Pedro Rodriguez

Pedro Rodriguez

18/1/1940 - 11/7/1971

<font face="Tahoma" size="2">It was rumoured that Don Pedro Rodriguez, father of Pedro and Ricardo Rodríguez, was head of his country's secret service. He was certainly head of the country's police motorcycle patrols and, either way, amassed considerable wealth and influence from property dealings and other business interests.

Pedro was born in Mexico City and, along with his younger brother, he raced motorcycles in his early teens, winning national motocycle title in 1953 and 1954. Their father indulged them from an early age with a number of expensive high-performance cars in which they established their reputations well before reaching their seventeenth birthdays. Pedro made his international debut in cars at Nassau in 1957 in a Ferrari, alongside with Ricardo in a Porsche.

Pedro was just 18 and his brother Ricardo two years younger when US Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti dispatched them to Le Mans at the wheel of a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. Ricardo did not drive due to age, so Pedro partnered José Behra, brother of Jean Behra. He came back every year to Le Mans, fourteen times in total, winning in 1968 in a John Wyer–Gulf Ford GT40 with Belgian driver Lucien Bianchi.

In 1961 they competed in Mexican Formula Junior races, but while Ricardo accepted the invitation of a rent-a-drive deal in a works F1 Ferrari later that year, Pedro's business commitments forced him to decline the opportunity.

In 1962, Ricardo died in a horrific accident while practicing for the Mexican Grand Prix, and Pedro considered retiring from racing. However, in 1963 he won at Daytona International Speedway and took part in his first Grand Prix for Lotus in the USA and Mexico. He competed in F1 sporadically through 1966 with Ferrari and Lotus.

In 1967 he finally got a full-time drive in F1 with the Cooper-Maserati team. He won the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami on his debut for the team, and then switched to BRM in 1968. After the tragic death of Mike Spence at Indianapolis in May that year, Pedro lifted the battered BRM team morale with a succession of feisty drives.

However when John Surtees took over as number one at BRM in 1969, Pedro switched to the private Parnell BRM team and Ferrari in 1969.

He was back leading the works BRM team in 1970, achieving his second victory in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa with the P153, and continued with the team in 1971.

Rodríguez was considered the best sports car drivers of his era and a master in the wet. He drove sports cars for Ferrari in the World Championship of Makes, and in 1970 he signed for the John Wyer Gulf Porsche team. He went on to win the Sports Car World Championship twice in the fearsome Porsche 917.

He loved to race and drove just about anything, developing into one of the greatest all-rounders. He raced in CanAm, NASCAR, rallies and even won the North American Ice Racing championship in 1970. In his NASCAR career, Rodríguez earned two top tens, including a 5th in the 1965 World 600.

Sadly, on July 11th 1971, the week before the British Grand Prix, he accepted an offer to drive a Ferrari 512M by his friend Herbert Muller, who he had partnered in the Targa Florio that year. It was an Interserie sports car race at the Norisring and while fighting for the lead, a slower car moved over and Pedro ran into the wall. The Ferrari erupted into flames and he succumbed to his injuries an hour or so later.

He had a wife, Angelina, in Mexico, as well as a girlfriend in England, Glenda, with whom he lived in Bray-on-Thames, driving round in a Bentley S1 saloon and wearing a deerstalker. He left no children.

The first hairpin at Daytona International Speedway (the right-hand hairpin) is named the Pedro Rodriguez curve, and the Mexico City autodrome, where F1, Champ Car and other series race is named for him and Ricardo: Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

In July 2006, 35 years after his death, a bronze plaque was placed at the site of his crash in Nuremberg, a joint effort by the Scuderia Rodríguez (the family foundation) and the city authorities. The Scuderia keeps alive the memory of the Rodríguez brothers, Pedro and Ricardo, serving as Register for Rodríguez memorabilia and cars, and certifying them. Its Secretary General, Carlos Jalife, published the Rodríguez brothers' biography in December, 2006.

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