clearn.png
Sunday September 15th, 2019 6:29AM

F1 champion and aviation entrepreneur Niki Lauda dies at 70

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BERLIN (AP) — Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.

The Austria Press Agency quoted Lauda's family as saying he "passed away peacefully" on Monday. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: "Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that."

"His unique successes as a sportsman and entrepreneur are and remain unforgettable," the family statement said. "His tireless drive, his straightforwardness and his courage remain an example and standard for us all. Away from the public gaze he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather. We will miss him very much."

Lauda won the F1 drivers' championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.

In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix, but he made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later.

Lauda remained closely involved with the F1 circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.

Formula One posted a message from its official Twitter account to acknowledge Lauda's contribution to the sport.

"Rest in peace Niki Lauda. Forever carried in our hearts, forever immortalized in our history," the post said. "The motorsport community today mourns the devastating loss of a true legend."

Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna family, Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was expected to follow his father into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead concentrated his business talents and determination on his dreams of becoming a racing driver.

Lauda financed his early career with the help of a string of loans, working his way through the ranks of Formula 3 and Formula 2. He made his Formula 1 debut for the March team at the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix and picked up his first points in 1973 with a fifth-place finish for BRM in Belgium.

Lauda joined Ferrari in '74, winning a Grand Prix for the first time that year in Spain. He won his first drivers' title with five victories the following season.

Facing tough competition from McLaren's James Hunt — their rivalry featured in the Ron Howard-directed movie Rush — Lauda appeared on course to defend his title in 1976 when he crashed at the Nuerburgring during the German Grand Prix. Several drivers stopped to help pull him from the burning car, but the accident would scar him for life. The baseball cap Lauda almost always wore in public became a personal trademark.

"The main damage, I think to myself, was lung damage from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds," he recalled nearly a decade later. "It was something like 800 degrees."

Lauda fell into a coma for a time. He said that "for three or four days it was touch and go."

"Then my lungs recovered and I got my skin grafts done, then basically there was nothing left," he added. "I was really lucky in a way that I didn't do any (other) damage to myself. So the real question was then will I be able to drive again, because certainly it was not easy to come back after a race like that."

Lauda made his comeback just six weeks after the crash, finishing fourth at Monza after overcoming his initial fears.

He recalled "shaking with fear" as he changed into second gear on the first day of practice and thinking, "I can't drive."

The next day, Lauda said he "started very slowly trying to get all the feelings back, especially the confidence that I'm capable of driving these cars again." The result, he said, boosted his confidence and after four or five races "I had basically overcome the problem of having an accident and everything went back to normal."

He won his second championship in 1977 before switching to Brabham and then retiring in 1979 to concentrate on setting up his airline, Lauda Air, declaring that he "didn't want to drive around in circles anymore."

Lauda came out of retirement in 1982 after a big-money offer from McLaren, reportedly about $3 million a year.

He finished fifth his first year back and 10th in 1983, but came back to win five races and edge teammate Alain Prost for his third title in 1984. He retired for good the following year, saying he needed more time to devote to his airline business.

Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew.

In 1997, longtime rival Austrian Airlines took a minority stake and in 2000, with the company making losses, Lauda resigned as board chairman after an external audit criticized a lack of internal financial control over business conducted in foreign currency. Austrian Airlines later took full control.

Lauda founded a new airline, Niki, in 2003. Germany's Air Berlin took a minority stake and later full control of that airline, which Lauda bought back in early 2018.

He partnered with budget carrier Ryanair on Niki's successor, LaudaMotion.

Lauda in later years formed a close bond with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who joined the team in 2013. He often backed Hamilton in public and provided advice and counsel to the British driver.

Lauda also intervened as a Mercedes mediator when Hamilton and his former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg feuded, argued and traded barbs as they fought for the title between 2014-16

Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and, when that stopped functioning well, a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005.

In August 2018, he underwent a lung transplant that the Vienna General Hospital said was made necessary by a "serious lung illness." It didn't give details.

Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.

  • Associated Categories: Sports, NASCAR News, Death / Obits News, Other Motorsports, Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Auto Racing, AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Business, Formula One Racing
  • Associated Tags: motorsports, Open Wheel, Auto Racing, Asphalt, road course, F1, Formula One
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
F1 champion and aviation entrepreneur Niki Lauda dies at 70
Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70
10:05PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Seeing a twisting road ahead, Ford cuts 7K white-collar jobs
Ford gets ready for a future of electric and autonomous vehicles, parting ways with 7,000 white-collar workers worldwide, about 10% of global salaried workforce
10:03PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Callaway stays; Céspedes takes fall, breaks ankle on ranch
On a hectic day at Citi Field, the slumping New York Mets have announced they are sticking with embattled manager Mickey Callaway "for the foreseeable future" _ and sidelined slugger Yoenis Céspedes broke his right ankle in an accident on his ranch
9:32PM ( 41 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Yanks' Gregorius plays for 1st time since Tommy John surgery
New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius played five innings of defense and went 2 for 4 with a walk at extended spring training in his first game action since Tommy John surgery on Oct. 17
8:49PM ( 1 hour ago )
Prosecutor: Ex-NFL player raped homeless woman, 2 others
Prosecutors say Kellen Winslow Jr., once the highest-paid tight end in the NFL, raped 54-year-old hitchhiker and 59-year-old homeless woman, while defense lawyers argue the sex was consensual.
8:01PM ( 2 hours ago )
Vanderbilt leads stacked field at SEC Tournament
Vanderbilt leads stacked field at SEC Tournament
7:44PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Sports
Unser Jr. accused of operating vehicle while intoxicated
Retired two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. has been arrested in central Indiana and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated
4:30PM ( 5 hours ago )
McLaren's failed Indy 500 effort was a comedy of errors
McLaren head Zak Brown acknowledges team was woefully unprepared for Indianapolis 500, details long list of errors and oversights that sabotaged Fernando Alonso's quest to make race
3:11PM ( 7 hours ago )
Alonso rejects McLaren offer to buy him Indy 500 seat
Formula One champ Fernando Alonso passes on chance for seat at Indy 500
11:09AM ( 11 hours ago )
AP Online Auto Racing
Trump team to brief Congress on Iran; Dems seek counterpoint
With questions mounting over President Donald Trump's tough talk on Iran, top national security officials are heading to Capitol Hill to brief Congress
7:53PM ( 2 hours ago )
Judge sides with Congress over Trump in demands for records
A federal judge has ruled against President Donald Trump in a financial records dispute with Congress and says lawmakers should get the documents they have subpoenaed
7:05PM ( 3 hours ago )
Tariffs have varying fallout in trade-heavy Washington state
President Donald Trump's trade war with China is having some complicated effects in Washington, one of the nation's most trade-dependent states
6:13PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business
McLaren misses entire day of Indy 500 practice fixing car
Felix Rosenqvist returns to Indianapolis 500 practice in backup car; Alonso waits
6:08PM ( 4 days ago )
Alonso: 'We will be back stronger' after Indy 500 crash
Fernando Alonso crashes on second day of practice for the Indianapolis 500
6:51PM ( 5 days ago )
Alonso crashes early in 2nd day of Indy 500 practice
Fernando Alonso has crashed on the second day of practice for the Indianapolis 500
3:35PM ( 5 days ago )
Formula One Racing
Seeing a twisting road ahead, Ford cuts 7K white-collar jobs
Ford gets ready for a future of electric and autonomous vehicles, parting ways with 7,000 white-collar workers worldwide, about 10% of global salaried workforce
10:03PM ( 11 minutes ago )
California eyes health care for immigrants in US illegally
California lawmakers are eyeing proposals that would make the state the first in the nation to offer government-funded health care to adult immigrants living in the country illegally
9:35PM ( 39 minutes ago )
Callaway stays; Céspedes takes fall, breaks ankle on ranch
On a hectic day at Citi Field, the slumping New York Mets have announced they are sticking with embattled manager Mickey Callaway "for the foreseeable future" _ and sidelined slugger Yoenis Céspedes broke his right ankle in an accident on his ranch
9:32PM ( 41 minutes ago )
In Pennsylvania, Trump touts 2020 chances, swipes at Biden
President Donald Trump is voicing confidence in his ability to win Pennsylvania in 2020 and taking a new swipe at one of his leading Democratic rivals
9:21PM ( 53 minutes ago )
1st black woman sworn in as Chicago mayor; vows big reforms
New Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told aldermen and other powerbrokers assembled at her inauguration that she meant what she said on the campaign trail about top-to-bottom reforms
9:16PM ( 57 minutes ago )