Jo Siffert & Jacques Deschenaux

Jo Siffert's life


" Relatively speaking, Jo Siffert's death had been felt in Switzerland in the same way as the death of Ayrton Senna in Brazil and they are not less 50'000 people who had come down in the time in the streets of Fribourg to pay him a last tribute during its funeral ", raise Jacques Deschenaux,  Jo Siffert biographer's and the former leader of the Sports service of the French-speaking Swiss Television.

This comparison between Jo Siffert and Ayrton Senna illustrates perfectly the mythical dimension which enjoy today still these two big champions in their respective country. Both besides died in the prime of life, at the wheel of their racing car, without we know exactly the failure which cost them the life. Beyond the same dramatic end, Jo Siffert postpones however from Ayrton Senna by the fact that he arose from a very poor family.
Grand-Prix d'Autriche 1971
His great career, which allowed him in particular to win two formula 1 races and to contribute to the conquest of three Manufacturers world champion titles for Porsche in 1969, 1970 and 1971 with a total of 14 absolute victories, Jo Siffert so owes it above all to his prodigious will. " Left nothing, with nothing, he proved that in the car-racing, as in life, whoever can reach the purpose that he reasonably settled, If he has the will, the determination and the capacity to reach there. Jo Siffert is a striking example ", estimates Jacques Deschenaux at the end of his book " Jo Siffert, everything for the race ".

The prodigious will which allowed Jo Siffert of future one of the best racing drivers of his time and, additionally, no furthermore to be poor also marked Men Lareida, the director of the movie " Jo Siffert - Live fast, die young " presented in the 2005 Locarno Festival: " Jo Siffert's life is a real novel and it lends so perfectly to be told in a movie. Jo was indeed born very poor in the city of Fribourg and invested all his savings to concretize his child's dream to become a formula one driver. And, when he finally realized his dream, he died in full glory. "


For lack of telling in a exhaustive way all the career of the best driver whom Switzerland knew with Clay Regazzoni, the following lines should allow you to know better Jo Siffert, his career, its exploits and some of his striking facts. The latter belong today still, about 40 years after his death arisen on mechanical failure, in Brands Hatch, on October 24th, 1971, to the racing history.


Brands-Hatch 1968
The victory taken away by Jo Siffert at the F1 British GP , on July 20th, 1968, on a Lotus 49 of Rob Walker's Team, is so today still the last victory taken away by a private Team in a race  of the F1 world championship. It was also about the first victory absolved from a Swiss nationality driver in a  race counting for the F1 world championship. Jo Siffert then won the second victory in F1, on August 15th, 1971, during the Austria GP, on a official BRM.


Since when the drivers do shake a bottle of champagne on the podium, upon the arrival of a race? Since June 11th, 1967. This date indeed coincides with the arrival of the 24 Heures du Mans of this year. Jo Siffert, winner for the second consecutive time of the performance index, has difficulty in removing the cork of the bottle of champagne. The idea comes to him then to shake the bottle and to splash the drivers who share with him the podium of 24 Heures du Mans! This tradition, inaugurated by Jo Siffert, remains even today.


Rare are the Swiss personalities with whom the aura continues to shine several decades after their death. Jo Siffert is undoubtedly a member of those. It is enough to think of the remembrances of which the former formula 1 driver was the object during the tenth, twentieth and twenty-fifth anniversaries of his disappearance to convince itself. And the thirtieth anniversary of its death, in 2001, did not make an exception.

There were indeed many tributes which were returned in regretted "Seppi". And it, not only in the canton of Fribourg, but in all Switzerland and also in Europe. The French magazine Auto-Hebdo and the Magazine of the historic automobile dedicated him for example respectively three and sixteen (!) pages. La Gruyère, Le Nouvelliste writer and La Revue Automobile, as well as the Berner Zeitung, the Automobile Revue and Tele-Bärn also dedicated him several reports and these last three German-speaking media are revealing of the popularity of which the child of Fribourg - who expressed himself as well in French as in German - enjoyed in two main linguistic regions of Switzerland.


But much more than its bilingualism and his national aura, it is the fact that it managed to reach the firmament of the car-racing by having left a very modest environment which conferred him a dimension which exceeds by far the sports frame. Besides, for the people of Fribourg, Jo Siffert's success, been born on July 7th, 1936 in a very poor family, brought a little balm to the heart in a time when the canton of Fribourg was a little the laughing stock of Switzerland generally and French-speaking Switzerland in particular. " Jo Siffert's arrival on stage of world sports scene established scathing one denied to all those who thought that Fribourgeois underdeveloped farmers were only who smelt bad ", estimates Jacques Deschenaux.

After the death of the driver, all the press had unanimously paid him tribute. During his ten seasons in formula 1, punctuated by two magnificent victories in Brands Hatch in 1968 and in Zeltweg in 1971, he had accumulated an enormous fund of goodwill. So, in the French sports daily "L'Equipe" of October 25th, 1971, we could read that Jo Siffert was one of the most liked drivers: " He was fast, skillful and aggressive as all the racing drivers can be him. But he had something furthermore, something different. His ease indeed had an equal only his surprising courage. A courage which seemed all the bigger as he never mentioned it that by laughing when, after one of its exploits, we were going to ask him how it had passed ".


Gazzetta dello sport raised for its part that Jo Siffert was the most complete drivers: " He made no distinction as regards the various types of cars which were confided to him." Peter Falk, the former sports director of Porsche, stands out for which one Jo Siffert was going to win fourteen victories in the manufaturers world championship, considered for his part that " Seppi was, doubtless, the best driver of its generation ".


"His life was the race, the race was its death", wrote Jacques Deschenaux in the Swiss daily paper La Liberté of October 25th, 1971, the day after this tragic Formula 1 race during which Jo Siffert was going to die. Ironically, this race, not counting for the Formula 1 world championship, would never have taken place if the Mexican Pedro Rodriguez, the team-mate of Siffert as well at BRM as at Porsche, had not died July 11th, 1971 on the Norisring race track.
dernier départ

The date of October 24th would indeed have had to welcome the Mexico GP.

Having lost the idol of a whole country three months previously, the Mexican organizers had however no more the heart to set up a Formula 1 race. British, quite happy to celebrate the conquest of the second world title of their fellow countryman Jackie Stewart, seized then this date become vacant to organize to Brands Hatch a race in the honor of Jackie Stewart.

A race which counted for no championship and in which Jo Siffert, for once, did not wish to participate. It is true that he had the right to be saturated and that with the trinket of 40 races, his season 1971 was well filled!

" I remember although he did not want to participate in this race ", remembers Simone Siffert, the widow of Jo Siffert. " In the same date, he should moreover have roamed to Japan on a Porsche 917 with which he competed in the United States for the CAN-AM championship. Since Edmonton, in Canada, theater of the lrace of the CAN-AM championship, there was however a problem to transport the car in Japan and Seppi did not insist. He had said to himself besides that towards a friend such as Jackie Stewart, who lived in the time too in Switzerland, in Begnins (VD), it was necessary answer present to Brands Hatch. "

We know the suite: on this circuit of Brands Hatch, where he had won his first Formula 1 race in 1968 - the last race to have been won by a private driver-, Jo Siffert had to die in the 16th lap, in the Mike Hawthorn curve. Came out of the track to more than 200 kph, his BRM was almost fired immediately and Seppi died suffocated. Was it a question of one flat slow like that had already arrived at him a few weeks before during the Austria GP where it had nevertheless gained its second victory in formula 1? Was it a question unlike a blocked gearbox? As Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt and Pedro Rodriguez before him, as Ayrton Senna, Joseph Siffert went as the biggest champions there, taking with him the secret of his death.
During his funeral, Father Duruz pronounced a become sentence, since then, very famous:

" There, where there is a risk, there is a death. There, where there is no risk, there is not a life. 


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