Marc Surer’s Friendship with Manfred Winkelhock Highlighted in WEC Memories

    For Swiss racing driver Marc Surer, the results he achieved with his on-and-off partner Manfred Winkelhock between 1977 and 1985 pale in comparison to the cherished friendship they shared. The two drivers, who competed together in the World Endurance Championship (WEC), Formula 2, and Formula 1, forged an unbreakable bond that transcended their fierce rivalry on the track.

    Surer and the late Winkelhock, the elder brother of the equally charismatic “Smokin’ Jo” Winkelhock, teamed up in various machinery, including BMW, Ford, and most notably, the privateer Kremer-run Porsche 956 in the 1985 WEC season. Their victory at the shortened Monza round that year, where they beat the factory teams, stands as a bittersweet highlight in Surer’s career.

    “We became friends very quickly,” Surer reminisces, recalling their time together in the BMW Junior Team in 1977 alongside Eddie Cheever. The duo’s camaraderie extended beyond the racetrack, with the two often socializing and even coordinating strategies, as seen in the 1982 Brands Hatch 1000km WEC round.

    Despite being rivals in Formula 1, Surer and Winkelhock’s relationship remained strong. “We could live always with the same set-up, we never had a problem to say ‘I cannot drive the way he wants it set-up’. We were very similar,” Surer explains, highlighting their compatibility as teammates.

    The tragic loss of Winkelhock at the 1985 Mosport round of the WEC, following a heavy crash, left Surer with cherished yet bittersweet memories of their partnership. “Even now when I think about it, it’s horrible,” he says, but Surer fondly remembers their “unique” friendship, describing it as “very unusual” even among the most competitive of rivals.

    As the WEC prepares for the 2023 and 2024 seasons, Surer’s reflections on his time with Winkelhock serve as a poignant reminder of the deep bonds that can form between drivers who share a passion for the sport. Their story is a testament to the enduring power of friendship in the high-octane world of endurance racing.

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