Sunday 24th October marks the 50th Anniversary of the death of Jo ‘Seppi’ Siffert, who was tragically killed while competing in the non-championship Rothmans World Championship Victory Race at Brands Hatch.
Jo joined BRM for the 1971 season and quickly became a very popular driver within the team. Making a total of 15 starts (11 Grand Prix & 4 Non-Championship), his best results for the team was 1st in the Austrian Grand Prix at the Österreichring and 2nd in the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, both in chassis P160/2. His only other victory in Formula 1 was at Brands Hatch, where he won the 1968 British Grand Prix in Rob Walker’s Lotus 49B, in what is regarded as the last Grand Prix Victory by a genuine privateer entrant.
Tragically, in the non-championship Rothmans World Championship Victory Race at Brands Hatch, 50 years ago today, Jo was killed while driving a BRM P160. During his 14th lap, coming out of Pilgrims Drop, the car veered off the track and hit a marshall’s post on the entry into Hawthorns Bend, overturned, and burst into flames. Tragically Jo was trapped in the overturned car and due to inadequate trackside fire equipment, the marshalls could not reach the car. It was later discovered that though Jo died from smoke inhalation, his only injury from the accident itself was a broken ankle. BRM raced through arguably the most dangerous period in Formula 1. In BRMs 24 years of top-level motorsport, Jo was the only driver to lose his life in a work car. On this day we remember Jo and his successes in the industry and are thankful for all he achieved.
Plans are currently being made for a Jo Siffert memorial at Brands Hatch, to commemorate, a Great Driver, Family Man and Gentleman. There is also an ongoing exhibition in his hometown honouring his life, details of which are available here. AutoSport have additionally published an article on Siffert’s title as Switzerland’s first F1 winner, which you can read here.