20 years on and Roland Ratzenberger is a driver often forgotten at this time of year as everyone else focuses on Ayrton Senna.
Despite only having three F1 grands prix to his name Ratzenberger was no rookie driver, 33 years of age and had driven both open wheelers and touring cars. He started off in Formula Ford, as most drivers did at that time, before moving up to Formula Three. Roland raced in the World Touring Car Championship in 1987, finishing on the podium three times and finishing the season tenth overall. In 1988 Ratzenberger entered a few British Touring Car Championship rounds and in 1989 he competed in the British Formula 3000, finishing third overall.
After all of this Ratzenberger raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race five times, the first three times his car did not finish, the fourth time he came ninth and second in class and the fifth and final time he came fifth overall and won his class. After death in 1994 his name was still placed on the Toyota 94C-V that he would have driven, it finished second overall and won the class.
While racing for Toyota in Le Mans, Ratzenberger did other races in Japan, keeping busy. In 1990 and 1991 Ratzenberger competed in the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship and the Japanese Touring Car Championship, winning races and class races in both years and championships. In 1992 and 1993 Ratzenberger moved up to the Japanese Formula 3000, winning another race and finishing ahead of drivers such as Eddie Irvine, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Mika Salo and Tom Kristensen.
1994 and Ratzenberger was signed for Simtek in their debut season in F1, failing to qualify for his debut at Interlagos but finishing 11th at the second race of the season, TI Circuit Aida. Then came Imola, a horrible weekend in F1 and one that we all hope will never be repeated.
And it is not just the drivers whose lives are at risk every weekend but volunteer marshalls too, most recently was just last year at the 2013 Canadian GP and another at the 2000 Italian GP, more often forgotten people.