Roland Ratzenberger

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Roland Ratzenberger

Roland Ratzenberger (July 4, 1960April 30, 1994) was an Austrian Formula One driver who died tragically during qualifying for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, the very race which also took the life of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna. Born in Salzburg, Austria, Ratzenberger often claimed 1962 (rather than 1960) as his birth year, wanting to appear younger to extend his racing career.

A racing car driver, Ratzenberger first came to prominence in 1986, winning the prestigious Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. This led to campaigns in the European Formula 3 and touring car championships, after which he forged a successful career in the Japanese Formula 3000 series.

He was plucked from Japan as a surprise choice by Nick Wirth's new Simtek team to drive in the 1994 Formula One season. After failing to qualify for the 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, Ratzenberger made his only F1 Grand Prix start two weeks later at the 1994 Pacific Grand Prix at the TI Circuit in Aida, Japan.

He died while attempting to qualify for the third race of the season at the ill-fated Imola circuit, ploughing into a wall at the Villeneuve corner at over 300 km/h after a front wing failure.

Ratzenberger was the first driver to perish at a Grand Prix in the twelve years after the 1982 deaths of Riccardo Paletti and Gilles Villeneuve, only a single day before Senna's fatal accident.

While Senna had the luxury of years behind the wheel to prove his greatness, Ratzenberger was never granted that opportunity.

Formula One Grands Prix

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