On July 12, 1971, the cover of the sports section of THE REPORTER published one of the most important news in the sports history of the country: “The famous pilot Pedro Rodríguez was killed.”
The publication was accompanied by an image of Rodríguez de la Vega being transported on a stretcher and a brief biography.
Who to date is considered by many to be the best exponent of Mexican motorsport of all time, died on July 11, 1971 while competing in the 200 miles of Nuremberg while driving his Ferrari 512. This day marks the 50th anniversary of his death .
To remember, we share the text that was published in THE INFORMER:
“The accident that today cost the life of the intrepid Mexican midfielder Pedro Rodríguez while the 200 inter-series race was being contested at the Noris racetrack, apparently occurred when the right front wheel came off its rim when the pilot was preparing to take a curve on the twelfth lap.
Rodríguez, considered the best driver in the world for wet tracks, was driving a powerful 580 horsepower Ferrari, which after skidding to the right hit a protective fence and the railing of a bridge, crossing the road through the air and catching fire ” .
A spokesman for the racetrack later said the wheel appeared to have completely detached from its rim.
The spokesperson added that the steering wheel of a Porsche 906 that had been chasing Rodriguez when he was running in first place at the time of the accident slightly brushed against the burning car of the Mexican steering wheel, but he managed to retain control of the vehicle and emerged from the trance unharmed.
The track guards immediately extracted Rodríguez from the burning wreckage of his machine and the wheel was rushed to the Nuremberg municipal hospital.
The accident happened when the first of the two series of the 200 miles of Nuremberg was running.
Briton Cris Craft, who won the first series with a McLaren, was shocked when he learned of Rodriguez’s death.
“This is horrible, truly horrible,” Craft declared.
Spectators observed a minute’s silence when it was announced over the loudspeaker system that Rodríguez had died.
Craft won all 52 laps of the race in a time of 1: 06.52.9 hours at an average speed of 183.80 kilometers per hour.
In second place was his compatriot Peter Gethin, who also drove a McLaren, with a time of 1: 07.54.0. While the Swede Joaquín Bonnier, with a Lola T-222, was third, with a time of 1.07.54.6.
Ricardo Rodríguez, Pedro’s brother, lost his life in an accident he had when he was racing in the qualifying tests for the Mexican Grand Prix in 1962. The father of the two brothers then tried to persuade Pedro to completely abandon the dangerous sport, but it returned to the track in 1963 and began to excel mainly in sports car competitions.
Last year, Pedro won the 24 Hours of Daytona, the Brands Hatch race, the six hours of Watkins Glen and the 1,000 kilometers of Monza, as part of the Porsche team.
This year he had won at Daytona, Monza and Spa, and his last triumph occurred on June 28, when he conquered the 1,000 kilometers of Austria. “
Champion without anthem
Of the many stories that can be told about Pedro Rodríguez de la Vega, perhaps the most curious of all is the one that happened when he won the South African Grand Prix.
On Monday, January 2, 1967, Rodríguez took the wheel of a Maserati-powered Cooper on the Kyalami track in the city of Johannesburg.
After 80 laps in the South African sun, the Mexican driver crossed the finish line and received the checkered flag in first place. This result surprised everyone present, especially because this was hardly the ninth Grand Prix in which Rodríguez participated.
His triumph was so unexpected that at the time of the award ceremony, when Pedro climbed to the top of the podium, a melody very different from the lyrics of the Mexican national anthem began to sound.
The organizers did not anticipate a triumph for Rodríguez so they did not have a recording of the Mexican anthem. so they decided to put on a song called “South of the Border”, performed by Bing Crosby.
Although at the time the pilot took the situation with humor, he decided to prepare and from that day he had a recording of the national anthem ready.
This is how the triumph of Rodríguez in South Africa was read in the pages of EL INFORMADOR
Motorsports and the Rodríguez brothers
Inside the biggest stories there are always situations that seem unreal. That is the case of two of the great promoters and names that helped shape the history of motorsports in Mexico: Pedro and Ricardo Rodríguez.
Talented, visionary, risky, these two brothers gave their lives to the sport they loved, and they both did it while behind the wheel of a Ferrari.
Ricardo became a driver for the Maranello team in 1961, the youngest in Formula One history at the time at just 19 years and 208 days.
Although the team and Enzo Ferrari himself had their hope in this young promise, in 1962 Ricardo died during the first day of testing of the Mexican Grand Prix at the Magdalena Mixiuhca circuit and that to this day, in his honor, wears the name of Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
This tragedy failed to keep Ricardo off the tracks, a young man with great qualities who was known as “Cat’s Eyes” for his ability to drive at night and in the rain.
On July 11, 1971, Pedro raced the Nuremberg 200 miles in a Ferrari 512. When he was on his twelfth lap of the competition, he attempted a pass that ended tragically when he lost a tire. Rodríguez hit a retaining wall and his car caught fire.
The Mexican died in the hospital hours after being transferred after having several fractures and burns on his body.
Although 50 years have passed since his death, until June 6, 2021, when Sergio “Checo” Pérez achieved his second victory in Formula One by winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Pedro Rodríguez had remained as the only man to achieve that number of victories in that category by doing so at the 1967 South African Grand Prix and the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix, but in his legend still remains intact his record as the only Mexican driver who achieved victory in the general classification of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The last goodbye to the pilot
Pedro’s funeral took place on July 16, 1971. At the ceremony, where figures and motorsport fans gathered, his father, Don Pedro Rodríguez, said in a speech: “You shared with me the triumphs of my son. Now we share the tragedy. “
“You shared with me the triumphs of my son. Now we share the tragedy.”
As reported THE REPORTER In its edition of July 17, 1971, the funeral procession took more than an hour in its journey of only three kilometers due to the large public that was in its path to give the last goodbye to the pilot who was buried in the Spanish Pantheon of Mexico City.
Pedro Rodríguez de la Vega died at the age of 31, but 50 years after the tragedy, his star continues to shine brightly in the firmament of motorsports in Mexico.