We’d like to extend our birthday wishes to former F1 drivers Nino Vaccarella (78 today) and Jos Verstappen (39 today)!
Originally a lawyer and high school headmaster, Vaccarella was a hero among his fellow Sicilians on the back of some superb drives in the Targa Florio – a race he won three times in 1965, 1971 and 1975 – and winning the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans. He also won the Nürburgring 1000km in 1964 and the 1970 Sebring 12 Hours.
A reliable and versatile driver, he had an impressive finishing record in this most punishing of disciplines.
Vaccarella has just five championship Grand Prix entries to his name in the early 1960s (and prior to his sports car success), and he failed to finish in the points. However, he performed more impressively in non-championship events, finishing third in the Coppa Italia at Vallelunga in 1961.
Few outside of motorsport circles had actually heard of Jos Verstappen when he made his Formula 1 debut in 1994 with less than 50 car races to his name.
A demon in karting, Verstappen leapt straight into German Formula 3 and won the title at his first attempt, attracting the attention of the Arrows team, with whom he had a test an set impressive times. McLaren was interested in his services as a test driver for 1994, but Flavio Briatore snatched the Dutchman at the eleventh hour.
And to continue this stellar rise, the 22-year-old found himself making his debut when JJ Lehto injured his neck before the season-opening race at Brazil. His debut would not be one to remember, for he was involved in a four-car pile-up for which he was blameless, but worse would happen when he was lucky to escape with just minor burns when his car caught fire during a pit stop at the German Grand Prix.
A fortnight later, he took his first podium at Hungary, and matched the result at the next race in Belgium when team-mate Schumacher was disqualified – they would be his only two podium finishes in a lengthy career.
Sadly, ‘Joss the Boss’ would never hit the same giddy heights, but he earned huge acclaim with a mix of bravado, demon race starts, incredible skill in wet weather, and the tendency for the occasional accident. Fans never knew precisely which version of Jos would turn up on any given weekend, but it was always fun to watch.
Spells with Simtek, Arrows, Tyrrell, Stewart and Minardi, the Dutchman showed many flashes of raw talent that simply needed better equipment and a firmer hold on the reins to achieve greater success.
Equally fun to watch in A1GP after he retired from Formula 1 at the end of 2003, Jos now runs his own karting school and manages the burgeoning talent of his son, Max, who is touted as the Netherlands next serious F1 prospect, at all of the tender age of fourteen!