Manfred Winkelhock was fast but wild. He drove for ATS and RAM-Hart team in F1, but is best know as a very successful sports car driver. He was killed in the summer of 1985 when he crashed during the Budweiser 1000km World Sportscar Championship race at Mosport Park.
Manfred Winkelhock was born in Waiblingen, Germany. He started racing at weekends while working as a mechanic and was 24 before he came to prominence by winning the VW Junior Cup, a one-make series for VW Scirocco GTIs, in 1976.
He caught the eye of BMW and joined their fledgeling Junior Team , with Marc Surer and Eddie Cheever, to race the BMW 320 Group 5 silhouette cars, powered by 2-litre Formula 2 engines. He was good and won his class in the 1977 Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft, finishing splendid third overall. He first raced single seaters that year in Formula 2.
He finished on the podium a number of times in F2 races during 1979, 1980 and 1981, but somehow never managed to win. He is probably best remembered in Formula 2 for the enormous accident he had when he took off over the jump at Quiddelbach on the old Nurburgring, somersaulting backwards and fortunately emerging unscathed. He ended his F2 career driving for Maurer.
Winkelhock first tried to qualify for Formula One Grand Prix in Italy in 1980 when he stood in for the injured Jochen Mass at Arrows. With the support of BMW he landed a drive with ATS in 1982 but the car was rarely reliable and although he qualified well on several occasions there were few results and a lot of accidents. At the same time he was a regular sports car and touring car driver, winning the Monza 1000 in 1985 with Marc Surer in a Kremer Racing Porsche 962C.
He was killed in the summer when he crashed heavily at turn 2 at Mosport Park near Toronto, Ontario, Canada, during the Budweiser 1000 km World Sportscar Championship event, driving a customer Porsche 956.
Coming into Turn 2 he aparently didn't make any attempt to turn and he hit the concrete wall surrounding the track almost head-on. Former F1 team boss Willi Kauhsen, who was at the scene as a spectator and was an eye witness said "Winkelhock was on the ideal line but suddenly he went straight off the track into the wall." The 962 was completely demolished and it took over one hour to get him out of the car and into the waiting helicopter. He was taken to the Sunnybrook Medical Center in nearby Toronto but he had suffered massive head injuries in the crash and his condition was critical. The surgeons were unable to save his life and he was pronounced dead the following day.
The cause of the crash was never determined. It was suggested that Manfred might have blacked out in the fast high G-force corner while others suggested steering failure. It is more likely that the accident was due to tyre failure.