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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 17: Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff talks with Mercedes GP non-executive chairman Niki Lauda in the Paddock ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 17, 2016 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Austrian F1 Motorsport Icon Niki Lauda Dies At 70

Niki Lauda, the three–time Formula One champion, reached his final finish line as he passed away in his home country of Austria on Monday at age 70.

Lauda, both a champion and entrepreneur, remains a heroic figure within the racing world, as his story following a near fatal crash in 1976 continues to inspire racers today.

Just a year after winning his first Formula 1 championship, Lauda suffered a life-threatening crash, as the accident left him with third-degree burns on his face and head. After arriving at the hospital, Lauda fell into a coma, which doctors feared he’d never wake up from. Despite his injuries, Lauda woke up and raced in the Italian Grand Prix remarkably just six weeks after the incident. Lauda displayed true courage, as he finished fourth in the race despite driving with unhealed wounds from the accident, which Lauda famously fought through the pain of as they even bled through his gear during the race. Lauda eventually would win the Formula 1 title once more in 1977.

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Following that, Lauda would retire and trade in his tires for wings, as he turned his attention to aviation. Lauda established an airline service known as “Lauda Air” and began concentrating on flying two years after his second Formula 1 championship. However, just a few years later Lauda would find himself behind the wheel once more, going back to the sport he initially dedicated his life to. In 1984, Lauda would win his third and final Formula 1 title. Upon his second retirement, Lauda would continue to influence the racing world, spending years commentating while also managing. Lauda was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993.

Alongside the impressive racing hardware that Lauda collected throughout his career, the bravery he displayed once returning to the racing scene after his near–death experience will continue to inspire racers everywhere for years to come. Lauda’s family released a statement following his passing in which they stated, “His tireless drive, his straightforwardness and his courage remain an example and standard for us all. Away from the public gaze he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather. We will miss him very much.”

Lauda was portrayed by German actor Daniel Bruhl in Ron Howard‘s 2013 film Rush, which also starred Chris Hemsworth as British race-car driver James Hunt. The movie explored the rivalry between the two European legends.

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Written by Collin Helwig

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