Belfast Telegraph

Home Life

Guy Edwards: 'The car was alight and Lauda was trapped... he did thank me for rescuing him, but it was very frightening for him and he couldn't really talk about it'

The driver who dragged Niki Lauda from the 1976 crash that almost ended his career tells Lorna Siggins about the dramatic rescue

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 14, 1983, French Formula One driver Alain Prost (L) poses with Austrian former champion Niki Lauda on the McLaren car they will drive during the 1984 Formula One season at Le Castellet racetrack, southern France. - Legendary Formula One driver Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, his family said in a statement released to Austrian media early Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Photo by GERARD FOUET / AFP)GERARD FOUET/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 14, 1983, French Formula One driver Alain Prost (L) poses with Austrian former champion Niki Lauda on the McLaren car they will drive during the 1984 Formula One season at Le Castellet racetrack, southern France. - Legendary Formula One driver Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, his family said in a statement released to Austrian media early Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Photo by GERARD FOUET / AFP)GERARD FOUET/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 21, 1984, Austrian Formula One pilot Niki Lauda (L) and his then McLaren teammate French driver Alain Prost celebrate after Lauda won for the third time the Formula One World Champion title following a race in Estoril, Portugal. - Legendary Formula One driver Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, his family said in a statement released to Austrian media early Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Photo by GABRIEL DUVAL / AFP)GABRIEL DUVAL/AFP/Getty Images
FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 20, 2015 file photo former Austrian Formula One driver Niki Lauda is pictured through a glass window, during the 2015 Formula One testing, at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain. Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File)
FILE - In this July 31, 1977 file photo, Austrian racing driver Niki Lauda in his Ferrari leads James Hunt from Great Britain in his McLaren during the Formula One West German Grand Prix auto race at the Hockenheim circuit in Hockenheim, West Germany. Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - In this Thursday May 16, 1996 file photo defending champion Michael Schumacher of Germany, left, chats with Ferrari consultant Niki Lauda during the practice session for the Monaco F1 Grand Prix in the principality. Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)
(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 16, 1983, French Formula One driver Alain Prost (R) talks with Austrian former champion Niki Lauda during trials at Le Castellet racetrack, southern France. - Legendary Formula One driver Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, his family said in a statement released to Austrian media early Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Photo by Gerard FOUET / AFP)GERARD FOUET/AFP/Getty Images
FILE - In this Sept. 12, 1976 file photo Austrian auto racer Niki Lauda, following his near fatal crash at the German Grand Prix six weeks ago, announces he would start at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70. (AP Photo, File)
File photo dated 04-07-2014 of Mercedes Niki Lauda. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday May 21, 2019. Formula 1 racing team McLaren said it is deeply saddened to learn that three-time world champion driver Niki Lauda has died, following reports of his death at the age of 70. See PA story AUTO Lauda. Photo credit should read David Davies/PA Wire.
File - In this Jan. 12, 1975 file photo, Austrian auto racer Niki Lauda, pictured during the Argentine Grand Prix in Buenos Aires. Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70. (AP Photo/E. Di Baia)
File photo dated 04-07-2014 of Mercedes Toto Wolff (left) and Niki Lauda. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday May 21, 2019. Formula 1 racing team McLaren said it is deeply saddened to learn that three-time world champion driver Niki Lauda has died, following reports of his death at the age of 70. See PA story AUTO Lauda. Photo credit should read David Davies/PA Wire.
File photo dated 13-03-1976 of Austrian Niki Lauda in his Ferrari at Brands Hatch. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday May 21, 2019. Formula 1 racing team McLaren said it is deeply saddened to learn that three-time world champion driver Niki Lauda has died, following reports of his death at the age of 70. See PA story AUTO Lauda. Photo credit should read PA/PA Wire.
File photo dated 08-05-2015 of Niki Lauda. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday May 21, 2019. Formula 1 racing team McLaren said it is deeply saddened to learn that three-time world champion driver Niki Lauda has died, following reports of his death at the age of 70. See PA story AUTO Lauda. Photo credit should read David Davies/PA Wire.
FILE - In this Sept. 7, 1976 file photo Austria's Niki Lauda behind the wheel of his Ferrari 312 T2 on the track of Florano after a near fatal crash on Aug. 1 during the German Grand Prix. Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70. (AP Photo/Raoul Fornezza, File)
FILE - In this May 27, 1976 file photo Austria's Niki Lauda in a Ferrari making the best time during testing for the upcoming Grand Prix of Monaco. Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70. (AP Photo/Rene Maestri, File)
File photo dated 23-04-1985 of Master of the Worshipful Company of Glovers Stephen Kirsch (left) presents the Golden Glove Award to McLaren Formula One team boss Ron Dennis (right) and his driver Niki Lauda. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday May 21, 2019. Formula 1 racing team McLaren said it is deeply saddened to learn that three-time world champion driver Niki Lauda has died, following reports of his death at the age of 70. See PA story AUTO Lauda. Photo credit should read PA/PA Wire.
FILE - In this Oct. 24, 1976, file photo, Austrian auto racer Niki Lauda, right, defending champion in world driving, and James Hunt, of Britain, look at the rain before the start of the Japan Grand Prix Formula One auto race at Fuji International Speedway, Gotemba, Japan. Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70. The Austria Press Agency reported Lauda's family saying in a statement he "passed away peacefully" on Monday, May 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)
File photo dated 18-07-1975 of Austrian F1 racing driver Niki Lauda during a practice session at Silverstone. Re-issued: 17/2/99. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday May 21, 2019. Formula 1 racing team McLaren said it is deeply saddened to learn that three-time world champion driver Niki Lauda has died, following reports of his death at the age of 70. See PA story AUTO Lauda. Photo credit should read PA/PA Wire.
File photo dated July 22 1984 showing Austrian Niki Lauda celebrating victory in the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch after winning in his Marlboro McLaren. Formula 1 racing team McLaren said it was "deeply saddened" to learn that three-time world champion driver Niki Lauda had died aged 70. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture issue date: Tuesday May 21, 2019. See PA story AUTO Lauda. Photo credit should read: PA/PA Archive
File photo dated May 8 2015 showing Niki Lauda during the practice day at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. Formula 1 racing team McLaren said it is "deeply saddened" to learn that three-time world champion driver Niki Lauda has died. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture issue date: Tuesday May 21, 2019. See PA story AUTO Lauda. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire
File photo dated November 23 2014 showing Mercedes Lewis Hamilton with Niki Lauda during the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Formula 1 racing team McLaren said it was "deeply saddened" to learn that three-time world champion driver Niki Lauda had died aged 70. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture issue date: Tuesday May 21, 2019. See PA story AUTO Lauda. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire
(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 13, 2002 The Ford-backed Formula One Jaguar racing team boss Niki Lauda waves after testing the last season's Jaguar R2 Formula One at Valencia's racetrack. - Legendary Formula One driver Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, his family said in a statement released to Austrian media on May 21, 2019. (Photo by Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 15, 2009 Three-time F1 world champion, Austrian driver Niki Lauda, sits in the cockpit of the 1st 'Legacy 190' executive jet during a delivering ceremony to Niki airlines, at Embraer's headquarters, in Sao Jose dos Campos, some 90 km north of Sao Paulo, Brazil. - Legendary Formula One driver Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, his family said in a statement released to Austrian media on May 21, 2019. (Photo by MAURICIO LIMA / AFP)MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 13, 2002 The Ford-backed Formula One Jaguar racing team boss Niki Lauda poses after testing the last season's Jaguar R2 Formula One at Valencia's racetrack. - Legendary Formula One driver Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, his family said in a statement released to Austrian media on May 21, 2019. (Photo by Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 27, 1976 Ferrari's Austrian Formula One driver and World champion Niki Lauda is seen in the pits on Monaco race track during a training session of the 34th Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. - Legendary Formula One driver Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, his family said in a statement released to Austrian media on May 21, 2019. (Photo by - / AFP)-/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 19, 2016 Austrian Formula One driver Niki Lauda poses with his trophy in the category Lifetime Achievement at the Laureus World Sports 2016 Awards Ceremony in Berlin. - Former F1 champion Niki Lauda dies: family tells media on May 21, 2019. (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP)TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 1, 2015 Austrian former Formula One driver Niki Lauda looks on during the first day of the Formula One pre-season tests at Jerez racetrack in Jerez. - Former F1 champion Niki Lauda dies: family tells media on May 21, 2019. (Photo by Jorge Guerrero / AFP)JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 27, 1976 Austrian Formula One driver and World champion Niki Lauda sits in his Ferrari on Monaco race track during a training session of the 34th Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. - Legendary Formula One driver Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, his family said in a statement released to Austrian media on May 21, 2019. (Photo by - / AFP)-/AFP/Getty Images

By Lorna Siggins

British racing driver Guy Edwards says he didn't think twice when he risked his life to pull Niki Lauda from a burning Ferrari over 40 years ago. Edwards (76) said that Lauda never really talked about the accident afterwards to him, but the two men formed a strong bond.

The Austrian, a three-time world champion racing driver, was "the most focused man I ever met", Edwards said, speaking after hearing the news of Lauda's death on Tuesday.

The British driver, who was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for his response, sustained second-degree burns to his hands in the dramatic rescue.

Lauda, then already world champion, had been critical of the Nürburgring, describing it as "bloody dangerous" before he lined up there for the German Grand Prix in August, 1976.

Lauda was on his second lap after changing from wet to dry tyres when his Ferrari ploughed into the side of the track.

"His car hit the barrier, bounced back across, hit my car and pushed me 20 metres down the road," Edwards recalls.

"I jumped out and ran back to help him, and it was quite difficult as the car was alight and Lauda was trapped.

"Brett Lunger, my teammate Harald Ertl and Arturo Merzario all came back to help me, and we dragged him out of the burning car and got him to lie down."

The race was restarted an hour later, and British driver James Hunt won it in a McLaren, putting just 14 points between him and Lauda in the World Championship stakes for that year.

"Lauda was in a pretty bad way," Edwards remembers. Mannheim University Clinic's intensive care unit head Professor Klaus Peter reported that the driver had first to third-degree burns on his head, along with several fractures and a number of serious internal injuries.

Good friends: Niki Lauda and Guy Edwards (right) chat at Silverstone in 2016
Good friends: Niki Lauda and Guy Edwards (right) chat at Silverstone in 2016
Driving seat: Niki Lauda behind the wheel of his Ferrari 312 T2 a month after his near fatal crash in Germany in 1976

He sustained damage to his lungs and mucous membranes, caused by the smoke and steam from the crashed car.

It was the fibreglass fumes which seared his lungs so severely that it took all his mental energy to pull through.

"He had great determination, because he was back racing very soon after," Edwards says.

Six weeks after intensive surgery, Lauda turned up to compete in the Italian Grand Prix.

"He did thank me, but it was a very frightening experience for him - perhaps that's why he couldn't really talk about it," Edwards says.

"We had hardly known each other before then, but we kept in touch, and after he retired we met up regularly at the Grand Prix."

One of his most treasured possessions is a photograph of the two of them chatting together at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone in July 2016.

That was three years after Edwards experienced his own terrible loss. Edwards' son, Sean, had followed his father into professional racing driving, having taken up karting competition at the age of 11.

Sean was regarded as at the top of his game, his father says, and one of his highlights was winning the 2013 Nürburgring 24 Hours in 2013.

He played a cameo role as Guy in Rush, directed by Ron Howard, about the rivalry between Lauda and Hunt, and the film premiered in London in September of that year.

The 26-year-old was instructing Will Holzheimer at the Queensland raceway near Brisbane, Australia, on October 15, 2013, when their Porsche hit a wall and caught fire. Sean Edwards lost his life and Holzheimer was treated in hospital for his injuries.

Guy Edwards, who now lives in Streamstown, Connemara, is the son of an RAF pilot who was a squadron leader in the Second World War.

Straight out of Durham University, he signed up to train at Brands Hatch and had his first competition in 1965 in a Ford Anglia.

He was known for being a successful dealmaker, and gained the nickname "Mr Sponsorship" as a result. Royal Automobile Club rules had not permitted sponsorship when he started racing.

Both he and Colin Chapman were the first to challenge the rules, with Edwards persuading the Torline Shipping Company to support him in Chevron international sports car racing.

One of his most infamous deals was secured with a well-known cigarette brand for the 198 race at Le Mans.

Edwards spent much of his racing career in European two-litre series and Formula 5000 sports cars, and his personal highlights include winning the Dunes Trophy at Zandvoort in 1973, the Motor Show 200, also in 1973, and the Oulton Park Gold Cup twice over in 197 and 1978.

He participated in 17 Grand Prix races before deciding to stop.

"I loved it, I raced passionately, but I woke up one morning and decided it was time to go," Edwards said. "I continued in touring cars, and competed in Le Mans non-championship races".

Professional racing has changed beyond all recognition, with the advent of satellite television and attendant sponsorship deals, he says,

"You would get £1,000 a race in the Grand Prix when I raced in 1974," he recalls. "Now they're making about £60million a year."

Last year, some racing websites erroneously reported that Guy Edwards had died, when he was in fact alive and well and living in the west of Ireland.

He had resided for many years in Monaco, then moved back to Britain, but opted for Connemara in 2012 as he had spent many happy holidays there. And he still owns the Formula 1 Hesketh he was driving when he rescued Lauda from his burning car...

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph