February 14 is a date of global celebration, the Day of Love and Friendship, but for those of us who love motorsport it also represents the date on which Ricardo Rodríguez was born, one of the best drivers our country has ever had and who in barely 20 years of life he became a great of motorsport.
Ricardo Valentín Rodríguez de la Vega was born in Mexico City in 1942 and together with his older brother, Pedro, he began to develop a passion for motor sport, first in cycling, then in the world of motorcycles and then in motorsport. , in all these disciplines they showed their great talent.
All those who saw him race affirm that Ricardo had the makings of a champion and everything necessary to be one of the great legends of motorsport.
After shining in Mexico and the United States, winning many races and defeating the best drivers of the time, in 1958 he jumped to Europe to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Pedro, but the organizers decided at the last minute that at the age of 16 it was too young to participate, so his brother had to race the Ferrari 500 TR58 with the Frenchman José Behra.
The following year he returned and they allowed him to participate, getting the 11th position at the start, together with Pedro, but unfortunately they had to withdraw at 5 hours due to water pump failures.
On June 26, 1960 his fame touched new planes when, together with the Belgian André Pilette, he got second place in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, remaining four laps behind the winners and becoming the youngest driver in the world at 18 years of age. the history of getting on the podium, a brand that it retains 60 years later.
This achievement made the eyes of the great teams in Europe turn to the youngest Rodriguez, and by 1961 Enzo Ferrari invited him to drive one of his cars in the Italian Grand Prix that year, where he placed second in the starting grid, being the youngest driver to start a Grand Prix from the front row, a mark that was snatched from him by Max Verstappen in Belgium 2016. Furthermore, with that start, he was also for 20 years the youngest driver to start a Formula 1 race.
After a very good battle with Phil Hill and Richie Ginther for first place, the fuel pump put an end to his dream of getting on the podium and he had to leave. However, his talent impressed the Commendatore, who signed him for the 1962 season.
After a difficult start, with a withdrawal in the Netherlands and only practices in the Monaco GP, the Mexican was fourth in Belgium, second in the non-scoring race in Pau, France and sixth in Germany, at the controls of the Ferrari 156. Also As an official Ferrari driver, he won the Targa Florio that year, along with Belgians Olivier Gendebien and Willy Mairesse driving a Ferrari 246 SP.
However, for the first Mexican Grand Prix, in November of that year, Enzo Ferrari decided not to participate because it was not a scoring date for the World Championships, which left Ricardo without a competitive car to look for the first time as a F1 driver in front of his audience.
So he signed with the Rob Walker team and got into the Lotus 24, which up to that point had had a very mediocre season with Frenchman Maurice Trintignant at the wheel. But Ricardo’s talent was so great and his desire to be a legend was such that within minutes of practice on Friday he was the fastest driver, with a time of 2: 04.700 minutes, averaging 242.09 kilometers per hour on the track. 5 kilometers from the Magdalena Mixhuca.
With the clock about to run out, he took to the track again because he was convinced that he could leave a record of less than 2 minutes, so he accelerated fully, but just a few meters before the end of the turn, when he was speeding through The Peraltada curve, to go out to the main straight, the suspension arm of the Lotus broke, shooting the car against the safety rail and firing the Mexican from the cockpit, killing him immediately.
He barely lived 20 years, but Ricardo Rodríguez left an indelible mark on world motorsport.