Niki Lauda never had a dull moment in his entire racing career. He paid to get into the sport and almost paid with his life. He was left for dead, recovered, and got back in astonishing time. He left the sport because there was no competition and came back again and repeated his feat. Such was the extraordinary journey that Lauda had through his years as a Formula One professional.
Nicholas Andrea Lauda was born into a business and banking dynasty. His father had built an empire by manufacturing paper but Niki’s tryst with racing meant that he was excluded from his father’s millions. Niki left the university he was enrolled into and got himself into a racing school, paying for it with money borrowed from Austrian banks.
In 1968, Niki started his racing career behind the wheels of a mini and the debut wasn’t pleasant. He crashed his way through Formula Vee & Formula Three and in 1972, he realised that money was what could get him quickly into the higher levels of racing and so, he paid his way to get into Formula 2. Another bank loan, secured by his life insurance policy, paid for his new venture.
He was to represent March in the arena but their competitive cars meant that his worth as a driver was unproven. He had no choice but to continue in the only thing he knew how to do, i.e. race. In 1973, he got into BRM by talking himself into a twisted ‘rent-a-ride’ deal. He kept improving in his race standings and that got him a chance to compete for another year but this time, he had a contract. The contract was to pay off all his debts while Niki would have to stay on board for two years. But Lauda had other plans. He bought his way out of the team with some money that he got from his new employer