In the realm of motorsports, few names manage to leave a mark so strong that people beyond their era speak them. Niki Lauda is one of them. The phoenix that rose from his ashes has been an imposing and venerated presence in racing of all genres, even beyond his retirement from the track. At the age of 70, Lauda peacefully passed away in his sleep, leaving us all to remember the giant.
Andrea Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda was born in Vienna, Austria in 1949. His racing career started at an early age, despite his parents disapproval. At the age of 25, he signed a deal with Ferrari to compete in Formula 1, a deal that paid off for the rookie who managed a fourth position in the world championship. He went on to win the 1975 championship the following year.
Despite an excellent start to his ‘76 season, his winning streak came to an abrupt end on August 1 during the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. Lauda petitioned for the boycott of the event, citing severe hazards on the track due to neglect and lack of resources. Other drivers voted against the boycott. That’s the day that changed Lauda’s life and career forever—on the second lap, Lauda swerved off the track and hit an embankment with his Ferrari that caught fire. He was greatly injured, suffering severe burns on his head and face, and damaging his lungs from inhaling the toxic fumes.
While that marked the end of his ‘76 season, Lauda made a sensational comeback and won the 1977 championship. He made history by winning three championships on the two biggest teams in Formula 1, Ferrari and McLaren.
While his legacy resides in Formula 1 racing, his legend transcends to all disciplines, including MotoGP, a series he was apparently very fond of. His resilience is an inspiration not only to drivers but to riders alike.
Sources: Motorsport Magazine, MotoGP