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Tributes Paid to Niki Lauda

Condolences pour in from the sports car world following the death of motorsport icon Niki Lauda…

Photo: BMW

Tributes have been paid from across the sports car and wider motorsport worlds following the death of three-time Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda at the age of 70.

The Austrian was best known for his successful years in Formula 1 with Ferrari and McLaren in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as his famous rivalry with James Hunt.

Lauda also won the inaugural BMW M1 Procar Championship, which pitted contemporary grand prix drivers against each other in identical sports car machinery.

He “passed away peacefully” on Monday, his family confirmed.

ACO president Pierre Fillon led the sports car tributes by highlighting Lauda’s fortitude and “fighting spirit”.

Lauda was left with severe burns after a crash during the 1976 German GP, but made a remarkable recovery that resulted in him clinching his second F1 title the following year.

“Motorsport involves machines, but it is about human endeavour more than anything,” said Fillon.

“Some drivers make their mark on their discipline, some achieve greatness beyond the sport itself. Niki was one such driver.

“His attention to detail and fighting spirit was matched by his outstanding talent and admirable personality. His record is witness to that.

“He was also a great ambassador for motorsport and the values we uphold. He was a guide, a leader.

“To his son Mathias, a gifted endurance driver, and to all his loved ones, I offer my deepest sympathy at this most difficult time.”

Senior personnel from marques including Audi, BMW and Porsche also paid tribute to Lauda, who served as non-executive chairman of the Mercedes F1 team in recent years.

Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass said that motorsport had lost “one of its prominent figures” while BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt described Lauda as “an inspiration to anyone who ever met him”.

Drivers from around the sports car racing world have also shared their condolences and stories of remembrance.

Lauda took part in numerous sports car competitions during his early career, including several races with a Porsche 908 shortly before his Formula 1 break.

He then signed for March to compete in Formula 2 in 1971 before gaining the attention of Ferrari which hired him at the start of the 1974 Formula 1 season.

Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Jenson Button were among the drivers to pay tribute on social media, while Ryan Eversley shared a story about how his father worked with Lauda during the BMW M1 Procar series.

Lauda won three races of the 1979 M1 Procar season, beating the likes of Nelson Piquet and Mario Andretti, before going on to clinch the championship.

Following his retirement from top-level motorsport in 1985, Lauda went on to establish successful business ventures and continued to hold a presence in the F1 paddock.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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