RIP Niki Lauda

Posted By: pangloss
Date: Tuesday 21 May 2019, at 05:43 pm
Recommended by 6 user(s)

Niki Lauda died yesterday at 70. He was a Formula 1 racing champion in the 70' & 80's.

This is my best recollection of the truth. It has been a while.

I started work at Hercules Aerospace in 1980. In '82 or '83 Lauda and John Watson visited the plant and spoke briefly at the lunch room. They had joined the Mclaren racing team which had joined with Hercules to build the chassis for their new design. Old article.

Watson also came to recognize the engineers & technicians who designed and built the driver cockpit for the car he crashed a year earlier. They brought the actual cockpit from the crash. It was a nondescript graphite box about 4' by 2', open on top with some access holes. One corner was damaged a little. It wasn't much to look at, it looked like a soapbox racer without tires & steering wheel.

They showed a film of that crash. He hit the wall hard, tearing the front and rear off the car as it burst into flames.

Lauda had crashed a couple years earlier, was burnt badly and nearly died. The burn scars on his head were gruesome when he visited. Watson thanked those who were involved for building the cockpit that saved his life.

Formula 1 race car drivers were like rock stars back then - especially in Europe and the UK. Lauda and Watson were big time. Paul Newman wanted to be them. I had no idea.
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