Born in Plettenberg, Sauerland, Germany, Willi Bartels competed in European hillclimbing for 30 years, winning the European Championship in 1971 with a Porsche 911S and again in 1976 driving a Porsche Carrera. These wins earnt him the nickname, 'Bergkönig' or 'the mountain king'.
During his career he won more than 300 races and set a number of distance records. His fans liked Bartels because of the way he drove. He had a slightly wild and aggressive style, hitting speeds of over 200 kph on the mountain courses.
Willi Bartels was the father of Michael Bartels, the FIA GT driver and boyfriend for many years of Steffi Graf.
Willi succumbed to cancer in 2005.