the caliber of Peter Arundell,
Denny Hulme and Alan Rees. I put a watch on him on two or three corners and this confirmed what I could see anyway.
"I decided then and there I'd get him on my team if he was open to offers and when practice finished I had a talk with him. Just to make the whole thing more incredible I discovered nothing whatever had been done to set the car up to suit him personally. The way the pedals were set, he couldn't even heel and toe." . '
Whether these matters were attended to before the meeting came off, a couple of days later, I don't know. However, it's on record that the best efforts of G. HilI (Brabham-Cosworth) and a strong contingent of the nation's established F2 stars were unavailing against this tallish, gangling stranger. Rindt not only won the London Trophy but turned the fastest lap too.
Eight months later, Roy duly signed him up and he's been driving Winkelmann Brabham-Cosworths ever since. In winning the F2 feature at Reims in 1965, he turned the all-time fastest F2 race speed (121.92 mph) but in 1966, like everyone else, he has had to join in the general scramble for crumbs left over by Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme with their invincible Brabham-Hondas.
Winkelmann probably sees as much of Rindt, on and off the track, as almost anybody of the male sex, so some quotes from this source will be in order: "He'd race steamrollers if he didn't have anything else to race. Put him in any car, any time, any place, and you know he'll get the last ounce out of it and himself. Once a race starts, he never lets up. He never has an off day.
"He got into the game for fun and kicks but almost before he had time to realize it, it had become a demanding profession. Back in our first season together he maybe suffered from an over-developed wilI to win, which could sometimes be worrying because expensive equipment was at stake. Now, though, he's come to understand the economics of the business and will back off when he senses that a costly blowup is around the corner. '
"He's a good test driver but will go to extremes, a mile apart, in the experiments he wants made in setting a car up. As a businessman he has a healthy regard for J. Rindt's interests but he appreciates the financial realities of racing and won't press his side of a deal beyond what's reasonable."
In the idiomatic English he's acquired, Jochen says of his own abilities as a mechanic that he has "two left hands," but allows that he has learned enough in the past two or, three years to be able to set a car up effectively. Roy Salvadori, who runs the Cooper-Maserati team, says: "Back when I first knew him I'd have doubted if he'd ever make a really good test driver, but I've changed my mind since." .
Both of his managers agree that he goes out of his way to get along with those he drives and works with, and either doesn't have moods or keeps them to himself. If you ask Rindt how he felt about John Surtees recruitment to Cooper-Maserati following John's bustup with Ferrari in "mid-season, he'll look you straight in the eye and say it made him a happy man. It's hard to imagine why it should, and this is no reflection on John as a person, though the avowal does credit to Jochen's esprit de corps. No matter what everybody says, it seemed inevitable that when there was a better car, Surtees would get it. Da locum melioribus type stuff. Having lived much of his life in the U.S. and assimilated the American concept of motor racing as simply a branch of show business, Winkelmann finds the role of Rindt's entrepreneur very rewarding. "He's another Innes Ireland, and we don't have enough Irelands. Whether it's his name or his looks or whatever, he magnetizes and intrigues people-they want to know him." Incidentally, that flat nose by which Jochen is readily distinguished at any distance, is not a result of a boxing injury but has been a part of him since the day of his birth when the doctor took a strong grip at the wrong place. Like Stirling Moss, Rindt emanates an elusive something, a je ne sais quoi, that goes beelining through, or over the track side fences and directly to the spectators, especially women. Responsive to efforts to promote him, he'll take the trouble to make himself accessible to autograph hunters during entr'actes and after races. In Europe, and Britain in particular, by no means do all drivers consider themselves under any such responsibility. When Winkelmann suggested Jochen use a red bandana for a face protector, he complied, and complied again when asked to please make it a redder bandana.
We said that the Cooper-Maseratis weren't fully competitive in 1966. The same was true, only more so, of the 1.5-liter Cooper-Climaxes that Rindt drove for the works in 1965, his first GP season. So the fairest yardstick to measure him by in 1965 was his teammate, Bruce McLaren, who was in his eighth year as a Grand Prix driver. So make what you care to of the fact that Bruce was 3rd, Jochen 11th at Spa; Bruce 5th, Jochen 8th at Monza; Bruce 16th, Jochen 12th in Mexico. In the rest of the Championship rounds, one or the other of them either didn't finish, but Rindt placed 4th at the Nurburgring, 6th at Watkins Glen.
Like most Grand Prix drivers, Rindt isn't enamored of Le Mans, in spite of winning outright his first time there when he and Masten Gregory co-drove a NART-entered 250LM Ferrari in 1965. A factor that the contemporary reports of this race ignored or glossed over was that early in the act, the NART car was held at its pit because of some kind of mechanical derangement for no less than 40 minutes: The situation this massive delay created illustrates the Winkelmann contention that "once a race starts, Rindt never gives up."
From the moment their trouble was cured until the race ended 18 hours later, he and Gregory, turn by turn, drove absolutely flat out. Jochen says if he has to drive at Le Mans his first preference is to win, his second to retire early and have it over with. So in its way the 1966 race was satisfying too. The evening was awfully young when the 4.7 Ford he was sharing with Innes Ireland gave its death rattle.
The future? Well, many respected authorities in Britain go along with Roy Winkelmann's prediction that :"He'll make a World Champion, sooner or later, for sure." Jochen's own view of his chances? "Anybody can be World Champion, given the right car. No, I don't mean that. . not anybody, but several people." In his three years' exposure : to British influence he's acquired too much English-type, diffidence to add that those several people include Jochen Rindt but I'd be surprised if he doesn't think so.