"If Jochen Rindt ever wins a Grand Prix, I will shave off my beard."
This was the word of no less an authority than Denis Jenkinson, the gnomish, cantankerous, highly-opinionated, legendary dean of British motorsports journalists. Bespectacled and bearded, Jenkinson had been reporting on motor racing since the early 1940s, and knew what it took to be a champion. He had witnessed first-hand the discipline and determination and luck that it took to win. He'd been there, seated beside the legendary Stirling Moss, on his epic race down the spine of Italy--from Brescia in the north, down to Rome in the south, and back again--to win the grueling 1955 Mille Miglia, over roads not fit for an ox cart, at speeds sometimes exceeding 170 mph. Yes, he'd been there, and wrote about what it was like.
Denis Jenkinson had seen enough of Rindt's type: wildly spectacular, tail-out F-1 drivers, whom the crowds adored, but who were utterly luckless. Their daring, ragged ways took your breath away. They drove for the best teams. They led races, sometimes by large margins, but seldom finished. When they did finish, it was usually in second or third place. Frenchman Jean Behra was the type, as was Italian Luigi Musso. Rindt was another.
RINDT'S RISE TO THE TOP
Jochen Rindt was born on April 18,1942, in Mainz, Germany, to an Austrian mother and a German father. Rindt's parents owned a spice mill in Mainz, which he would later inherit. During the second World War, when Jochen (pronounced "Yoe-hen") was 15-months old, his parents were killed in a bombing raid in Hamburg. He was raised by his grandparents in Graz, Austria. Although his grandfather chose to retain Rindt's German citizenship, for his entire racing career Rindt drove under an Austrian racing license.
As a youth, Rindt was something of ne'er do well, often arrested, and thrown out of several public schools for bad behavior. Out of desperation, his grandparents sent him to a private school in England, where he learned to speak English and adopted a number of British mannerisms, which would serve him well later, in befriending Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart.
At sixteen, Rindt's grandparents bought him a moped, and right away Rindt exhibited a love of speed, by racing his friends on motocross tracks. His chances of obtaining a driver's license, however, were put on hold because he had collected eight driving misdemeanors from the local police.
In 1961, Rindt entered his first motor race, at Flugplatzrennen (an airfield circuit in Zeltwig, Austria ), driving his grandmother's Simca. During the race, he was black-flagged for his "dangerous driving style." Unfazed, he entered the Simca in several rallies, but with mixed results. It was only when he was provided with a fully race-prepped Alfa Romeo GT 1300 (thanks to the generosity of a local Alfa Romeo dealer) that his racing talent emerged, when he won eight races.
Again, thanks to the generosity of another wealthy patron (sportsman Kurt Bardi-Barry), Rindt advanced to Formula Juniors, driving a year-old Cooper T67, winning his second time out. In 1964, while still in partnership with Barry, Rindt moved up Formula Two, where, driving a new Brabham BT2, he won several more races, including an impressive victory over 1962 world champion Graham Hill at Crystal Palace, England, which caught everyone's attention.