Pedro Rodriguez at the wheel of a Porsche RS at Meadowdale Raceway in July 1959.
Photo: Ray Boldt
After years of research, Ed McDonough reveals the influences and pressures that drove Mexican racing hero Pedro Rodriguez to the pinnacle of motorsport…and an untimely death.
July 11 marks 31 years since Pedro Rodriguez took part in what a number of writers subsequently called a “meaningless Interseries race” at the Norisring in Germany. I have always taken exception to that view, as Pedro loved his racing passionately and found it impossible to sit around when there was a race on and he could be driving in it. However, he wasn’t drawn to the Norisring only by a desire to drive. Quite frankly, he needed the money, and this was something many of even his closest associates didn’t know. Tim Parnell, who was running the BRM Grand Prix team for whom Pedro was driving for the 4th year, more or less knew, and he resisted Pedro’s insistence to go off and do this race. Parnell was one of the very few who were close to the Mexican; in fact, Pedro was Parnell’s son Michael’s god-father. John Wyer, who managed the Gulf Porsche team, and was Pedro’s other employer, also resisted. But like Parnell, found it difficult to stop Pedro when he wanted something even though both could have used their contracts with the driver to stop him taking part. John Wyer always lamented afterwards, “I wished the hell I had.”
Tim Parnell said Herbie Muller’s team kept telephoning the BRM offices in Bourn to speak to Pedro, offering him a considerable amount of money to drive Muller’s spare Ferrari 512M (chassis 1008). The number seemed to start at about $5,000 and went up. Pedro implored Parnell, “ But Tim, they are offering me so much money, how can I refuse?” Parnell recalls how worried he was when Pedro went off to drive “that heap of rubbish.”
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