Happy Birthday, Joachim Winkelhock!

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Le Mans 24 hours winner, touring car champion
and Opel brand ambassador

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Congratulations, Joachim Winkelhock! The Le Mans 24 hours winner, touring car champion and Opel brand ambassador celebrates his 60th birthday today! The Opel Post sends its best wishes to a dear friend, valued colleague and all-round “good bloke”, on behalf of Winkelhock fans from all over the world.

Especially from Germany, of course, where he is simply known as Jockel –the perfect name for such a lightning fast Swabian. Somehow the name is reminiscent of “Jockey” and quite rightly so. In 1988, the diminutive Jockel took the German and European Formula 3 Championships at a canter when he was with the WTS team.


↑ VIDEO: Jockel Winkelhock meets Opel Kapitän

Racing driver outfit, casual look, cigarette between your fingers: that’s how the motorsport world got to know Jockel Winkelhock in the 90s – and gave him the nickname“Smokin’ Jo”.

Completed the 2000 DTM season in an Opel Astra V8 Coupé: Jockel Winkelhock, Eric Helary and Uwe Alzen (from left).

But also from the United Kingdom, where the weather-hardened, authoritative motor sport enthusiasts know him as “Smokin’ Jo” – thanks to the doughnuts he liked to perform when celebrating race wins and overall victory in the British Touring Car Championship; and also because of the cigarette that immediately appeared in his mouth as soon as his helmet came off!

Jockel had a brief but exasperating sniff of Formula 1 air with AGS in 1989 before deciding to go into the touring car business. He crowned his time driving touring and super touring cars for BMW by winning the legendary 24-hours of Le Mans in a BMW V12 LMR with Pierluigi Martini and Yannick Dalmas in 1999.

The open cockpit prototype was a completely new experience for the touring car driver: During qualifying, Winkelhock was speeding down the long Hunaudières strait at well over 300 km/h. Before braking for the Mulsanne Corner, a much slower vehicle blocked him. When Jockel was overtaking the car, he wanted to send the driver a “friendly” salute. However, as soon as he raised his arm it was caught by the airstream and jerked backwards almost resulting in a dislocated shoulder!

 

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„Smokin‘ Jo“ transforms into the perfect gentleman driver – and switches to Opel

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On a more positive note, this did prevent him from insulting a fellow driver. To cut a long story short: Le Mans transformed Jockel Winkelhock into the perfect gentleman driver. This was the ideal entry-ticket to Opel. Jockel drove an Astra V8 Coupé in the German Touring Car Championship from 2000 to 2003.

Winkelhock cruised to a win on his favourite track, the Norisring in Nuremberg, in his first season with the Holzer Team. He has been an Opel brand ambassador and Opel driver trainer since 2004 – and Smokin’ Jo has finally even managed to give up cigarettes.

Athletes through and through: As an Opel driver trainer, here in front of an Astra OPC, Jockel Winkelhock contributes his many years of experience as a racing driver.


October 2019

Text: Roland Korioth, Photos: Opel