HAMBURG, West Germany -- The death of endurance racing driver Rolf Stommelen was sadly received Monday by the West German motor racing fraternity.
Rival driver Hans-Joachim Stuck said, 'Rolf Stommelen was always a fair and thoroughly upright sportsman.'
He said Stommelen was an exception in a world where most drivers did nothing but think about winning.
'Perhaps Rolf wasn't ruthless enough for the game,' he said. 'I think that was the reason he never achieved any of the big successes in Formula One driving.'
Manfred Jantke, the Porsche press officer and the company's former racing team leader, said, 'Stommelen was reliability personified, he had a massive amount of experience. If someone like him loses control of his car in Riverside, something must have been defective.'
Stommelen, 39, was killed when his Porsche Turbo went out of control on Turn 9 at the Riverside International Raceway in California during an international endurance race Sunday. The car hit a concrete restraining wall, flipped twice and caught fire. Stommelen was pronounced dead at Riverside Memorial Hospital.
Stommelen was running second on his 96th lap when he crashed nearly three hours into the race. Stommelen had qualified second-fastest with Bell on Saturday at more than 120 mph.
Race winner John Fitzpatrick owned Stommelen's car. When the German crashed Fitzpatrick was too upset to continue and was replaced by Briton Derek Bell.
'I don't know what really happened,' Fitzpatrick said after the accident. 'All we know is he spun. Actually, the car is such a mess I don't believe we'll ever know what happened. I knew Rolf for 18 years, and I simply have never dealt with anything like this before.'