Between the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, an artistic current destined to become famous developed in Europe, Romanticism. The masterpieces born from the pens of the most famous writers of world literature all have a common denominator, the romantic hero. More than a century and a half later, from the union of two German nobles, on May 4, 1928, in Horrem, a town not far from Cologne, the romantic hero of Formula 1 and motoring was born, Baron Wolfgang Alexander Albert Eduard Maximilian Reichsgraf Berghe von Trips, which went down in history under the name of Wolfgang Von Trips.
Wolfgang will suffer from diabetes all his life but this will not prevent him from fulfilling his dream of becoming a racing driver. Before each race, the German driver will be forced to always carry something to eat with him, to avoid fainting. Health aside, money is certainly not a problem, considering it a natural thing, to the point that he likes to spend it. Wolfgang will take part in twenty-nine Formula 1 Grand Prix, winning two, in addition to a pole position and six podiums, for a total of 56 championship points.
But Wolfgang is the romantic hero of motoring, he is the man who wants to go faster and faster and face every obstacle. He begins to race on a motorbike but soon realizes that this is not the path he wants to follow: economic availability allows him to find a car, so he buys it and at the 1954 Mille Miglia he places second in the sport 1500 category at the wheel of the Porsche 356. , and thirty-third overall. Faster than him, in his category, will be only compatriot Von Frankenberg. Alfred Neubauer, legendary Mercedes sporting director, is enchanted by the performance of Baron von Trips, and is persistently looking for him. Germany, after the disappearance of Rosemeyer, is looking for its heir and von Trips, according to Neubauer, may be the right person.
Trips gives in to the courtship of the great German engineer and in 1955 he is behind the wheel of a Mercedes 300SLR at the start of the Tourist Trophy. The Tourist Trophy, in 1955, is not a race like any other; it is the first race since the tragic 24 Hours of Le Mans two months earlier, where more than eighty spectators had disappeared. Trips is paired with André Simon, and the two finish third at the finish line behind Moss and Fangio. Mercedes retires from racing but Neubauer has seen it right. In 1956 Trips made his debut in Formula 1, on the occasion of the Italian Grand Prix, in Monza, as a companion of Fangio, Collins, Musso and Castellotti. In practice, the German driver destroys his Lancia-Ferrari D50 and everyone thinks that von Trips is just a spoiled rich man who wants to spend his time with racing cars.
Nothing could be more wrong, because the German driver will prove that racing is his passion and not a pastime. The elegance of him, as in dressing even in driving, is natural. He does not understand anything about mechanics, he does not know the difference between roll-bar and torsion bar, but he is nevertheless popular with mechanics who do not skimp on fabulous tips for the meter of the pits. Among the general surprise it remains in the orbit of Ferrari, which is not common for those who, on the first attempt, destroyed an expensive Formula 1.
Trips will make his detractors change their mind as early as 1957, finishing sixth in Buenos Aires and third in Monza, preceded only by Fangio and Moss. In this same season Trips disputes the Mille Miglia with the Ferrari 335S. At one point in the race, Peter Collins, who had been leading from the start, retired due to a mechanical failure. The command passes into the hands of Taruffi, with von Trips second with a car in better condition than those of the Roman driver. Once in Bologna, Enzo Ferrari tells him that he would have appreciated a noble gesture from von Trips; in short, a gesture of a baron. Ferrari will tell to Trips:
"You, Baron, are young, you will have time to win in the next few years".
The German, as a gentleman as he is, understands the Commendatore's request, and will escort Taruffi to Brescia, leaving the final victory to his teammate. In 1958, another tragic year for Ferrari due to the disappearance of Musso and Collins, Trips finished third in Reims, but was deeply affected by the disappearance of so many friends. Shortly after, Mike Hawthorn also dies in his Jaguar. The British driver had just retired from racing, but had not escaped a tragic fate that unites him with Castellotti, de Portago, Musso and Collins. Trips leaves Maranello to go to Porsche, with which he places third in the 12 Hours of Sebring behind the Ferraris. Subsequently he will be forced to retire at the Targa Florio and will finish seventh the 1000 Kilometers of the Ring.
In Formula 1, always with Porsche, Trips is targeted by bad luck and perhaps not only by that: after he accidentally discovers that Huschke Von Hanstein, the sporting director of the Zuffenhausen’s manufacturer, claims five per cent of the prizes won, has a clash with him: not for the money, which for Wolfgang never represents a problem, but for the behavior of one of his peers, an exponent of the German nobility, who offends. For Trips there is no problem in giving ten percent of the victory prize to the mechanics, but he does not conceive of this further withdrawal by a person who is certainly not in need of money. From now on, Trips will no longer have a winning machine.
Von Hanstein runs Porsche Rennende Mannschaft as a division of the Wermacht, and marginalizes it. The last flash is at the Tourist Trophy, a race that he particularly loves: second overall with his friend Bonnier, and victory in the category. Disappointed by the Porsche adventure, Trips decided to return to Ferrari, but in 1960 he found himself ahead of the team's hierarchies Phil Hill, Richie Ginther and Cliff Allison; Enzo Ferrari has not forgotten the German's betrayal, and for this reason he is not among the top choices. But Von Trips has speed in his blood, and he is the best in a not too lucky year for Ferrari: he is fourth in Oporto, and in Monaco he brings the first rear-engined Ferrari into the race, the 156 but recaptures Enzo Ferrari, as often it happens, for a company in an after all secondary race, but for the manufacturer from Maranello it has a very particular flavor.
We are in Stuttgart, the home garden of Porsche, for a Formula 2 race. Von Hanstein wants triumph, and even forgoes the entry prize as long as they offer it to Ferrari. Furthermore, it must be said that this will not be a race like any other, given that the technical regulation of Formula 1 for 1961 provides for a limitation of the engines to 1500 cc, therefore mainly German cars will participate. The line-up of the Porsche is impressive: five brand new 718/2 entrusted to Hermann, Gurney, Graham Hill, Jo Bonnier and John Surtees, multiple world champion on two wheels. There are only two Ferraris, entrusted to Phil Hill and von Trips, who are told:
"Wolfgang, we are here to be beaten, do what you can".
But Von Trips' answer is determined:
"No, here I want to make a good impression".
The Porsche squadron will be completely humiliated: a setback that especially affected Von Hanstein. Thanks to these feats, Trips became the undisputed leader of Ferrari in 1961. But in the meantime, in Formula 1, a young Scottish man who will write very important pages in motor racing history begins to show himself: Jim Clark. The 1961 season was undoubtedly the best for von Trips, as he achieved a splendid success in the Targa Florio with the Sports cars, he was second at Sebring, and again third at the Nurburgring. But above all it looks like his season in Formula 1.
Trips wins his first Grand Prix in Holland, at the Zandvoort circuit; at Spa he is close to second from Phil Hill, and wins again in Aintree, France. Then, second place at the Nurburgring, behind Moss, two races to go, launched him towards the world title. Arriving at the Italian Grand Prix, in Monza, von Trips has 33 points, Phil Hill 29. The last Grand Prix will be held in the United States. If Trips wins, he takes the World Cup. But in the masterpieces of romantic literature the story, very often, does not have a happy ending. Unfortunately, this is what happened on September 10, 1961. Ferrari wants to win the world championship but the Commander, perhaps for commercial reasons, would like Phil Hill to win the title.
But von Trips is in great shape, he is in the best moment of his career, and he snatches pole from Phil Hill, the specialist who had lined up as many as five. It is the first time that Trips has managed to start in front of everyone. Hill, on the other hand, is demoralized and starts from fourth position. After qualifying, Romolo Tavoni, sporting director, talks to the German driver who perhaps has a hunch about what he is about to be told:
"Baron, I would like you to consider the possibility of favoring Phil Hill in the race for the World Championship".
At Ferrari they want to win with Phil Hill, if possible, but above all to win. The 156 is clearly superior to the competition, but in Monza Engineer Chiti fears the valve pressure springs that have given some problems, and that on the very fast circuit that also includes the high-speed ring they will be very stressed. The 156, Chiti knows, has a margin, but the drivers are asked to run at 500 rpm less. Shortly before the start of the race, Hill talks to Tavoni, to whom he confesses that he doesn't feel like racing, preferring to leave the victory to Trips.
"Romolo, I have no desire to race. Trips is good and faster than me. I'll do three laps and then I'll stop".
Trips, who sees him agitated, first talks to Tavoni, then to Hill, to whom he says:
"Phil, I'll stay behind you, I'll protect your back, don't worry: you'll win this race. I'm not your opponent here".
Hill, amazed, asks why he would have let him win:
"For me the man is worth more than all the rest. And then I already have the contract with Ferrari. The car is strong: we win this year, we will also win in 1962".
Trips has the young Mexican Ricardo Rodriguez next to them, behind them two other reds, those of Ginther and Phil Hill. In the fourth row is the Scottish Jim Clark. At the start the German starts badly and is overtaken by Rodriguez, Hill, Ginther, Brabham and Clark, as Chapman knows about the Ferrari problem, so he only half-fills the tank of the Scottish driver's car. At the end of the first lap Hill is leading but the group is still compact. But at the end of the second lap Trips brakes fifty meters earlier than the braking point, before entering the parabolic curve, so that Clark collides with the right rear tire of the German driver's car, which flies against the safety nets, mowing down numerous spectators. Trips is catapulted out of the car as soon as it starts spinning like a top; the German's body lies lifeless on the ground. The romantic hero is no more. Phil Hill, unaware of what happened, wins the race and the world championship but as soon as he returns to the pits he discovers that his teammate is gone. Enzo Ferrari will say about him:
"A young man of great nobility of mind".
In the tragedy, in addition to von Trips, fourteen people will lose their lives. Trips will be buried in the Kerpen-Horrem Cemetery. A kart enthusiast, previously the German driver had a kart track built in Kerpen, near the family villa. In that kart track years later a young man from Hurth-Hermullheim will start racing in the world of motors.
Thirty-five years later, that young driver will drive everyone's most coveted car, Ferrari. That young man is called Michael Schumacher. Destiny has it that the best victory of that 1996 will be taken in Monza, where the baron died. Few know, among other things, that Trips, a few months before his disappearance, sold the property to a certain Rolf Schumacher. Michael and Ralf's own father.