Teams Paul Pietsch
Races: 3By Jeremy McMullen
It's one thing to write about the 'inner circle' of any venture in life, whether it be war, business, sports or whatever. It is like the art critic trying to tell you the mood, emotion or feel of the artist behind the work—it will not touch to the depth, to the soul, of another as it does the one who fashioned the piece of art.
However, it is another thing entirely when the craftsman is able to put to words the experience. The feel, the depth, the wording would be such that it would convey a deeper truth and passion. No longer would it just be a story, for it would be a story with heart behind it. Paul Pietsch lived in the 'inner circle' of grand prix racing but was a successful automotive magazine publisher that took his passion for racing and technology and put words to it.
Publishing was not the family business. When people think of Germany they think about beer and Paul's family owned their own brewery. Paul was born in 1911 in Freiburg. The wealth earned from his mother's business enabled Paul, in 1932, to purchase a Bugatti from one of Germany's top drivers at the time. Almost immediately, Paul began racing in local hillclimbing events at the age of 20. He was rather ambitious though as he ended up racing the old Type 35 Bugatti at the German Grand Prix later that same year.
The next year, Pietsch purchased an Alfa Romeo Monza to replace his old Bugatti. And with the new Alfa, Paul went back to racing. In 1933 Pietsch took part in a few grand prix races and a few more hillclimbing events. Paul was rather successful when it came to hillclimbing races. One noteworthy finish Pietsch scored in grand prix racing in 1933 was a 1st place in the Svenska Isloppet (ice race) that took place in Hemfjarden in March of that year. Besides that result Pietsch scored a 6th at the Eifel Grand Prix and a couple of 7th place finishes at the Tunis and Bordino Grand Prix races as well.
In 1934 Pietsch showed himself, once again, to feel right at home on the ice as he took 1st place at the Vallentuna ice race that took place north of Stockholm, Sweden. A couple of months later Pietsch took 2nd in the Finnish Grand Prix that was held in downtown Helsinki. He was the only one running at the end of the race that had not been lapped. In May, Paul took part in the Avus Grand Prix held in downtown Berlin. This course was incredibly long with part of it stretching into both east and west Berlin when the city was divided during the Cold War. In the race Paul raced to a 6th place finish. In June of that year, Pietsch took part in the Eifel Grand Prix held at the Nurburgring. Paul, with a privately entered Alfa Romeo, faced stiff competition in the Auto Union A-type, Alfa Romeos of Scuderia Ferrari and the W25s of Mercedes-Benz. However, Pietsch battled them all and came home a valiant 4th, the first of the privately entered cars.
The presence of the Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz cars made it difficult to achieve any real success as these machines well and truly dominated throughout the 30s. Despite very few victories throughout the 30s, Pietsch's results against such stiff competition garnered high praise and serious interest from factory teams. As a result of his achievements, Pietsch was offered a test drive by Auto Union. They pitted him against Rosemeyer on the Nurburgring and Pietsch proved faster. The test served its purpose for Auto Union and both drivers were given rides starting in the 1935 season.
The big old V16 B-type Auto Union was a rear-engined car and was very difficult to drive, seemingly especially so for Pietsch. While Hans Stuck wielded his B-type around tracks for victories, Paul wrestled with the car just to finish well. This fact could best be illustrated when, at the Italian Grand Prix of 1935, Rosemeyer's Auto Union had to be abandoned, but, Paul was given direction to trade his B-type over to Rosemeyer who then finished the race in 3rd place. Interestingly, this proved to be Pietsch's best result of the season.
Besides the poor results, Paul also suffered through a bitter divorce with his wife who had had an affair with Achille Varzi. The combination of these things seems to be the likely reason for Paul's absence from the 1936 season. The time away didn't help though as he struggled in '37.
In 1938, Paul returned to racing in voiturettes with a Maserati. In the Circuit of Varese, Paul came in 3rd in his heat with a Maserati 6CM. In the final race Pietsch was able to finish 4th. At the German Grand Prix, Pietsch came home 6th in his own Maserati 6CM. Once again, he was the highest placed private entrant. At the Coppa Acerbo in August, Pietsch finished 2nd in his 1.5 liter 4CL (see Maserati 4CL article) at the Pescara circuit. In September, at the Coppa Edda Ciano, in Lucca, Italy, Pietsch raced his 4CL to a 3rd place finish.
At the German Grand Prix, in 1939, Pietsch drove for Officine Alfieri Maserati in an 8CTF. No fewer than five Auto Union D chassis took the green flag at the start along with four Mercedes-Benz W154s. The rain would end up being an equalizer. Pietsch was carving up through the field at the start and even led at one point; vengeance for all of the struggles Paul had while driving for Auto Union. Spark plug problems and the rain led to Pietsch slipping back into the pack. And yet, despite two spins in the rain, Pietsch finished the race 3rd in the Maserati.
Besides his 3rd at the German Grand Prix, Pietsch only scored a 4th at the Targa Florio in May of that year. Pietsch suffered from a total of six DNFs in 1939.
With the outbreak of war racing ceased for the German; stealing perhaps his best years of grand prix racing.
After the war, Paul focused on his fledgling magazine known today as 'Auto Motor und Sport'. The magazine focused on automotive technology and design. There is even an award given now by the magazine called the Paul Pietsch award, which is a prize for automobile technology and design.
Paul re-emerged in grand prix racing in 1950, the inaugural season of Formula One, and at the last of the championship events, the Italian Grand Prix. Pietsch, now 40, arrived with his own Maserati. Paul started the race in last with no time. Unfortunately, Pietsch's comeback to grand prix racing was truly bittersweet. While Pietsch started the race, his Maserati was unable to finish even the first lap. So Paul finished the first Formula One season having competed in only one race, completing not a single lap.
War interrupts many things, including potential. What's important is how to engage and utilize that potential, though it may be along other lines. Paul's racing prime was taken by the war, but not his potential. The inner circle of racing and technology became better known to all
the world through his magazine. The heartbeat of racing and automotive technology now came to be enjoyable to all.Sources:
Snellman, Leif. 'Auto Union, Motor und Sport.' 8W, The Stories Behind Motor Racing Facts and Fiction. 8W October 200 Issue. Oct 2000. Web. 17 May 2010.
Grand Prix Encyclopedia contributors. 'Paul Pietsch'. GrandPrix.com, Inside F1, Inc. Web. 17 May 2010.
Snellman, Leif. 'Paul Pietsch'. The Golden Era—Drivers, The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing, 27 Mar. 2010. Web. 17 May 2010.
Wikipedia contributors. 'Paul Pietsch.' Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 Apr. 2010. Web. 17 May. 2010.