Beneath the Armour: A Good Man

I KNEW LUDWIG HEIMRATH for over 35 years, but we didn’t always get along; that only happened in the later years. My first meeting with him did not go well at all. In the mid-‘80s I had acquired my first Porsche, a black 1959 356 Cabriolet, which I restored to pristine condition and I decided to find a good mechanic to look after it. I remembered the Heimrath Porsche shop on Lawrence Avenue East in Scarborough from when I first came to Canada and lived not far from there. I dropped in one day and asked Ludwig whether he also worked on the older cars like the 356s, seeing nothing but ‘80s cars in his shop. He fired back as if I had severely offended him, shouting, “We don’t work on old junk here!” So I turned around and left without a word.

Ludwig began to come out to the regional race events at Mosport, just to hang out and talk with people. he had become a different person. Downright jovial, he had a smile on his face, always ready for a joke or a good racing yarn.

Later, I met some of Ludwig’s compatriots like Rudy Bartling, Horst Kroll and Fritz Hochreuter, among others — quite a large contingent of German immigrants, many of whom came to Canada working for Volkswagen, and subsequently Porsche when Volkswagen Canada was put in charge of looking after Porsche customers and racers in the ‘50s.

Through hanging with these friends, who had all become racers or crew themselves a couple of decades earlier, I would run into Ludwig here and there, but I always found him to be very intense and hard, and not the friendliest sort. I remember being at a 24 Hours of Daytona weekend one year and running into him in a bar and he was carrying on, shouting, telling anybody who would listen how he had been unfairly disqualified from his race. I was almost afraid of him.

But that was just it about Ludwig Heimrath; he was extremely passionate, single-minded in his endeavours, focused to the point of forgetting about common courtesy. One had to get used to his rough ways to find the good man that he was underneath that armour.

Fast forward and years later, Ludwig began to come out to the regional race events at Mosport, just to hang out and talk with people; he had become a different person. Downright jovial, he had a smile on his face, always ready for a joke or a good racing yarn, and he’d make the rounds meeting and greeting racers and acquaintances. Ludwig was socializing and giving the racers tips on their driving and on their competition.

This included me and he always liked my vintage Porsche 911 racecars, plus he might run into one of his old friends near me, like Auguste Lecourt or Herman Lausberg, so he would naturally gravitate towards my set-up in the paddock. He would tell me who to go up against in the race, who to leave alone and let get in trouble all on their own, and he would tell me what fuel to use and how to mix it with octane boosters. Apparently, he was always big on fuel mixtures as, in the old days, this was not regulated as it is today in pro racing.

My son Zack asked me today and, yes, I am actually deeply affected by Ludwig’s passing. I will greatly miss running into him at the track and having some banter going on and a bunch of laughs. I always jokingly told him to step aside and make way for the next generation when we stood in line at registration together. We had become friends after all those years. </>

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