“Crashed on 30 April 1994 during training for the Formula 1 race at Imola. He lived for his dream”. This inscription adorns the memorial plaque at his grave. Roland Ratzenberger was an Austrian motorsport driver who had finally fulfilled his biggest dream: to be a driver in Formula 1. After the Brazilian GP, where he failed to qualify for the race (unlike today, drivers had to qualify for a starting place before the race on Sunday) and the Pacific Grand Prix in Japan (where he became 11th), the race in Imola was only his third Formula 1 race weekend. And also his last, which he could not even compete in. A really emotional overview of the (short) life of Roland Ratzenberger is offered by the documentary “Der lange Weg zum kurzen Glück” (The long way to short happiness), which was published in 2019. Ratzenberger was only 33 years old when he died, doing what he loved the most.
The Roland Ratzenberger accident on 30 April 1994 at the Formula 1 race in Imola
In Imola, at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit , the Roland Ratzenberger tribuna plaque was fixed to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. It can be found on one of the stands along the Corsa Tosa, from where you had a straight view of the tragedy. The whole story for you here in short, for a longer as well as media-supported version we recommend the above mentioned documentation: Probably in the chicane Acque Minerale Roland damaged his Simtek bolide during the second qualifying on Saturday, April 30th, 1994. Instead of having his front wing repaired in the pits, he drove on, hungry for the next fast lap. But at about 300 km/h the accident happened, he lost the front wing of his Simtek S941 at full speed, which immediately took control of the car. As a result, he crashed practically head-on into a concrete wall of the Villeneuve curve on the left side of the track. The car was thrown back onto the track, still spinning, finally slowing down and then came to a halt just before the Curva Tosa.
A sad detail: his last lap time would have put him in 26th place on the grid, and therefore last on the grid. His team mate David Brabham did not qualify for the race.
The spectators were shocked, but the driver was still in the cockpit, and some of them were probably still hopeful. Ayrton Senna heard about the accident from the pit lane, there are even recordings which documented his live reaction. Track marshals and medical staff rushed to the damaged Simtek Ford with Roland Ratzenberger. But what was not known at that time, due to the enormous impact into the concrete wall, he probably already succumbed to a fracture of the base of his skull and other injuries of internal organs. A movement of the head, when the crashed vehicle was still turning, was first seen as positive, he is moving, so he is alive, but this could soon be concluded to his lifeless body, which was bouncing one last time due to the rotation. Roland Ratzenberger was flown directly to a hospital by helicopter, but in Bologna only his death could be diagnosed.
Roland Ratzenberger Memorial in Imola
In Imola there is a memorial plaque commemorating Roland Ratzenberger on a grandstand on the Curva Tosa. On regular days, without races or events on the race track, it is open to the public, behind bars as far as possible. Some fans have previously left messages and flowers. At the site of the fatal impact, on the Tamburello, there are also pictures of Roland on the concrete wall, as well as personal messages.
As these two places are a good walk from the main entrance of the circuit and the museum, fans have also left numerous Austrian flags with “Roland” messages at the much more popular Ayrton Senna Memorial.
Since the Roland Ratzenberger Memorial is difficult to find via online map services, the following are additional coordinates for you. Simply enter them into a navigation system and let yourself be guided directly to the memorial.
Coordinates memorial plaque: 44.336426, 11.701119 (on Google Maps: Roland Ratzenberger Memorial)
Coordinates concrete wall, approx.: 44.337533, 11.702601
Ayrton Senna Memorial coordinates: 44.341632, 11.705969 (on Google Maps: Monumento ad Ayrton Senna)
The Roland Ratzenberger memorial plaque is about 3.6 km on foot from Imola railway station and 2.1 km along and under the circuit from the Museo Checco Costa.
Photos of the Roland Ratzenberger Memorial at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari race track
All pictures taken by myself in September 2019.