Lauda's priest - Andrew Noakes - Motoring Writer

Today is the anniversary of Niki Lauda's horrible Nurburgring crash in 1976, which almost certainly cost him the F1 World Championship that year and very nearly cost him his life.

The details of Lauda's crash are well known: his Ferrari broke up and burst into flames, during which Lauda's helmet came off and he found himself breathing flame and raw fuel. The Austrian was dragged from the burning wreckage by fellow drivers Guy Edwards, Harald Ertl, Brett Lunger and Arturo Merzario.

Remarkably he was racing again six weeks later, and would go on to give James Hunt a fight for the '76 F1 title. But the injuries Lauda sustained had very nearly proved fatal.

He gave an interview to BBC sports presenter Harry Carpenter around that time, the transcript of which is included in the English edition of Lauda's excellent book Formula 1: The Art and Technicalities of Grand Prix Driving, published in 1977. In that interview he explains how he lay in a hospital bed recovering from his injuries, and someone suggested he might like to talk to a priest. Lauda, who naturally was feeling a little the worse for wear, thought he might get a spirit-raising pep talk - but the priest came in, gave him the Last Rites, and left...

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