Remembering Stefan Bellof

On September 1, 1985 a loud thud was heard in Eau Rouge. Just before that, the German Stefan Bellof tried to overtake Jacky Ickx around the outside to take the lead of the Spa 1000 Kilometres in his Porsche 956. It didn’t work. Bellof, the man who was destined to race for Ferrari in the 1986 Formule One World Championship, and who should have been Germany’s first World Champion, was killed on the spot. But he hasn’t been forgotten.

“Bellof”, says the old man, when we shake his hand. Eighty-five years old is Georg Bellof. “Eighty-five springs”, he smiles. His handshake is firm, and mentally he is shapr as a pin. He stresses that he doesn’t hold anything against Jacky Ickx, but still he sounds bitter when he says: “Ickx begrudged Stefan’s success.” He doesn’t only refer tot he accident in Eau Rouge, but also to the Monaco Grand Prix of 1984. That wet race became famous for one A. Senna of Brazil finishing second in his inferior Toleman. Right behind him finished Stefan Bellof in his Tyrrell-Ford. The race was red-flagged prematurely, if that hadn’t happened it’s almost certain Bellof would have outraced not only Senna, but also winner Alain Prost. The race director that decided the race should be stopped that day was called Jacky Ickx. Georg Bellof: “If I’d run into Ickx I’d talk to him fairly. Nobody wanted this to happen. What happened was simply schicksal, fate.” The emotions the older Bellof feels are understandable. Who doesn’t  understand the feelings of a father for his son.

Stefan Bellof was viewed as an exceptional talent. He was crowned World Champion in sportscars in 1984, but his most famous result came a year before that. In 1983 Stefan Bellof took pole position fort he 1000-kilometre race on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. His 6.11.13 lap, averaging over 200 km/h, still counts as the absolute record lap around the Green Hell. Bellof made his debut in Formule One in march of 1984, driving for Ken Tyrrell’s team, a man known to have an eye for talent. The German wouldn’t disappoint Uncle Ken. In Zolder and Imola Bellof collected points. And then came Monaco. That Tyrrell would be disqualified at the end of the season for having underweight cars, didn’t even matter anymore, Bellof made his name in Monaco. Partly because of Bellofs achievements, Tyrrell could have the more powerful Renault turbo-engines for 1985. On top of that, “Il Commendatore”, Enzo Ferrari, had cast his eye on the young German. Bellof signed a contract that would bind him to Maranello for 1986 and 1987. Finally Bellof had made the big time. He had clear goals for himself: as a Ferrari-driver he wanted to finish in the top-3 of the World Championship. At least.

Georg Bellofs company employed a mr. Lehmann. His son, Frank, is 44 today. Thanks to his dad, he got to know Stefan Bellof, be it from a distance. Frank Lehmann was impressed. Not only by the happy demeanor of Bellof, but also by his driving styles and results on the karting track. The same is true for Martin Dettmar (43). He didn’t know Stefan personally, but when he saw him drive on the Oppenroth karting track near Bellof’s hometown of Gießen, Germany, he was impressed. “I used to go there on my moped to see the karts go around”, Dettmar says, “and you couldn’t help but notice Stefan. Not only because of his driving, but also because he was always smiling, he always had time for everybody and never was arrogant.” In 2006 Dettmar en Lehmann fulfilled their wish of creating something in memory of Stefan Bellof. With their own money, some help, lots of effort and even more love they created the “Stefan Bellof Memorial” in a corner of the hobbymuseum Sammler- und Hobbywelt in Alten Buseck, near Gießen. Since hey first opened, their collection has grown extensively, helped among others by Georg Bellof, Kartverein Oppenroth and Ebay. Trophies, an original karting helmet and Stefans very first kart are on display in their museum. So is the wind tunnel model of the 956, that was given to Stefan by Porsche. “Fantastic! But we’ve also found some great exhibits through Ebay”, says Dettmar. Dettmar is referring to an original nose of a Porsche 956. With their own money and help of their friend Thomas Guthmann, they also managed to acquire Bellofs PRS Formule Ford-car from 1980.

An original Bellof-car had been a wish for the museum for years. Of course, the friends preferred a Tyrrell, but that proved to be out of reach. Through Ebay – again – Dettmar bought an old Formula 3-car. Together with Frank Lehmann he transformed that into a replica of Bellofs Tyrrell 014. All-in all the work took nearly a year, and consumed every free minute the men had. A lot of parts – the diffusor, rear wing and suspension – had to be built by themselves. Their creativity and sense of improvisation is disarming. Dettmar tries hard not to laugh as he points to the front suspension of the Tyrrell: “These are aluminium rods, they came from my old closet. The air-intakes and brake disks aren’t high-tech either, I bought those for a few quid in a hardware store.”

Georg Bellof appreciates what Dettmar and Lehmann did. “I’m extremely happy and proud to see that Stefan, so many years after his death, still manages to unite people.” He raises his hand and caresses the big photo of Stefan, that adorns the wall of the Memorial. A few years ago he did the same thing, on a fan-day that Dettmar still organises every year. The whole audience felt tears in their eyes. On top of a showcase there’s a white rose, still fresh. It was brought by the wife of the owner of the driving school in which Stefan got his driving licence. Almost weekly she puts a similar rose on Stefans grave. “Stefan is like James Dean”, says Georg Bellof, “he will never die. Only the forgotten really die.”


The story of the Bellof Memorial was published in Formule 1 in 2011. 

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