The story of Niki Lauda’s three World Championships, and his battle with James Hunt in 1976 for the Formula 1 title, made him a racing legend. But many do not know that before becoming racing royalty, Niki Lauda began open-wheel racing in Formula Vee.

In 1968, then nineteen-year-old Niki Laude started his racing career. Initially competing in hill climbs, which were popular in Europe. He started in Mini Cooper, then moved n to a Porsche. However, having been bitten by the racing bug after watching the German Grand Prix, he decided to make the switch to circuit racing.

Around the same time, Austrian constructor Kurt Bergmann entered the Formula Vee racing series. In 1966, his newly formed Kaimann race car was powered by Volkswagen 1200 cc engine. Each season, the Kaimann team entered new cars, and by 1968, the Kaimann MkIII being raced by Helmuth Marko had an improved tubular frame and 1300 cc engine.

In 1969, Kaimann team principal offered young Niki Lauda a ‘factory drive’ in the Kaimann Mk4,. Lauda took two wins that season, at Monza and Sopron, plus several podium finishes, eventually ending the championship third overall. By the following season, Lauda moved on to Formula 3, but his single season in Formula Vee has been commemorated in books, and even die-cast models.

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