Formula 1 is a world of extreme people. They tend to be ambitious, highly competitive, aggressive – and some are pretty dysfunctional. We have seen some really colourful characters over the years, but Rainer Walldorf is probably the most extreme example.
For a start, his name wasn’t really Rainer Walldorf, but rather Klaus Walz, or at least we think it was. It was also Peter Walz when it suited him. In fact, there is no real evidence which proves it is the same Klaus Walz who raced in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Interserie, Aurora F1 and even Formula 2. It is often assumed it is the same man, but it doesn’t really make sense. Klaus Walz was a wanted man under his own name and so it would have been extremely unwise to turn up in racing with a different name, as he might very easily bump into someone who knew his real name…
In any case, while the records from the racing world have Walz listed as having been born in Ettlingen, near Karlsruhe in 1942, the company filings that link him to F1 have him born in 1944.
His primary accomplice was his nephew, a man who used the unlikely name of Gordon Walz. But then he also used the names Patrick, Peter and Klaus Sorajowski, a name which has its roots in the Balkans, but may also have been “borrowed” from the boss of a haulage firm in Wiesbaden.
Anyway, Walldorf and Sorajowski had a couple of companies using these names: Comstock Development and L’Art Mineral, both of them headquartered in Cannes, although the directors used different combinations of the various names.
Walz presented himself as a dealer in exotic luxury cars, but the authorities would eventually conclude that he was actually the mastermind behind a vast international network dealing with black market stolen super cars. The centre of this network seems to have been a facility in the town of Desio, just up the road from Monza. One supposes that this was an Aladdin’s garage where plates were changed and cars resprayed. For whatever reason, however, it was in that area that in 1989 the two men and a Canadian accomplice murdered an Italian mechanic called Antonio Tonetto. It was a particularly nasty crime as they locked him in the boot of a Fiat Panda and set fire to the car. In the end it seems that they opened the trunk and shot the unfortunate individual to silence his screams. Two others bodies would pop up later in a villa near Lisbon in Portugal and, according to Interpol, Walz also had the blood of a fourth murder (a Swiss) on his hands.
Walz appeared in F1 – as Rainer Walldorf – in August 1992. There was a big fanfare with the purchase of a majority shareholding in the Larrousse F1 team, which had previously been owned by the French sports car company MVS Venturi. The Comstock company had a decidedly dodgy business plan, based on the unlikely-sounding idea of having “investment sponsorship”, with the money invested in the team being paid back in full after five years, thus giving sponsors free exposure. It would to be a membership scheme, organized by a London wheeler-dealer.
The Comstock name suggested that Walz believed that the company would make a lot of money, the Comstock Lode having been a huge silverfield discovered in Nevada in 1859, which generated vast fortunes over a 15 year period.
Within a few weeks of the Larrousse announcement, Walz and Walz were arrested when French police raided a villa in Valbonne, a chic commune near Mougins, on the Cote d’Azur. There are various stories about what happened but some say that Walz pulled out a hand grenade and held a police inspector hostage, before handcuffing the other policemen and then disappearing with $500,000 in cash. The duo escaped to Italy, but a month later were tracked down to a hotel in Munich. The police raided and Sorajewski was apprehended, but Walz refused to give up and, after a nine-hour siege, shot himself.
The property developer involved in the F1 concept would disappear when his empire fell apart a few years later.
Please think about donating to the Jill Saward Fund, which aims to continue the work of my sister Jill Saward (1965-2017), who campaigned to help rape victims and to reduce the number of rapes in the world.