April 24 2013, it was exactly 30 years ago that Rolf Stommelen crashed his Porsche 935 Moby Dick at the Californian Riverside Intenational Raceway on the occasion of anIMSA race. Stommelen didn’t survive the head injuries caused by the tragic accident at the age of 39.
Not only was Stommelen one of the best endurance sports car racing drivers of the 60s, 70s and early 80s, he started in 63 F1 World Championship Grand Prix and several non –Championship F1 races too. In the endurance racing, der Rolf, as he was nicknamed by his enthusiast fans, won the Daytona 24hours in 1968, 1978, 1980 and 1982. At the 24hours of Le Mans race he finished 3rd in a Porsche 908 in 1968. One year later he was the best during practices of Le Mans, and started from pole position in a Porsche 917LH. That same year he was the first to reach speeds exceeding 350km/h at the Mulsanne Straight. 1971 he couldn’t resist the lure of F1 and made his debut in a Brabham. His F1 career did prevent him from racing other races too.
In 1975 Stommelen had a severe crash at the Spanish Grand Prix. The rear wing of his Embassy-Hill Lola broke, making the car uncontrollable. Tragic result of the crash was the death of 4 spectators, and Rolf and several more spectators seriously injured.
After his recovery, Stommelen started racing again. In 1976 Porsche announced the Porsche 936 and it was Rolf Stommelen who had the honour to drive the maiden race of this great car at the Nurburgring 300Km. In this particular race, the saying ‘At the Nordschleife, you can never brake later than Rolf Stommelen’ was born. In heavy rain, Stommelen took the lead in advance of 2 Renault Alpines. As Stommelen braked at the Nordkehre, the 2 Alpines overtook him, rushed in the water puddles and crashed both into the catch-fences.
In 1978 Stommelen drove a Porsche 935 at the 24h of Le Mans in the Martini livery Porsche 935 Moby Dick. Again he was the fasted man on the Mulsanne Straight with a speed of 365km/h, even faster than the Porsche 936 prototypes.
As a tribute to this great and sympathic man, who always found time for a chat or a signature, Petrolpics decided to publish the book ‘Der Rolf’. In the typical Petrolpics style, the complete life of Rolf Stommelen is told. Dozens of large full colour and b/w pictures, combined with a smooth reading text, makes this book a unique tribute to this great driver.