DRIVERS: HELMUT KOINIGG

Name: Helmut Koinigg
Nationality: Austria
Date of birth: November 3, 1948 - Vienna
Date of death: October 6, 1974 - Watkins Glen Circuit, New York State

Koinigg came from a comfortable background in Vienna but raising money to go racing proved to be a problem after his initial experiments with a Mini Cooper S which he purchased from a young racer called Niki Lauda. Koiniggís efforts in touring cars in 1969 drew him to the attention of Helmut Marko and the result was a drive with the McNamara team in 1970 in Formula Vee. Koinigg would move on to drive for Kurt Bergmann in 1971, driving one of the Kaimann cars which Bergmann built at his Opel garage in Vienna. In 1971 he finished third in the Formula Vee series, beating Jochen Mass among others, but he did not have the backing to progress and so stayed on and was second in 1972 to Manfred Schurti. Finally in 1973 he won the title.

He was by then a popular figure at home in Austria and in Germany, also racing for the Ford Cologne touring car team. For the 1974 season he was taken on by Martini Porsche and raced a Carrera RSR Turbo with Schurti at Le Mans, retiring after eight hours when the car caught fire.

The now 25-year-old Koinigg married an Austrian Airlines stewardess and found the money to rent a Brabham from Finotto for the Austrian Grand Prix at Zeltweg. On that occasion he did not qualify but he returned for the last two races of the year with John Surtees to drive a TS16 which had previously been driven by Mass. On his F1 debut at Mosport Park he finished 10th in the Surtees Cosworth and made a very decent impression.

There was then a two-week break before the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Koiniggís star was in the ascendancy and he was talking about deals for the 1975 season. At Watkins Glen he qualified the difficult car but after a few laps in the race he suffered a slow puncture which resulted in a high speed crash. The car went through catch-fencing and went under the barriers, decapitating the promising young driver.

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