- July 07, 1936
- October 24, 1971
- Not Active
Jo Siffert was a Swiss racing driver, who started 96 Formula One Grand Prix races between 1962 and 1971, winning two times and scoring six podiums. He was also successful in the sports car racing, taking the victories with Porsche in some famous races, such were 24h Daytona, 12h Sebring or Targa Florio. Siffert was killed in an accident at non-championship F1 race at Brands Hatch in October 1971.
Jo Siffert started racing with motorcycles
Joseph Siffert, also known as Seppi, was born on July 7, 1936, in Fribourg, Switzerland. He was a son of the dairy owner, but had no plans to inherit father's business. He started racing with motorcycles, winning the 1959 Swiss championship in the 350cc class. In 1960, Siffert switched to car racing, entering the Formula Junior.
In 1961, he gained his first international success, winning the race at AVUS circuit, driving his own Formula Junior car Lotus 22. In May 1961, he also participated in the first sports car race, entering the 1000 km of Nurburgring, together with Sepp Liebl in the Ferrari 500 TRC. They finished 15th overall.
Formula One championship debut at Spa-Francorchamps
Siffert's first Formula One race was the non-championship Brussels Grand Prix on April 1, 1962. He finished sixth, driving the Cosworth-powered Lotus 22. His first championship race was the Monaco Grand Prix in June, but he failed to qualify in the privately entered Lotus 21 (Climax). Two weeks later, on June 17, Joseph debuted in the Formula One Championship, participating at Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. He was driving the Lotus 21 (Climax) for the Swiss team Ecurie Filipinetti, finishing 10th.
Later in the season, Siffert retired at French Grand Prix and finished 12th at German Grand Prix. His last F1 appearance in 1961 was at the Italian Grand Prix in September, but he failed to qualify at Monza.
First championship point and non-championship win in 1963 season
In 1963, Siffert competed full season as a privateer, driving the Lotus 24 (BRM). He participated in nine races, retiring five times. In other races, he was regularly in the Top 10, taking his first championship points at the French Grand Prix at Reims. He finished sixth, a lap behind winner Jim Clark.
Siffert's biggest success in 1963 was the victory at non-championship Syracuse Grand Prix, driving the Filipinetti's Lotus 24. He also participated with Filipinetti's Ferrari 250 GTO in one race of the World Sportscar Championship, at 500 km of Spa, finishing third.
In 1964, Siffert joined Rob Walker Racing Team
In 1964, one more season as a privateer, Siffert scored one more victory in the non-championship race. It was the Mediterranean Grand Prix at Autodromo di Pergusa at Sicily. Siffert was driving the Brabham BT11 (BRM) and he won in a narrow finish against Jim Clark, beating him with 0.1sec margin.
In the 1964 Formula One Championship, Siffert started the season with his own Lotus 24 (BRM) at Monaco Grand Prix but switched to Brabham BT11 from the second round. In the next seven races, his best result was the fourth place at the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring Nordschleife. For the last two races of the championship, Siffert joined Rob Walker Racing Team and scored his first podium. He finished third in the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, behind Graham Hill and John Surtees.
In May 1964, Siffert had his first racing experience with Porsche. He joined Heinz Schiller in 1000 km of Nurburgring race, driving the 904 GTS and finishing 8th overall and 3rd in the GT2.0 class.
Second victory in a row at the Mediterranean Grand Prix
Siffert continued to drive for Rob Walker's team in 1965, alongside Jo Bonnier. Siffert finished three times in the points, at Monaco GP, French GP and Mexican GP. His best result was fourth place in Mexico City. The highlight of the season was a back-to-back victory in the Mediterranean Grand Prix in August, with Rob Walker's Brabham BT11 (BRM).
In June 1965, Siffert participated for the first time at 24 hours of Le Mans. He partnered Jochen Neerpasch in the #8 Maserati Tip 65. The crew retired after just three laps, with a damaged car after a spin.
The season full of retirements
In the 1966 Formula One season, the championship started with Monaco Grand Prix. Siffert retired in the old Brabham BT11 (BRM). In the second round, at Belgian Grand Prix, the Rob Walker Racing team switched to the Cooper T81 cars with Maserati V12 engines. Siffert retired again. Later in the season, he finished only one race, the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, finishing fourth and taking three championship points.
In the non-championship races, Siffert's best result was the second place at the 1966 South African Grand Prix. In the sports car racing, Siffert continued to compete with Porsches. Together with Charles Vogele, he finished 6th at 12h Sebring and 5th at 1000km of Monza.
Class victory at 1966 Le Mans
The highlight of the season was Siffert's second participation at Le Mans race. Siffert joined Colin Davis to drive factory entered #30 Porsche 906 LH. They finished 4th overall, behind three Ford GT40s, and first in the P2.0 class, as the best of four Porsche's crews.
Podiums only in non-championship races
The Cooper T81-Maserati brought three podiums to Siffert in the non-championship Formula One races during 1967. He finished third in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, at BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone and in the Syracuse Grand Prix. In the 1967 Formula One Championship, Siffert was closest to a podium in two races, finishing fourth at French Grand Prix at Bugatti Circuit and in the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. At the end of the season, Jo was 12th in the standings.
Class victories at Daytona and Le Mans in 1967
During 1967, Siffert was more and more involved to the sports car racing with Porsche. The season was opened with 24 hours of Daytona, where Siffert finished 4th overall and first in P2.0 class. He was driving the #52 Porsche 910 alongside Hans Herrmann. The duo repeated the fourth place at 12 hours of Sebring. At 24 hours of Le Mans, Siffert and Herrmann reached the class victory and 5th place overall, in the #41 Porsche 907 LH, as the best of all Porsche's crews.
Overall wins at 1968 Daytona and Sebring
The season 1968 started with two sensational victories for Porsche at 24 hours of Daytona and 12 hours of Sebring. Siffert participated in both events as a driver of the winning Porsche 907 cars. His co-drivers at Daytona were Vic Elford, Jochen Neerpasch, Rolf Stommelen and Hans Herrmann. At Sebring, Siffert shared the car with Hans Herrmann only.
Three more wins in Europe
Later in the season, Siffert scored three more wins. At 1000 km of Nurburgring, he won sharing the Porsche 908 with Vic Elford. At 500 km of Zeltweg, he won as a sole driver. At 1000 km of Paris, his partner was Hans Herrmann. The Le Mans 24-hour race was held in September, due to massive protests in France in May. Jo Siffert and Hans Herrmann started from pole in the #31 Porsche 908 but retired after 59 laps.
Maiden F1 championship victory at Brands Hatch
Siffert spent the 1968 Formula One season with Rob Walker Racing Team, and he finally caught his first F1 victory, on July 20 at the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. After 80 laps of racing, he crossed the finish line 4.4 seconds ahead of Chris Amon, to recorded the first ever victory for the Swiss driver in the F1 Championship Grand Prix race. The winning car was the Cosworth-powered #22 Lotus 49.
In the last two rounds of the season, Siffert added more points to his account at Watkins Glen (5th) and Mexico (6th), to finish seventh in the F1 championship standings. With one F1 victory and five wins in the sports car races, it was his most successful year in a career.
Five wins for Redman and Siffert
The start of the season 1969 was disappointing, as Siffert retired both at 24 hours of Daytona and 12 hours of Sebring, driving the Porsche 908 together with Hans Herrmann (Daytona) and Brian Redman (Sebring). After returning to Europe, Siffert and Redman scored four consecutive wins with Porsche 908, at 6 hours of Brands Hatch, 1000 km of Monza, 1000 km of Spa and 1000 km of Nurburgring. Unfortunately, the winning streak was stopped at 24 hours of Le Mans in June. Redman and Siffert were the part of the Swiss Hart Ski Racing Team, they retired after 60 laps.
In July, Siffert returned to the USA and won at Watkins Glen 6 hours, together with Brian Redman. Siffert also participated in the Can-Am race at Watkins Glen, as a part of the Porsche's first year in the series. Until the end of the season, Siffert entered eight Can-Am races and finished fourth in the standings.
Second place at 1969 Dutch GP was F1 season's highlight
In Formula One, the season 1969 was the last for Siffert and Rob Walker Racing Team. The Cosworth-powered Lotus 49B was fast in the hands of Jo Siffert, but he missed new victories. He was closest to the top podium spot at Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, finishing second behind Jackie Stewart.
The second-best result was third place at Monaco Grand Prix, behind Graham Hill and Piers Courage. With 15 championship points, Joseph finished 7th in the final classification.
Disappointing year with March F1 team
In 1970, Siffert joined March F1 team, to drive Cosworth-powered March 701, alongside Chris Amon. The results were disastrous, as Siffert hasn't scored any point, for the first time since his debut season in 1962. He even failed to qualify for the main race, at Spanish Grand at Jarama circuit. Siffert's best result was 7th place at Spa-Francorchamps.
Siffert and Rodriguez together in Porsche
As F1 season was to forget, the sports car racing results were again satisfying. At 1970 Daytona 24-hour race, Siffert and Redman finished second in the #1 Porsche 917 K of the John Wyer Engineering, behind the sister car driven by Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen. At 12 hours of Sebring, Siffert's #14 car was damaged in the accident, so he joined Rodriguez and Kinnunen in the #15 car, to finish 4th overall.
1970 Targa Florio win for Redman and Siffert
In March, Siffert won in the RAC Thruxton race, driving the 917 K. The next victory came in May, at the famous Targa Florio race. Siffert and Brian Redman competed in the Gulf-sponsored #12 Porsche 908/03 of JW Engineering. They won ahead of sister car driven by Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen. One more victory of Siffert and Redman followed two weeks later, at 1000 km of Spa. At 24 hours of Le Mans, Siffert and Redman started third on the grid but failed to finish. The duo concluded the season with a victory at 1000 km of Zeltweg in October.
Season-opening victory at Buenos Aires
The season 1971 started on January 10 with Buenos Aires 1000-km race. Siffert partnered Derek Bell in the #30 Porsche 917 K and they won the race. Three weeks later, at Daytona, Bell and Siffert didn't reach the finish in the 24-hour race. At 12 hours of Sebring, they finished fifth overall. Back in Europe, Bell and Siffert finished third overall at 1000 km of Brands Hatch, second at Monza and second at Spa. At 1971 Targa Florio, Siffert again partnered Brian Redman, but they had an accident and didn't finish the race. At Le Mans, Bell and Siffert started third but retired.
Siffert and Rodriguez as teammates in the Yardley BRM F1 team
At 1000 km of Nurburgring in May, Siffert was sharing the Porsche 908/03 with Pedro Rodriguez and they finished second overall. Siffert and Rodriguez were also the teammates in the Yardley BRM F1 team at the beginning of the 1971 Formula One season. The season didn't start well for Siffert, as he retired three times in a row, in South Africa, Spain and Monaco.
Rodriguez lost his life in July 1971
Siffert caught the first point with #9 BRM P160 finishing sixth in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. Two weeks later, at Circuit Paul Ricard, Siffert finished fourth. It was the inaugural French Grand Prix at the new circuit near Marseille. At British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Siffert was ninth, one place behind his new teammate Howden Ganley. Their third teammate Pedro Rodriguez lost his life six deay earlier, at Norisring on July 11.
At the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring Nordschleife, Jo Siffert was disqualified on lap 7 for taking the short chute into the pits, after his right-hand lower front wishbone started detaching from the chassis and his ignition coil started acting up.
Siffert reached his second F1 victory in Austria
Two weeks later, on August 15, 1971, Jo Siffert scored his second F1 championship Grand Prix victory. He won the Austrian Grand Prix at the Österreichring. He took a surprise pole position and converted it to the victory, winning with a 4.12sec margin over Emerson Fittipaldi. Tim Schenken was in the third place, it was his only podium in a career.
Podium in the last Grand Prix race
Later in the season, Siffert finished ninth at the Italian Grand Prix and Canadian Grand Prix. Both the North American tour and the championship season finished with a podium in the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, on October 3. Siffert was second, behind Francois Cevert and ahead of Ronnie Peterson. All three drivers from the Watkins Glen podium lost their lives in the following years in the racing accidents.
Unfortunately, Jo Siffert was first who was killed in a crash. Three weeks later, on October 24, Siffert was participating in the inaugural World Championship Victory Race, a non-championship event which took part at Brands Hatch. The race was to be run over 40 laps but was stopped on lap 15 following the Siffert's fatal accident.
Life and career stopped too early
Siffert started from pole and dropped few places at the start. Until the lap 14, he made his way back to the fourth place. Approaching Hawthorn Bend at high speed on lap 15, Siffert's BRM suffered a mechanical failure and he crashed into an earth bank. The car rolled over and caught fire, trapping Siffert underneath, and he died in the flames. The race was stopped after the crash. The result was taken from the race order after 14 laps, so Peter Gethin being declared the winner. Jo Siffert was classified fourth.
Jo Siffert died at the age 35, in his most successful period of a racing career, when he was among Top 5 world's best drivers. The results also proved that, because he was the fifth-placed driver in the 1971 Formula One Championship.
Video : Jo Siffert - the Swiss racing legend
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