DRIVERS: STEFAN BELLOF

Name: Stefan Bellof
Nationality: Germany
Date of birth: November 20, 1957 - Giessen
Date of death: September 1, 1985 - Spa-Francorchamps Circuit, Belgium

From the city of Giessen, in central Germany, Bellof rose quickly through the ranks in German racing. He shot to international prominence in 1982 with two unexpected victories in Formula 2 at Silverstone and Hockenheim at the wheel of a Maurer-BMW. He would remain with Maurer for the next two years but the opposition from March and Ralt was too strong. His performances at the start of 1982 had however attracted the attention of some of the F1 fraternity and from the Rothmans Porsche factory sports car team.

He was hired by Porsche for 1983 alongside such stellar names as Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell and Jochen Mass. The move was a success with Bellof winning with Bell at Silverstone, his second race with the team. In the third race, on the old Nurburgring, Bellof cartwheeled the Porsche at the Pflanzgarten while leading but emerged unscathed from the ferocious accident. Later in the year he won at Fuji and Kyalami.

By then Formula 1 teams were in hot pursuit and Bellof tested for McLaren, alongside Ayrton Senna and Martin Brundle, in October. It was not until March the following year that he landed an F1 drive, signing a one-year contract with Tyrrell which gave the team an option on his services in 1985, 1986 and 1987. In 1984 he was the dominant force in the World Sports Car Championship, winning six of the 11 races and becoming the World Champion, while with Tyrrell he soon made his mark, finishing sixth in Belgium and fifth at Imola. But it was his performance at Monaco which really singled him out as a rising star. In the pouring rain he was catching both Alain Prost's leading McLaren-TAG and the second place Toleman-Hart of Ayrton Senna when the event was stopped early. If the race had gone to its full distance Bellof might have won.

Tyrrell exercised its option on Bellof for 1985 but there was by then discord in the relationship as Bellof and his manager Willy Maurer argued that Tyrrell had broken the original contract by not competing in the final three races of 1984 (the team had been banned by the FIA as part of the fight between the team and the federation over Tyrrell's refusal to agree to a ban on normally-aspirated engines) and wanted a one-year deal so that the German youngster would be on the market for 1986. As a result he was suspended by Tyrrell in Brazil but was back in the spotlight with sixth place in Portugal and continued to show well as the season progressed.

That year he was also racing for the Brun Porsche sports car team and in the autumn he was racing his former team mate Jacky Ickx at Spa when he tried to pass the veteran on the inside going into Eau Rouge at Spa. The two cars touched and both crashed heavily. Bellof was killed in the impact.

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