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German's single top F1 drive



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Manfred Winkelhock (Philippe Streiff)


Brabham-BMW BT53 (Renault RE50)




1984 Portuguese GP


It's Estoril 1984 and Alain Prost and Niki Lauda are bracing themselves to slug it out for the World Championship. While the race ends up being one of the tightest Championship finishes in history, two one-off mid-grid appearances are completely overlooked. Renault field a third RE50 for F2 revelation Philippe Streiff to make his F1 debut in, while BMW draft German Manfred Winkelhock into the second Brabham entry to replace the indisposed Fabi brothers, who were at home at their father's funeral.

Unfortunately, Manfred doesn't do much better as Teo or Corrado in his one shot at being the best Brabham number two since Riccardo Patrese. Not having learnt a lesson since Riccardo showed it's better to have a real driver in the second seat, Bernie then takes on Frenchman Hesnault for 1985, only to kick him out mid-season when the money well dries out. Hesnault's career is finished but for a single camera-car return in another "green" third Renault.

With Winkelhock not getting a second chance, the recap of the much vaunted BMW Junior Team of the seventies looked a lost cause. It was only recreated in 2000 by young Briton Jenson Button's surprise entry into Grand Prix racing. BMW Motorsport pioneered the concept of hiring promising drivers for their BMW Junior Team back in the late 1970s by entering young drivers in both Formula 2 single-seaters and Group 5 silhouette saloons as well. Local German truck electrician and weekend racer Manfred Winkelhock got the nod for one of the seats. American teenage sensation Eddie Cheever and Swiss Marc Surer were given the other two. In relative terms only Eddie was a real youngster. Manfred would turn 25 in 1977 and Surer was a year older.

The previous year Winkelhock had won the one-make VW Junior Cup so he went straight on into big-league BMW 320 Group 5 silhouette racing. He acquitted himself well, however, and took another title in 1977 by claiming the second division of the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft. Overall he finished a splendid third. His career blossoming, he sat in single-seaters for the first time in 1979. The year proved a difficult monoposto baptism for Manfred as he collected a mere 11 points in the Euro F2 series with his BMW Junior Team entered March-BMW 782. The following year he was entered as a privateer in an ancient Ralt-BMW RT1. With this car he finished a credible third in the Eifelrennen at Nürburgring behind Surer and Brian Henton. He also continued in Group 5 saloons for Schnitzer and again took third overall in the German Rennsport Series. Manfred continued in F2 for 1980 and finished the year with a third at Enna as his best result.

In the wake of countryman Jochen Mass' practice crash for the Austrian GP which made him unfit to drive the next couple of races, Kiwi Mike Thackwell - another teen sensation - tried to qualify the Arrows at Zandvoort and our man Manfred would get his chance at age 28 in the Italian GP at Monza. Just as Thackwell Manfred proved too slow to put the car on the grid so his actual GP debut had to be postponed for some time. Also in 1980 Manfred made the headlines in a spectacular way when he did his infamous flip-over in his Formula 2 car at the Nürburgring. The crash was very similar to the crashes experienced by Mercedes at Le Mans in 1999. As in those cases Manfred escaped without injury.

The 1981 season saw him continue in the F2 championship when he was rewarded with a couple of podiums for his efforts: a second at Hockenheim and a third at Donington. For 1982 Manfred's time as a full-time GP driver had come when he signed for the egocentric German Günther Schmid's ATS team, named after Schmid's company, a manufacturer of alloy wheels. Not much was gained in the Cosworth-powered ATS D5 but Manfred would renew his BMW connections for 1983 when ATS signed to use the powerful turbo fourbangers from BMW. Schmid had lobbied some time for them and finally got his hands on the prize asset. Swiss tuner Heini Mader would look after the engines for ATS. So, greater things were hoped for by the little ATS team. The handsome Gustav Brunner-penned car looked like it could do the job. Sadly for both Manfred and all others involved in the team, both this year and the next were wasted in terms of results. Not even a single point was earned for 1983 and 1984. The car proved to be quick in qualifying as a load of top-ten qualifying spots prove, but the ATS A6 suffered from dreadful reliability. Some driving mistakes but mostly mechanical problems let Manfred down.

Late in 1984 Manfred was also called in to do the initial shakedown tests with new German Formula 1 car from Zakspeed. Before that, for the season finale at Estoril in 1984, again thanks to his BMW ties, Manfred got himself into the second of the Brabhams, usually driven by Teo Fabi between his Indycar commitments. When he was unavailable his kid brother Corrado would sub for him. Indeed an unusual solution. However this time out Teo and Corrado's father had passed away so they would both have to skip the race.

This is where our man Manfred enters the arena. Sadly, Manfred was unable to capitalize on his big chance as he qualified a lowly 19th and finished in a quiet 10th place. Concurrently with this disappointment, the supply of BMW engines to ATS dried out after 1984 and Herr Schmid decided to take a few years sabbatical from GP racing. He would re-enter the arena a few years later with an another pretty car from Gustav Brunner's pen. This time he would promote his other brand of alloy wheels, Rial. But that is an another story.

Meanwhile, Manfred had to look elsewhere for his 1985 campaign and found that British American Tobacco decided to promote their Skoal brand of snuff tobacco through F1 racing. They had stepped up their budget for the little British RAM team which had been dabbling with second-hand cars in the late 1970s and now had fielded their own cars for a few years. As team mate to Winkelhock, RAM signed up fast Frenchman Philippe Alliot while Manfred would once again work with designer Gustav Brunner who had joined RAM after he left ATS. The powerplant came from independent engine wiz Brian Hart. But with big manufacturers Renault, Honda and BMW pouring in loads of cash into the development, Hart found it hard to compete with a budget less then a tenth of those of the manufacturers. As always the Brunner car looked nice but the engine did fail on numerous occasions although Teo Fabi's banzai lap actually gained pole position at the German GP with a similarly engined Toleman.

The disappointing 1985 season for RAM meant that BAT would withdraw their sponsorship before the 1986 season. Left without a drive, Winkelhock had to go back to his sportscar career, which he had run in parallel with F1. For the last few years Manfred had been a regular with and had actually taken a Norisring sprint race in 1984 with a Kremer-entered Porsche 956-115. Before, he had also done Le Mans three times, in 1979, 1980 and 1982, netting a fine on his Le Mans debut in 1979, in a Warholesque painted BMW M1. In 1980, he returned to Le Mans in 1980 in another M1, this time a more tweaked version then the more standard version he used in 1979, but the team crashed out during the 6th hour. For 1982 Manfred was snapped up by FoMoCo for their return to sportscars. The 100cm high C100 was his mount this time, Manfred shering the car with Klaus Niedzwiedz. The Ford C100 was powered by a 4.0-litre version of the venerable DFV called DFL (L for "long distance") but in this configuration the engine was never successful and suffered badly from inherent vibrations. The entry had to withdraw during the 6th hour due to electrical maladies.

For 1985 Manfred continued in Group C sportscars for Kremer, where he formed a successful pairing with former BMW Junior Team team mate Marc Surer. Together with the Swiss he won the Monza 1000kms in the Kremer Porsche 962-110. On August 11 he would drive his last race driving the same Kremer Porsche at the Canadian round of the World Endurance Championship at Mosport. Coming into Turn 2 and without any attempt to turn the steering wheel Manfred's Porsche 962 hit the concrete wall surrounding the track almost head-on. Former F1 team boss Willi Kauhsen, who was at the scene as a spectator, was an eye witness to the accident: "Winkelhock was on the ideal line but suddenly he went straight off the track into the wall." The front of the 962 was completely demolished and it took over one hour to extract Winkelhock from the wrecked car. The medical helicopter took off for the Sunnybrook Medical Center in nearby Toronto. Manfred had suffered massive head injuries in the crash and his condition was critical. The surgeons were unable to save Manfred's life, as he was pronounced dead the following day.

The reason for the accident has never been made clear. Some suggest Manfred blacked out in the fast high G-force corner while others suggest mechanical failure. A tyre failure was the most probable cause. German motorsports suffered another blow when it lost another hero only a few weeks later with Stefan Bellof crashing his Porsche 962 at the infamous Eau Rouge corner at Spa-Francorchamps.

These events did not deter Manfred's younger brothers Joachim and Thomas from entering the sport. As his elder brother Joachim was nearing his thirties when he rose to prominence, even doing an abortive attempt into Formula 1 for AGS in 1989. His F1 hopes dashed, Smokin' Jo went on to become one of BMW's best touring car aces, as he netted both German and British titles. Thanks to BMW winding down their touring car effort and the Bavarians embarking on their new Le Mans project, Jo got a late chance to do sportscars. After retiring in the 1998 event Jo went on to win the 1999 Le Mans race in the BMW V12 LMR, sharing with Yannick Dalmas and Pierluigi Martini. Thomas Winkelhock was a single-seater driver in GM Lotus early in his career. Now 32 years old he has been a stalwart in German Production Saloons for many years. He has also been seen in the Nürburgring Langstrecken Cup. The latest Winkelhock to come up through the ranks is F3 driver Markus.

Reader's Why by William Dale Jr

Two good drivers, two sad ends.

Manfred Winkelhock is the brother of now well-known touring car star Joachim, and was a very good sportscar driver to boot. Also famous for the big F2 accident he had at the Nurburgring in the early 80s that appeared on HAVOC videos. Born in Germany in 1952, he began racing F2 in 1979 and continued through to the end of 1981, scoring several good results driving a Ralt-BMW, and of course having the aforementioned accident... His good drives in the BMW-powered car got him a drive in the BMW-powered ATS F1 car for 1982. This, however, wasn't his first taste of F1 having had a guest drive in an Arrows at the Italian GP in 1980, but it was his first taste of a turbo-engined F1 car, and what a taste! I should imagine that the steady power application of an atmo engine is very different from the "light-switch" power application of BMW's famous stock-block based engine. He acquitted himself well, scoring a fifth place in the Brazilian GP, his second race for the team. These would be the only points he would score that year, with the BMW being in its first year and also being very fragile, of course not qualifying for four races didn't help either.

Winkelhock stayed with ATS for 1983, driving Gustav Brunner's D6 which was the first car to use the carbon-fibre monocoque for the outer bodywork. Despite having the BMW, they were the second-string engines, with Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham outfit getting the latest engine updates since it was in a good position of winning the World Championship, which as we all know it did. No points were scored by Manfred this year either, not qualifying at home, and getting disqualified at Zandvoort for overtaking on the warm-up lap. Looks like Mr Schumacher wasn't the only German to pull that trick...

1984. Another fruitless year. He was disqualified during practice in Brazil, and didn't start in Austria and Italy after losing gearboxes in the warm-up. He was joined in selected races by young Gerhard Berger, who was taking a similar route to the one that Winkelhock himself had taken a couple of years earlier. His persistence in the ATS was rewarded, getting a drive in the Number 2 Brabham at the final round at Estoril, after every man and his dog had been in it before him. He didn't do well in the race, and perhaps this is why he didn't get a drive with them the next year.

ATS folded at the end of 1984 so Manfred went to the RAM team for 1985. For that year, as with the previous, he combined his open-wheeled activity with the odd WEC sportscar race with the legendary Kremer team. Combining with Marc Surer, they finished second at Mugello, fourth at Silverstone and won at Monza in the 962C Porsche. Sadly, it was in this car that he would be killed after a serious accident at Mosport. He sustained no broken bones, but died a day later from severe head injuries, in what was a very black year for sportscar racing.

I remember seeing Philippe Streiff on a program that used to be on in Australia called Beyond 2000. He'd developed a road-going sportscar with a motor manufacturer that was specially adapted with hand controls so that people who have lost the use of their legs could drive road cars. Philippe Streiff started racing F3 in 1980 in the big league, the European Championship, taking a win at Zolder in Belgium. The next year he finished fourth in the championship and was French F3 Champion. He drove for AGS for the next few years in F2 (and when it became F3000 in 1985), scoring the odd good result including a win at Brands Hatch in 1984. He also got his first F1 drive that year, in a Renault, but didn't finish after qualifying towards the rear end of the field.

In 1985 he got called up by Ken Tyrrell to drive in Stefan Bellof's spot for a race before the German's tragic death. When Ligier fired Andrea de Cesaris for crashing too many cars, they called up Streiff to replace him for the final four races. In the final round at Adelaide he finished third to team-mate Jacques Laffite, but with the front left suspension hanging on by a thread after a failed attempt to pass his French compatriot on the final lap of the race. As you can imagine, this didn't impress Guy Ligier, and René Arnoux drove for Ligier in 1986, not Streiff.

Ken Tyrrell asked him back to partner Martin Brundle in the Renault powered 014, although it got to the point that when the new car arrived, Tyrrell would only let Streiff out in his for the final qualifying session because if he got his hands on it earlier, he would more than likely crash it. That was probably a bit unfair, but it was true and he did burn one of the Tyrrells to the ground at the French GP when fuel started leaking on to the turbo, and Streiff didn't turn off the fuel pump when he got out, but I suppose he couldn't be blamed, after all I would rather it be the car that went up than me as well. He drove again for Tyrrell in 1987, being overshadowed by Jonathan Palmer all year, except for when both cars went out in the Belgium GP after a massive accident at Eau Rouge.

He'd travelled full circle by 1988, returning to the AGS fold to drive their F1 car, although he didn't score any points. 1989 would have been a lot better, but sadly at the Goodyear tyre test at Rio that year, his car got launched over a kerb and had the most serious accident of his career. It left him paralysed from the waist down. As I said at the start, two good drivers, two sad ends.