- February 14, 1942
- November 01, 1962
- Not Active
Ricardo Rodriguez (1942-1962) was a Mexican racing driver, a brother of Pedro Rodriguez, who was killed at the age 20 in an accident during a practice for the inaugural Mexican Grand Prix in November 1962.
Although he lost a life very young, Ricardo Rodriguez achieved a lot in his short career, including podiums at Le Mans 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours and five starts with Scuderia Ferrari in the Formula 1 World Championship.
He also set several records in motorsport, such was the youngest ever F1 driver of Scuderia Ferrari, the youngest ever starter at Le Mans 24h or the youngest ever driver on Le Mans podium.
Ricardo started a car racing career at the age 15
Ricardo Valentin Rodriguez de la Vega was born in February 1942 in Mexico City, two years after his brother Pedro. Both brothers were active in different racing disciplines from teenage years. Ricardo started racing in cycling and motorcycling competitions, winning several championship titles.
He entered car racing in 1957, at the age 15, driving his own Fiat Topolino in saloon car races. He was also racing with Osca MT4 and Porsche 550 RS in sports car races, making the international debut in September 1957 at Riverside International Raceway in the US, winning a race in a Porsche 550 RS. Driving the same car, he scored a class victory at Nassau Tourist Trophy in December.
Too young to start at 1958 Le Mans 24 Hours
In 1958, Ricardo continued to collect wins with Porsche 550 RS sports car races in Mexico and Central America. In June, he traveled to Le Mans together with his brother Pedro.
Ricardo was planning to race in the world's greatest endurance race but he was refused because he was too young (16 years 4 months). Brother Pedro replaced him in the #25 North American Racing Team's Ferrari 500 TR, sharing a car with Jose Behra. They retired after 12 hours of racing.
Le Mans debut in 1959 alongside brother Pedro
In March 1959, Ricardo participated at Sebring 12 Hours, driving two Osca cars (S950 and S750) for two teams. In June 1959, Rodriguez brothers returned to Le Mans. This time, both brothers were allowed to start the race and Ricardo became the youngest ever driver to race at Le Mans 24 Hours. They were sharing the #51 Osca S187 in the S750 class. They were 11th on the starting grid but retired after five hours and 32 laps due to water pump failure.
Later in 1959, Ricardo was driving brother's Porsche 718 RSK or NART's Ferrari Dino 196S. In 1960, Rodriguez brothers competed together with Ferrari Dino 196S at Sebring 12 Hours (DNF), Targa Florio (7th) and Nurburgring 1000km (DNF).
Podium for 18-year-old Ricardo at 1960 Le Mans 24 Hours
Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez came together to Le Mans in June 1960 but they didn't drive the same car. Ricardo was sharing the #17 NART Ferrari 250 TR 59 with Belgian driver Andre Pilette, finishing in the second place, four laps behind two Belgians (Olivier Gendebien and Paul Frere) in factory-entered Ferrari 250 TR 59/60.
Later in 1960, in December, Ricardo has won Governor's Trophy in Nassau, Bahamas, driving a Ferrari for Luigi Chinetti.
Sebring and Nurburgring podiums for Rodriguez brothers
The streak of fantastic results for young Ricardo continued in March 1961. He and brother Pedro finished third overall at Sebring 12 Hours, driving the #17 Ferrari 250 TR for NART. A month later, Ricardo failed to finish Targa Florio race, sharing a car with Willy Mairesse.
In May, Rodriguez brothers finished second at Nurburgring 1000 Kilometers and then came together to Le Mans. Sharing the #17 Ferrari 250 TRI/61, they retired after 23 hours of racing with a broken engine.
The youngest front-row starter in Formula 1
In September 1961, the young racing star from Mexico was invited to drive for Scuderia Ferrari at Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. At the wheel of the #8 Ferrari 156, Ricardo sensationally set the second-fastest qualifying time, beaten only by Wolfgang von Trips. Rodriguez became the youngest ever front-row starter in Formula One and that record lasted until 2016.
It was a race in which Von Trips and fifteen spectators lost lives in a horrific accident on lap 2. Rodriguez was exchanging the lead with Phil Hill and Richie Ginther but retired after 13 laps because of fuel pump failure.
Victory at Targa Florio and two wins in Paris
Ricardo's stellar career continued with a victory at Paris 1000 Kilometers in December 1961, together with brother Pedro in a Ferrari 250 GT SWB. In February 1962, Ricardo and Phil Hill finished second at Daytona 3 Hours in a Ferrari Dino 246 SP. In March, Rodriguez brothers retired at Sebring 12 Hours.
In May 1962, Ricardo partnered Willy Mairesse and Olivier Gendebien in a victory at Targa Florio, driving a Ferrari Dino 246 SP. After that, Ricardo recorded two DNFs alongside his brother, at Nurburgring 1000km and Le Mans 24 Hours. Their last sports car victory was at Paris 1000 Kilometers in October 1962, where they were driving the #1 Ferrari 250 GTO.
Five F1 starts with Ferrari in 1962
After an impressive Formula 1 debut at 1961 Italian Grand Prix, Ricardo has been appointed as a factory driver for Scuderia Ferrari in 1962. In April, he finished second in the non-championship Pau Grand Prix, behind Maurice Trintigant in a Lotus. In the World Championship, his first race in 1962 was the Dutch Grand Prix in May. After starting 11th on the grid, he spun off on lap 74.
His next race was the Belgian Grand Prix where he finished fourth in the #12 Ferrari 156, earning three championship points. He took one more point with a sixth-place finish at German Grand Prix at Nürburgring Nordschleife. His last F1 race with Ferrari was the Italian Grand Prix in September, when he retired after 63 laps.
Fatal accident during practice for inaugural Mexican Grand Prix
In November 1962, the inaugural non-championship Mexican Grand Prix has been planned to take place at the Magdalena Mixhuca circuit in Mexico City. Ricardo Rodriguez wanted to race in this historic event but Ferrari opted not to enter the race so he made a deal to drive a Lotus 24-Climax for Rob Walker Racing.
Unfortunately, during the first practice, three days before the race, Ricardo went off the track at Peraltada turn and hit the barrier. He was killed instantly.
Photos: Scuderia Hermanos Rodriguez,