Horst Kroll, a fixture in North American pro racing for three decades, has died at 81 in his adopted home of Canada.
The German-born driver rose to stardom in the early days of the SCCA Can-Am series, also found success in F5000, the USRRC, and IMSA in a career that spanned 1961-1988. In recent years, Kroll enjoyed the vintage racing scene, where he piloted some of the cars that brought him to prominence.
David Hobbs, who raced against Kroll in a number of series, remembers him for taking the fight to bigger teams with limited funding and support.
“He was a very likable guy, never had the best equipment, never seemed to have much money when we raced each other in the sixties and early seventies, slept in his truck sometimes, but he was a one-man band and he was always there,” he told RACER. “Horst was very affable and had that wonderfully quaint accent. He was one of the guys, and I was sorry to see that he died.”
Kroll’s racing exploits began in a Porsche 356 and continued into the German brand’s 904 before progressing through a Porsche-powered Kelly Special, Lola open-wheelers and prototypes, and he also shared a Lotus 47 with Mike Rahal, the late father of IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal, on a few occasions in IMSA’s GTU category.
“He was a damn good driver in his day,” Rahal said. “He was an immigrant who had a Volkswagen repair shop in Toronto, a good friend of our family, and was so important to racers in Canada. When I was young and we ran in Formula Atlantic, he let us work out of his shop in Canada, and he had a great passion for racing. He never seemed to have two nickels to rub together. He was the mechanic, truck driver, and raced the car, and he was quite competitive. I think he was respected for what he had and the effort he put forth.”
Amid short periods where he stepped away from racing, Kroll would return to Can-Am where, in 1986, he won the championship and scored the first of two consecutive wins at his home track in Mosport driving a Frissbee KR3.
Kroll is survived by his wife Hildegard and daughter Birgit.