Stefan Bellof

Stefan Bellof

20/11/1957 - 1/9/1985

Stefan won the German Formula Ford 1600 championship before moving up to the Tyrrell Formula 1 team via Formula 3 and Formula 2. He also raced for Porsche in the WEC. Bellof was killed attempting to pass Ickx at Spa in the Brun-Porsche.

Stefan Bellof's never give up attitude marked him as the logical successor to Gilles Villeneuve.

Stefan’s father had competed in rallying with a BMW, and so it was no great suprise when Stefan started racing in karts in 1974, winning many national titles. Six years later, in 1980, he graduated to German Formula Ford 1600, taking the title at his first attempt. He also won the national kart title the same season and made a mid-season debut in the German F3 championship, and almost taking that title as well!

1981 saw Stefan take on a full-time single seater racing programme with F Ford, Super Vee and F3. Taing wins in all categories. In F3, he took his Bertram Schafer-run Ralt RT3 to third in the German championship with three wins from seven starts.

The following year saw him make his sportscar debut driving a Kremer CK5 at Hockenheim and for 1983 he tackled this new discipline at World level with the Rothmans backed Porsche factory team as well as entering F2. With BMW backing he had secured a place on Willy Maurer’s European F2 team. He won the first two races of the season, the first in a wet weather battle and the second from pole position, setting fastest lap on the way. However the rest of the season was less successful, with only a second at Enna and a third at Hockenheim to show for his efforts. There were the inevitable fastest laps at the Nürburgring, Vallelunga and Misano, but ultimately he only finished fourth in the championship, hurt by six non-scoring rounds. Willy Maurer ralised his potential and later became his manager.

In the World Endurance Championship, driving alongside Derek Bell, he set the fastest lap ever at the Nürburgring during the 1000km race and was leading when he crashed, with his Porsche 956 ending up on its roof. The lap record for all cars still stands to this day and it is unlikely to ever fall. He lapped the circuit in six minutes 11.13secs. That is an average speed of 125mph for the 13 miles around the world's most challenging track! And this was in a Rothmans Porsche 956, not an F1 car and in 1983. A number of Formula 1 teams were showing interest and Bellof tested for McLaren in October, alongside Ayrton Senna and Martin Brundle.

No F1 car has ever been round there quicker than Niki Lauda's six minutes 58 seconds. And Heidfeld could only manage eight minutes 34 secs his F1 BMW this year (OK, it was only a demonstration run but still...).

In 1984, he remained teamed with Bell in the Rothmans Porsche 956B and also joined Tyrrell, making his Grand Prix debut in Brazil. Despite being around 150 BHP down on the turbo cars the season did have a few bright spots. One of those was in the rain-soaked Monaco Grand Prix. Having made it onto the back of the grid, Bellof was catching up to race leader Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna when the race was flagged to a halt at 40% of the distance. After the Grand Prix in Detroit however, Tyrrell were stripped of all their constructors points along with Bellof's and Brundle's drivers points, when their cars were discovered with illegal lead in their fuel tank. In Sportscars things were going better and Stefan would win the World Endurance Championship for drivers and helped Porsche to win the manufacturers title. He also won the German Endurance title, again for Porsche.

He nearly got to drive for Brabham at the end of the year. Tyrrell did not participate in the final two races and with Teo Fabi unavailable due to the death of his father, Bernie had tried to contact Bellof. However when he could not get hold of him, he turned to Manfred Winkelhock instead.

For 1985, Tyrrell kept the same driver line-up, but phased in the use of the Renault V6 Turbo, already in use by Lotus and Ligier. Stefan carried on his sportscar program, now with a Brun Motorsport Porsche 956B or 962 turbo, sharing the driving with Thierry Boutsen. Ken would have preferred him to just stick with F1, but sportscars were a passion for Bellof. In Mugello they finished third, and at Hockenheim Stefan set another fastest lap. In Grand Prix, he missed the opening Brazilian race, suspended following an outburst from Maurer. Johansson, who had filled in after Brundle broke his ankles the previous year, was the substitute. When Bellof reappeared for the team, he was again spectacular in the under-powered Cosworth car.

In the torrentially affected Estoril race, scene of Senna’s first victory, he scored his first official point. Then, more impressively, he was fourth in Detroit. He first drove the Renault-powered 014 in Germany, finishing eighth and was classified seventh in Austria, though out of fuel. At Zandvoort, he retired with engine problems in what would turn out to be his last Grand Prix.

Seven days later at Spa-Francorchamps he crashed his Porsche 956B trying to pass Ickx around the outside of Eau Rouge at over 140 mph. Ickx had nowhere to go and the two cars collided. Stefan went head on into the wall, he was killed instantly. He was 27.

Bellof displayed total commitment, aggression and lack of fear and would probably have become an F1 World Champion if his life had not been cut so tragically short.

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