TeamsHans Stuck: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Hans Stuck already had an illustrious grand prix career before the World Championship was formed and inaugurated in 1950. He would win numerous races for Auto Union during the era of the 'Silver Arrows', but he was best known as the 'Berkonig', or, 'King of the Mountains'.
The restrictions placed on German racers after the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II seemed to spell the end of this talented racing driver's career. But his talent and passion for motor racing could not be denied. He would find a way. Stuck would manage to gain Austrian citizenship and would be seen once again racing outside of Germany.
Stuck's first expected start in the new World Championship was to come in 1951 with BRM. Despite being 50 years of age, the talent and skill of this man was too good for BRM to pass up. But what was interesting about the pairing was the fact Stuck, it is believed, earned his ride with Auto Union after a chance meeting with Adolf Hitler. And yet, here he was, preparing to take part in a race with a team built around the premise of creating a national team for Britain to join around and support. This idea was birthed as a result of Britain coming out of the Second World War and its fight with Germany.
It would all come to naught, however, The incredibly fragile BRM P15 would fail to be ready in time for the British Grand Prix. Therefore, the world would not witness the interesting pairing of the patriotic British BRM team and one of the symbols of Hitler's Third Reich.
The 1952 season would open up more opportunities for Stuck to take part in World Championship races. However, he would retire from the Swiss Grand Prix in his own AFM, and then, would fail to qualify for the Italian Grand Prix in a Ferrari 212 for the Swiss Ecurie Espadon team. Therefore, over the span of two years and three attempts, Stuck had never managed to finish either one and only managed to make it into one of the three.
One of the problems many of the German racers faced in post-war Germany was the economic crisis, and as a result, the shortfall of suitable materials and equipment. Therefore, while the cars remained quick they just didn't have the ability to be quick over long distances.
Formula 2 racing was the top level in Germany since much of its racing population was forced to create their own 'Eigenbaus', or, 'home-built'. There were some smaller manufacturers, like AFM, that made grand prix cars but the factory certainly didn't have the ability to really provide the kind of support needed. Stuck would have a close relationship with AFM and would use its AFM 4 with a Kuchen engine. The Kuchen was a good engine but its production had ceased prior to the 1952 season, and, as with many other German racers, Stuck showed decent speed in the car, but it struggled to endure. In fact, it was the struggles of the Kuchen engine that led Stuck to forego his own home grand prix in 1952.
Heading into the 1953 season, Stuck knew he would need a better engine. He needed the power for the speed and the acceleration, but more than that, he needed reliability. Therefore, Stuck would use his relationships in England to purchase a straight-six Bristol engine to use in his AFM for the 1953 season. Stuck was familiar with the engine as it had been based upon the BMW 328 pre-war engine. Bristol had come to copy and update the engine after receiving details about it as part of the spoils from the war. The engine had proven to be competitive and reliable during the 1952 season, and therefore, offered Stuck the confidence he needed, he believed, in order to be competitive once again.
Although the 1953 grand prix season would start early with the first round of the World Championship taking place in Argentina in January, Stuck's season wouldn't begin until May. At the time of his season kicking off, Stuck was already 52 years of age, but that wasn't about to stop him.
Stuck's first race of the 1953 season would be a first for him in his racing career. In spite of everything he had experienced, especially before the war, he had never been entered in a grand prix race at any time in England. He had taken part in a hillclimbing race, but nothing else. Therefore, he would decide, before his grand prix career came to an end, that he would take part in a race on English soil.
Stuck, of course, had been slated to take part in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1951 with BRM. Unfortunately for Stuck, the car would not be ready in time for the race. Nonetheless, Silverstone seemed like the best place to go. It would provide him an opportunity to race at a place he intended to but never got the chance. The race he would decide to take part in was the 5th BRDC International Trophy race, which took place on the 9th of May.
Stuck had been part of the famous 'Silver Arrows' which had been used by Hitler's propaganda machine to promote the seeming greatness of the Third Reich and Nazi Germany. Here now, on the 9th of May in 1953, Stuck was preparing to take part in a race at a location built for the purpose of pounding Hitler's Germany to dust.
Silverstone began its life as RAF Silverstone and had been a bomber base for the Royal Air Force. Its triangular runway pattern would be a hive of activity for RAF bombers from its opening in 1943 until war's end. Soon after the war the base would lie abandoned, but not without a purpose. It would come to hold its first impromptu motor race in 1947. One year later, the airbase would come to be the new host for the British Grand Prix and would lead to the International Trophy race starting in 1949.
The International Trophy race would be conducted different to many other grand prix races. The entire event consisted of two heat races and a final. The entire field would be split into two heats. Each heat would take part in a 15 lap race around the 2.88 mile circuit. At the end of the two heats the grid would be set for a 35 lap final.
Stuck would be listed in the first heat along with Emmanuel de Graffenried, Stirling Moss and others. In practice, he would come to realize, that despite the Bristol engine, he was still down on pace compared to the rest of the field. Emmanuel de Graffenried would end up being the fastest and would take the pole with a time of one minute and fifty-one seconds. The rest of the four-wide front row, which would include Bob Gerard, Tony Rolt and Kenneth McAlpine, would all manage to post times better than one minute and fifty-five seconds.
By comparison, Stuck would find himself well down in the first heat starting field. There is some evidence that he still had the Kuchen engine in the car when he arrived for the race and his best time in practice may have been an indication of that fact. His best time would be a time of two minutes and seven seconds. This would place him 14th overall and on the outside of the fourth row.
The first heat would see Moss make a great start and be right up at the front with de Graffenried challenging for the lead of the race. Stuck was further back trying to make his way through the first lap without incident.
Everyone would make it through the first couple of laps without too much trouble, but it wouldn't be long before trouble would begin to rear its ugly head amongst the competitors. Bill Aston and Joe Kelly would be the first to feel the sting when they would retire after just a few laps. Meanwhile, de Graffenried and Moss continued to fight it out for the lead.
After just six laps, Stuck wouldn't concern himself with de Graffenried and Moss at the front of the field. He had greater problems. His engine, despite being the newer Bristol engine, was down on power and was not running as it should. Not too much later the engine would finally let go bringing Stuck's first grand prix race on English soil to a very disappointing end.
Moss and de Graffenried would match each other's pace to the point that each would set the same fastest lap time for the heat. In the end, de Graffenried would use the advantage he had of starting on the pole to go on and take the victory over Moss by about five seconds. Prince Bira would end up bringing his Maserati A6GCM home to a 3rd place result.
Then it was time for the second heat race. As the cars lined up on the grid, it was noted that Ken Wharton had the pole. His time in practice would end up being around one second faster than Mike Hawthorn in his Scuderia Ferrari 500 Tipo. Louis Chiron, another pre-war grand prix driver and well-known acquaintance of Stuck, would start 3rd while Maurice Trintignant would line up 4th.
If the battle between de Graffenried and Moss had been close, then the battle that would rage between Wharton and Hawthorn during the second heat would seem like the violent bonding of molecules. Hawthorn and Wharton would each make great starts and would immediately break into a battle for control. This battle would increase the pace of the race and would end up leaving the rest of the field behind.
Roy Salvadori would make a great start from his 6th place starting position on the grid and would be giving chase to Wharton and Hawthorn, but it would be absolutely fruitless. The rest of the front row runners would end up fading or would drop out altogether. This would make Hawthorn and Wharton's escape all the more dominating.
The fight between Wharton and Hawthorn would go right on down to the finish. At the line, it would be Hawthorn that would better Wharton by about a second. Roy Salvadori would end up looking good finishing in 3rd place but would be almost a minute behind.
The finishing times of Hawthorn and Wharton would be more than thirty seconds faster than the impressive times of de Graffenried and Moss in the first heat. Therefore, the front row would consist of Hawthorn on pole and Wharton in 2nd. Baron de Graffenried and Stirling Moss would line up 3rd and 4th on the front row. Stuck's engine failure in the first heat would be a much more difficult situation to rectify than what he had time for. As a result, Stuck would not take part in the final.
The wear and tear of the previous heats would begin to show in the 35 lap final. There would be a few competitors that wouldn't make it ten laps into the race before retiring due to failures of some kind. In the case of de Graffenried, he would retire after 16 laps due to being black flagged for jumping the start. This was very easy to do given he knew full well the pace Hawthorn and Wharton had run during their second heat race. The most unfortunate part of the whole episode would be the fact that his time of one minute and fifty-one seconds would end up being the fastest lap of the race and it would only be matched by Mike Hawthorn.
While de Graffenried made a mistake and would withdraw as a result, Wharton's race just could not match the pace of his heat race. As the race progressed, he would digress. This left Roy Salvadori to take up the challenge since Stirling Moss also faded.
Nothing could be done. Hawthorn's matching of de Graffenried's fastest lap time was a sign that the young Briton wasn't about to let any other competitor snatch the victory away from him. It would take him just one hour and six minutes to complete the 35 laps and take the victory. He would finish twelve seconds ahead of Salvdori and forty-two seconds ahead of Rolt in 3rd place.
Stuck's first actual grand prix would end up lasting not much longer than the failed attempt in the British Grand Prix with BRM. After his failed attempt to conquer the British Isles, Stuck would pack up, possibly with his new Bristol engine, and would head back across the English Channel and into the Low Countries.
Two weeks after the BRDC International Trophy race, Stuck pulled in to Chimay, Belgium for what was the 23rd Grand Prix des Frontieres. Held on the 24th of May, the Grand Prix des Frontieres would be a 20 lap race around the 6.71 mile Chimay road course.
Located just across the border from France, the pretty and pleasant town of Chimay sits nestled in the rolling countryside of the Walloon municipality and is the site of the famous Chimay Brewery. The Chimay circuit, which was entirely comprised of public roads had a portion of its layout extend into the downtown area before it headed out through the countryside. Chimay presented just about everything to its competitors. The circuit boasted of short and long straight, tight hairpin turns and fast sweeping esses that demanded great courage and care.
At the time, Chimay was next in popularity to only Spa, and therefore, the race would feature a number of Belgian competitors. Being rather close to the German border, the race would also play host to a number of German entries; at least those that could afford the trip.
The toughest competitor Stuck would have to face in the 20 lap race would be the Equipe Gordini team. They would come to the race with no less than three cars. Ecurie Francorchamps would also present a tough challenge with its Ferrari 500.
Of all the competitors, no one would be as fast as Maurice Trintignant during practice. He would turn the fastest lap of practice with a time of four minutes and eleven seconds to earn the pole. The grid was arranged in a two-by-two pattern. Therefore, Trintignant would be joined on the front row by Johnny Claes in his Connaught A-Type chassis.
Stuck's performance in practice wouldn't be all that bad. He would be within a few seconds of Trintignant's best time. And, as a result, would start the event from 5th place on the grid, which was the inside of the third row.
If Stuck could make it off the starting grid he would already have a huge advantage over a number in the field. Rodney Nuckey, Jacques Pollet and Georges Mulnard wouldn't even complete a single lap before they would be out of the race. Two more drivers would last only a couple of laps. In all, there would be seven that would drop out of the race after just five laps of running.
Maurice Trintignant would make a good start and would immediately back up to his pace from practice. Roger Laurent and Johnny Claes were right up there trying to do battle with Trintignant for the lead, but it wasn't going well, especially after Trintignant would set the fastest lap of the race with a time very close to his qualifying effort.
Stuck continued to hang in their and was even able to take advantage of Prince Bira's crash early on to run up near the top ten. Fred Wacker had made a good start and was able to get by Stuck for position.
Amazingly, the Bristol engine would live up to Stuck's belief of offering better reliability. However, there would be others that would end up being as reliable but faster. Maurice Trintignant would absolutely dominate the proceedings. Averaging more than 93 mph throughout the course of the race, the Frenchman would go on to take the victory. He would beat Roger Laurent by more than a minute and ten seconds and would enjoy an advantage of more than two minutes and twenty-five seconds over Fred Wacker in 3rd place.
Johnny Claes would suffer a crash with just three laps remaining in the race. His retirement, and those of others, would all go to aid Stuck finishing the race in 4th place albeit one lap down.
The Bristol engine ended up doing exactly what Stuck had purchased it to do. The only thing he lacked was speed. But if the engine remained reliable throughout the course of the season it would more than make up for a lack of speed.
Stuck would need more than the combination of speed and endurance at his next race. He would; instead, need a blending of speed, endurance and no mistakes if he was to be successful at the next race in which he would compete, which was the Eifelrennen.
On the 31st of May, the 17th Internationales ADAC Eifelrennen was set to take place at the infamous Nurburgring situated in the Eifel mountains of West Germany. The race was scheduled to be 7 laps of one of the most dangerous and demanding circuits in all the world. At a little more than 14 miles in length, the Nurburgring's Nordschleife was surprisingly straight-forward. The circuit was nothing more than constantly twisting, turning, rising a falling circuit that included no less than 170 turns and about a thousand feet of elevation change over the course of a lap. The circuit's biggest threat was so much its bold speed and fearsome corners. In many cases, it would be the circuit's length that would be the biggest opponent. Wearing and seemingly never-ending, the circuit posed a great challenge to a driver's concentration and memory. Combined with the rain that so often fell in the Eifel mountains the circuit would become a veritable 'Green Hell'.
Seeing that the dominant Scuderia Ferrari team was in Albi, France, and that the seventh round of the World Championship would take place at the Nurburgring, it was little wonder as to why the Eifelrennen would host so many foreign entries. Stuck would be facing many of the same people he had faced at the International Trophy race back at the beginning part of the month. Emmanuel de Graffenried, Stirling Moss, Lance Macklin and others would all be in a field that would also include a couple of East German racers as well.
This race would be particularly intriguing as there was another plot at play besides the race itself, and it included Stuck. Rudolf Fischer had raced to an incredibly 4th place finish in the World Championship results for the 1952 season. After he was turned down to drive for Scuderia Ferrari, Fischer went on to retire from racing and focused; instead, on managing his Ecurie Espadon team.
During the 1952 season, Fischer had provided Stuck with a drive in the team's Ferrari 212 for the Italian Grand Prix. The field was heavy-laden and many would not qualify for the race, including Stuck. Nonetheless, many believed Stuck, despite his age, would be given the drive in the team's Ferrari 500 for the 1953 season. This would not be. Kurt Adolff would earn the ride. And at the Eifelrennen, these two would face off for the first time.
Adolff would gain the upper-hand during practice as he would end up starting the race from the pole. This wasn't all that surprising given the fact Fischer sat on pole and took the victory with the same car one year prior. The Belgian Paul Frere would start 2nd while Hans Klenk and Stirling Moss started on the front row in 3rd and 4th.
Stuck wouldn't be too far behind. He had been around the Nurburgring many times and perhaps was one of the few that actually knew the circuit like the back of his hand. Despite having inferior power, Stuck would go on to qualify in the second row of the grid.
The start of the race would see a wet track laid out before the competitors. In the wet conditions, de Graffenried would prove too powerful and would bolt his way up to the lead from the third row of the grid. Adolff would follow along in the 2nd place position. Stuck would pull away from the grid but immediately was struggling with his car. The car seemed to be struggling. The wet conditions were making life difficult for a number of other competitors, not just Stuck.
While Adolff was holding on for dear life behind de Graffenried, Stuck was also holding on to dear life just to remain in the race. One of the competitors would drop out due to engine failure without having completed a single lap. Another couple would be out of the race right from the very start and their reason would have to do with ignition. One of those out with ignition problems would be a very frustrated Hans Stuck.
Although Stuck's race wouldn't even really last a lap, Adolff's race wouldn't really fare much better considering the car he had underneath himself. Emmanuel de Graffenried had made an incredible start and controlled the race right from the very beginning. Paul Frere would also be right there behind Adolff in the early going but would also manage to get by into 2nd place. From that point onwards, Adolff would fade out of the picture. Amazingly, the winning car from the previous year just faded away into the distance.
Another that would fade away into the distance would be Moss. His Cooper was quick enough but longevity was also a concern. This allowed Peter Collins and Edgar Barth to get by for position.
While it seemed nobody was going to challenge de Graffenried, especially after setting the fastest lap of the race, Paul Frere would give everybody some excitement going into the last couple of laps of the race.
Frere was from Belgium and was very familiar with weather conditions like that facing the field that day. He was used to competing at circuits, like Spa, in such conditions and he would use that experience to put some heavy pressure on de Graffenried all the way to the finish. Baron de Graffenried would need to record the fastest lap of the race just to ensure that he could stay in front of Frere, but there was no assurance of that.
As the last lap of the race neared completion, de Graffenried came into view. But right there behind him, mere lengths behind, was Frere. There was still time for some last second heroics. However, de Graffenried would manage the gap quite well and would hold on to take the victory by less than two seconds over Frere. Peter Collins wouldn't be too far back himself as he would finish in 3rd place only sixteen seconds back.
To have the top three finish within thirty seconds of each other on a long and dangerous circuit like the Nurburgring was truly something special to behold. Of course, Stuck's experience left him seriously wanting and likely not that interested in the outcome on a whole. Instead, he would pack up and head on to his next race of the season.
For his next race, Stuck would actually stay in eastern Europe and would head into East Germany for what was the 1st Paul Greifzu Gedachtnisrennen held in Dessau, Germany on the 7th of June.
Dessau, 1952, would be the site of a tragedy for East German motor racing fans. In practice prior to the Dessau Autobahnspinne, the East German favorite Paul Greifzu would have his engine seize on one of the long straights. The result of the seizure would launch the car into a spin and would crash into a grandstand. While nobody else would be hurt in the incident Paul Greifzu would lose his life. For many East German fans, a hero had died that day.
At the site of that crash, Dessau, the race name would be changed in honor of Greifzu and Hans Stuck would be just one of fourteen German racers that would take part in the 16 lap race around the 3.1 mile circuit.
The site of the tragedy was a place known for its spectacular vantage point. Like many races, particularly in East Germany, after the war, Dessau took place on a portion of the autobahn running from Berlin through Dessau and on to Leipzig. About half of the circuit, the fastest portion, took place on both the north and south sides of the autobahn and enabled cars to reach some incredible speeds. An overpass would provide the massive throng of spectators, at least those that could catch a glimpse, of the cars hurtling down the road at incredible rate of speed.
The heir-apparent to Greifzu certainly had to be Edgar Barth and all throughout the practices and leading up to the actual race he looked more than capable of taking over the reigns for the lost East German star. However, Stuck wasn't to be left out of the proceedings. He was confident having the Bristol engine and it showed.
The sixteen lap race would be fierce on the competitors. The hard acceleration down the highway, the tight hairpin turns and the many gearshifts would all take their toll on the field. Before the end of the race, there would only be five entrants still running in the race.
Edgar Barth would be up front right from the very start, but he would have Stuck right there with him. Rudolf Krause would try and do the best he could to hold on in his older BMW-Reif.
Barth was intent on taking the victory. To help his cause, Barth would turn the fastest lap of the race with a time of just two minutes and seven seconds. This pace would be tough for Stuck to overcome.
In the end, Stuck wouldn't be able to overcome Barth. Barth would take his EMW Rennkollektiv and would complete the 16 lap race in just a little more than thirty-five minutes at an average speed greater than 84 mph. He would go on to take the victory beating out Stuck. Rudolf Krause would do his best and would finish the race 3rd.
The season, to this point, had been an up and down experience. For every bad result, he would manage to pull out a good one. While this was not all that great, compared to the previous season, it was truly magical. In 1952, it was a miracle if the Kuchen engine finished a race. One year later, Stuck at least had confidence a good result was possible. Seeing that the 2nd place result was very nice, Stuck would decide to remain in Germany for his next race.
Stuck seemed to find a series of races in which his confidence for a good result was quite high. The race at Dessau had been the second round of the East German Formula 2 Championship and he managed to pull out a 2nd place result. This offered him confidence that more good results were possible as long as he took part in more East German Championship races. Therefore, Stuck's next race would be the same day as the French Grand Prix. Instead of being at Reims battling it out with Scuderia Ferrari, Maserati and the other big manufacturers, he would be in Halle an der Saale, Germany. The race was the 5th Halle-Saale-Schleiferennen and it was the third round of the East German Championship.
Halle's history is steeped in salt. This area running along the Saale River would become a major harvester of salt all the way back during the Bronze Age. As time would go on, Halle would become an important place of harvest for Martin Luther's Reformation. Its ecclesiastical impact would only continue with its helping to establish missionaries in Pennsylvania during the 18th century and being the birthplace for George Muller, a coordinator of orphanages in Britain. Georg Friedrich Handel's birth during the late 17th century would help Halle provide the world a little aural taste as well.
The circuit in Halle was actually located on the western side of the Saale River. The circuit made use of a major street section that ran along the western bank and side roads that ran from the bridge crossing the river over in downtown Halle and that also wound its way up past Weinberg College.
At Dessau, Stuck had battled with Barth for top honors. At that race, Barth would end up coming out on top of the battle. In Halle, the two would renew the fight they had just a couple of weeks prior.
In a battle for the pole, Barth would end up being fastest around the 3.25 mile circuit, and therefore, would start the race from the pole. Stuck would be right up there with his Bristol-powered AFM. Stuck and Barth would have some more competition, however. Rudolf Krause would end up getting permission from Paul Greifzu and would enter Greifzu's 'Special' in the race. Armed with the old, but new, car Krause was also right there in the running with Barth and Stuck.
In the 20 lap race, these three would go to put on a show. Each was fast. In fact, Krause would go on to set the fastest lap of the race with the Greifzu Eigenbau. His best time around the circuit would be two minutes and forty-two seconds. Surprisingly, his pace wouldn't be fast enough to challenge Barth, but it would put some serious pressure on Stuck.
Barth had been running very consistent laps right from the very beginning. Stuck was fast as well. However, Krause was proving to have enough to make life difficult for Stuck.
Eleven cars started the race. As the last lap of the race was drawing to a close, only five would still be running. Amongst those five, the closest battle was still for 2nd place. Edgar Barth controlled the race almost from the very beginning. He would go on to take the victory completing the distance in nearly fifty-one and a half minutes. The battle between Stuck and Krause seemed like it would go right down to the line. However, as the two filed their way through Friedensring and began to power their way down the straight toward the start/finish line it was clear Stuck would enjoy his 2nd place result in a row. Sure enough, Stuck would cross the line two seconds up on Krause in 3rd.
Stuck's foray in the East German Formula 2 Championship had been proving to be a successful endeavor. The race distances were proving to be the perfect length for Stuck. He had confidence he could push the car hard and that it would make it the entire race distance. Unfortunately, he knew he wouldn't have such a luxury in his next race.
After two-straight 2nd place results in the East German Formula 2 Championship Stuck would make his way out of the Soviet-bloc portion of Germany and would head back to the site of an earlier disappointment. He would be on his way back to the Nurburgring to prepare to take part in the German Grand Prix.
Stuck had abandoned any attempt at the German Grand Prix the season before because of the extremely fragile Kuchen engine. He had already ordered the Bristol engine by the end of the 1952 season but had to wait until the 2nd of August in 1953 before he could put his new engine and old chassis combination to the test. While it was the first World Championship round in which he would compete in 1953, confidence for Stuck would have been running rather high after two very good results in East German Championship races.
But now, he would not be facing Edgar Barth. He and Edgar Barth would pale in comparison to the Juggernaut in Scuderia Ferrari and Alberto Ascari. But that pairing wasn't all that Stuck had to be concerned about. While Ferrari was certainly at full strength, Maserati was also a rejuvenated factory effort that was challenging Ferrari at practically every turn. Then there were a number of other smaller teams and privateers that were all just as capable of challenging and beating Stuck. Nonetheless, the man born in Warsaw, Poland would prepare to take on the best teams, cars, drivers and, oh yes, the notorious Nurburgring.
While of little consequence to Stuck, the German Grand Prix would be an intense battleground. Not only were the cars being prepared for a severe test against the circuit, but there was a championship on the verge of being decided. If things went just right for Ascari the championship would then be his for the second year in a row.
The fact Ascari was gunning for the World Championship again was more than obvious during practice. He would end up being the fastest car on the circuit and would take the pole with a lap of nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds.
The next-fastest car would be that of Juan Manuel Fangio. Fangio's best time around the circuit would be ten minutes and three seconds. The difference between the two, then, was four seconds! The rest of the front row would include Giuseppe Farina and Mike Hawthorn. The gap between Farina and Hawthorn to Ascari would go up rather dramatically. While Farina was just over four seconds slower, Hawthorn would end up nearly thirteen seconds off the pace.
Of course thirteen seconds would be like a dream to Stuck who would certainly be off the pace despite his new engine. The best lap he can manage to put together would be eleven minutes and thirty-seven seconds. This put Stuck all the way down in 23rd place on the starting grid which was towards the middle of the seventh row.
Again, Stuck avoided the German Grand Prix in 1952 because of how bad the Kuchen engine had proven to be throughout the season. He would be back in 1953 because he had a new engine and new confidence. It would be hard to tell about his confidence but the engine last any longer. As the field roared away to start the arduous 18 lap, 255 mile journey, Stuck stepped on the gas and the car broke right then and there. He and Ernst Loof would be out of the race perhaps before the tires even completed a full revolution.
In constrast, Fangio would make a great start and would lead the field into the first turn. However, that would be about all of the highlights he would have as Ascari's superior pace would push on by after just a mile or two and would begin to draw away. Quickly, Fangio, Hawthorn and Farina would take up the chase.
The failures kept coming. After just one lap, three more would retire from the race. Over the next two laps, three more would fall to the wayside. The thirty-four car starting field was quickly beginning to dwindle without any signs of up slowing up. Trouble would even come to claim Ascari's Ferrari.
In search of his second World Championship, Ascari had been flying and was enjoying a substantial lead when, all of a sudden, a wheel would break loose. He would crawl his way back around to the pits but not before he would be passed by a number of others including his biggest challengers to the title.
Ascari would make it back to the pits and would take over Villoresi's Ferrari for the remainder of the race. Villoresi would end up waiting for repairs to be made to Ascari's car and would later rejoin the race, albeit well down.
The large throng of spectators that usually assembled at German motor races would be awed by the display Ascari would put on as he tried to chase down his World Championship title. Ascari's lap times during the first half of the race would pale in comparison to the display he would put together in the second half. Each lap would get faster and faster. With half a dozen laps remaining, he was turning laps as fast as his own qualifying effort. Then, on the 12th lap of the race, Ascari would put together an a truly indescribable lap time. As he crossed the line it was noted his lap time was nine minutes and fifty-six seconds! This would be more than three second faster than his qualifying effort and within a half a second of the fastest lap time turned in a Formula One car, which; incidentally, was also a time he posted during the 1951 German Grand Prix.
Mike Hawthorn had the lead but would lose it to Giuseppe Farina. Over the period of a couple of laps, Hawthorn would also come to lose his position to Juan Manuel Fangio. However, every single one of the three had the sense Ascari was on his way. But against the pace in which Ascari was lapping the circuit, there was very little either one of them could do. The only hope any one of them actually rested with Ascari.
Ascari was unstoppable and the rest of the field knew it. The only thing that could stop him would be either himself or his Ferrari. Not known to make too many mistakes, it would have to be the car that would call it quits. And after 15 laps, the car would have the final say in the matter. Villoresi's Ferrari had grown tired of being run ragged. Ascari was extracting everything the car could give. While it was impressive to watch it was utterly destructive to the car. And after 15 laps the engine would final have enough and would expire, bringing to an end one marvelous display.
Farina had been pushing hard to make sure he didn't repeat the 1952 German Grand Prix when Ascari came by at the last moment to take the victory. He had pulled out a margin over Fangio but needed help with Ascari. When Ascari's engine would lend a hand by failing Farina knew all he needed to do was to take care and not make any mistakes.
Farina's smooth driving style wasn't a source of too many mistakes. As a result, Farina would go on to cruise to victory after three hours and two minutes of hard driving. Farina would beat Fangio for the victory by a minute and four seconds. Mike Hawthorn would end up coming across the line in 3rd place.
Although the race came to an end for Ascari the championship was still his. His key competitors for the title would not finish in the position they needed to be to keep them mathematically in the fight.
Stuck wasn't part of any championship, and it was a good thing after the failure he suffered on the grid. His unfortunate record was still intact. He had not finished a single World Championship race. Time was running out and he knew it.
Stuck would not take part in another grand prix throughout the rest of the month of August. He did manage to have some success in a couple rounds of the East German Formula 2 Championship. Therefore, in early September, Stuck would take off and head to the small village of Hohenstein-Ernstthal. Just to the west of the small village local public roads traversed the rolling woodlands and countryside and comprised the circuit Sachsenring. Stuck was on his way to take part in the 5th Sachsenringrennen which took place on the 6th of September.
The Sachsenring was one of the few East German circuits that followed along in the same vain as the Nurburgring. The circuit used local public roads and was anything but flat. At 5.41 miles in length, the circuit featured a couple of steep ascents and some long gradual descents. It also boasted a number of blind, fast corners that were anything but easy. One other aspect the circuit shared in common with the Nurburgring was the speed. The esses were technical but there were a number of long straights that enabled cars to push their top speeds. With all of the elevation changes and vantage points throughout the circuit it was certainly a favorite for spectators.
Had Stuck been an East German he would have been in the running for the East German Championship against Edgar Barth and Rudolf Krause. Instead, Stuck would come to the Sachsenring as he had Dessau and Halle—for his own personal pride.
The race was 12 laps of the Sachsenring. When it started, it became obvious there were three really strong cars that would be the major factors in the race. Theo Helfrich would be fast but he wouldn't be able to challenge the pace of Barth, Stuck and Krause. After three laps it wouldn't matter anyway as Helfrich would end up retired and out of the race due to a mechanical problem. This left just Barth, Stuck and Krause to battle it out.
Although the East German Championship was pretty much already Barth's he was still fighting hard and pushing for another victory and its prize money. Krause had grown tired of finishing behind Stuck during the two previous races and would be all over the West German/Austrian.
Over the course of the 12 lap race, Barth would go on to set the fastest lap of the race. This would just make it practically impossible to overtake the man. In fact, it would even allow him to escape from the other two. This left Krause and Stuck to fight it out for second-best honors.
Barth was unstoppable. His EMW would run flawlessly and would help to take yet another victory, his fourth in a row. Krause and Stuck would battle. In the end, it would be Krause that would finally get the better of Stuck. Driving Paul Greifzu's Eigenbau special, Krause would go on to cross the line less than five seconds ahead of Stuck for 2nd. Though Stuck would finish the race in 3rd place this was still a good result for the elder-statesman.
The only unfortunate part of all this was the fact this was the East German Formula 2 Championship and it was known the technology and the equipment were years behind the cars from western Europe. So while the results were very welcome for Stuck they were also disappointing for someone who had experienced so much success in the past.
The World Championship season was drawing to an end, and at 52 years of age, so too was Stuck's grand prix career. In spite of all his racing success with Silver Arrows before the war he had still failed to finish a round of the World Championship. While there was no guarantee that he ever would, not trying at least one more time was too tough to deal with. Therefore, Stuck would overcome his past and would try just one more time.
One week after his 3rd place result at the Sachsenringrennen Stuck was back on his way out of East Germany and on to Italy. Ahead of him lay the Italian Grand Prix and perhaps his final World Championship race.
Stuck was just a few months away from turning 53. He had experienced a lot of great moments but it was very apparent those best years were well behind him. While he still had the talent, he didn't have the car to make best use of what talent he still had left. So, in many ways, the Italian Grand Prix on the 13th of September in 1953 would as much a farewell for Stuck as it would be one last chance at finishing a World Championship. However, what was most likely to be his farewell grand prix would take place at a circuit dear to his heart.
While driving for Auto Union in 1935, Stuck came to Monza and the Italian Grand Prix having already scored a 2nd place result at the German Grand Prix earlier in the year. He would cap the year off by taking the victory in the Italian Grand Prix, his first and only victory with Auto Union.
That was 1935. In 1953, things would be quite different. While Mercedes-Benz was preparing its grand prix comeback there wasn't a German car to be found anywhere near the front of the grid. During the years of dominance by the Silver Arrows, German race tracks would be overwhelmed with fanatical German racing fans cheering on their champions. In 1953, it was the Italian marks of Ferrari and Maserati and the two were in their home race before their own fans. Ever since the first couple of dominant years of Alfa Romeo, Italy had been the country of World Championship winning cars, and therefore the site of equally fanatical fans. This would likely be where the German would make his exit.
At the time of his victory in 1935, the Monza circuit had gone through some layout changes. Before then the circuit incorporated the 3.91 mile road circuit with the 2.64 mile banked oval. However, in 1933, the Italian Grand Prix would suffer the deaths of three drivers. This would be too much, especially after the disaster of 1928 when 27 spectators lost their life along with Emilio Materassi when his car crashed into the crowd.
Therefore, a new circuit was formed. The Florio circuit would only be used for a couple of years but would use only a portion of the oval in addition to the road course. All throughout the circuit, high speed sections were broken up by chicanes and other slow corners. It was found; however, the road circuit was more than fast enough. As a result, the 3.91 Vedano circuit would be used from 1938 onwards.
Qualifying would be a reflection of the season and of post-war Italian dominance. Alberto Ascari had been enjoying two years of absolute control and would continue this influence with yet another pole. He would edge out Fangio and his Maserati by half a second. The 3rd position on the front row would go to Giuseppe Farina in another Ferrari. Eight of the top nine starting positions would be occupied by either Ferraris or Maseratis.
In stark contrast, Stuck's AFM would occupy the wrong end of the grid. His best time around the 3.91 circuit would be two minutes and twenty-four seconds. This time was more than twenty seconds slower than Ascari and would place Stuck firmly in the middle of the last row, the 29th starting position overall.
As the field roared away on what was a sunny and dry day it was the Ferrari of Ascari that was setting the pace followed by Farina and Onofre Marimon. Fangio had made a poor start and was having to work hard to make his way back up to the front.
Being at the back of the grid, Stuck had to have controlled aggression. He needed to take advantage of any opportunity given to him but he could not afford to be caught out in compromising situations being bunched up with the rest of the pack.
While Stuck was busy slugging his way through the back of the field, up front, Fangio had come to join Ascari, Farina and Marimon. These four cars would hook up and would begin to move like a Juggernaut around the circuit and through the field. Their pace was incredible, and soon, would come to put a number of competitors down a lap. The rapid pace would also put pressure on the rest of the field. In order to even remain within a couple of laps of this fast moving train would require many drivers to push their cars harder than what they may have wanted to.
Almost immediately this forced march would begin to take its toll. Lance Macklin would retire after just six laps due to an expired engine. Three more, including Elie Bayol and John Fitch, would be out before reaching the twenty lap mark also with expired engines. In fact, by the time the 80 lap race was over a total of six entries would have their Italian Grand Prix come to an end due to engine failure.
One of those that would not succumb to engine problems would be Stuck. While not anywhere near the fastest car in the field, he continued to lap the circuit and would allow attrition to help him move forward in the running order. He would certainly receive a good amount of help before the day was over.
Up front, the four car train continued to hurtle around the track destroying all other competitors that happened to come across its path. These four cars would battle wheel-to-wheel and would remain virtually locked together all throughout the course. It was truly an impressive display of professionalism and respect.
Halfway through the race, the four cars would lose one. Marimon would have radiator problems and was forced to come to the pits to have the problem fixed. Otherwise, had he continued, his race would have come to a premature end. Surprisingly, after having the problem rectified and rejoining the race, he would still have his race come to a premature end.
With just a few laps remaining, Stuck continued to circulate around the circuit but had the opportunity of waving to the top three about a dozen times. Unfortunately, he was to have one more opportunity to send his greetings before the end of the race. However, he would end up having the opportunity to finish.
Heading into the final lap of the race, Farina was holding onto the lead, but only just. Ascari was right there battling with his teammate literally wheel-to-wheel. Just a couple of car lengths back Fangio sat there lurking. This was the last lap of the last World Championship race of the season and it happened to be the Italian Grand Prix. This was just too strong a temptation for the Italian racers in the supreme Italian mark.
Going into the final couple of corners, Ascari was growing impatient and frustrated as Farina would hold the inside position and kept Ascari at bay. Ascari knew he had no chance of victory if he didn't take a chance. Therefore, heading into the final corner, on the last lap of the race, Ascari would try an extremely bold and rather foolhardy move.
Already riding on the edge of adhesion as it was, Ascari would try and go around Farina on the outside of the final corner. Just when it seemed it would become one of the greatest passing maneuvers in history, the car would break loose. Ascari's quick reflexes would snap into action. Wildly he would try and hold onto the car. Unfortunately, while Ascari was fighting with his own car, Farina would have to battle to hold onto his own car. Ascari's car, when it broke loose, broke loose and started to cross over in front of Farina. Farina had to take evasive action just to avoid hitting his teammate.
Interestingly, Ascari's bold move would end up costing them both. Fangio was just far enough back that he could take corrective action. He would get by unscathed and would find himself in the lead with just hundreds of yards left to go.
Marimon, who had been running with the group after having his radiator issues cleared up, would have nowhere to go and no time to get there. He would end up colliding with Ascari thereby ending both of their races with the finish line in sight.
Farina would manage to hold onto his car and kept going, but instead of being in the lead of the race, he now found himself chasing Fangio to the line about a second and a half behind. Fangio would end up taking the victory, the first by any car other than a Ferrari in more than two years. His celebrations would end up being delayed, however. The last corner melee would author so much confusion that no clear signal would be given to Fangio that he actually had taken the checkered flag. Not wanting to give up the victory, Fangio kept his foot on the gas and would do another lap before the race officials and the crowd brought the Argentinean to a stop one lap later. Farina would cross the line with a bitterly disappointing 2nd place result. Luigi Villoresi would end up finishing 3rd.
In what was likely his last ever attempt at a World Championship race, Stuck would reach one of his goals. Though thirteen laps behind, Stuck would cross the finish line to complete his first World Championship race. And while never in the running, and well back in the field, Stuck would have the pride of saying he beat World Champion Alberto Ascari in his last race.
Finally, Stuck had finished a World Championship race! What an incredible difference to the situation he found himself prior to World War II. In December of 1953 Stuck would turn 53 years of age. He had experienced so much in grand prix motor racing. The writing was on the wall; however, and Stuck knew it. Therefore, the 1953 Italian Grand Prix would be the German/Austrians last grand prix of his career.
Stuck wasn't through racing, however. He would turn to what he was most noted for—hillclimbing. At the age of 60, Stuck would go on to earn his last German Hillclimb Championship. He would also become an instructor at the Nurburgring and would teach his son, Hans-Joachim, all about the circuit. This wisdom would translate into an impressive grand prix, sports car and touring car career.
After a long and illustrious racing career, Bergkonig would finally pass away in February of 1978 in Grainau, a municipality in Bavaria right in the midst of the Alps.