Bob Wollek in 1976

Bob Wollek[1] (4 November 1943 – 16 March 2001), nicknamed "Brilliant Bob", was a race car driver from Strasbourg, France. He was killed on 16 March 2001 at age 57 in a road accident in Florida while riding a bicycle back to his accommodation after the day's practice sessions for the following day's race, the 12 Hours of Sebring. He won a total of 76 races in his career, 71 in Porsche cars.

Skiing career

Prior to his racing days as a university student, Wollek was also a member of the French National Skiing Team between 1966 and 1968 competing in the Winter Universiade, he won three gold and two silver medals altogether (see table on the right)[2]

His skiing career came to an end when he was injured during preparations for the Winter Olympics.[3]

Early racing career

Prior to a skiing accident which ended his skiing career, Wollek began racing cars when he entered the Mont-Blanc Rally in 1967 driving a Renault 8 Gordini and won. The following year, when his skiing career ended, he started his racing career when he entered a Volant Shell scholarship race taking place at the Le Mans' Bugatti Circuit, finishing runner-up to François Migault. Wollek later entered the Alpine Trophy Le Mans which he won, earning himself a place for the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans where he finished 11th overall and 2nd in class on his debut driving an Alpine A210.[3]

In 1969, Wollek made his debut in single seater racing competing in Formula France before graduating to the French Formula Three Championship.

During a round at Rouen-Les-Essarts, Wollek was involved in a fatal accident which killed Jean-Luc Salomon,[4] when the pair plus Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, Richard Scott and Mike Beuttler were all fighting for the lead at Scierie, where the track is a two-lane road.

In 1971, Wollek switched to Formula Two driving for Ron Dennis's Rondel Racing.[3][5] Despite a shaky start with only one point that year,[6] he improved his performance for the following year with a single win at Imola and 21 points, placing him seventh.[7] Despite this success, he abandoned his Formula One ambition to concentrate on sportscar racing where he would become one of the most recognizable names in the sport.

Sportscar racing

Bob Wollek in a Kremer-Porsche 935K2 at the 1000km Nürburgring in Germany (1977)

During his three decades of sports car racing, almost exclusively in Porsches, he won the 24 Hours of Daytona four times (1983, 1985, 1989, 1991) and the DRM in 1982 and 1983, with the Porsche 936 and Porsche 956 entered by the Joest Racing team. In the mid-1970s, he raced a Porsche 935K2 improved and entered by the Kremer Racing team from Cologne.

For many years, Monsieur Porsche challenged the factory team with privately entered cars, but was also hired to become part of the official Porsche Le Mans team in 1978, 1979, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1996, 1997, and 1998. In 1981, he even raced a Group C-spec Kremer-built Porsche 917, about a decade after these cars were retired initially.

Wollek never won the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall, despite coming close in a few of his thirty attempts. In 1997, his leading factory-entered Porsche 911 GT1 suffered damage in a minor incident, so the car had to be retired. In 1998, Porsche scored a 1–2 win, but Bob was once again on the less-lucky runner-up car.

After the 1998 season, Porsche retired its GT1 cars from the Mercedes-dominated FIA GT Championship, providing only Porsche 911 based cars for the lower GT classes. In 2000, Wollek scored many class wins in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in a Porsche 996 GT3. The last race Wollek entered was the 2001 12 Hours of Sebring in a Porsche 996 GT3-RS. Wollek had already won there in 1985 with A. J. Foyt, driving a Porsche 962. Despite being over 50 years of age and still racing competitively, Wollek had developed a fitness regime of riding bicycles to stay in good physical condition, especially for the longer races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to which he rode from home across France.

Typical of many other racing drivers, Bob ran a car dealership for Jaguar.[8]


On Friday 16 March 2001, while leaving Sebring International Raceway following practice for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Wollek continued a tradition of cycling between the circuit and his accommodation, which took him west on Highway 98. While he had been riding close to the edge of the pavement, he was struck from behind by a van driven by an elderly driver from Okeechobee, Florida at approximately 4:30 p.m.[9][10] He was transported to Highlands Regional Medical Center in Sebring and was pronounced dead on arrival. Wollek was due to start in the Petersen Motorsports Porsche 996 GT3-RS with Johnny Mowlem and Michael Petersen,[10] however out of respect the car was withdrawn from the race.[11] On race day, the organizers held a one-minute silence in memory of Wollek. Prior to his death, he announced he would retire from racing to serve as an ambassador for Porsche, and was due to sign this agreement upon returning home after Sebring.

Racing record

Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results

Year Team Co-Drivers Car Class Laps Pos. Class
1968 France Trophée Le Mans France Christian Ethuin Alpine A210 P
282 11th 2nd
1969 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean-Claude Killy Alpine A210 P
1973 France Equipe Matra-Simca Shell France Patrick Depailler Matra-Simca MS670B S
1974 France Équipe Gitanes France Jean-Pierre Jaussaud
France José Dolhem
Matra-Simca MS670B S
1975 France Écurie Buchet - Cyril Grandet France Cyril Grandet Porsche 911 GT
1976 Germany Porsche Kremer Racing France Didier Pironi
France Marie-Claude Charmasson
Porsche 934 GT 270 19th 4th
1977 Germany Porsche Kremer Racing Belgium Jean-Pierre Wielemans
France Philippe Gurdjian
Porsche 934 GT 298 7th 1st
1978 Germany Martini Racing Porsche System Belgium Jacky Ickx
Germany Jürgen Barth
Porsche 936/78 S
364 2nd 2nd
1979 Germany Essex Motorsport Porsche United States Hurley Haywood Porsche 936 S
1980 Germany Gelo Racing Team Germany Helmut Kelleners Porsche 935 Gr.5 191 DNF DNF
1981 Germany Porsche Kremer Racing France Xavier Lapeyre
France Guy Chasseuil
Porsche 917K/81 S
1982 Germany Belga Team Joest Racing Belgium Jean-Michel Martin
Belgium Philippe Martin
Porsche 936C C 320 DNF DNF
1983 Germany Sorga S.A. Joest Racing Germany Klaus Ludwig
Sweden Stefan Johansson
Porsche 956 C 354 6th 6th
1984 Italy Martini Racing Italy Alessandro Nannini Lancia LC2-Ferrari C1 326 8th 8th
1985 Italy Martini Racing Italy Alessandro Nannini
Australia Lucio Cesario
Lancia LC2-Ferrari C1 360 6th 6th
1986 Germany Rothmans Porsche Germany Jochen Mass
Australia Vern Schuppan
Porsche 962C C1 180 DNF DNF
1987 Germany Rothmans Porsche Germany Jochen Mass
Australia Vern Schuppan
Porsche 962C C1 16 DNF DNF
1988 Germany Porsche AG South Africa Sarel van der Merwe
Australia Vern Schuppan
Porsche 962C C1 192 DNF DNF
1989 Germany Joest Racing Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck Porsche 962C C1 382 3rd 3rd
1990 Germany Joest Porsche Racing Germany Louis Krages
Sweden Stanley Dickens
Porsche 962C C1 346 8th 8th
Germany Joest Porsche Racing United Kingdom Jonathan Palmer
France Philippe Alliot
Porsche 962C C1 - DNS DNS
1991 United Kingdom Silk Cut Jaguar
United Kingdom Tom Walkinshaw Racing
Italy Teo Fabi
United Kingdom Kenny Acheson
Jaguar XJR-12 C2 358 3rd 3rd
1992 France Courage Compétition France Henri Pescarolo
France Jean-Louis Ricci
Cougar C28LM-Porsche C3 335 6th 1st
1993 Germany Joest Porsche Racing France Henri Pescarolo
Germany Ronny Meixner
Porsche 962C C2 351 9th 4th
1994 Japan Nisso Trust Racing Team Sweden Steven Andskär
South Africa George Fouché
Toyota 94C-V LMP1
328 4th 2nd
1995 France Courage Compétition France Éric Hélary
United States Mario Andretti
Courage C34-Porsche WSC 297 2nd 1st
1996 Germany Porsche AG Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck
Belgium Thierry Boutsen
Porsche 911 GT1 GT1 353 2nd 1st
1997 Germany Porsche AG Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck
Belgium Thierry Boutsen
Porsche 911 GT1 GT1 238 DNF DNF
1998 Germany Porsche AG Germany Jörg Müller
Germany Uwe Alzen
Porsche 911 GT1-98 GT1 350 2nd 2nd
1999 United States Champion Racing Germany Dirk Müller
Germany Bernd Mayländer
Porsche 911 GT3-R GT 292 19th 2nd
2000 United States Dick Barbour Racing Germany Dirk Müller
Germany Lucas Luhr
Porsche 911 GT3-R GT 319 DSQ DSQ


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