At the 2007 Mosport Vintage Racing Festival, I had to honour of meeting Peter Felder, who was Swiss driver Herbert Müller’s best friend and race team manager. We’ve been friends ever since, and Peter has come to visit me a few times in Nova Scotia. Peter’s stories of his racing experiences are completely captivating; he was kind enough to write one of these down for me:
In 1971, Herbie decided to run one of his Ferrari 512 M’s in an InterSeries race at the Nürburgring. (Unfortunately, Pedro Rodriguez perished in one of his 512’s at the Norisring a few months earlier). In any case, Herbie had transmission problems in qualifying and subsequently started last. At the start, the last rows were still in the last corner before the start-finish line. A young, wealthy German driver in a McLaren M8C, not being used to the torque of a 427, he spun coming on to the starting straight, in the process crashing into Herbie’s 512. The red 512 became airborne, flew across the track upside down and hit the pit lane guardrail; the guardrail sliced into the car right behind the driver seat, which caused an immediate explosion. The car landed in the pit lane, still upside down and fully engulfed in burning fuel.
The following is what Herbie told me afterwards in the hospital:
“There was a tremendous crash … I knew that I was flying through the air because I saw the blue sky behind the pits … and I knew that the car was on fire...and I though ‘This is not going to be good’. I braced myself waiting for some kind of impact, which is what happened … twice! All I was worried about was not to hit my head anywhere … then the car came to a stop … and I immediately release my seatbelt and since I didn’t know that I landed upside down, I fell into the burning fuel. I turned myself around … tried to kick open the door … no go … considered knocking out the windshield … didn’t work … so I tried the other door … and it opened enough for me to get through … and I knew that I was on fire … tried to figure out where to run … (and here comes the kicker) you know those Germans … I remember seeing a couple of fancy Mercedes cars on display next to the tower, so I thought … if I run towards the cars, somebody will try to save me so I don’t blow up the Mercs!”
Herbie and I had a lot of laughs about this whole ordeal.
Regrettably I was with him on May 24th 1981, or ten years later, at the same track, when he crashed into Bobby Rahal’s crashed, stationary, Coca Cola sponsored, Bob Aiken owned 935.
Later that day I went to the Adenau hospital … but this time, we could not laugh together.