Manfred Winkelhock

Manfred Winkelhock was a wild man, quick and spectacular and always on the edge. If he had one problem in his career it was that he started too late to make the most of it. A mechanic who raced at weekends, Winkelhock was 24 before he got his big break after winning the 1976 VW Junior Cup, a one-make series for VW Scirocco GTIs. The success drew him to the attention of BMW which was just setting up a Junior Team to race the BMW 320 Group 5 cars, powered by 2-litre Formula 2 engines. Winkelhock was teamed up with a young Eddie Cheever and Swiss rising star Marc Surer. All three showed their speed and would ultimately all go on to F1.

Winkelhock's apprenticeship was longer because of his lack of experience and he spent 1978 driving for BMW in touring cars and Formula 2, finishing third at Hockenheim and scoring several other good placings. He would add more third places in F2 races in 1979 and 1980 and in 1981 he was second at Hockenheim but somehow never managed to win. In 1981 he gained fame of the wrong sort when he escaped unharmed after his F2 car took off over the jump at Quiddelbach on the old Nurburgring and somersaulted backwards. He ended his F2 career driving for Maurer.

Manfred continued to race other cars for BMW throughout the period. His first attempt to qualify for a Grand Prix came in 1980 when he stood in for the injured Jochen Mass at Arrows but finally ended up with ATS in 1982 with BMW's support. He would remain at ATS until the end of 1984 when Gerhard Berger, BMW's new hero, arrived on the scene. In 1985 Manfred moved to the RAM-Hart team, while also embarking on a sports car programme with Surer in a Kremer Racing Porsche 962C. The pair won at Monza but in August, at Mosport Park in Canada, the car went off at Turn 2 and hit the wall. Winkelhock was killed instantly.

His brother Joachim later tried to become an F1 driver as well but failed to qualify with an uncompetitive AGS. However he ended up becoming a very successful touring car driver, winning the British Touring Car title for BMW in 1993. Manfred's son Markus began racing in 2000 and after a competitive career in Formula 3 before becoming a Mercedes-Benz factory DTM driver in 2004. After a year in the Renault World Series he became an F1 test driver with MF1 Racing in 2006.