TeamsWilli Heeks: 1952 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
The fighting spirit dies hard. Even in the midst of a ravaged, worn-torn and divided Germany, the post-war years would see a number of individuals and small manufacturers make some impressive car designs. The war was over. Talent and creativity could be put to more leisurely pursuits. In addition to entrepreneurial car manufacturers, there would be a new wave of talented drivers to emerge during this time. One of those young racers was a man born in Moorlage, Germany. His name was Willi Heeks.
Heeks would appear on the German racing scene in 1949. Starting out, like many other German racers, in sportscars, Heeks would be competitive right away. Throughout his first few races of the season, Heeks would score top five results and would even win a race at Grenzlandring.
Many of the German drivers were similar to factory drivers of the present. A gaggle would drive Veritas RSs, another gaggle perhaps Veritas Meteors. Heeks was just one of a contingent of young German drivers that preferred BMW-powered AFM chassis.
One of the greatest helps the German racing scene had after the war was the pre-war dominant engine, the BMW 328. Many privateers and small teams would take the old engine and would design and built brand-new chassis around the venerable engine. An evolution of the BMW 328 engine would become the powerplant for Heeks' AFM. Heeks would then use this chassis and engine combination in what were Formula 2 races around Germany in 1950 and 1951.
While the fighting spirit doesn't easily die, it can be bled to a slow painful death by a very simple means—keeping it hemmed in. Germany was literally a political and economic prison after the conclusion of the Second World War. Due to the surrender of Germany, travel had been fiercely restricted in the first few years after the cessation of hostilities. The western part of Berlin itself would face a very troubling blockade by Soviet forces which required aircraft to fly supplies into the city.
Even when the restrictions were lifted a fair degree, Germany was in such an economic shambles that almost made it impossible to travel out the country anyway. Germany's money was worth practically nothing and many of the factory efforts, like Mercedes-Benz and BMW were still really trying to establish a foothold, let alone foot the bill for some drivers. This left many talented drivers and car manufacturers all on their own. With the exception of some of the more major grand prix held on German soil, very few teams and drivers were seen outside of the German border.
A small number of privateer entrants would be seen in races outside, but not too far from, Germany. Heeks was one of those, especially in 1952, that could be spotted here and there at races in Belgium and other close locations.
1952 would provide the opportunity for travel. While it was still incredibly expensive for the German drivers to compete outside their own country, the race organizers would at least save many of them from having to build all-new cars in order to take part in the races. At the end of the 1951 season, the race organizers and the governing-body needed to find a suitable replacement for its World Championship with the departure of Alfa Romeo and the rising costs of Formula One. It was decided Formula 2 regulations would fit the bill for the 1952 and 1953 seasons. This would provide the necessary time to create new regulations for Formula One. It would also provide the secluded Germans the opportunity to take part in the World Championship as many of their cars fell into the Formula 2 category.
Unfortunately, there would only be one round of the World Championship that would come to Germany, and that wouldn't be until August. However, there were a number of other non-championship grand prix and sportscar races held all throughout east and west Germany. Similar to France, Germany; both east and west, would have their own championships that included the visit made by the World Championship.
The economic climate of Germany, even in 1952, would cause the grand prix season to start late and end earlier than what it would in many other nations. In Heeks' case, the season wouldn't start until May in Dessau.
On the 11th of May, Heeks was in Dessau, Germany for the 1st Dessau Autobahnspinne. Dessau had always been an important city for Germany's industry. Now, it looked to become a prominent racing venue.
Dessau was the home of Junkers Aircraft Company. It would make bombers and would even develop a jet engine that would power the lethal Messerschmitt 262. Because it was the home of Junkers, Dessau would undergo great destruction via aerial bombing during the war. Then, after the war's end, the city would become swallowed up in the German Democratic Republic, which was a socialist state established in 1949.
Since the new state had just been established in 1949, travel amongst Germans was still relatively unrestricted. Therefore, a number of West Germans would make their way to Dessau in the middle part of May.
The Dessau circuit would not be a purpose-built track. Instead, the circuit would consist of public roads to the south of the city. About half of the 3.1 mile circuit would utilize the autobahn running between Leipzig and Berlin. An interesting feature of the circuit was the bridge overpass that provided a view of the cars as they headed out and came back down the highway once they had navigated the hairpin turn at the far end.
The race wasn't just a competition between drivers and teams, but also of nations. It was widely believed that the popular East German, Paul Greifzu, was forced to come to the race because of the presence of Fritz Riess, Edgar Barth, Willi Heeks and other West German drivers that had come to the race. Unfortunately, it would prove to be a fatal decision as Greifzu would lose his life in an accident during practice.
Heeks arrived at the race with his BMW-powered AFM chassis and had to compete against such noted drivers as Fritz Riess and Theo Helfrich. Riess would come to the race driving a Veritas Meteor, while Helfrich would drive a Veritas RS. Edgar Barth would also be present driving a home-built IFA-Kollektiv.
The race was 16 laps for a total distance of fifty miles. Heeks' race wouldn't end up lasting anywhere near that long. Soon after Josef Peters had parked his Veritas RS, as the first retirement of the race, Heeks would also join him as his AFM would fail him as well. Edgar Barth would end up falling out of the race after 10 laps.
With the departures of the Heeks and Barth, and because of the death of Greifzu, Riess only had Helfrich in which to battle over the remaining few laps. It would end up not being much of a battle as Riess would cruise to victory. He would end up beating out Theo Helfrich and Rudolf Krause for the victory.
Only two weeks after the failure at Dessau, Heeks would take part in a very important race. On the 25th of May, Heeks prepared to take part in the 16th Internationales ADAC Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring.
The international aspect of the race was correct as the German racers would be joined by other drivers from two other countries besides just Germany. England was well represented with Ken Wharton, Duncan Hamilton and Stirling Moss. Besides the English contingent, the Swiss restaurant owner, Rudolf Fischer, would also come with his new Ferrari 500. A third nation, Belgium, would have been represented, but Johnny Claes wasn't able to attend the race. Claes, instead, was at the third round of the French F2 Championship in Montlhery.
While Claes skipped the Nurburgring to take part in the French F2 Championship, Heeks, and the rest of the field at the Eifelrennen, were readying to take part in what was the first round of the West German Championship.
The first-two rounds of the West German Championship couldn't have taken place at any tougher circuit. The 14 mile long Nordschleife was the site of the race. A challenging array of twisting, ever-changing track constantly rising and falling all through the Eifel mountains, the Nordschleife was not for the faint of heart, nor for those who couldn't keep their concentration. Considered one of the most dangerous and challenging circuits in all the world, the West German Championship would have the unfortunate pleasure of racing on the circuit twice. Despite being a source of home-field advantage for the German drivers, it was as much a source of peril for them as it was the international drivers.
Unlike the race at Dessau, the Eifelrennen would not be a short race. Though seemingly short in number, the 7 lap race would cover a total of 99 miles. The nature of the circuit would make the going tough for just about any competitor. A couple of the drivers, including Paul Pietsch, would drop out after just 1 lap. A number of other drivers wouldn't make it past 5 laps.
One of the entries seemingly unaffected by the circuit and the attrition was Rudolf Fischer. Fischer, who had started his own team called Ecurie Espadon, was seemingly at home on the twisting Nordschleife. He would take his Ferrari 500 and would turn the fastest lap of the race. His time around the circuit would be ten minutes and fifty-one seconds at an average speed of 78 mph. He was out in front of Stirling Moss and another Brit Ken Wharton.
While Fischer was out front pulling ahead of the rest of the field, Heeks was tangled up in the rest of the field just trying to keep things in order. Helmut Niedermayr's retirement meant there were eight out of the race. If Heeks could keep things together, he had the opportunity of scoring a good result. But keeping the car together would end up being the exact problem.
Five laps into the race, Heeks' felt something unusual with his car. When he looked, he recognized he had lost a wheel. This would put Heeks out of yet another race and was not a good way to start the West German Championship.
The only German to finish the race would be Toni Ulmen in his Veritas Meteor. Like many others, Ulmen could do nothing with Fischer, whose Ferrari 500 was running incredibly well.
Fischer would come through to take the victory. He would defeat a very good Stirling Moss by forty-one seconds. Ken Wharton would manage to hold onto the 3rd place over Duncan Hamilton. Wharton would finish just twenty-three seconds in front of Hamilton.
For Fischer the race hadn't gone any better. He had started the race from the pole, despite the presence of Moss and the more-experienced German racers like Heeks and Riess. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race. And, he would win.
In contrast, Heeks down in the starting order. He wouldn't be able to come close to matching Fischer's pace. And, the race would come to an end after 5 laps when his wheel left the car. Obviously Heeks needed to make some improvements in order to be competitive. At least Heeks had one thing going for him. Compared to the other German drivers, his Eifelrennen had lasted longer than most. Until the car failure, he had looked steady and was staying out of trouble. So there was some reason to be pleased. Still, Heeks was in search of a good result. On the 1st of June, Heeks would leave Germany in search of that good result.
While many of the best teams and drivers were in Albi, France for a Formula One race (one of a few that were run during the 1952 season), Heeks would leave Germany and head just a short distance over to Chimay, Belgium for the 22nd Grand Prix des Frontieres.
Chimay, the forgotten about circuit next to Spa-Francorchamps, was a short distance from the German border and a good place for German drivers, like Heeks, to test themselves and their cars. Historically, the Grand Prix des Frontieres had been a prestigious race.
The circuit itself was a medium-to-high speed course made up of public roads. Though Chimay didn't feature the undulating terrain like that of Spa-Francorchamps, the circuit averaged about 10 mph slower. Chimay did share a number of things in common with Spa. The first corner on the circuit was a tight hairpin turn called La Bouchere. Also, the 6.69 mile circuit featured some very fast corners that required incredible bravery and fearlessness.
In practice for the race, Heeks would demonstrate his fearlessness. He would take his AFM out on the circuit and would end up turning the second-fastest lap. Heeks would; therefore, start the race from the middle of the front row.
Starting next to him would be the Belgian Johnny Claes. The musician and racer would stir the Belgian fans into a frenzy as he would turn the fastest lap in practice and would start from the pole.
To Heeks' other side would be another Belgian Roger Laurent. Laurent had committed to drive the race for HWM, but at the last minute, Ecurie Francorchamps' Ferrari 500 would arrive. Jacques Swaters had driven the Ferrari from Italy, all through the night without headlights in order to make the race in time. Being tired and worn out, Swaters would give Laurent the drive while Swaters would enter a Veritas RS. Though unfamiliar with the car, Laurent would rely on the power and performance of the Ferrari to earn 3rd place on the starting grid.
In spite of two Belgians to either side of him, Heeks had put in a good performance in practice and seemed destined for a good result in the race.
Right at the start of the race, everything would come apart. Chaos would ensue for a little while as a result. Both of the Belgian heroes, Claes and Laurent, would crash on the very first lap of the race. The stunned crowd looked on as Heeks carried on in the lead of the race. But that too would be short-lived as his AFM was not healthy. After completing just one of the 22 laps, the race would come to an end for Heeks as his oil pump would fail. Before two laps had been completed, the entire front row was out of the race.
Amidst the chaos, Ken Downing appeared at the front in the lead and was pulling away. While Downing was leaving the rest of the field behind, more drivers were being left out of the race altogether. Swater, another Belgian driver, would retire due to problems with his Veritas. Then, Bill Aston and John Heath would retire only about halfway into the race.
While the first couple of laps, and the first half, had seemed absolutely maniacal, the second half of the race would see the rain come. The wet conditions would shake things up even more.
Lapping comfortably out in front of the field, Downing would drive steady in the wet conditions. His lead was up over forty seconds. However, he couldn't relax too much. Belgium had another hero coming on fast. Paul Frere was considered a journalist first and a racer a distant second. But he was catching Downing fast. The only question was, 'Did Frere had enough time left?'
Carefully coming through Vidal and around the last right-hander, Downing was on his way to victory. But all of a sudden he would be passed. It would catch Downing totally off guard. Flashing by Downing came Paul Frere. Frere would set the rain-soaked Belgian crowd astir as he would beat Downing to the line by a mere second!
Frere and Downing were in a class unto themselves. In the rain, no other driver could compete with the pace of the two. Frere and Downing would end up two laps ahead of Robin Montgomerie-Charrington, who would finish the race in 3rd place. So beaten were the rest of the entries that Montgomeri-Charrington would run out of fuel on the very last lap of the race and would still finish in 3rd place.
Frontieres had offered so much promise for Heeks, yet, another failure would lead to the promise being unfulfilled.
The Grand Prix des Frontieres had been a truly bitter disappointment for Heeks after it had looked as if it was going to be a great result. Heeks would have to sit with the bitter disappointment for about two weeks before being able to try and do something about removing the bad taste from his mouth. To do something about the frustration at Chimay, Heeks would pass through West Germany and go on into Soviet controlled East Germany.
Once Heeks had entered East Germany, he would travel to Halle for what was the third round of the East German Championship. Although the country had become divided, Heeks, and many other Germans, were still not bound in travel restrictions just yet. This enabled Heeks to come and take part in the 4th Strassen-Rennen Halle-Saale-Schleiferennen on the 8th of June.
Heeks wasn't the only West German to come and take part in the race. Theo Helfrich, Josef Peters and a couple of others would also make up the driver lineup for the 20 lap race around the 3.25 mile circuit.
The Halle-Saale-Schleife circuit, like so many of the time, was comprised of public roads. The circuit itself was located to the northwest of the city center and ran along Saale river. The route was made up of a main road that was used for the start/finish straight and a number of other more-residential roads that ran along the river.
By this point in time, the East Germans had lost one of their favorite racers Paul Greifzu. However, they still had a very capable driver in Edgar Barth. He would prove to be more than enough competition for the rest of the field.
As for the rest of the field, attrition would be the main challenger. Although the race was 20 laps, those that would retire from the race would not make it past the first-five. In an almost even split, four East Germans would end up out of the race compared to three West Germans.
Heeks was looking quite good taking up the chase of Barth, who had the lead in his IFA Rennkollektiv. Throughout the majority of the race, Heeks would find himself in an East German sandwiched. In spite of the pressure, Heeks continued to lap the circuit, and quite well.
Nobody would end up lapping as well as Barth; however. In a little under fifty-five minutes, Barth would cruise across the line as champion. This sent up a chorus of cheers from the East Germans. Willi Heeks would rid himself of the bitter taste in his mouth as he would hold off two other East Germans to claim the 2nd place result. Rudolf Krause would end up finishing 3rd.
This was the result for which Heeks had been looking. The only unfortunate aspect to it was the fact the race was against fellow Germans that had neither the funds nor the means to truly mount a fight against the competitors in the World Championship. And although over a month and a half away, the next race on Heeks' calendar would include the best from the rest of Europe and the world. Opportunity would present itself. The World Championship was coming to Germany yet again. But this time it was being run according to rules that enabled Heeks to take part. But he would take part in a race against the best, at a venue that was perhaps more challenging than the competition.
The opportunity would present itself for Heeks to compete on what was the biggest stage. Fittingly, it would take place at one of road racing's biggest stages. The nice thing for Heeks was, he didn't have to leave his native Germany to be part of it.
On the 3rd of August, thirty-two drivers prepared to take part in the sixth round of the World Championship. The sixth round of the World Championship would also be the second round of the West German Championship, and the race would take place at the infamous Nordschleife.
This would be the second time the West German Championship had competed at the Nurburgring. But this time, the race would be much longer. Back in May, the first round of the West German Championship, the Eifelrennen, consisted of 7 laps around the 14 mile circuit. When the World Championship arrived at the venue in early August, the race distance would increase to 18 laps. Instead of a mere 100 miles, the race distance would cover 254 miles.
When the World Championship had arrived with its Formula One cars the season prior, Alberto Ascari would battle it out over 20 laps with Juan Manuel Fangio. In the end, Ascari would win the race, but the championship would slip through his fingers. In 1952, the title was firmly within his grasp, but he would need to defeat the rest of the field, and the circuit, in order to claim the title early.
In the case of Heeks, and the other German drivers, it was quickly becoming obvious they were behind the talent and technology coming from the western part of Europe. Their 'bright spot' would be find in the battle amongst themselves; who would have bragging rights over his fellow countrymen. Somebody would forget to tell Heeks that though.
In practice, it was obvious Ascari wanted the World Championship title and he wanted straightaway. Over the 14 miles of the Nordschleife, nobody would prove to be faster. He would record a lap time of ten minutes and four seconds and would grab the pole. His time would end up being three seconds faster than Giuseppe Farina, the World Champion of 1950. Over the course of 14 miles, three seconds was a small margin between 1st and 2nd. The gap between Ascari and the 3rd and 4th place starters would be slightly more significant.
Maurice Trintignant would push his Gordini T16 hard in practice and would earn the 3rd place starting position, but he would be fifteen seconds slower than Ascari's best. Trintignant's Equipe Gordini teammate would also end up being faster Scuderia Ferrari's third driver and would start 4th on the grid. Twenty-one seconds separated his best from Ascari's.
There would be two German drivers that would surprise and bring joy to the German crowd. Hans Klenk would take his Veritas Meteor and would manage to turn a lap fast enough to start the race from the inside of the third row. Ninth place on the grid would also be another surprising German. Driving his AFM, Heeks would push hard in practice and would manage to earn a place starting right beside his fellow countryman.
Chaos ensued at the start of the race. A number of drivers would be out of the race before even a couple of miles had been completed, let alone a single lap. Among those out during the 1st lap of the race would be Maurice Trintignant. Despite starting 3rd, he would end up crashing during the 1st lap and would be out of the race.
A number of experienced German drivers would also drop out of the race before having completed a single lap. Most of the German drivers that did retire during the 1st lap did so not because of driving errors, but because their cars and equipment were some years old and not quite up to the strain the circuit, and the competition, was causing.
The race was 18 laps in entirety. However, fifteen of the thirty starters would be out of the race before 5 laps had been completed. Six of the competitors still running in the race were German. Willi Heeks was one of those.
From the very start Ascari was virtually in a class unto himself. He would be pursued by Giuseppe Farina and Piero Taruffi, but Farina and Taruffi would mostly battle amongst themselves. Each lap, Ascari would add just a little to his advantage. One hour into the race, Alberto had managed to open up a sizeable margin over Farina who, by this time, had broken away from a fading Taruffi.
Also, a little over an hour into the race, another competitor would fall out of contention. Back in May, Heeks was looking good until he lost a wheel about 5 laps into the race. In August, Heeks had managed to make it past 5 laps around the Nordschleife, but his AFM just wouldn't make the whole distance. On the 6th lap of the race, Heeks would retire.
Heeks' retirement had absolutely no bearing on Ascari who was well out in front of the field and was even lapping some of the back-markers. This was incredible given the fact just one lap was over ten minutes in length. Such was Ascari's pace. He would even manage to put his Scuderia Ferrari teammate, Piero Taruffi, one lap down.
However, not all was well with Ascari's car. The championship was well within his grasp, but Alberto recognized his car was laboring. There was still at least a lap to go. He wasn't sure if the car could make the distance, and merely slowing wouldn't make enough of a difference. Therefore, with only one lap remaining, Ascari would pit from the lead.
The stop was a lengthy one, which enabled Farina to come through into the lead of the race. In 3rd place was the gentleman racer Rudolf Fischer, but he was well back. So, after a race of almost sheer boredom, there would end up being a one lap shoot-out. Ascari would rejoin the race a good ways behind Farina. He had less than fourteen miles in which to catch, and hopefully, pass Farina to ensure the World Championship would be his.
Surprisingly, Farina would not increase his pace. He must have thought Alberto was out of the race. In fact, Alberto was far from out of the race. Despite an ailing car, Alberto would push hard and was catching Farina hand-over-fist. But Farina was a few miles up the road.
The excitement wouldn't last even a lap as rather quickly Ascari managed to catch up to Farina. He had caught him. Now he needed to get by. This proposition wouldn't be all that easy given Farina's tough reputation with back-markers. However, there was little Farina could do against the pace of Ascari. Alberto would end up being able to get by Farina to retake the lead. Farina was beaten, not just out on the course, but also in the head. This was plainly obvious as Ascari began to stretch out a lead before reaching the finish line.
In a little over three hours and six minutes, and at an average speed of 82 mph, Alberto would come across the line to take his fourth-straight victory. Surely beaten, Farina would cross the line fourteen seconds behind. The restaurant owner and gentleman racer, Rudolf Fischer, would follow up his impressive victory in the Eifelrennen with a 3rd place result, albeit some seven plus minutes behind.
The German Grand Prix was the second round of the West German Championship and the second time Willi Heeks had competed on the Nordschleife. And each time the Nordschleife would prove the victor. Not only was his first World Championship race a failure, Heek's chances in the West German Championship were running the risk of failure as well. In practice at both Chimay and the German Grand Prix, Heeks had proven quite fast, and looked good for a positive result. After looking so good at the start, and having it come to naught in the race, Heeks would rather have started poorly and finished.
Although the German Grand Prix, as with most other German drivers, would be the only round of the World Championship in which Heeks would participate, there were still a few non-championship grand prix races in which Heeks would take part in. One of these remaining non-championship races would take place on the 31st of August.
At the end of August, Heeks would take his AFM and would travel to Wegberg, Germany. He was headed to Wegberg for the 5th DMV Grenzlandringrennen. The race was the third round of the West German Championship and it would prove to be a deadly one.
The Grenzlandringrennen took place on the Grenzlandring road that surrounded the small villages of Wegberg, Dorp and Beeck. The Grenzlandring itself was an egg-shaped road that formed a perimeter around these small villages. Relatively flat and not all that technically challenging, the Grenzlandring did offer another challenge—one of bravery. Comprised of basically just two turns of differing radius, the circuit was more like an oval than a pure road course. But this 'road course' would enable cars to touch average speeds in excess of 132 mph. The speeds, and the bravery needed to hit these speeds, made the circuit incredibly dangerous.
As the race got underway, none of the drivers would be as brave around the circuit as Toni Ulmen. While many others were proving to be quick around the circuit, none could match the pace of Ulmen. This led to a number of accidents and retirements from the race.
Fourteen drivers would end up retiring from the race. Heeks would; unfortunately, be one of those. The pace and speed of the 12 lap race would again prove too much for Heeks' AFM. It would prove too much, and too dangerous, for some of the others, perhaps no more so than Helmut Niedermayr.
Heading around the long, arcing Roermond bend, Niedermayr's Veritas Meteor would leave the circuit and would drive right through a group of spectators gathered along the side the circuit. Some fourteen people would end up being killed as the car would plow through the crowd. In all, twenty-six would suffer either superficial wounds or would pay the ultimate price.
In spite of the dark event that had taken place, Toni Ulmen continued to streak around the circuit. He would turn the fastest lap of the race and would go on to take the victory. The next-closest driver on the road to Ulmen would be Hans Klenk. Klenk would finish eighteen seconds behind in 2nd place. Josef Peters would end up finishing 3rd, but he would finish a minute and forty-two seconds behind.
After three rounds of the West German Championship, Heeks hadn't even managed to finish one of those rounds. Only one remained. Heeks needed a good result to help his cause and his confidence. To give himself that chance, he would take part in a race that was part of another championship.
Back in early June, Heeks had taken part in the 4th Halle-Saale-Schleiferennen and had finished the race 2nd. Since he had had the good blessing to finish the race, and finish well, Heeks would try another round of the East German Championship. Halle-Saale-Schleife had been good to Heeks. He was hoping and praying the Sachsenring was as well.
In the early part of September, while the World Championship was in Monza, Italy for the eighth, and final, round, Heeks had made his way back into East Germany once again for the fourth, and final, round of the East German Championship. The race was the 4th Sachsenringrennen and it took place on the 7th of September.
The race would feature a combination of East and West Germans, but it would also feature a combination of Formula 2 and sportscars races. Therefore, while there were a number of drivers that came to the Sachsenring, not all of them would take part in the Formula 2 race.
The Sachsenring was created in Oberlungwitz, Germany and was comprised of public roads around the farming region to the west of Chemnitz. The circuit was anything but flat. The course rose to a maximum height around 1410 feet and fell all the way down to 960 feet. This meant that over the course of a single lap, the drivers would rise and fall a difference of 450 feet.
The lowest point of the circuit existed coming out of the last corner, the left-hand Queckenberg Corner. From the point of turning onto the start/finish straight and around to the straight running alongside Lutherhohe, the drivers and cars find themselves in a rather steep climb. After falling quickly into the depression at the MTS Kurve, the circuit then gradually falls before reaching the low point at Queckenberg. At 5.41 miles in length, the circuit played out like a medium-to-slow circuit due to the ever-changing nature of the circuit.
The race was only 12 laps, but the circuit would end up punishing the competitors. Because of the lacking funds and materials, a season of racing had taken its toll. Therefore, a number of the competitors wouldn't make it past the first couple of laps. In fact, the majority of the field wouldn't make it past halfway. Heeks; however, was looking good. Just like at Halle, he was sitting in 2nd place trying to track down Edgar Barth.
As with the Halle-Saale race, Barth just could not be touched. He would record the fastest lap of the race with a time of three minutes and forty-nine seconds at an average speed of a little under 85 mph. This would prove more than enough to hold on to take the victory.
It had taken Barth just forty-eight minutes and eight seconds to finish the 12 laps. Heeks would fight hard and would only take ten seconds longer to complete the same distance in 2nd place. Ernst Klodwig would make it two East Germans on the podium as he would finish a bit further back in 3rd place.
Against the East Germans, Heeks looked impressive. While he hadn't earned any victories, his results had been much more impressive than in the West German and World Championship. While he couldn't be stopped in the communist controlled portion of Germany, he couldn't finish in the democratic portion. It wasn't like he hadn't had his opportunities. He had performed well in practice. It was the race, particularly the finish that was giving him all the fits.
The World Championship had ended and the major teams were slowing down their activity in the non-championship races. This encouraged Heeks to take one more stab at a race outside of his native Germany. Toward the middle-part of September, Heeks would pass through the Low region of Europe on his way to France. His destination was Cadours and the 4th Grand Prix de Cadours.
The Cadours Circuit was similar to that of the Sachsenring in that it too was located in farmland and open country. Unlike the Sachsenring, Cadours didn't feature the elevation changes, but it was still a quite technical circuit. It had a flow and timing to it that was not easy to find or develop. It was easy to mess-up the seemingly straight-forward esses and ruin what may have been a good lap time. This was only further compounded by the tight nature of the circuit.
The Grand Prix de Cadours race consisted of a couple of heats followed by a second-chance 'repechage', and then a final. The heat races were 15 laps each. The repechage was 10 laps. And the final was 30 laps of the 3.43 mile circuit.
Eighteen drivers were entered in the race. Each of the heats would then have nine drivers competing. Heeks would end up being put in the first heat race. He would not have an easy race on his hands as he would have Louis Rosier and Peter Collins in his heat. Louis Rosier and Charles de Tornaco were driving Ferrari 500s, which had managed to win every single round of the World Championship during the year, with the exception being Indianapolis. Peter Collins was driving an HWM-Alta that seemed quite well suited to the Cadours Circuit.
Sure enough, Louis Rosier would prove fastest in practice as he would set a time of one minutes and fifty-eight seconds around the track. Collins would end up being five seconds slower, and yet, fast enough to start the race 2nd and on the front row with Rosier. Charles de Tornaco would end up being third-fastest and would start by himself on the second row.
Willi Heeks would only be able to turn a lap time of two minutes and ten seconds. Andre Loens would end up clipping Heeks by just one second to take the 4th starting position on the grid. As a result of Loens, Heeks would start the first heat in the very middle of the starting grid in 5th.
The first heat race would look more like a parade than a race as the first-three would hold position throughout much of the going. Although Loens managed to beat out Heeks for the 4th starting spot, Heeks would end up getting the position when Loens would drop out of the race.
In spite of Collins' best lap time of two minutes and three seconds, Rosier would hold on to take the win in the first heat. Collins would finish 2nd and de Tornaco 3rd. Heeks would take over 4th place after Loens failure and would hold on throughout the rest of the heat.
The second heat race would feature the American-Parisian Harry Schell on the pole in a Gordini T16. His best time of two minutes and one second would be three seconds slower than Rosier's best time during practice for the first heat. Starting 2nd on the grid would be Yves Giraud-Cabantous in an HWM-Alta. Despite Schell's slower qualifying time, Giraud-Cabantous would still end up four seconds slower in practice. Emmanuel de Graffenried, in an old Maserati 4CLT/48, would end up starting 3rd.
The second heat would only look like the first heat as to who was leading the race. Schell was out in front in the Gordini. However, Giraud-Cabantous would falter and fade from the scene. This enabled de Graffenried to take over 2nd place. Giraud-Cabantous would continue to slip down the order.
Schell would dominate the field over the course of the race. He would cruise to victory by thirty-two seconds over de Graffenried. Giraud-Cabantous' fade from pace would end up allowing Enrico Plate teammate, Alberto Crespo to make it two Maserati 4CLT/48s on the podium after the second heat.
After the 10 lap repechage that would see Tony Gaze, Marcel Balsa and Armand Philippe get back into the final, the starting grid positions for the final were set. The starting grid positions would be determined by the finishing times of the competitors over the course of their heat race. Therefore, Louis Rosier and Peter Collins would start on the front row for the 30 lap final as their finishing times were faster than that of Harry Schell. Schell would start all by himself on the second row of the grid. It took Heeks thirty-three minutes and fifteen seconds to finish his 15 lap heat race. As a result, he would start the final from the 7th position on the grid, which was the inside of the fifth row.
Heeks and many others preparing for the 30 lap final would receive some help even before the green flag waved to start the race. The 2nd place starter, Peter Collins, would not take part in the final after it was found he had a failure in his Alta's cylinder head. This meant Heeks actually started the race 6th instead of 7th. It would do little to help.
As Rosier took over at the head of the field with Schell chasing from 2nd place, de Tornaco would be the first one out of the race when he suffered from a valve problem. Willi Heeks would end up being the second one out of the race.
Heeks' AFM just could not last a race distance outside of East Germany. Mechanical troubles would end up dropping him from the race rather early on. Heeks just could not earn a result anywhere outside of a socialist country. Only one race remained for Heeks in 1952.
While Heeks seemed incredibly formidable in races in the socialist part of Germany, anywhere outside of Soviet control just promised failure after failure. Heeks had only one more shot to at least finish a race outside of East Germany. Thankfully for Heeks, it would be about as close as one could get to East Germany without it actually being East Germany. The race was the fourth round of the West German Championship and it took place in the British sector of a divided Berlin. The event was the 8th Internationales Avusrennen and it took place on the 5.13 mile AVUS Circuit.
Some of the most feared circuits in all of Europe could be found in Germany. One of those infamous circuits was AVUS. Featuring the 'Wall of Death', the circuit seemed rather easy and straight-forward, but it also had a rather fierce-some reputation. The vast majority of the circuit took place on the AVUS highway. The layout was very simple. One portion headed straight down the not-so-straight highway, then turned and headed back along the highway in the other direction. At each end were teardrop shaped corners that formed the turnaround. Originally, the circuit was almost 12 miles long. However, in 1952, the circuit's length was a good deal shorter, but still just as dangerous. The circuit was dangerous, not because of a twisting nature. No, the circuit was dangerous because of some of the ideas implemented to make the simple circuit competitive when compared to the Nurburgring. The danger element came in the form of the banked North Curve. The extreme banking (43 degrees) wasn't so difficult as the fact the top of the banking featured no retaining wall to ensure cars didn't go flying over the top of it.
The Swiss restaurateur, Rudolf Fischer, had proven to be quite adept on the German tracks. He had managed to win the Eifelrennen. He had returned to the Nordschleife with the World Championship and would finish the race 3rd. While Fischer skipped the race at Grenslandring, he would come to Berlin for the Avusrennen. And he would make his presence clearly felt. A couple of other 'foreign' drivers would also come to take part in the race.
All throughout the weekend Fischer was fast. Then, as the race began, he would show just how fast he could be behind the wheel of the formidable Ferrari 500. The race would be 25 laps. But for a number of the competitors, it would be 24 or 23 laps too much.
Josef Peters would be the first one out of the race. He wouldn't make it to complete even one lap. Over the course of the next two laps, Peters would be joined by four others that wouldn't even manage to make it to the third lap. Among those four out early would be the Grenzlandringrennen race winner Toni Ulmen. Surprisingly, Heeks was not amongst the list out of the race.
While trying to go as fast as he could, Heeks also needed to concentrate on finishing. Because of this fact, he would see the leader come through a couple of times to lap him. But at least he was still running in the race.
Running away with the race was Rosier in his Ferrari. Facing the aged and tired German machinery, the new Ferrari just continued to stretch out a margin that would only be able to be overcome if something were to happen to Fischer. Nothing would.
Fischer would turn in the fastest lap of the race with a time of two minutes and thirty-six seconds. This kind of pace was so fast that Fischer would look like a World Champion as he would lap the entire field. Averaging over 115 mph, Fischer would power to the victory by a whole lap over Hans Klenk.
The real battle, the real race, was behind Fischer. Klenk and Riess were locked in a battle throughout the later stages of the race. The two would run nose-to-tail. As the two rounded the 'Wall of Death' for the last time, Klenk held onto a slight advantage. As they crossed the line, Klenk would end up finishing 2nd by only seven-tenths of a second.
Heeks had managed to find a race close enough to East Germany to ensure that he would make it to the finish. Although two laps down, Heeks would hold his BMW-powered AFM together until the rest of the race and would finish in the 6th position.
In the championship standings, Toni Ulmen would finish on top. He would win the championship by four points over Fritz Riess and Hans Klenk. The final race, and his 6th place result, would enable Heeks to finish in 6th position with three points.
Throughout the 1952 season, Heeks had competed with a BMW-powered AFM. The BMW engine proved to be too aged to be able to handle the stresses of racing in 1952. Heeks; however, had a problem. If he wanted to compete, he needed a new, and very competitive, car. The problem was the lacking funds that prohibited the purchase of better equipment. Heeks had to look around Germany and find a suitable replacement considering what he could afford. Therefore, going into the 1953 season, Heeks would switch to a Veritas Meteor. The Meteor had been quite competitive in races in both West and East Germany. The problem was, the Meteor was also an aged design, especially in 1953.
In the face of a divided Germany, Willi Heeks would prove to be more comfortable on tracks in the more controlled environment of East Germany than in the democratic portion of Germany and Europe. Unfortunately, while Heeks had the means to travel and go to certain races that many other German drivers were not, he wouldn't have the necessary equipment to take advantage of it. Such was the case for many of the talented German drivers of the very early 1950s.