The Villiger Cigar Team, fully Villiger Cigar Team Herbert Müller, is one of these teams that we have forgotten. It was an attempt to bring the Swiss driver at the start of the Italian Grand Prix of 1971. With the Lotus 21 from Rob Walker. The car which belonged to Graham Hill in the previous year. Sadly the team did not attempt the free practice not the qualification. It’s time to dig up the story 51 years later!
While I’m covering the Villiger Cigar Team from 1971 it is good to know more about the Swiss driver Herbert Müller.
Herbert Müller was born the 11th of May 1940 in Reinach. His nickname was Stumpen-Herbie I was unable to found out why this was his nickname. He started his career on two wheels before he made the move to four wheels in 1960. He drove a couple of Hillclimb races in a 500cc Cooper Norton. After his first season in the Autosport he mostly drove with Porsche’s. As well for the Swiss Scuderia Filipinetti team in the endurance series. He won twice the Targa Florio and once the 24 Hours of Lemans.
In 1963 Müller drove for the Scuderia Filipinetti when they asked him if he wanted to drive for the team in the non-championship race at Pau. Müller appeared at the start of the Grand Prix with the Lotus 21. He did well and was on it’s way to finish on the podium. Sadly, he had to go in the pits and eventually finished the race as 5th. This would be, for now, his only Formula One race. As his team, Scuderia Filipinetti, decided to focus on endurance racing instead of Formula One.
Eight years later his second chance comes to race in the Formula One. There would come another attempt to race in the Formula One. Here the story goes a bit strange. It is sure that the Lotus 72A, the car Graham Hill drove with in 1970, was the car. Müller would race with number 6. However, it is not sure if the car was purchased for Rob Walker Racing by Jo Siffert. Or if the Rob Walker loan the car. Myself I believe the first story.
Villiger Cigars was to sponsor Müller during the Italian Grand Prix. Photo’s exist of the car. The Lotus 72A had a yellow chassis with the Villiger logo on the rear wing and on the front of the car. On the entry list for the 1971 Italian Grand Prix the team appeared as Villiger Cigar Team Herbert Müller.
An interesting story from the Italian Grand Prix is the fact that Team Lotus did not appear in Italy. This had all to do with the deadly crash from Jochen Rindt, who became the only posthumously world champion, a year earlier. He crashed his Lotus during the free practice. He spun with his Lotus72A in the guardrails after a failure on the brake shaft. As Team Lotus, or better said Colin Chapman, was afraid to receive repercussions, Team Lotus did not race in Italy. However, there were Lotus cars on the grid. Emerson Fittipaldi drove in a Lotus for Pratt & Whitney.
The second Lotus would have been the Lotus 72A for Herbert Müller. The car was prepared at a garage and was foreseen with the Villiger stickers. It is said that there was a short test with the Lotus before the Italian Grand Prix.
However, Herbert decided not to race during the Italian Grand Prix. The reason is tragic.
Pedro Rodriguez got killed during the Interserie Sports Car Race held on the Nuremberg. The crash happened with the Ferrari 512M of Herbert Müller Racing, his own team. Reports state that the tyre came off the rim while braking for the sharp s-bend. He ended up crashing at a wall before touching back on the track.
It is interesting to know that the Crash happened before the first photos were taken of the Lotus with Müller in it. However, it doesn’t mean that they started in an earlier stage with the plan to bring Müller on the grid.
The dead of Rodriguez even meant a brake for the ’72 season for Müller. Eventually he returned in 1973, though he would suffer a massive crash during the 1000KM of the Nürbürgring. When he crashed with his Porsche 908 In the abandoned Porsche 935 from Bobby Rahall.
What ever happened with the Lotus 72A from Cigar Team Villiger is unsure. Some say that the car ended up in a private collection. Others say that the car was purchased by someone else and eventually was dismantled.