Everybody knows motorsport is dangerous. However, rallying in open roads had produced far less fatalities than track racing, mainly concerning drivers and co-drivers, which may seem quite strange as driving on open roads with nothing to separate the car from deep ravines, trees, walls and so many more hazards bordering the special stages! On the other hand, spectators are much more at risk, so if we take a look on the tragedies that struck the rally past, the enthusiasts took a far heavier toll than the drivers. And, ironically, one of the few drivers to die on the centennial Monte Carlo Rally wasn’t driving, but spectating… Here’s the story of Lars-Erik Torph.
Another day at the office…
Wilhelm Lars-Erik Torph was born in Säffle, a small town in central Sweden between Örebro and Karlstad, traditional terrains of the Swedish Rally, on the 11th May 1961. Two of the most notorious natives of Örebro were famous drivers – Ronnie Peterson and Stig Blomqvist – and Torph grew up idolising the latter, the master of snow rallies aboard is orange Saab… He was a rally passionate since his childhood days and as a teen he didn’t take long to learn to drive and used to fix old cars to compete occasionally with his mates, which greatly improved his mechanical skills. In 1976 his older brother Kjell-Arne entered some local events and Lars was drafted as co-driver – even if he was only fifteen – and soon he set his ambitions to become a driver. However, Torph had no money, so used his hardly acquired mechanical skills to find a job on a local Volvo garage, and used his earnings to buy an old Volvo 142, which allowed him to enter his first local rallies as soon as he took his license, by March 1979. Continue reading
The following photo gallery comes from Mark Rosnick, an amateur photographer of the North American racing scene, mainly USAC/CART and F1. They’re beautiful documents of a lost era. These photos are from the Pocono 500, the eighth round of the 1978 USAC Championship. All the photos belong to Mark Rosnick.
Al Unser, the winner (works Chaparral-Cosworth)
The F1 world was stunned when Max Verstappen was announced at Toro Rosso for the 2015 season, thus starting his first Grand Prix in Australia with the astonishing age of 17 years and 166 years, which made him by far the youngest driver ever to start a F1 race. Then FIA decided to limit the emission of a super licence to a minimum age limit of 18 years from 2016 ownards, which implies that Verstappen’s record will remain unchallenged for a very long time. Ironically, he bet the record of another driver of the Red Bull cantera, the Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari, which made his debuts with… Toro Rosso at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix with 19 years and 125 days. Amazing, isn’t it? Well, since the turn of the century, we assist to increasingly earlier debuts, barely after the end of the drivers’ teen years… Men such Jenson Button, Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso were the first wave, followed by the generation of Sebastian Vettel and, nowadays, men such as Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat and Esteban Ocon, all teenagers when they first entered a F1 race. However, until late nineties, it was fairly uncommon this to happen. If we look back, by the seventies and early eighties it was perfectly acceptable for a driver past their mid-twenties to debut in F1 and it didn’t mean he wasn’t good enough to be a winner. Different times, indeed. But why this so long foreword? Because Alguersuari bet the record of a driver whom so many consider the most unfulfilled promises ever… Mike Thackwell.
Mike Thackwell (Google Images)