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Flashback: Monaco '70 - Rindt snatches dramatic last-lap win 21 May 2013

Race winner Jochen Rindt(AUT) celebrates on the podium with Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. 1970 Monaco Grand Prix Long-time race-leader Jack Brabham (Brabham BT33) during the closing stages of the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix Jochen Rindt(Lotus 49C) rounds Casino Square as he hunts down race-leader Jack Brabham. 1970 Monaco Grand Prix Long-time race-leader Jack Brabham (Brabham BT33) shortly before making a mistake on the final corner of the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix Jochen Rindt(Lotus) put in several record laps to catch race-leader Jack Brabham. 1970 Monaco Grand Prix Jochen Rindt(Lotus 49C) closes in on long-time race-leader Jack Brabham (Brabham BT33) during the closing stages of the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix The royal podium (L to R): HRH Princess Grace; HSH Princess Stephanie; HSH Prince Rainier III of Monaco; race winner Jochen Rindt (AUT) Lotus. Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, 10 May 1970

Formula One racing has witnessed many dramatic finishes over the years, but in terms of sheer shock value, few come close to matching the end of the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix.

Starting his final lap, long-time race leader Jack Brabham knew he merely had to snake his way around the twisting 3.1 kilometres of harbour-side tarmac without incident to be guaranteed victory. Second-placed Jochen Rindt was right on his tail, but with overtaking so notoriously difficult at the street track - and Brabham so metronomically consistent in his driving - there seemed to be nothing standing between ‘Black Jack’ and his 15th Grand Prix victory…

Coming into the weekend, the formbook had suggested that the Tyrrell team’s Jackie Stewart would be the man to beat. In the opening two rounds of the 1970 season the reigning world champion had claimed pole and third place in South Africa and an utterly dominant victory in Spain. As such the Scotsman headed to Monaco with a four-point lead over Brabham in the standings, the 44-year-old Australian having won at Kyalami in his eponymous BT33.

Sure enough, after three days of practice, it was Stewart who emerged with the fastest time and top spot on the starting grid. Brabham, who during Friday’s sodden session had remarkably lapped the circuit with an umbrella hoisted over his cockpit, would start fourth behind Chris Amon’s March and Denny Hulme’s McLaren. Rindt, in his distinctive red and gold Lotus 49C, qualified down in eighth.

At the start, Stewart streaked away from the field and had built up a comfortable lead before being forced to pit at the end of the 27th tour when the V8 Cosworth in the back of his March developed a misfire. His misfortune was Brabham’s gain and the three-time world champion gratefully assumed the lead of the race ahead of Amon and Hulme, with Rindt further back in fourth.

Amon, so often the victim of cruel luck, would gamely keep the pressure on Brabham until lap 60 when, yet again, the New Zealander fell victim to a costly mechanical failure. With a healthy lead and a widely-acknowledged ‘safe pair of hands’, few expected anything other than for Brabham to reel off the remaining 20 laps for his second win of the season.

But a little way down the road, Rindt - now in second - was firmly ‘in the zone’ and jinking his nimble Lotus between the guardrails so quickly that Brabham’s once comfortable lead began to look more and more precarious.

Suddenly, the thousands of spectators packed into the Principality realised that they might just have a race on their hands after all and began willing the 28-year-old Austrian on. Brabham’s advantage - that had stood at ten seconds with ten laps to go - was a mere 1.5 seconds as the duo raced past the pits for the final time, thanks in part to the leader’s difficulty in lapping Jo Siffert’s March several laps earlier.

Even with Rindt so close behind, Brabham looked at ease behind the wheel of his green and gold car as he safely guided it through the tunnel and around the tobacconist’s turn for the final time. Then, perhaps guarding against any last ditch attempt by Rindt to get past, Brabham positioned his car in the middle of the road for the tight final right-hander, Gasworks Hairpin.

It proved to be an inexplicable - and ultimately critical - mistake. With his car offline and his tyres scrabbling for grip in the dust, Brabham helplessly skated straight on into the barriers, the finishing line almost in sight. Rindt duly sailed through and completed the remaining 400 metres to claim an astonishing and unexpected win. Even the man brandishing the chequered flag was so perplexed by Brabham’s non-appearance that he failed to wave it in front of the victorious Lotus driver.

To his credit Brabham hauled his car out of the barriers and salvaged second place, but as tough as the loss was on the veteran racer, it was hard to argue that Rindt’s efforts weren’t worthy of victory. After all, his final lap was a stunning 1m 23.2s; comfortably the fastest of the race and some 0.8 seconds quicker than Stewart’s pole time.

Having come so close to victory, Brabham would never win another Grand Prix and retired from Formula One racing at the end of the season. Rindt, meanwhile, would use the win as a springboard for a mighty world title push that included four consecutive race wins over the summer, before his life was tragically cut short at the Italian Grand Prix. He remains Formula One racing’s only posthumous world champion.

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