Rolf Stommelen

Rolf Stommelen

11/7/1943 - 24/4/1983

Rolf Stommelen became the first German driver since Wolfgang von Trips to appear regularly on the F1 starting grids.

Rolf campaigned his private Porsche 904 GTS, a present of his father, in 1964-65. He specialised in hillclimbs and attracted the attention of Huschke von Hanstein, Porsches race director.

Rolf was invited to join the works team for endurance racing. He shared a Porsche with Frenchman Robert Poirot at Le Mans in 1965 and soon became a key member of the team. One year later he won his class at Le Mans, this time in a works Porsche, earning him a works drive for 1967. 1967 featured an amazing duel with team mate Gerhard Mitter for the European hillclimb championship ending on equal points, not to mention winning the 1967 Targa Florio with Paul Hawkins, and the Daytona 24 Hours and Paris 1000 Km in 1968, as well as taking many placings.

He was also successfully involved in Porsche's European mountain-climb programme with the 2-litre Bergspyder. After dipping his toe into the water by competing in the 1969 German GP with a hired F2 Lotus, Stommelen gained sponsorship for a full F1 season in 1970 with a works Brabham and showed distinct promise, highlighted by a brilliant drive in Austria when he drove from 18th to finish third. He was also busy making his mark in Formula 2 with the Eifelland Caravans-backed Brabham, and was a works driver for the Alfa Romeo sports car team, for whom he drove until 1974.

For 1971, Stommelen took his sponsorship money to Surtees, but the partnership produced little and relationships were strained, so it was no surprise when he branched out on his own for 1972 with the curious-looking March-based Eifelland-Ford, which performed even more lamely than its appearance promised. Temporarily on the Formula 1 sidelines after this fiasco, Stommelen grabbed the lifeline of a Brabham drive after de Adamich's accident at Silverstone in 1973, and was then called up to replace Guy Edwards in the Embassy Hill Lola in mid-1974. Rolf got on well with Hill and secured a seat for 1975, but his first race in the new Hill GH1 at the trouble-torn Spanish GP ended in disaster when a wing stay failed while he was leading the race. The car was pitched into the crowd, killing four spectators and seriously injuring the driver. Happily Rolf soon recovered and returned later in the year, but by that time Tony Brise had emerged as Hill's prize asset.

For 1976 Stommelen returned to sports car racing with Martini Porsche, winning at Enna and Watkins Glen, and this helped him to a couple of rides in the works Brabham that season. The following year he won the Nurburgring 1000 Km for Porsche, and also took the German national touring car title in the Gelo Racing 935 turbo.

With Warsteiner backing the Arrows team in 1978, Rolf was given the second seat and a chance to renew his Grand Prix career, but the season was a severe disappointment and Stommelen returned to sports car and GT racing, where he was still a competitive runner.

In 1980 he won the Daytona 24 Hours and the Nurburgring 1000 Km in a Porsche, and he continued to race for top endurance teams such as Porsche, Lancia and Rondeau, as well as trying his hand at IMSA. Rolf Stommelen's last race was at Riverside, California on the 24th of April 1983. Rolf was driving one of John Fitzpatricks Porsche 935s in the IMSA race. The car crashed heavily, after loosing a spoiler. Sadly Rolf was killed in the dreadful accident.

Leave a comment

Comments