Niki Lauda

Born : February 22 1949
Deceased : May 20 2019

Biography Niki Lauda

Niki Lauda was born in Vienna (Austria) on February 22, 1949, in a rather wealthy and prosperous family. His father was a businessman only had one dream for his son. He wanted him to follow him in his footsteps and become a businessman. However,  Lauda developed a strong interest in and passion for cars, speed, and racing. At a very early age, Niki Lauda was driving laps in his father’s car on the estate of relatives. Even though his father objected strongly against the race aspirations of Niki, Lauda dis his way. However, his natural born instinct for business remained. Lauda did not refrain from using the family connections to get what he wanted in his race-career.

Niki Lauda and Porsche

April 15, 1968, at the age of 19, Niki Lauda jumped behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper S 1300 to start his first race: the Bad Mühllacken Hillclimb. Immediately he  finished 2nd in class. Despite strong parental opposition, Niki Lauda continued taking part in hill climbs and to start circuit racing in a Formula Vee. That same year Niki took part in the GP Brno in a Porsche 911 for the Bosch Racing Team. In 1969 he stepped up and started the 1000km Zeltweg in a Porsche 910, sharing the wheel with Otto Stupacher. That race was won by the duo Jo Siffert / Kurt Ahrens in a Porsche 917

Niki Lauda - Interserie Hockenheim - 1970 - Porsche 908
Niki Lauda – Interserie Hockenheim – 1970 – Porsche 908 ( Copyright Porsche)

1970 was Niki Lauda’s most active year with Porsche. He competed several races in the 1970 season for the Bosch Racing Team in a Porsche 908/2. July 19, 1970, Lauda wins the airport race in Diepholz. This would be his only victory at the wheel of a Porsche. That same season, Niki Lauda took another podium spot at the Nürburgring 1000KM, again in a Porsche 908/2 for the Bosch Racing Team.

Niki Lauda in F1

In 1971 Niki Lauda secured a loan against his life insurance policy to buy his way into the March Engineering Formula Two team, partnering up with Ronnie Peterson.  While still primarily a Formula Two driver, Lauda participated in his first F1 race during his initial season with March, and in 1972 he raced in 12 F1 events. When the money pockets of March went dry, Lauda moved to the British Racing Motors Team (BRM). Where Niki used to buy his seats in racing teams, at BRM things changed when they started paying him. In 1974, he signed a contract with Ferrari, where he stayed until 1977.  In 1975, Lauda wins his first of 3 World Championship titles in the F1.  

Niki Lauda’s most remember season will definitely be 1976. He survives a  severe crash at the Nürburging, August 1,J 1976. Just after Bergwerk, Lauda’s Ferrari unaccountably swerved to the right, impacted the bank and was thrown back across the track. The Ferrari where it was hit by the car of Brett Lunger. The wrecked car caught fire and Lauda was stuck in the car. It was only because drivers like Guy Edward, father of Sean Edwards, jumped out of their car and helped to pull Lauda out of the wrecked Ferrari, that he could survive. Another big help in the rescue of Niki Lauda was the presence of the O.N.S rescue cars, in this case a Porsche 911, a system developed by former Porsche racer Herbert Linge.

The ONS Porsche 911 on duty at Bergwerk to rescue Niki Lauda
The O.N.S Porsche 911 on duty at Bergwerk to rescue Niki Lauda

Niki Lauda suffered life-threatening injuries from the crash: both external and internal burnings. He hovered between life and death for some time. However, Lauda recovered enough to be at the start of fhe Monza race,  just six weeks after the accident. To everybody’s disbelieving, Lauda took 4th place and closed the gap in the championship to 4 points. The decisive race was at the Mount Fuji Circuit in Japan. Extreme rain fell on the tarmac. Niki Lauda considered it to be irresponsible to fight for the victory. Niki Lauda retired from the race and left James Hunt to win his only world championship.  In 1977, Lauda wins his 2nd World Championship title. He then moves on to the Brabham team for another 2 seasons.  

Lauda and the TAG Porsche F1 engine

Weissach, July 6th 1983 : Niki Lauda tests the TAG Porsche F1 engine fitted in a Porsche 956
Weissach, July 6th 1983 : Niki Lauda tests the TAG Porsche F1 engine fitted in a Porsche 956

In 1979, Lauda starts Lauda Air in the knowledge this will be the last race season. September 1979, he retires from racing and kind of fulfill his father`s dream. He is now a full-time businessman. However, Lauda Air soon gets in financial trouble, which forces him to make a come back in F1. In 1982 he signs a contract with McLaren for 3 years. In 1984 the 3rd World Championship title is a fact. At McLaren, Lauda is reunited in a way with Porsche. Hans Mezger designed the TAG Porsche F1 engine, that would be the power source for the McLaren team.

One year later, in 1985, Lauda retires definitely from actively racing.  However, even after his active race career, Niki Lauda is still active in motorsports in different ways: advisor for the Ferrari Race Team, commenter for radio and TV. From 2012, Lauda is Chairman of the Supervisory Board at the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team.

Niki Lauda suffered his complete life from the injuries of his crash in 1976 at the Nürburgring. He had 2 kidney transplantations, and he suffered weak health in the last few years. Niki Lauda passed away May 20th, 2019, leaving a wife, 5 kids behind.