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As before the start of the race, when I saw the Austrian representative of the FIA speaking with Helen and knowing it was no time for him to be talking to her because it could only have been about Jochen. Telling him to stop. Then afterward Helen telling me he had said Nina had gone to Jochen the night before in the mortuary, and Jochen had looked all right.
Or on Saturday late, as we drove back to the Villa d'Este, Helen's asking why, before she had gone with Nina to the hospital in Milan, why, why hadn't I told her Jochen was already dead? Finding myself pleased that I had raced and raced aggressively, finishing second while I might easily have done third or fourth, since no one could have blamed me. But my wanting to win, knowing I couldn't beat the Ferrari, not there, not in the March but still beating Denny Hulme and Beltoise, strong fighters both, and in some small way justifying myself to Ken Tyrrell, to the team, to the people who said I was washed up and, of course, to myself as well. At a price yes, possibly, but my knowing that it was something I had to do and did, and did despite not having to.
And afterward, trying to leave the track in heavy traffic, a guy in an Alfa coming up and offering to take us by a back road to the airport, where a friend was waiting with his Lear to take us home, leading us the whole way, going an hour out of his way, taking us right onto the landing strip and then, with a wave, swinging around and driving away. And the flight back, 30 minutes, my flying most of the way with nothing in my head except the plane and trying to fly it, Helen looking out the window most of the time, waiting to reach Nina, and maybe a little afraid. The calm when we got there, Sally and Nina's dad and everybody being bloody great, Sally very, very good, and our talking about what we might do like continuing the Jochen Rindt Speed Show in Vienna, maybe one in Munich, perhaps another in Essen. Talking, talking...and then going home down the hill in the dark and with a great headache. Being able to sleep, not knowing anything more but finally, now, necessarily going to sleep.
The funeral was on Friday, in Graz, Austria. During the week I was in London and Scotland as well as at home in Switzerland, and besides helping Nina with arrangements I saw to various things. I worked out the details for a discoth�que and a Harrods" fashion show at my own speed show in Glasgow, filmed a TV commercial, saw my lawyers and then, on Friday, flew to Austria, Helen and I, Jo and Marianne Bonnier and Jo Siffert.
But now the funeral is less important than the accident. I am not convinced that Jochen had to die nor am I sure that the crash was in any way his fault. The reports from the organizers, the course marshals, the national club and the doctors are not all back as I write this, but one thing is certain: while Jochen was being worked on in that narrow ambulance, not 20 yards away stood an intensive-care medical unit with the latest mechanical devices for resuscitation and all the blood he might have needed, an air-conditioned, fully germ-free operating theater offering him every possible chance to survive. And this was not used. The medical unit was his only chance. His jugular was cut and there must have been massive hemorrhaging, but this probably didn't have to be fatal. A severed jugular, I am told, does two things—not only does it let all the blood out, it allows air into the bloodstream that must be gotten out before it reaches the heart or brain. The bleeding is not the central problem so long as blood is being put back into the system, either blood or a special plasma solution; it is the oxygenation and consequent heart stoppage that must be dealt with, and dealt with quickly, within 12 minutes of the injury, and by mechanical means—by precisely the kind of machine that was available but not in that ambulance. Even if Jochen were dead when they took him out of his car, if his heart had stopped beating, had they gotten him to the medical unit quickly, it is possible that with a good anesthetist he could have been brought back to life. There was a chance he might have survived, but again, probably not through simple chest respiration and the use of an oxygen mask.
Why wasn't the Grand Prix medical unit used? There is no explanation but politics. The unit is allowed on sufferance because if it weren't, direct accusations could be made. But on Saturday no one had instructions to use it and despite all the efforts of Louis Stanley, director of the unit, Jochen was kept in that ambulance. They wouldn't give him up, they took him by road to Milan, to their hospital. Not even a helicopter was used, and if Jochen was alive when the ambulance drove off, as some people say, and he died en route, then the whole thing amounts to criminal incompetence, almost bloody murder. If there is some other explanation, I have yet to hear it.
The accident itself? A mechanical failure, I am almost certain. Jochen was approaching the Parabolica Curve after a very long straight at a top speed of about 185 mph, perhaps 190. As he applied the brakes the car suddenly turned sharp left and went into a double Armco barrier. The nose cone of the car went beneath the barrier—which it oughtn't have done—and the impact ripped off the whole front end or subsection completely. The cockpit area was intact, the car stayed upright—and there was no fire. I don't know what happened to Jochen, I can only guess. I'm sure he had his seat belts on, though he never wore six-point belts—the type with crotch straps that come up inside each leg to keep you from sliding forward or "submarining" on front-end impact. He didn't like them—said they were uncomfortable—and I think this played a major part in his injuries. On impact he went down and forward, cutting his neck on the Plexiglas windscreen or his seat belts, tearing his foot as the front section of the car came away.
The crash itself, the loss of control, will probably never be fully explained, yet one obvious explanation is a broken drive shaft. And indeed, one of the car's drive shafts was later found to be broken. In itself this isn't conclusive, but I am told that not only was a front brake shaft broken—the Lotus 72 had inboard front brakes, hence front drive shafts—but given the angle of the car's impact, this in all likelihood would not have been caused by the crash itself. No, probably what happened was that the front drive shaft fractured under braking, leaving one of the front wheels without brakes and making the car uncontrollable. This is the only coherent explanation; nothing else squares with what happened, with the eyewitness accounts at the time.
Does it matter? Yes, obviously. One has faith in one's driving, and in my case this extended to Jochen as well. I know how good he was, and it is inconceivable that the accident was his own fault—not there, not the way it happened. Part of my concern has to do with me—knowing the most recent Grand Prix accidents, maybe 90%, have been caused by mechanical failures, my faith that the danger isn't in oneself but in the car, and is thus still within your control, yours and the team you choose to work for. But equally, I would like to exonerate Jochen. Lotus has had more than its share of fatalities. Jimmy Clark, Mike Spence, Chris Bristow, Alan Stacey, Ricardo Rodriguez and now Jochen have all died in Lotus cars. Stirling Moss, too, was in a Lotus when he had his bad accident at Goodwood. This isn't bitterness, it is fact, and the point is that at the speeds we are now going a racing car must be designed with a sufficient margin of strength and lightness, but it must be weighted in favor of strength and safety. It must. Motor racing will always be dangerous because you are always going much too fast for things around you. But being professionals we must minimize risk as much as possible—the risk of having an accident, the risk of not surviving one. We can use flameproof overalls, the latest in crash helmets and fire-fighting equipment, but the cars themselves must not come apart, otherwise these other things are all for naught. Quite simply, there are situations in which the very best safety equipment is completely worthless.
Jochen's death has hit Helen hard, though just how hard I am not sure because it doesn't really come out. She had already experienced more tragedy and more death than most people have in a lifetime, and now, at 27, she has been through it twice more in the past two months. The wound is reopened, and even more deeply because Helen liked Jochen.