Markus Winkelhock is the son of Manfred Winkelhock, who drove for Arrows, ATS and RAM in the ’80s, but died in a sports car race at Mosport in August 1985. Markus was five at the time.
His uncle Joachim also tried his hand at F1 but failed to qualify in seven attempts with AGS in 1989. He made a name for himself in touring cars, winning the British title with BMW in 1993, the Asia-Pacific title the following year, and the German Super Touring Championship in 1995. In 1999 he also won the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Markus, then, comes from a family with a strong motorsport pedigree, albeit a chequered one.
He won races at each of his steps through junior categories – Formula Konig (1998), German Formula Renault (1999) and the Formula Renault Eurocup (2000).
He spent three years in Formula Three from 2001-3, winning three times in his début season and ending the year fifth overall. He slumped to seventh in the championship in 2002, winning only once.
In 2003 the German F1 championship became the F3 Euroseries and Winklehock had his most successful season. Two wins gave him fourth overall behind Ryan Briscoe, Christian Klien and Olivier Pla.
Like his uncle, he then switched to touring cars, but didn’t enjoy the same kind of success. He failed to score a point in the 2004 DTM in his Persson Mercedes-Benz C-Class and returned to single seater racing in the World Series by Renault in 2005.
He had a mixed year with the Draco team. Having set pole position at Monaco he then crashed at Sainte Devote, and repeated the feat on the first lap of the race.
He ended the year third with three wins, the title was won by Robert Kubica and Winkelhock was two points behind second-placed Adrian Valles.
He made contact with Colin Kolles in his junior years and Kolles brought him on board as a test driver for Midland in 2006, appearing as their Friday driver at Bahrain, Australia, Germany and Hungary.
The team became Spyker in 2007 and Winkelhock remained with them. After partial return to the DTM (substituting for the injured Tom Kristensen for two rounds and Adam Carroll for one more), he got the call-up to the race seat at the European Grand Prix after the team dismissed race driver Christijan Albers.
Winkelhock caused a sensation by leading the race, his only F1 appearance in 2007. The team switched him on to wet weather tyres as a rain storm doused the track at the start of the race, and the German inherited the lead which he held for six laps.
It wasn’t enough to keep him in the car long-term, however, as he was replaced by Sakon Yamamoto.