Christian Heins

Christian Heins

16/1/1935 - 15/6/1963

Christian Heins was one of best Brazilian drivers of his era. He was killed at Le Mans driving an Alpine M63 Renault.

Christian Heins was a Brazilian Racing Driver born in the Brooklin Quater of São Paulo, he was the son of a successful German entrepreneur, Carl Heinrich Christian Heins, and an Italian mother, Giuliana de Fiori Heins. His maternal grandfather, who was a famous doctor, lived nearbye and was in his cars that Christian, while still a child, satarted getting a taste for mechanics and learnt to drive.

Christian moved to Stuttgart, Germany at the beginning of 1953 when he finished his studies in Brazil. There he attended the "Technische Hochschule" (High level technical school), at the same time he completed a special course for foreigners at Mercedes Benz.

At 19, he made his competition debut. On the 16th May 1954 in a race at Interlagos. In the beginning he was called "Comet" because he was so fast at 19, in contrast to the great majority of the drivers at that time who only started racing when they were older. However being son of a Italian, he later gained the nickname of "Bambino" that quickly turned into just "Bino".

He raced in Europe, competing in the Mille Miglia in 1956 with Eugênio Martins. He returned regularly to Brazil and in 1960, on one of his trips, that Christian brought his trophies back. However as the trophies did not have a formal bill of sale, customs confiscated them as contraband. Infuriated, his sister, Ornella wrote to the president Juscelino Kubitschek asking for an explanation. The President imediately sent a telegram to the Customs officails asking for their reasons and saying that Christian was a "national monument" and also demanding that the trophies were duly returned. Only Pelé and Maria Ester Bueno were considered in the same way.

The historic victory by a Brazilian made FNM JK in the 1000 Mile race of 1960, with Chico Landi and Christian driving, had shown that Brazilian made cars could indeed beat the Americans. The FNM went on to win many other long distance races between 1960 and 1962. Suddenly, long distance races became more popular than sprints. The Willys team, created under the influence of Bino Heins, would soon introduced a car called the Interlagos, which really was an Alpine, built in Brazil under licence.

The Interlagos was soon winning everything in sight, until Simca, tired of being beaten, brought 3 Simca Abarth 2 liters to Brazil. Ford took over Willys, which showed some interest in racing, fielding Bino prototypes in the 67 and 68 seasons, while Chrysler took over Simca, and VW, took over Vemag, both teams being closed.

In 1963 as main driver and head of the Willys Team in Brazil, he received an invitation to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with an Alpine M63 Renault. Though Christian was thinking of retiring, he accepted. The car was to be painted with longitudinal bands of green and yellow and bore the name Team Interlagos - Alpine. On the 8th June he left with his wife for Paris. His plan was to take a fifteen day vacation in the Europe after the Le Mans 24 hour race. His racing partner was Jose Rosinski and they had a brand new Alpine Renault M63 equipped with a 996 cc engine.

Just over 5 hours into the race, with Christian leading his class, he skidded on oil dropped by the Aston-Martin de Bruce McLaren and Innes Ireland. Three cars were involved on the Les Hunaudières straight. Christian's car hit another vehicle and a lamp post and burst into flames. Christian was tragically trapped inside and died. Medial experts deduced that he died instantly from head injuries. His body was transported to Brazil and buried on the 27th of June in the cemetary of the Redentor in São Paulo. Christian Heins was one of best Brazilian drivers.

Without having the opportunities that Emerson Fittipaldi had, he achieved fame in Brazil and around the world.

Translated from the work of Pablo Robert Peralta

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