The mid-week long read: big brother

51w ago


For years, Stefan Bellof was considered the greatest driving talent to come out of Germany. He made a name for himself around the world in the Porsche 956, the ground effect Group C racer in which he set that remarkable record at the Nordschleife in 1983. Tragically, it was in this same car that he would lose his life two years later, on the brink of what was expected to be a glittering career in both sports cars and Formula 1. He was just 27.

Georg Bellof is 17 months older than his brother Stefan and now aged 62. Goa, as he has been known all his life, also planned to be a racing driver, and he too was lightning fast. A lack of funding stalled his progress, however, and he chose another path. “I became a dental technician instead,” he says with a shrug, “completed a Master’s and built up my own practice.” But his talent has not gone to waste. Today, Goa works with Porsche drivers as an instructor, sharing an expertise he honed with his brother from childhood days in karts.

Goa, as Georg Bellof is better known, was incredibly close to his little brother Stefan – a man considered one of the greatest drivers ever to come out of Germany

Goa was incredibly close to Stefan, following, promoting and helping his brother’s burgeoning career. “We were inseparable. We played football together, we went skiing together in winter, and we did all sorts of crazy things together.”

‘Stibbich’ is the name that Goa still uses to refer to his beloved brother. It means “the little one”, and the little one, he explains, always wanted his big brother by his side. “Stefan knew that he could always count on me for good advice. That was very important to him.” This proved to be the case during the first Formula 2 test drives when Bellof impressed sceptical team director Willy Maurer after just three laps. It was a similar story during the young driver tests for McLaren at the end of 1983. Goa was always there for his brother, mentoring and supporting him.

The ‘83 season was also Stefan’s first year in the Porsche factory team. And it was during qualifying for the 1,000-kilometre race at the Nürburgring that he completed ‘that’ lap. The timekeepers recorded 6:11.13 minutes, prompting a spokesperson to suggest that the timer must have been stopped at the wrong point because such a feat was simply not possible.

Stefan Bellof (left) and Georg Bellof (right) raced karts together in their younger days

“We didn’t think that the lap time was unusual, initially”, Goa recalls. “We thought ‘great! The fastest in qualifying’. What was strange was the fact that the team hadn’t expected him to be the fastest. But Stibbich had always been fast.”

It was only much, much later that it dawned on everyone just what Bellof had done that day, the significance of what he had achieved – for himself, for Porsche and for the Nordschleife. Stefan Bellof was the first driver to achieve an average time of over 200km/h over the 20 km-long circuit, the most difficult and dangerous race track in the world. “Stefan broke a sound barrier, that was the epochal of this round,” Norbert Singer declared of the extraordinary run. Today, Goa Bellof has the legendary record embroidered on his shirt, a marker of his enduring pride in his brother.

The premature end of that race weekend at the Nordschleife is just one of many stories recounted in Porsche folklore: with a significant lead, Bellof destroyed his 956, crashing just after the huge jump at Pflanzgarten. The car took off at a speed in excess of 200km/h. Bellof escaped unharmed and, according to Goa, “He immediately went over to the fans to sign autographs.” It was this carefree fearlessness that characterised Bellof as a racing driver. Unfortunately it would also spell disaster.

On September 1, 1985, Bellof was chasing down Jacky Ickx in another 956 in a ferocious duel around the fast and demanding Spa-Francorchamps. On the infamously tricky Eau Rouge corner, Bellof bravely attempted to pass Ickx and made contact with the Belgian’s car. The ensuing accident would prove fatal, with Bellof pronounced dead some 50 minutes later.

Gone far too soon and truly on the threshold of greatness, Stefan Bellof will nevertheless be remembered forever with the 6:11,13 round at the Nürburgring in 1985.

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