Former F1 driver Siegfried Stohr is celebrating his 58th birthday today.
Stohr had a promising junior career and quickly rose through the ranks to F1, making his debut (and failing to qualify) at the United States West GP at Long Beach as Riccardo Patrese’s team-mate.
Stohr struggled against his more experience team-mate, and just as he began to show some form, he was involved in a tragic start-line accident at 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.
Despite this, 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. Stohr retired from F1 at the end of the season and set up a racing school.
[Original image via F1 Rejects]