For many years Lauda had been a huge advocate in favour of the Nurburgring circuit. He thought is to be the ultimate test for drivers to try to master a perfect lap and hone their skills.
For sure he realised that the "Ring" was deadly indeed some 140 drivers have perished there over the years, which explains why his crash helmet was painted Da Glo red. Taking his cue from powerboat racers he realised that the colourscheme made it all the better to help someone find your body if you are thrown from the car in a shunt at the Ring.
After achieving the first sub 7 minute lap at the Ring in 1975 (an average speed in excess of 140mph and a record which stands to this day) he recognised that this was the "ultimate madness" and that the German circuit could not contain a violent accident at modern F1 speeds nor would the emergency services reach an accident scene quickly enough to save a driver in mortal danger.
With Hunt and the McLaren M23 posing an evermore greater threat to his championship lead he reluctantly agreed to drive at the "Ring" after he was accused of cowardice by the German and Italian media.
Race day dawned with scattered showers and all but Jochen Mass in the second McLaren started on wet patterned tyres. Lauda got away badly at the start and found himself struggling in eighth place on the rapidly drying track. At the end of lap 1 he ducked into the pits and the Ferrari mechanics screwed 4 slicks onto the 312t2 in record time.
However, Lauda hadn't bargained for the massive amounts of grip and thumped a concrete kerb on his way around the first part of the lap and unknown to him his suspension was about to fail as he entered the fast left hander at Bergwerk.
Drifting the car into the left hand apex and some 130mph a magnesium tie rod broke causing the rear suspension to collapse and the making the Ferrari steer sharply to the right. At almost unabated speed the nose of the car smashed into an embankment and tore itself away from the chassis, rupturing a fuel tank as it did so.
Lauda's AGV helmet came partially off in the shunt exposing the lower part of his face to the flames that now enveloped the car. Unsighted to the scene ahead British driver Guy Edwards narrowly avoided Lauda's stricken car sitting square in the middle of the track.
Brett Lunger was not so lucky and crashed heavily into the right hand side of the Ferrari rupturing the second fuel tank. This being lap 2 meant that the Ferrari's fuel tanks were brimming with petrol and Lauda was engulfed in flames in temperatures of up to 800 degrees for over a minute.
Watson, Lunger and Edwards battled to get Lauda out of the inferno, but it was the diminutive Arturo Merzario (driving a Williams) who - without regard for his own safety - threw himself into the flames to undo Lauda's seat belts.
Merzario's bravery is one of the true acts of heroism in motorsport that has virtually gone unnoticed into the annals of time and is especially poignant as Merzario was not a Lauda fan in any way shape or form and indeed he was outspoken of his critisism of Lauda in the Italian sporting press.
The race is stopped. Lunger finally frees Lauda from the car, but by this time Lauda's helmet has come off completely exposing his face and airway to the raging fire. Watson cradles Lauda's head at the trackside and tries to re-assure him that his burns are not too bad, but it is still some 40 minutes before the Austrian is flown by helicopter to a nearby burns unit.
Hunt goes on the win the restarted German Grand Prix under the innocent misapprehension that Lauda has minor injuries and will be well enough to fight for the championship at the next race.
However, it is soon realised that Lauda's facial burns are insignificant compared to the scorching of his throat and lungs as well and the toxic fire extinguishant that Lauda inhaled deep into his lungs during his escape from the fire.
Fluid builds on his lungs, his blood oxygen level drops dangerously low and the pain from his burns are described as "cruel".
The Austrian is desperately close to death and few think that he will survive til the next dawn.
A superb book that continues to enthrall. . . . . . more tomorrow.