While many will mourn today’s date as the anniversary of Jim Clark’s death, April 7 should also be remembered for the passing of two other former F1 drivers: Harald Ertl was killed in 1982 and Cliff Allison passed away in 2005.
Austrian-born Ertl was a man who combined two of his passions in one environment. An accomplished motorsport journalist, Ertl started out racing in Formula Vee, Super Vee and Formula 3 in Germany in the early 1970s.
He later moved into touring cars, with his greatest success being victory in the 1973 Tourist Trophy in a BMW with Derek Bell.
With backing from the Warsteiner brewery group, Ertl made his F1 debut in a gold-livered Hesketh 308 at the 1975 German Grand Prix, making two more appearances that year.
He drove for the team full-time in 1976, but it was a year of few highlights. He narrowly missed out on a points’ finish at the British Grand Prix, but he earned plaudits at the very next race in Germany, where he was one of four fellow drivers who battled the horrific blaze that engulfed Niki Lauda’s stricken Ferrari when it crashed.
He had a few more outings for Hesketh in 1977, and returned with a handful of drives in an Ensign in 1978 with backing from Sachs – he would sadly lose out on a points’ finish when his engine failed in Germany.
A charming and popular figure in the paddock who was famous for his incredible handlebar moustache, Harald was tragically killed at the age of just 33. Travelling in a light airplane being flown by his brother-in-law to the family’s holiday home in the north of Germany, the plane crashed following an engine failure. Ertl and his brother-in-law would succumb in the crash, while his wife, Vera, and son, Sebastian, survived with injuries.
Henry Clifford Allison was the son of a garage owner. He entered motorsport in 1952 with a little Formula 3 Cooper, and steadily improved in the championship, peaking with fourth overall in 1955, the same year he started racing works Lotus Eleven sports cars for Colin Chapman.
In 1958, he was tasked with leading Team Lotus’ move into Formula 1. He started with a pair of sixth places at Monaco and Zanvdoort before he claimed an excellent fourth place at Spa-Francorchamps. It was a strange race: while Allison managed to limp over the line with broken suspension sustained on the final lap, all three of the runners ahead of him were battling their own maladies – had the race gone on another lap, none would have seen the chequered flag!
Team Lotus introduced its new 16 chassis at the German Grand Prix, and Allison was in contention for the win until a holed radiator saw him drop to fifth.
His efforts were certainly not in vain, and it was at Mike Hawthorn’s recommendation that he was offered a works seat with Ferrari the following year – sadly, he would never get to be Hawthorn’s team-mate: the Englishman was killed just a few months after winning the World Championship.
Allison performed solidly for Ferrari in 1959, and in 1960 he started excellently with a win in the 1000Km sports car race at Argentina, along with second place in the country’s Grand Prix.
His season would be cut short at the next Grand Prix at Monaco. An accident in practice saw him thrown from the car (pictured right) and he was in a coma for sixteen days, having also suffered a badly broken arm. When he emerged from unconsciousness, he spoke fluent French – curiously, he’d never been able to speak a single word of it before!
He was out for the rest of the year, but he landed himself a drive with the UDT-Laystall team to drive one of their Lotus 18 challengers. He showed he’d lost none of his competitiveness at a host of non-championship races at the start of the year, and placed seventh at the Monaco Grand Prix on his championship return.
But his racing career came to a permanent end at Spa-Francorchamps. Needing to out-pace team-mate Henry Taylor in order to secure the car for the race, Allison crashed at Blanchimont and rolled his car in a field. He sustained broken knees and a fractured pelvis in the mess. After one crash too many, Allison opted to retire.
While it marked the end of his competitive racing career, he eventually returned to the sport via occasional paddock visits and the odd drive at historic events. He took over the running of his father’s garage business and also drove the local village’s school bus. He passed away in 2005, aged 73.
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