45 years ago, Carlos Alberto Reutemann discovered the secrets of the Nürburgring and brought Niki Lauda to his knees

The quality is not good, but it is worth the testimony: Reutemann raises both arms to celebrate his triumph (CORSA Archive).
The quality is not good, but it is worth the testimony: Reutemann raises both arms to celebrate his triumph (CORSA Archive).

Nürburgring It has a connection with the Argentines. The three victories of Juan Manuel Fangio and his fifth Formula 1 title in 1957, the great work of Torino at the 84 Hours in 1969 and then there was another milestone: the triumph of Carlos Alberto Reutemann in 1975, one of the most important among the 12 he obtained at the Máxima. 45 years have passed since Lole's success on the longest and most dangerous circuit in the world. That Sunday was a hinge for him and confirmed that he was one of the best drivers in the category. It is that winning on the legendary German circuit is like a postgraduate degree. It was a race that the santafesino began to win in the previous week and has its history.

It was Reutemann's fourth season in F-1. A year earlier, he had achieved his first three wins (South Africa, Austria and USA). Since his debut in 1972 (with pole positions in Argentina) he ran with Brabham, the team that was from English Bernie Ecclestone. In 1975 it was the second exercise with the BT-44 model and at that point the B version was used. It was one of the most successful cars for its time, very fast, good in fast corners, and balanced. It was thanks to the refined technique of its designer, the South African Gordon Murray, one of the most important technicians in the history of the category. However, that event showed a mastery of Niki Lauda and Ferrari. If the Austrian won in Germany, he was a virtual champion, something that was confirmed two dates later, in Italy.

But at the Nürburgring Lole had other plans. It was a Reutemann triumph, because he analyzed it, put together a strategy, it did not affect him to start tenth and he knew how to wait for the right moment to capture the point. From his arrival in Germany he understood what was necessary to prevail. At that time he stated that he “knew this circuit by heart”, although in the previous week he wanted to discover the secrets of this stage of 22.8 kilometers.

“The previous days I toured the circuit with Willy Kauhsen (former local driver) with his private Mercedes. He had a lot of experience and covered 350,000 kilometers at the Nürburgring. Also, He told me a special theory to travel two parts of the circuit where, according to his understanding, the opposite was done from what should be done in an ideal way, which gives greater results. I tried it and he was right. They were not the ideal radii or what seemed more logical, but I saved time. From then on I went through sectors always in the same way indicated by Kahusen ”, recalled the current National Senator for Santa Fe.

Reutemann getting into his car (CORSA file).
Reutemann getting into his car (CORSA file).

The weekend came and he continued to build that triumph. He tried, as was his custom, several kilometers with full tanks, and chose very well the tuning of his car, something typical in Santa Fe that stood out for being a great tester. In his day there were few who knew how to get the best performance out of a car. And more in the Nordschleife which is the long Nürburgring track, where tire breaks and engine failures due to high demands were common.

“It is very difficult to say if I have achieved the ideal set-up. I was fine-tuning it as it seemed best to use the tires correctly and Murray did not agree with me. Of course, he didn't disavow me to do it but simply doubted that it would work. But we win ”he added. The discrepancy with the coach was because the rubber compound that best suited the car in Germany was the one used in Sweden, where due to wear it lost the victory in the final.

The hours ran and he finished putting together his career plan. “The car always went well. Only that the first day I had to solve some problems with the cash ratios and then I suffered a puncture that in this circuit delays you more because of how long it is. I also had some problem with the injection pump. On the second day, on the other hand, while the others preferred to go out to lower the times in the last qualifying session, I devoted myself to touring with enough gasoline and tried only the rubber set. We had the same tires we used in Sweden and I didn't want the same thing to happen to me as in that GP where I lost the race in the last laps. So I started looking for the optimal point of the car and I was satisfied with that time of 7m4s and coins… ”

He knew that the tires would be key -as always-, but much more in the extensive Ring (as the Nürburgring is known) in the middle of the European summer. Starting tenth was just a statistic. Lole was not scared how Lauda broke the clocks and that he was the only one to lower the 7 minutes for the turn and nail 6m58s6. Carlos understood that he would soon be able to advance in the peloton. His strategy was to have a conservative car at the beginning, but agile in the final laps. So his trials with full tanks and his work in tire management. It did not fail.

Meeting in Brabham: from left to right, José Carlos Pace, Gordon Murray and Carlos Reutemann (CORSA Archive).
Meeting in Brabham: from left to right, José Carlos Pace, Gordon Murray and Carlos Reutemann (CORSA Archive).

Lauda started first and dominated at the start. Behind the French Patrick Depailler (Tyrrell), the Brazilian José Carlos Pace (Brabham) and the Swiss Clay Regazzoni (Ferrari). Whereas Reutemann executed his plan as he thought and surpassed rivals. Quickly climbed to fifth place.

Depailler fell with a punctured rubber. Pace defected due to suspension problems. The Italians who traveled to support the Ferrari enjoyed seeing 1-2 of their cars with Lauda-Regazzoni. The Swiss was located ten seconds from the Austrian. While Lole was 27 seconds from the red cars whose command vanished. Niki wore her tires because Clay approached her. They both lost pace. Lauda entered the pits with a puncture. Then Regazzoni was left on the road by a broken engine.

Carlos inherited the lead in the seventh round (half career) and was not intimidated by the English James Hunt (Hesketh) nor the Welsh Tom Price (Shadow), who lost ground. After an hour and forty minutes, Reutemann crossed the finish line first and raised both arms to celebrate before 200,000 people. It was on a long track, it's true, but it took 1m37s! to the second, the Frenchman Jacques Laffite (Williams), and 2m23s to Lauda, ​​who completed the podium. In 1976, Hunt won by 27.7 seconds …

It was a survival race where only 8 of the 25 drivers (including the Italian Lella Lombardi, the only woman to score points in the F-1), who started completed the total of 14 laps (319,690 km of travel). There were 15 dropouts and almost all had tire problems: Americans Mario Andretti (Lotus) and Mark Donohue (March), the Italian Vittorio Bambrilla (March), the Brazilians Pace and the brothers Fittipaldi, Emerson (McLaren) and Wilson (Fittipaldi), the French Jean-Pierre Jarier (Shadow) and Lauda himself. After the race, Goodyear (tire supplier) issued a statement where he claimed responsibility for the breaks and justified that they were because most of those who had problems abused the use of the shoulders. The one who did not suffer with the tires and made the most of it was Reutemann.

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The first meters with Niki Lauda, ​​José Carlos Pace, Patrick Depailler, Jochen Mass and Carlos Reutemann, who was already fifth (CORSA Archive).
The first meters with Niki Lauda, ​​José Carlos Pace, Patrick Depailler, Jochen Mass and Carlos Reutemann, who was already fifth (CORSA Archive).

Then Lole analyzed her victory and told the keys to the race:

“For some small problem that we did not discover, the car worked the entire race with a high temperature (almost 110 degrees) and then the engine did not arrive perfectly at full speed. Above 10,000 laps the engine did not sound like a violin –as it should be- but rather vibrated a little, it was no longer perfection… Without that problem, surely I could have been closer to the Ferrari while they were plucking ”.

“I had respites everywhere, at all times. I tried to never go outside, to take care of the wear of the tires, to always leave each corner with the car well supported. Above all, take the great jump at the Nürburgring with ease so that the car falls as little as possible. It is a sum of things ".

“This particular race was not very hard, but it was very hard anyway. Above all, because in the desire to walk faster, the vast majority left the curves sliding with two wheels on the shoulder and that filled the track with pebbles that caused punctures and problems with the suspensions ”.

The first three: from left to right, Jacques Laffite (2nd), Carlos Reutemann (1st) and Niki Lauda (3) (CORSA Archive).
The first three: from left to right, Jacques Laffite (2nd), Carlos Reutemann (1st) and Niki Lauda (3) (CORSA Archive).

“The victory was given to me because I did not make any mistake. The car went well, as always, and I was lucky to do everything well ”.

“Beyond that Lauda and Regazzoni stayed, under normal conditions I think they could have been fought. I do have to admit that Niki lost the race due to bad luck, just as she won the day I lost the Swedish race in the last few laps. But he never went outside, he didn't do crazy things; just punctured a rubber ".

“At the Nürburgring there is a different race because of the type of track. I already knew it by heart before this race, but what I definitely learned now is one thing: At the Nürburgring you cannot always run demanding the car for everything. You have to breathe the car, you have to take care of it differently than it is treated in any other circuit. That is the secret to arrive and therefore win.

His cerebral victory was a true team success. Because although Lole was right with the tires, he had the support of the technical manager, Murray, who in 1981 spared no praise for Carlos: “We grew up together in the F-1, when he started, I did too… We always understood each other well. We tuned up the car very fast, tested very well and got good information; he did all the tests. There are drivers who walk very fast and think about the race only when it ended … Instead, the characteristic of pilots like Reutemann is that they drive intelligently all the time.

Of the more traditional Grand Prix, Reutemann won three: Germany (1975), Great Britain (1978), and Monaco (1980). He lacked the one from Italy to complete the "Grand Slam" of the F-1. “The Nürburgring is the most difficult circuit. That of Great Britain was my best career by definition, since I beat Lauda. That race at Brands Hatch was the triumph I always dreamed of. And winning in Monaco is always special ”, confessed about his triumphs in these settings.

In his ten years at the Maxima, Reutemann had 12 scoring wins, 45 podiums in 146 races contested (1 in three), 6 lap records and 6 pole positions. In 1981 he was the world runner-up and the glory escaped him by only one point. In 1982, he was the last Argentinean to score points in the category, which has not had a compatriot since 2001. And a pearl for statistics: he is the only driver to take podiums in the F-1, the World Rally and the Sport Prototypes..

To reach the top, that victory in the Ring was a turning point. Lole began to be seen with different eyes and those who had the intention of hiring him confirmed their position. For example, on the night before the race, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Ferrari sports director, organized a dinner for journalists. Although the Italian assured that they were in agreement with his two pilots, a rumor began to circulate about a possible interest in Reutemann and even a verbal trial with the Santa Fe. In 1976, after Lauda's accident at the Nürburgring (the last time the F-1 ran on the long circuit), Lole was called to replace the Austrian, despite the fact that he returned to Monza. Then they were partners in 1977.

That Sunday, August 3, 1975, Children's Day was celebrated in Argentina. It is said that in the mythical German circuit boys are transformed into men. Winning there elevates a pilot to an elite place. There were 18 runners who in F-1 triumphed in the long variant, where for that merit they receive the title of "Master of the Nürburgring". Winning in that place is only for those who did not lose respect for this scenario, and today their names appear on a huge plaque at the entrance to the pits. Among them is Carlos Alberto Reutemann, who 45 years ago made history.

I kept reading:

The day Carlos Reutemann cried before a crowd at the Buenos Aires racetrack

The last car Lole Reutemann ran with: the story of the “beast” that a collector tracked down in England and brought back to the country

Betrayals, egos and bad decisions: the ten keys that prevented Reutemann from being a Formula 1 champion in 1981

Half a century ago, Carlos Reutemann was 28 years old, debuted in Europe and led a race against the best in the world

The day Carlos Reutemann conquered Monaco accompanied by his family for the first time: where is the feat car today

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