Third time lucky - the Winkelhock name returns 19 Jul 2007
The news that Spyker reserve driver Markus Winkelhock will occupy the teams vacant race seat at the European Grand Prix this weekend heralds the return of one of Germanys most famous racing names to Formula One racing. Following in the footsteps of both his father and his uncle, Winkelhock will be the third member of his family to make a Grand Prix appearance when he exits the pits at the Nurburgring on Friday.
During the 1980s, Winkelhocks famous father Manfred graced the Formula One grid for four seasons. A mechanic who had honed his craft over amateur weekend outings, Manfred only turned professional in 1976 when, at the age of 24, he won the VW Junior Cup and secured financial backing from BMW.
After two seasons apprenticeship in a junior squad, Manfred spread his wings a little further and spent a year tackling touring car events and a Formula Two series simultaneously. A third-place F2 finish at Hockenheim, however, prompted him to focus on single-seater racing, but though he enjoyed several more podium finishes over the next three seasons, a win never materialised for the German.
Nevertheless, he had done enough to secure some major attention from the more senior racing fraternity and in 1980 made a brief Formula One debut, when he was called up to replace injured Arrows driver Jochen Mass at the Italian Grand Prix. However, after failing to qualify, it would be another two years before Winkelhock senior would return to Grand Prix racing, joining the 1982 line-up for the ATS squad.
It was not, however, the big break Winkelhock had hoped for. Over three seasons and 46 Grands Prix with the team, the German finished just 11 races, after retiring from 26, not starting six and being disqualified from three. The only points of his Formula One career came with a fifth place in Brazil in 1982. A fourth season in 1985 with the RAM-Hart team proved equally unproductive and eight rounds into the campaign, Manfred was tragically killed, not in a Grand Prix car, but while racing in a sportscar event at Mosport in Canada.
The Winkelhock Formula One dynasty continued, however, towards the end of the decade, with the arrival of Manfreds brother Joachim in the paddock in 1989. But the younger sibling found Formula One racing even tougher than his brother had, and after failing to pre-qualify in seven races with the struggling AGS team, he called time on his Grand Prix career.
Joachim switched his attentions to touring cars and in 1993 won the British championship during his first season. He went on to make a name for himself in his native DTM series, the highlight being his 2000 campaign when he scored four poles, five podiums and a win, before eventually retiring in 2003.
Interestingly, Markus Winkelhock has also used the touring car arena to help establish his motorsport credentials and this season has combined his Spyker testing commitments with competing in the DTM series. But ultimately it seems the pull of Formula One racing is just as strong for Winkelhock junior as it was to his father and uncle, and this weekend he will finally get his chance. Poignantly for the 27-year-old German, it will not only be in his home race but also at the same track where his father took part in his last Formula One event - the Nurburgring - where Winkelhock will be hoping to bring the family name back with a bang.