Little Known Porsche Factory Driver Probably Saved Niki Lauda's Life
Niki Lauda's infamous accident at the Nurburgring is well know. However if it wasnt't for a man and his Porsche Lauda may not have survived.
If you are a racing guru or just happend to watch the movie "Rush" then you are undoubtedly familiar with Niki Lauda's famous accident at the Nurburgring in 1976. The accident left Lauda with horrible burns and lung damage but if it wasn't for Herbert Linge Lauda's fate could have been much worse.
Herbert Linge was a factory Porsche driver who was well versed in the 'Ring. Pictured above is Linge driving a Porsche 908 around the infamous circuit.
The Nordschleife was Formula 1's resident beast on the calendar. 12.9 miles of twisty, high speed German race track that Sir Jackie Stewart aptly named the "Green Hell". Not only was the track a challenge for drivers, it also posed a unique challenge for safety workers. A typical track has a network of service roads that connect to different parts of the track. These service roads make it possible for the safety workers to get to any accident quickly and efficiently. The only thing inside the Nurburgring's track limits are trees and a castle. This makes providing quick response to any accident a major challenge. Enter Herbert Linge.
Linge was a former Porsche Factory Driver. Linge started his career at Porsche as a little known apprentice mechanic working at Porsche's Weissach plant. His talents as a driver were soon discovered landing him a role as one of Porsche's factory drivers. In addition to spending ample amounts of time at the 'Ring Linge raced in the prestigious Mille Miglia.
Linge also drove in Steve McQueen's epic Le Mans movie. He drove one of the rival cars and was responsible for one of the more interesting moments during the film's production. McQueen was a very fast driver in his own right which led to him instructing Linge not to lift during one of the passing scenes. McQueen told Linge he was fast enough to pass him on his own which would make for a more authentic moment caught on camera. After weeks of trying McQueen could not pass Linge so the decision was made to have Linge lift in order to get the shot.
While Linge's contribution to the racing world as a driver was comparatively small, his contribution racing safety is immeasurable. Specifically at the Nurburgring where safety was a major challenge. Due to the unique size of the 'Ring safety workers often found themselves at a worrying distance from accidents. In a world where seconds could mean the difference between life and death this was a major problem. Track owners of the day were notoriously cheap so the concept of hiring more safety workers was an unattractive prospect. Thanks to his racing career Linge came up with a solution that would undoubtedly save lives.
Linge had the idea to turn fast cars into safety vehicles. He modified a 914 into a quick response fire truck. Yes, fire truck. The storage compartments were converted to carry fire fighting and cutting equipment. This provided a quick response vehicle that could start the rescue of a crashed driver while traditional first response vehicles were still on their way to the scene of the accident. Eventually Linge upgraded to a modified 911. The rear engine design made it uniquely qualified to carry fire supression equipment and it was this car that was likely responsible for saving Niki Lauda's life on that fateful day in 1976.
In addition to their added equipment these fast response vehicles were driven by former racing drivers while a safety worker rode shotgun. The goal of these vehicles were to arrive on the scene of any accident within 30 seconds. It was Linge's little orange 911 that arrived on the scene of Lauda's accident and it was that quick response that saved Lauda.
1976 saw the last time Formula 1 raced on the Nordschleife. Lauda's accident finally proved that even with inelegant individuals like Linge who were pioneering safety the 'Ring was just too dangerous for modern Formula 1 cars. Thankfully Linge was around otherwise the sport may have lost a legend that day.
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