MAY 7, 2002
WILLI DUNGL, the Austrian sports and fitness expert, has died at the age of 64. Dungl made his name in the 1960s and 1970s working with the Austrian ski-jumping team but found international fame in 1976 when he helped Niki Lauda recover from his injuries after the Ferrari driver's fiery accident at the Nurburgring. After that Dungl accompanied Lauda to races and his fitness and dietary ideas - and the belief that mental fitness is as important as physical fitness - gradually spread throughout the entire F1 circus.
"There is no-one to touch him," Lauda said of Dungl. "He is simply a genius. His knowledge, his sensitivity, his touch, his methods - I simply cannot imagine that there is another like him anywhere in the world."
But while Dungl is best known for helping injured racing drivers to recover - notably Gerhard Berger, Johnny Herbert, Martin Donnelly and Karl Wendlinger - he was also an important figure in teaching racing drivers how best to prepare for the sport. When Michael Schumacher was an unknown racer, Mercedes-Benz took him to Dungl's clinic and it was there that he learned the discipline to follow Dungl's theories. Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna were also trained by Dungl.
Dungl was involved not just in motor racing but also in tennis, skiing and motorcycling racing although he himself was plagued by kidney problems which resulted in 1985 in a kidney transplant operation.
The Dungl Clinic in the Austrian town of Gars am Kamp became a mecca for sportsmen and women from all over the world and his disciples are still involved in F1 today, notably Josef Leberer, who worked with Ayrton Senna, and is now training the Sauber drivers.
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