Former Arrows driver Siegfried Stohr will be celebrating his 59th birthday today!
Despite his Germanic name, Stohr was actually born and raised in Italy and raced under the tricolore. The former karting ace contested just 13 Grands Prix with Arrows, retiring from competition shortly after being involved in a tragic start-line accident…
After winning the 1978 Italian Formula 3 title, Stohr graduated to Formula 2 in 1979, claiming a pair of second places in a Chevron before making the poor decision to jump ship to a March chassis.
Securing sponsorship from the Beta tools company, he joined the Toleman F2 team in 1980, finishing fourth overall with a win at Enna.
He graduated to Formula 1 the following year with Arrows, who gratefully accepted his Beta backing in exchange for a seat as team-mate to Riccardo Patrese. He generally struggled in comparison to his compatriot, but he steadily improved, only to lose all confidence in a shocking accident on the grid for the Belgian Grand Prix.
The race weekend had already been marred by the serious injury – which would later prove to be fatal – to an Osella mechanic who had fallen off the pit wall and into the path of Carlos Reutemann. Before the start of the race, all teams’ mechanics and several drivers staged a protest over the lack of safety measures in place to protect them.
Despite the chaotic scenes, organisers flagged the warm-up lap to get underway, which left several cars on the grid minus their drivers. The grid eventually formed up again, only for Nelson Piquet to miss his starting grid slot and be sent around again, but not the other drivers, many of whom switched off their engines to prevent them from overheating.
Incredibly, organisers got the starting procedure underway once Piquet had rejoined in the correct position, and despite Patrese frantically signalling that his engine was off. His mechanic came onto the grid to start up Patrese’s car while the starting process still proceeded, and an unsighted Stohr ran into the back of Patrese’s car, injuring the mechanic.
Stohr’s confidence was badly dented and his – and the team’s, it should be said – form through the rest of the season plummeted.
He retired from competition at the end of the year and set up a racing school.
[Images via AutoMotivated, F1 Rejects]