Roland Ratzenberger, the forgotten continent. Imola Terrible, part I

Roland Ratzenberger was a pilot of Formula 1 born July 4, 1962, in the city of Salzburg, Austria. During the Grand Prix of San Marino 1994, his life ended in a tragic way.

Roland-Ratzenberger-2Nor is a novelty that most people remember him San Marino GP of 1994 for what happened on the day of the race, that fateful Sunday 1st May. The reality shows that the 3 days of the race represent one of the most tragic episodes in the history of “the maximum”. And it is that death does not distinguish the glory of their victims as do people.

The day Friday, Rubens Barrichello aboard his Jordan suffered a spectacular accident in the flying at 225Km/h until crashing into a wire and was immediately taken to the hospital where noticed that I only had some minor wounds on his nose and an arm that had to be plastered. on Saturday, the rookie Roland Ratzenberger was not running with the same fate.

But before we get to the facts, it is worth mentioning that this pilot, born July 4, 1962, in Salzburg (Austria) had the title of Mechanical Engineer and it was one of those riders that raced with passion and love for motorsport, not for money. In fact, just money was what he was missing because I had managed to gain access to the seat mortgaging your house just to run five races, being Imola his third participation with the modest equipment Simtek, property of Nick Wirth, nephew of the then president of the FIA, the Mr Max Mosley.

Rubens Barrichello flying in San Marino

Ratzenberger started racing in 1983 in the Formula Ford 1600 prove that he had the necessary skill to be among the great because he managed to become the champion of German, austrian and european specialty, even winning the Festival Ford Brands Hatch 1986. Emigrated to the country of the rising sun, I ran, cars of Tourism, Group C and Formula 3000 from 1989, reaching titles in 1990 and 1992. Added another parchment, winning its category in the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1993, finishing 5th in his category.

That Saturday, April 30, , in a full qualifying session of the tragedy ate into on the Italian circuit. According to some eye witnesses and a video that came to light quite some time after the accident, the tube of the Simtek came out flying in the middle of the straight making the car continue like a missile out of control until impacting against the wall of the curve Gilles Villeneuve. The weak monocoque product in the low-budget team not withstood the impact and could see the body of Ratzenberger through a buraco on the side of the car.

Ratzenberger lay motionless with the head to one side and those present did not believe what they saw. Until that time, thanks to the progress made in the area of safety, the pilots of Formula One were quasi-video game characters: they Clashed, returned to the box and were getting another car ready to race.

Roland-Ratzenberger-1The Medical Car came by immediately to the assistant to Ratzenberger but Dr. Sid Watkins was not able to do anything against the fracture of the cervical spine. FIA instead, he did something about it since transfer to Roland in a helicopter from the hospital to the racing circuit up to the hospital Maggiore of Bologna, situating in this place the death of the pilot in official form and thereby avoiding the suspension of the circuit and Sunday’s race.

The telemetry data showed that Roland and his companion had had a touch in the morning session, in which your spoiler was committed and was not changed. The team, in contrast, argued that it had confused the previous round and surely that had caused the loss of the spoiler. Mosley avoided answering questions that might be put in jeopardy for the team of their nephew. Bernie in the meantime was pushing to David Brahman, partner of Roland for her career. The only rider who went to the scene of the accident to see what had happened was Ayrton Senna, however, forced him to return to the box. “Its function is to fly,” he said.

Roland-Ratzenberger-4Roland only thought about improving his time. Until that fateful lap, and had marked 1m31s457, that is about 5 seconds slower of what they should have been. Then the top again to warm up the tires and sped up to 308Km/h, in a place where the loopholes were measures of own safety of a line, to try to achieve something more than the last place. To him wasn’t enough for him to start the race, I wanted to do it as far forward as possible, although this will cost you life, like Senna.

as Well as Ayrton was the only one to get close to the time of the accident, it was also the only one to carry a flag austrian in your pocket in order to pay tribute to Ratzenberger at the end of the race, a race that was sure to win, but that is part of another story.


Author: Paul Wassouf

Passionate about finance, aviation and motorsport. Pilot amateur karting and other