Pedro Rodriguez and Richie Ginther (Ferrari 330P3 Spyder) at
Le Mans in 1966. (LAT archive)
It was on this day in 1971 that Pedro Rodríguez lost his life in an Interserie sports car race at the Norisring. He was 31.
One of that rare breed who was equally at home in both open-wheel and sports cars, Rodriguez also ran competitively in NASCAR and even won an ice racing championship, in 1970.
Beloved in his native Mexico and around the world for his bravery, Rodríguez was considered one of the best drivers of his era in the wet – his duel with Jo Siffert, in which the two Porsche 917 drivers "rubbed" through the then very narrow and dangerous Eau Rouge corner in the rain at the start of the 1970 1000 km Spa is the stuff of legend.
After racing Ferraris in the World Championship of Makes for years, Rodrigiez signed for the Wyer-Gulf-Porsche team in 1970, and became the two-time world champion driver in the Porsche 917 alongside co-driver Leo Kinnunen. Rodriguez also competed in Formula 1 sporadically from 1963 until his death, winning in only his ninth grand prix start in a Cooper. He added another win at Spa in 1970, although he had been wary of F1 after his brother Ricardo was killed at the Mexican GP in 1962. But it was sports cars that would claim the elder Rodriguez, at the Norisring in Nuremberg, Germany, at the wheel of a Ferrari 512M.
His legacy lives on today as the first hairpin on the Daytona International Speedway is named for him, while the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, the Mexico City circuit that has hosted both F1 and Champ Car, is named for both Rodriguez brothers.