#30 1953 German Grand Prix

2021-04-06 00:00

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#1953, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Monica Bessi,

#30 1953 German Grand Prix

On that same famous track of Spa-Francorchamps, where two weeks ago the racing cars of the World Championship battled, the 24 hours race ends at 4:00


On that same famous track of Spa-Francorchamps, where two weeks ago the racing cars of the World Championship battled, the 24 hours race ends at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday 26th July 1953, with a brilliant victory of an Italian car and driver (who teams with a British driver). It is a really exhausting competition: out of forty-one cars, only nineteen finish the race. And the incidents are many, but without fatal consequences for the drivers. However, a member of the audience loses his life and a Belgian driver breaks many ribs and has other less serious wounds. Many cars, especially during the night, go off the road, some of them overturning. At the start Douglas leads, with his Jaguar, but he will have to give the position almost immediately. Already at the end of the first lap the Ferrari of Giuseppe Farina and Mike Hawthorn takes the lead, followed by Ascari (Ferrari), Fangio (Alfa Romeo) and Maglioli (Ferrari). At 9:00 p.m. a short and aggressive storm, with thunders and lightnings, puts a strain on the abilities of the drivers, making the track extremely slippery and reducing visibility. Shortly after, a fifteen-minute stop at the box for a small fixing for Hawthorn and Farina is recorded: when they get back racing, they will have a three-lap gap from Ascari and Villoresi. Sanesi (who teamed with Fangio) goes off the road during lap 55 and the two drivers have to retire the car. It is fate that the Argentinian driver is not able to finish a 24 hour race. At 2:00 a.m., after ten hours of racing, only eight contestants out of eighteen keep racing in the Sport division and sixteen contestants out of twenty-two in the Touring division. Guyot, with a spin, kills a spectator who, imprudently, went on the side of the track. The driver does not suffer serious consequences. Ascari and Villoresi are still leading, followed by Farina-Hawthorn and Douglas-Bira. Towards 8:00 a.m. Villoresi, who replaces Ascari, pits for three minutes to change two tyres, and Ascari starts again on his behalf. At 11:00 a.m. the Peugeot driven by Collar, who is second in the ranking of the Touring division, crashes, luckily without any consequences. Due to the burst of a tyre, the car swerves towards the grandstand and stops on the edge of the small ravine, which is seven meters deep. The car restarts after twenty minutes but shortly after is out of the race. The incident that will change the result for the first place takes place at 11:10 a.m. 


It is announced that the Ferrari of Ascari-Villoresi, at that time driven by the latter, has stopped. When it reaches the stand of Farina and pits to change the rear tyre, they discover that Villoresi’s car suffered a mechanical failure. It is an irreparable abandon. Shortly after, two cars of the Touring division, the Borgward of Berge and the Fiat of Tissot, collide at the Stavelot. The drivers get away with some bruises, but the cars cannot race again. Soon after noon the Alfa of Damonte stops at the box to fix the battery and the Mercedes driven by the Portuguese driver Vallagao takes the lead of the Touring division. The mechanics vainly try to repair the car of the driver from Turin; Damonte has to quit the race as well. From 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. the race keeps going normally without any variation in the ranking: the remaining Ferrari is still in the lead preceding the two Jaguars. When the time is running out there is a turn of events: four of the five new Fiat 1100s, which complete this difficult race, cross the finish line almost together, preceded by the Fiat of Miss Thirion. The other three cars cross the finish line on the same line, applauded by the audience. Simultaneously, in Messina, Ferrari dominates also in the 10 hour night-time race, won by the pair Castellotti-Musitelli, who literally have dominated from start to finish. Bracco, who also raced on a Ferrari 3000 teamed with Cornacchia, had to settle for the second place, but only after an obstinate fight with the pair Pucci-De Sarzana (Lancia 2500). Castellotti-Musitelli, both very young, took the lead immediately after the start and continued for ten hours gaining more and more advantage. The winners, in fact, did 144 laps (corresponding to 1102.043 kilometers) while the drivers who ranked second (Bracco-Cornacchia) did 1068.587 kilometers and five laps less. As an excuse, Bracco was not feeling well, to the extent that after a few hours driving he signaled to his teammate Cornacchia to drive on his behalf. In short, Cornacchia gained a lot of momentum, but he could not overtake Castellotti, who at times had a gap of almost six minutes. In the Aosta-Gran San Bernardo, Willy Daetwyler gets another flawless victory. His red Alfa Romeo 4500 crosses the finish line in 23'25"0, the best time of these fifteen editions of this race. The Swiss driver lowers by almost a minute the time of Hans von Stuck, who in 1951 had finished the race in 24'21"2. 


A greater style from the driver. Is this thanks to those extra six kilometers of road he found under the wheels of his car? Unfortunately, the competition with Von Stuck, his closest rival, did not take place. The driver who is thought to be a veteran of this race, eight kilometers from the checkered flag, had to retire the car due to the break of the drive shaft and the loss of a tyre. Thousands of cars and spectators swarmed the fields along the track, from the start to the Pass; both the area of the Customs and the area of arrival. Many Swiss spectators rushed to see the race as well, across the border. A colorful crowd, gathered on the field, on the boulders, celebrates this sports day. But, towards 11:00 a.m. the sky gets covered with clouds, and freezing gusts of wind and squalls fall on the audience. And a continuous succession of sun and rain will continue for the rest of the day. Shortly after the first cars of the Touring division, which started racing at 10:30 a.m., start to cross the finish line, which was established near the border. Flattering speeds. Lugli, first of his division, races at the speed of 77.284 km/h. In the next division the quartet of the Lancia Aurelio, driven by Piodi, Palmieri, Valenzano and Bona, rank in this order in the first four places. Fantastic lap times, the best after the winner. Piodi records 24'57"0 (average speed of 81.588 km/h) obtaining the second place in the general ranking; Palmieri in 25'05"4 (81.068 km/h), Valenzano in 25'09"1 (80.063 km/h) and Bona in 25'10"7 follow him. The most awaited moment of the day finally comes: Daetwyler and Von Stuck’s race. Daetwyler crosses the finish line with the lap time already announced; and the wait of Von Stuck, who started two minutes later, begins. The German driver arrives 33 seconds late at the Saint Rhèmy passage. But his car, smaller and more agile, is thought to be able to gain more on the very hard dirt section of the course. After the minimum time, Daetwyler’s victory seems to be certain. But people begin to worry about Von Stuck, about whom there is no news. Meanwhile Daetyler, huge, with a peaceful face, almost childlike, enjoys the result of the victory: the cheering of the audience.


"I’m very happy I’ve won the Aosta-Gran San Bernardo as well. The course is very difficult. In the last section of the dirt road, I took a risk: the car, which is very low, hit a protrusion and the clutch broke. I had to do the last two hundred meters in second gear. The rain slowed me down too. With a dry track I could have taken thirty seconds less. I’m sorry Von Stuck had to retire the car: I would have been happy with a direct fight with him. Maybe next time".


In the meantime, reassuring news on Von Stuck arrives. At the twenty-fourth kilometer, the axle shaft broke, and the rear left tyre slipped out. A very dangerous incident, quickly controlled by his uncommon expertise.


"At a certain point, while I was driving at 150 km/h, I saw a tyre spurting in front of me. I wonder whose tyre it is, I thought. A moment later I understood whose it was".


And without this incident?


"I could have won. Or at least close the gap I had. Maybe next time".


No other incident disturbs the race, except some cars that go off the road, without any consequences. While for the audience occurs the usual incident of the customs passage, who at the exit are smiling and at the return are sad. Inspection to the cars, the hoods, under the seats, in the trunk, in the pockets of the scooterists, just to find a packet of cigarettes or a bar of chocolate. The line of cars stretches for over a kilometer. An hour of waiting and thoughts which, with a less rigid and complicated interpretation of the law, could have been avoided (without any severe damage to the Treasury). And, always on Sunday 26th July 1953, in front of an audience of 8000 people, Felice Bonetto wins in Lisbon, applauded enthusiastically by the crowd, who accompanies him triumphantly to the finish line with his Lancia 5000. Although he had been annoyed by a strong wind and despite the obstacles of the track, Bonetto drove with a strong pace, gradually increasing the gap; Taruffi, who had to stop due to a mechanical failure, initially used his wake.


Exactly a week later, the 16th German Grand Prix takes place on Sunday 2nd August 1953 on the famous track of Nurburgring (22.810 kilometers long). It takes place two weeks after the British Grand Prix where, as is known, Alberto Ascari won in front of the Argentinian driver Juan Manuel Fangio. There are good reasons now to believe that these two drivers will also be among the main key drivers of the race on Sunday. First of all, it can be noted that, in order to become World Champion for the second time, the Italian driver will also need to win the German Grand Prix. In fact, if he wins the German race - seventh leg of the World Championship - no other driver will be able to reach him anymore. Under these conditions it is easy to imagine that meticulous team orders will regulate the behavior between the drivers of Ferrari, with the aim of assuring Ascari’s victory. After all, Ascari has won the last three editions of the German Grand Prix and also holds the lap time record for Formula 2 cars, with the time of 10'05"1 and the average speed of 135.800 km/h. Based on these amazing achievements, the organizers of the race honored him with the title of Champion of Nurburgring. Regarding the all-time lap record, it still belongs to the German driver Lang (Mercedes Benz 3 liters with supercharger) with the average speed of more than 138 km/h. Since, for obvious reasons, we can exclude the possibility of a fight between the Ferrari drivers, the great rival for the Italian driver could be the Argentinian driver Fangio, who will drive a Maserati 2 liters 6-cylinder engine. Without Gonzalez, who got injured on the track in Lisbon, the other Maserati sport cars will be driven by the Italian driver Bonetto, the young Argentinian Marimón and the German Fritz Riess, who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1952 with Kling. Therefore, the most interesting fact of the German Grand Prix is the Ferrari-Maserati confrontation and, in particular, between Ascari and the Italian-Argentinian driver Fangio. The Gordini 2 liters of Behra, Trintignant and Shell will compete representing France while the British rely on Moss. Nurburgring is one of the hardest tracks of the continent. With its forty turns, it is a great testbed for both the drivers and the cars. Especially for the latter, it is clear that all their parts are put to test, starting from the tyres. It is enough to say that last year many drivers had to change three, four or even five times their tyres. 


On this track, which twists and turns among the picturesque scenery of the Eifel mountains, it is not the speed, just as the resistance and the pickup, but the road grip of the car that counts. With the German Grand Prix, the drivers’ World Championship enters a crucial stage. In fact, if Alberto Ascari - who has already gained a gap which is out of reach for his teammates and for the Maserati drivers - wins the German race as well, nobody will be able to take the coveted laurel wreath away from him. On the eve of the German Grand Prix, the World Championship ranking displays Ascari (Ferrari) leading with 36.5 points, followed by Hawthorn (Ferrari) with 16 points, Gonzalez (Maserati) with 13.5 points, Villoresi (Ferrari) and Fangio (Maserati) with 13 points and Farina (Ferrari) with 12 points. Thousands of sportsmen meet on the edges of the Nurburgring track to see the final practices of the German Grand Prix, which will be held tomorrow on the overall distance of 410.580 kilometers. With good weather, the drivers could go on track at full speed, with some amazing average speed. Suffice to say that three drivers broke the official record for Formula 2 cars, a record which Alberto Ascari established last year in 10’05"1 with an average speed of 135.800 km/h. Once again Alberto Ascari, driving a Ferrari 4-cylinder engine, registered the best lap time in 9'59"8, with the average speed of 136.900 km/h. In this way, not only did the World Champion improve the record obtained in 1952, but he even went below the lap time of 10'04"0 which he recorded during the practices last Thursday. It is the first time, after the war, that a lap time under ten minutes is obtained on the Nurburgring track. When the speaker announced the new achievement of the Ferrari driver, the audience applauded him for a long time. On the other hand, it is known that if Ascari obtains a good result in the German Grand Prix, he will be declared World Champion for 1953 as well, as no other driver can reach him anymore in the ranking of the current championship. After the Ferrari driver, the fastest lap time has been recorded by Fangio on Maserati with 10’03’’7 with the speed of 136.200 km/h. The driver from Turin Giuseppe Farina obtained the time of 10'04"1 at 136 km/h. 


Contrary to what has been reported, the German Lang will not drive for Maserati. It seems that his refusal is caused by financial reasons: the agreement between Lang and Maserati concerning the economic provisions was not reached. By the results of the practices, we can draw the conclusion that the race will see a lot of action in the fight between Ascari, Fangio and Farina, who during the practices have clearly outdistanced the other drivers. The World Champion Alberto Ascari was appointed Master of Nurburgring, a distinction created by the German Automobile Club. In fact, Ascari is the only driver who won three times in a row (in 1950, 1951 and 1952) the German Grand Prix on the Nurburgring track. The honor will be presented to him at the end of the German Grand Prix. The 1953 season so far has been another dominant display from Alberto Ascari. However, he proves to be not quite as infallible as he has done the previous year having failed to win the French Grand Prix. The Maserati cars have also seen a significant improvement in their performance, to which at times, Juan Manuel Fangio and José Froilán González both appear to be able to challenge the dominant Ferraris. If Ascari wins at the Nürburgring, he will be the first driver to become both a two-times World Champion and take the World Championship for two years in a row. Nonetheless his title ambitions are not certain, the points system will allow any driver to still have a chance to win the title if they are able to win the remaining three races. However, for González, his championship ambitions will come to an end. The Maserati driver was injured in a Lancia at the Portuguese Grand Prix therefore he will not be able to participate in the German Grand Prix. This has meant that the Maserati team has been reduced to three cars with Fangio, Marimón and Bonetto challenging the four Ferraris of Ascari, Hawthorn, Farina and Villoresi. Supporting Maserati is Emmanuel de Graffenried, who has notably won the race at the Nurburgring in May, while the Ferrari privateers include Louis Rosier and the Ecurie Francorchamps outfit who fields Jacques Swaters and the local hero, Kurt Adolff. The Gordini cars field their trio with Maurice Trintignant, Jean Behra and Harry Schell, the team still competing with their six cylinder engine cars even though they have planned to introduce a V8 car back at Silverstone. 


Connaught likewise has its three works cars for Kenneth McAlpine, Prince Bira and Roy Salvadori with the private entry for Johnny Claes. Stirling Moss is back in the Cooper, after being displeased by not being able to enter his home Grand Prix in Britain after the Cooper mechanics were unable to repair his car in time for the race. While Moss is in the ever updated Cooper-Alta car, his teammates, Alan Brown, Rodney Nuckey and the local driver, Helmut Glöckler are all in the Bristol engined cars. HWM is somewhat controversially denied entry into the German Grand Prix even though both Peter Collins and Paul Frère have performed well in the Eifelrennen race to finish second and third to the Maserati of De Graffenried. Like in the previous year, there will be some of the local German manufacturers and drivers racing. However, the recent political division of the country into the Western and Eastern areas will see German manufacturers from each half of the country in competition against one another in the World Championship. Among the West Germans there is an AFM car, which has a Bristol engine, for Hans Stuck. Meanwhile Günther Bechem and Theo Fitzau will compete with the Bmw modification of the AFM. Most popular among the German competitors is the Veritas Meteor which is driven by Hans Hermann, Theo Helfrich, Wolfgang Seidel, Oswald Karch, Willi Heeks, Erwin Bauer and Ernst Loof. Among the East German cars, there is the EMW driven by Edgar Barth which is largely a manufacturing copy of Bmw whilst Ernst Klodwig will be driving the rear-engined Heck and Rudolf Krause with the Greifzu. Both these manufacturers use a B.M.W. engine on their cars. Germany's most successful manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, is also present even though they’re not racing. The German automotive giant typically attends the races at the Nürburgring, maintaining a watchful eye on their motoring competition. However, in 1953, the technicians of Mercedes have increased interest with the Grand Prix given that they scheduled their competitive return with the reinstatement of Formula One rules for 1954. The practice session on Thursday is afflicted by heavy rain, which discourages most drivers from going on track. Most of the drivers prefer not to risk with these dangerous conditions, however they say that one Maserati goes on track as well as the Coopers of Alan Brown and Rodney Nuckey daring to face these conditions. However, there is little other activity, Mike Hawthorn uses this session to test his two-seater Ferrari sports car rather than his GP car. 


Friday is likewise a wet session, however dry periods throughout the day see the first serious session among the cars and drivers. Although it is not until the session on Saturday, when the track is properly dry and the drivers begin setting their fastest laps. For Helmut Glöckler, the weekend ends on Saturday. His Cooper suffers a severe engine failure that the team is unable to repair and, similarly to Moss in Britain, has been forced to sit out his home race after the Cooper’s mechanical failure. The time schedules on Saturday are a somewhat typical proceeding, with Ascari dominating, his best lap time is 3.9 seconds faster than his closest rival, Fangio in the Maserati. Farina's Ferrari is only 0.4 seconds slower than Fangio, however Hawthorn, who completes the front row, is 13.2 seconds behind Ascari's pole time. Trintignant has performed in an excellent way to place his Gordini ahead of the Ferrari and the Maseratis of Villoresi, Bonetto and Marimón. His teammates, Behra and Schell, round out the top ten of the grid. The last cars to lap the circuit in less than eleven minutes are Moss's Cooper, Salvadori's Connaught and Hermann's Veritas. Fangio for the second race in a row makes the fastest start, storming into the lead ahead of Ascari and Hawthorn. However, his Maserati does not have the pace to maintain the lead and, after half a lap, Ascari reclaims it. The Ferrari driver quickly asserts his dominance, by the end of the first lap he is already ten seconds ahead of Fangio's Maserati. Hawthorn remains tight on Fangio's tail while Farina, somewhat distanced from the top three, still holds a sizeable lead over the rest of the drivers, which Villoresi, Bonetto, De Graffenried, Schell, Behra and Hermann follow together. The opening laps see many retirements, which include the German cars of Loof, Stuck and Bauer while Trintignant and Salvadori's fail to capitalize on their strong qualifying performances and are forced into the pits to retire the car. Hawthorn, on the other hand, like Ascari, dispenses with Fangio; however, Ascari is storming away from the entire field at a pace of 10 seconds a lap as he is setting the pace for yet another of his unbeatable performances. Behind him, Hawthorn cannot shake off Fangio, so the pair is once again living their exciting confrontation at Reims. By the fifth lap, Ascari has a lead of 37 seconds ahead of Hawthorn and Fangio, with Farina a further 16 seconds behind the dueling pair. 


The race seems to be in Ascari's hands however, at Tiergarten, a wheel hub gets loose, and the front right wheel suddenly disconnects and flies off the car. Ascari is then forced to control his damaged Ferrari back to the pits on three wheels. When he finally makes it back to the pits, Hawthorn, Fangio and Farina have all overtaken him. When he makes his pit-stop there is chaos among the Ferrari mechanics, who have to borrow a wheel hub from Enrico Platé’s to get him back on track. Ascari rejoins in ninth position, however he will gain positions quickly aided by further troubles ahead of him. Schell has been putting in a strong race, having overtaken De Graffenried's Maserati only to suffer an engine failure shortly after. Behra, his Gordini teammate, does not last much longer either, retiring a lap after Schell. Helped by the Gordini retirements as well as a punctured tyre for Marimón, Ascari begins to gain a fast pace up the field. He quickly dispenses with De Graffenried and Bonetto to move back into fifth position. Although he is back in the points, he has a huge deficit compared to the leading cars. Villoresi remains in fourth position, and Farina, who has a 16 seconds gap from Hawthorn and Fangio's lead, inexplicably finds his pace when Ascari is forced to pit. They say Farina was almost inspired by Ascari's bad luck. In a single lap, Farina gained ten seconds on the leading pair and, by the end of the eighth lap, Farina overtakes both Fangio and Hawthorn taking the lead of the race. Hawthorn thereafter appears to get tired, dropping back and allowing Fangio into the second place, the Maserati will soon extend his lead over Hawthorn by 30 seconds. However, Farina at the front appears to be untouchable and on the tenth lap he has equaled Ascari's earlier fastest lap. Ascari, who is too far behind the top four to win the race, changes tactic. On the tenth lap he pits and on the following lap, he signals Villoresi, who is ahead of him on the track, to take over his car. Villoresi, irritated, fiercely blips the throttle as he pulls into the pits, nonetheless he complies with his team orders. Ascari rejoins the race in Villoresi's car while Villoresi is forced to take over Ascari's old car, which has by now fallen back to thirteenth place. Ascari setting off in fourth position driving Villoresi's car then begins to do some frantic laps to catch the leaders. On three successive laps between laps 12 and 14, Ascari sets a new fastest lap. 


By lap 14, Farina has a 48 second lead on Fangio, who instead has a 42 second gap over Hawthorn. As Ascari begins to close in on the rear of Hawthorn, his engine begins to emit a serious amount of blue smoke. The strain of the fastest laps has taken a toll on the engine, his car begins to slow down significantly and falls behind Bonetto before pulling into the pits to retire. Ascari, greatly irritated, mutters as he exits the car and goes back to his hotel alone. He has broken the Formula Two track record on many occasions and despite dominating the event greatly, he will leave Germany without success. Elsewhere Marimón, who has been struggling as the slowest Maserati quits the race due to suspension trouble, and Brown, who has been leading the rest of the group, is also out of the race. The Connaughts begin to fall behind, Bira has retired while McAlpine has to pit with a damaged rear axle. Nonetheless, McAlpine, determined to finish the race, returns on track although he has severe handling problems for the remaining four laps. Moss has been the fastest among the British drivers, however he is hindered by a fuel stop in the race which drops him down the field. He returns on track and steadily climbs back up as well as being helped by the steady stream of retirements of the cars in front of him. In the final laps, Moss overtakes Swaters and obtains the sixth position. It has been a race with great friction, however where Ascari fails, Farina takes over and gets a commanding victory. Fangio finishes almost a minute later, even though he lost both his tailpipes in the closing laps. 


Hawthorn is a long way back while Bonetto is the final car to remain on the lead lap. De Graffenried takes the final points and finishes the race with nearly no brakes on his car. Winning the 16th German Grand Prix with a clear advantage on Juan Manuel Fangio, Giuseppe Farina accomplished one of the brightest performances of his career. Already during the practices on Saturday, Farina seemed to be a serious potential race winner, given his perfect knowledge of the Nürburgring track (22.810 kilometers), which with its 174 turns is a very difficult and dangerous circuit. Only a driver with great class can dominate on this track, which is a demanding test bed for both the drivers and the cars, whose parts undergo a terrible stress. Giuseppe Farina receives the trophy of the German Grand Prix from the Crown Prince of Japan Akihito, who had followed the whole race, at first from the official gallery and then from the office of the timekeepers. It has been a very exciting and interesting race, also from a technical point of view. Farina registered the new track record with the average speed of 135 km/h, in front of a huge audience, thought to be of more than 150.000 people, who invaded from the early hours of the morning the sides of the track, which twists and turns throughout the hilly region of Eifel.


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