DRIVERS: RICARDO RODRIGUEZ
Name: Ricardo Rodriguez
Date of birth: February 14, 1942 - Mexico City
Date of death: November 1, 1962 - Mexico City
The police force in Mexico may seem an unlikely place to make a fortune but as head of the country's elite motorcycle police unit, Don Pedro Rodriguez amassed great wealth and influence from a variety of different business interests in the 1950s. There have been rumours that he might have been head of the Mexican secret service but the fact is that he was probably just making money as Mexican policemen used to do. The link with motorcycles was important in that his two sons Pedro and Ricardo started out competing on motorbikes after growing out of bicycles. Ricardo was a national champion before moving to the United States to further his education in 1956.
He returned at the end of the following year and at the age of 16 tried to enter a Porsche RS in the Le Mans 24 Hours. The Automobile Club de l'Ouest rejected the entry but the following year Don Pedro bought a Ferrari 250 Testarossa and Pedro raced in America. As soon as he was 18 Ricardo joined him and made an immediate impression. A few months later Ricardo was at Le Mans driving for US Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team and finishing second with Andre Pilette to Scuderia Ferrari's Paul Frere and Olivier Gendebien. The next big achievement came the following spring at Sebring where the brothers finished third in the 12 Hours and that led to more races in Europe with second place in the Nurburgring 1000.
This led to an invitation from Enzo Ferrari for Ricardo to drive for Ferrari in the Italian Grand Prix of 1961. The young Mexican qualified on the front row, just a tenth slower than World Championship challenger Wolfgang Von Trips. Rodriguez retired early in the race but Enzo Ferrari signed him up for 1962. It was a bad year for the team in F1 but he finished second in the non-championship F1 race at Pau and picked up some World Championship points with fourth in the Belgian GP and sixth in Germany. In sports cars he enjoyed a notable success by winning the Targa Florio with Gendebien and Willy Mairesse.
At the end of 1962 Ferrari decided to avoid further embarrassment by withdrawing his cars from the final races and that meant that Rodriguez had to look elsewhere for a drive in the inaugural Mexican Grand Prix, which was a non-championship event. He turned to Rob Walker who had a Lotus available for hire. Ricardo was the centre of attention but when John Surtees set a faster time in a similar car, he set off to beat his rival, ran wide in the daunting 180-degree Peraltada corner and crashed heavily. He suffered multiple injuries and died soon afterwards.