Teams1952 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
There have always been those sports considered to be for rich men and nobility. Part of the allure of motor racing was the common man's ability to rub shoulders with nobility, should they be fast enough. One driver that didn't have to fear rubbing shoulders with nobility, in, or, out of a race car was Adolf Brudes von Breslau. However, he would come to experience life from both the nobleman's and the common man's perspectives.
Born in Kotulin, Poland in 1899, Brudes was of German nobility. Being a member of a noble family, Brudes would have the opportunity to choose pretty much any career that seemed to suit him. By the time he was twenty, he was already racing motorcycles. This led to an interest in automobiles, which were still in a rather young state at the time. Because of his interest, he would come to own a BMW and an Auto Union dealership in Breslau while still in his twenties.
By the late 1920s, Brudes was beginning to take part in some hillclimbs and other minor motor racing. Then, in the mid-to-late thirties, Adolf would move up to sportscars and even grand prix voiturettes.
During the late 1930s, Brudes would take part in such sportscar races as the Spa 24 Hours, the Grand Prix of the Nurburgring and even the Mille Miglia. Taking part in the Mille Miglia while his native Poland had been flattened in the German Blitzkrieg, Brudes would go on to finish the race in 3rd place.
Brudes was much more successful, and well known, amongst sportscar racing than grand prix racing. The only grand prix racing Brudes would enter would be voiturette races, and even those would be few in number.
World War II would come and would change Brudes' life almost immediately. The war effort would take everything. Nobility meant nothing. It would be worth even less afterward the cessation of hostilities.
The war had taken his dealerships and opportunities. At war's end, the German currency was practically worthless. On top of it all, his position of nobility was lost well and truly before the war even began. Like the nation itself, Brudes was rebuilding from practically nothing. His former nobility meant nothing. Instead of living in a sense of self-denial and pride, he would go and find work, any work he could. Eventually, he would find regular work, mostly as a mechanic, and would even find his way back into racing.
Because of the sad state of German affairs after the end of World War II, it wouldn't be until 1947 that Brudes would get back to major racing. While much of Germany lay in ruin, its racing drivers still had the famous BMW 328 engine at their disposal. Therefore, many small teams and privateer entries, like Adolf, would spring up with home-built chassis and aged BMW 328 engines. Germany's racing scene would be a patchwork of parts and components. It wouldn't be the best, but it would help Germany's racers get back to doing what they loved. In Brudes case, it allowed him to take part in his third decade of sports car and grand prix racing.
Initially, Germany's racing scene was like its country. It was in relative shambles, isolated and restricted. One of the results at the end of the war was the travel of German nationals was restricted. It wouldn't be until 1950 that travel restrictions would be eased a fair bit to enable travel between Germany and other nations. It didn't really matter all that much as the German currency was worth so little that not too many Germans had the money to travel to take part in races outside of the country. This was even the case for Brudes who, by this time had moved to Berlin, but had lost everything as a result of the war.
Throughout the early 1950s, Brudes would take part in races throughout West and East Germany. He would not venture outside of the country to take part in the new World Championship. But, in 1952, the World Championship would come to him.
Though he would mostly concentrate on sportscar racing, Brudes' career spanned back to the days of Auto Union, Mercedes-Benz and Caracciola's dominance of grand prix racing. Despite the fact much of German still lay in ruin, 1952 would end up providing Brudes an opportunity to race against the best in the new World Championship well over thirty years after he had first started racing automobiles.
Adolf had, like he did before the war, concentrated on sportscar racing during his first couple of years back racing. However, during the first couple of years of the 1950s decade, he would switch and concentrate a bit more on Formula 2 grand prix racing. A number of small manufacturers popped up in Germany after the end of the war and they would provide a number of privateers and small teams the opportunity to take part in some grand prix races.
The World Championship was based around Formula One cars like the Alfa Romeo 158 and the Talbot Lago T26C. The Formula 2 cars, especially the fragile Formula 2 cars of war-torn Germany, could not compete against such powerful machines. Alfa Romeo would help to change all of that.
Alfa Romeo had announced they were leaving Formula One and the World Championship at the end of the 1951 season. There was no competition in sight to take on the challenge of Ferrari. The competition was also being chased away by the costs associated with Formula One racing. This was threatening the existence of the young series, just like Germany's existence was threatened economically. A stop-gap needed to be decided upon so to provide time for new Formula One regulations to be determined. Formula 2 would serve as the answer for 1952 and 1953. It would also provide Brudes a new opportunity.
The World Championship wasn't the only grand prix racing series in which the trapped and financially strapped Germans could compete. By the early 1950s, Germany had been divided into West and East Germany. Each had their own Formula 2 championships. Thankfully, travel between the two German divisions wasn't all that restricted early on. This, then, allowed West Germans to take part in East German races, and vice-versa. While the points wouldn't count unless from that part of the nation, the glory of a good result would serve as money in the bank, as well as, a recruiting tool for many of the desperate German racers.
Germany's single-seater racing had a problem. Its cars and components were notoriously fragile. The nation had the means, Mercedes-Benz were making impressive, and successful, sportscars. However, sportscars had a more direct result in car sales and the rebuilding of major automobile manufacturers than the specialized grand prix market. Therefore, most Formula 2 competitors, like Brudes, would be left to themselves to make improvements and to thoroughly prepare their cars. On top of it all, the only real options the racers had were pre-war components that could not handle the stresses of post-war racing. Brudes would have to rely upon his extensive racing and mechanical knowledge to provide himself with the best opportunities for success. It wouldn't just come down to the World Championship. He would need to do well in the national championships as well if he wanted to keep racing.
The season would kick-off for Brude at Bernau in early May of that year. The race was a sportscar race and it wouldn't start the season off right for Adolf. Despite starting the race from 8th place on the grid, the FWB Nachwuchs Brudes was driving would not make it to the end of the race. This; unfortunately, was a sign of things to come.
Brudes' 1952 grand prix season would start with a championship round, but it was the West German Championship. Consisting of four rounds, the West German Championship started off with a double-dip of the notorious Nurburgring. The first round, or, first trip to Nurburg, Germany would be for the Eifelrennen. It was the 16th running of the Internationales ADAC Eifelrennen and it would feature a small contingent of foreign drivers.
Considered one of the most-dangerous and most-demanding purpose-built circuit in all the world, the Nordschleife, or 'North Course', served as the playground for many German racers. In light of their inferior equipment, their experience on such a circuit made up much of the difference.
In practice around the 14 mile long twisty Nordschleife, the foreign drivers, which included Stirling Moss, Rudolf Fischer and Duncan Hamilton, would fare the best. Stirling Moss would be the quickest in practice and would start from the pole.
Brudes would arrive at the race without a car of his own. An American, Alexander Orley, was entered in the race with his Orley Speciale, but he would not arrive with his car. Therefore, Brudes would be given the opportunity to drive the car. He would be off the pace and would start down in the order. In all, sixteen cars would prepare to start the 7 lap race on the 25th of May.
The fragile nature of the German cars would become more than apparent right at the start of the race. While the fastest qualifiers were lapping the Nordschleife at around eleven minutes, the rest of the entries knew they had more then eleven minutes per lap. Just one lap was a lot of time for problems to fester, and then, show themselves.
Sure enough, on the first lap of the race, two entries would fall out of the running. One, driven by Zdenko von Schonborn for Scuderia Bavaria, would retire as the result of clutch failure. Another, driven by the rather famous German driver Paul Pietsch, would also drop out when the engine let go in his Veritas.
At the front of the field, Stirling Moss and Rudolf Fischer were locked in a high-speed battle and seemed to have little concern about their cars failing them. The two would battle and battle. They would begin to slowly pull away from the rest of the field, which was quickly losing competitors.
Adolf Brudes' race would last a little more than 3 laps. The engine in the Orley Speciale would let go ending Brudes' race. Brudes' retirement would kick off a slew of retirements that would end with only five cars still running in the race. Of the five still running, only one would be a German in a German car.
The battle between Moss and Fischer raged on for a while. Finally, the Ferrari 500 underneath Fischer would prove to be too much for Moss in his HWM-Alta. Fischer would take over the lead and would start to draw slowly away.
After 7 laps of fighting with Moss and the circuit itself, Fischer would come across the line to take the victory. He would end up winning the race by forty-one seconds over Moss. Ken Wharton, who was over a minute and a half behind Moss, would finish in 3rd place.
The Orley Speciale would prove to be as fragile as the rest of the German grand prix cars of the time. Against such international competition, the weaknesses of the delicate racing scene in Germany could be, and was, exploited. Against the full might of teams like Scuderia Ferrari, Equipe Gordini and others, Brudes would need to hone his cars in order to get the maximum they could deliver.
After two-straight retirements; one in a sportscar race at Bernau and another in a single-seater at the Eifelrennen, Brudes would have a long time off from major racing. In fact, his next Formula 2 race would be right back at the Nordschleife. The race was the second round of the West German Championship, but it also counted toward the World Championship. The race was the German Grand Prix.
Unlike the last time, the German would arrive at the German Grand Prix with a German car. He would come with a Veritas RS. He would find himself amongst some of the best drivers and teams in the world at the time. He would also arrive in the midst of a championship battle.
The West German Championship was still up for grabs since the German Grand Prix counted as only the second of four rounds. The World Championship; however, was close to being decided after just five of the eight rounds. Alberto Ascari had managed to win three straight races in his Ferrari 500. And if he could win the German Grand Prix, the World Championship was his.
The season before, the World Championship included the German Grand Prix for the first time. The series had come to the Nurburgring, but only one German had taken part in the race. All of the German racers recognized the shortcomings their cars had against the newer and more-powerful cars, but they had the opportunity to race in the World Championship. Amidst a quarter of a million of his countrymen and women, Brudes, and other German racers, found himself a distant backdrop to the scene around him. One thing they had in their favor was the Nordschleife. While the circuit certainly wouldn't play favorites, they were much more familiar with the circuit than most of the other international competitors. The race, the circuit, could potentially throw any of them an opportunity. The opportunity, and the fact it counted toward the West German Championship, was why drivers like Brudes decided to take part in the race.
The practice times around the 14 mile circuit for the Eifelrennen pushed the eleven minute mark. The lap times during practice for the World Championship German Grand Prix wouldn't just drop by a second or two, the times would drop by a ridiculous one minute. Alberto Ascari and Giuseppe Farina would even come close to cracking the ten minute barrier. Ascari, in search of his first World Championship, would turn in a lap time of ten minutes and four seconds. This was just nine seconds slower than his qualifying effort the season before in a Formula One Ferrari 375! Farina's time would be only six seconds slower than his 4th place effort the season before. Both Maurice Trintignant and Robert Manzon, who would complete the front row, would qualify with better times then they had set the season before.
This did not bode well for the German racers. If some of the Formula One cars from the season before were qualifying in excess of eleven minutes, there was little hope of the fragile German cars doing much better. And if they had, there was the threat that the pace required to do well in practice would end up hurting the car for the race itself. Therefore, it was of little surprise that Brudes would start well down on the sixth row in the 19th position on the grid.
Attrition would hit the field even before the race would begin. Not surprising, some of the first to be hit would be German racers. Ludwig Fischer and Willi Krakau had both qualified to start the race. However, it was discovered their cars were not healthy even before the race began, and thus, were forced not to start the race. This reduced the starting field of thirty down to twenty-eight. It would be further reduced on the very first lap of the race.
The Nordschleife constantly twisted, rose and fell. There was hardly a straight portion of track to be found until toward the end of the lap. The constant movement took a lot of concentration and memory to be fast. It also made for easy mistakes. Unfortunately, the nature of the circuit meant it had the ability to magnify even the littlest mistake and turn it into the biggest disaster.
The first lap of the race looked like fallout from a bomb blast. Cars started falling out of contention right from the very first. Gino Bianco would retire. Maurice Trintignant, despite starting the race 3rd, would find his gearbox had had enough of the 14 miles of constant shifting, acceleration and braking. Of course, there would be a number of Germans that would fall out of contention right at the start as well. Theo Helfrich and Paul Pietsch were some of the better qualified Germans in the field. Their pace in practice would end up costing their race. In all, eight would be out of the race before completing a single lap.
Each of the next couple of laps would see at least one retirement. All of the carnage was somewhat lost in the background behind Ascari's bid for the World Championship title. But it would prove to be much more exciting.
Ascari had taken the lead right from the very start. Though Farina was within a few seconds of Ascari's time in practice, the race would be another thing entirely. While Ascari began to draw away, Farina would find himself locked in a battle with fellow Ferrari teammate Piero Taruffi. Taruffi had started between Ascari and Farina, just one row back. This gave him a good position at the start of the race; and he took advantage of it. When it came to interesting battles at the front of the field, the Farina/Taruffi battle was about it. The battles to be found throughout the rest of the field were not driver against driver, but driver against attrition. And attrition was winning.
The race was 18 laps in length. At the rate in which cars were dropping out of the race, it was questionable whether there would even be a car running by the end. The concern would be increased when another small wave of retirements hit after 5 laps had been completed. One of the drivers fleeing the storm, but that would end up being tossed overboard, would be Brudes. Filled with constant braking and acceleration, each lap around the circuit was like the ultimate in torture. The pre-war BMW engine that was powering many of the German cars was being asked to do more, and last longer doing it, than it had been intended. It was too much. And it would end up being too much for Brudes Veritas RS. The BMW engine would let go after 5 laps, thereby ending his first, and only, World Championship race.
The carnage was impossible to ignore. With each lap, the field kept getting smaller and smaller. Preservation became more important than worrying about where one finished. Therefore, many would begin to slow their pace. While they would slow their pace Ascari would just increase his. Ten laps into the race, when there was only twelve cars still running out of thirty that qualified, Ascari would turn the fastest lap of the race. His time would be only one second slower than his qualifying effort, and there were still eight laps remaining.
It seemed Ascari could push as hard as he wanted as his Ferrari 500 would respond positively despite the torture. However, within twenty-eight miles of the end, all was not well with Ascari's Ferrari. It had been pushed hard for over two and a half hours without any real semblance of retardation of pace. In that day and age, such a pace was murderous. Sure enough, Ascari's Ferrari was dying. The championship had slipped through his fingers the season before. He was afraid it might do the same again. His car needed some help. Ascari had an easy decision to make. If he wanted to win the championship he would need to pit.
Just one lap remaining in the race, Ascari would pit. The team would thoroughly check the car over, add oil and do a number of other things to help ensure the car would reach the end. The stop took a while. It would end up taking long enough that the advantage Ascari had over Farina he lost. Farina would go on ahead in the lead of the race. After a while, Ascari would be back on track for the final lap.
Ascari had less than 14 miles, or ten minutes, in which to catch Farina and pass him. His Ferrari was wounded, but its will wasn't. Ascari would get back on pace, just as if he had suffered no problems at all. Out front, Farina continued on with a steady pace. Despite being only a lap away from victory, Farina would not increase his pace. He perhaps thought Ascari was out of the running. Unbeknownst to him, Ascari was tracking him down, and fast.
Farina had a bit of a notorious reputation with back-markers. Despite being a smooth and flowing driver, he could be cruel and ruthless with those he meant to put a lap down or hold behind himself. Finally, the crowd would be able to see a race amongst the best, not the broken down racers in the background.
Unfortunately for the spectators, the race fizzled as soon as it seemed apparent. Ascari would catch Farina totally by surprise and would slip by into the lead of the race without too much of a fight.
The pace his Ferrari 500 had been to turn over the course of the final lap was quite amazing since it wasn't totally healthy. The pace was such that by the time Ascari crossed the line to take his fourth-straight victory he had managed to garner a fourteen second advantage over Farina. Under no threat from behind anymore, Farina would simply cruise across the line to take 2nd. Taruffi, who had fought with Farina early on in the race, would end up fading well down to the point he would end up a lap down in 4th place. In 3rd place would be the victor of the Eifelrennen back in May, Rudolf Fischer. Though over seven minutes down, the Swiss gentleman driver would still impress with his result against tough competition, and on an incredibly demanding circuit.
Brudes racing career had spanned decades. He was racing when some of the most famous golden age racers were establishing records and legends. Brudes himself had a bit of a legend. Not only had he been racing back in the golden era, he had managed to endure long enough to take part in something else historic. While meaningful, the most meaningful part of the German Grand Prix for Brudes was the fact he had suffered two retirements. And when money is scarce, there is little room for sentimentality. Thankfully for Brudes, there were still two rounds of the West German Championship still left, as well as, a couple of other East German Championship races in which he could attend if he so desired.
The first major race in which Brudes could have competed came two weeks after the German Grand Prix. It was the third round of the East German Championship and it took place at Leipzig. However, Brudes would choose not to attend the race. Instead, he would wait another couple of weeks to enter the third round of the West German Championship.
On the 31st of August, Brudes was in Wegberg, Germany so to take part in a couple of races. One of them was the Grenzlandring Sportscar race. The other was the 5th DMV Grenzlandringrennen Formula 2 championship race.
While the Nordschleife was incredibly dangerous because its constant turning, twisting, rising and falling had a way of hypnotizing drivers into making mistakes, the Grenzlandring was a different beast of circuit entirely, but just as dangerous. The circuit was much shorter, only 5.58 miles in length. But it was some of the fastest 5.58 miles on the earth at the time. Surrounding the small villages of Wegberg, Dorp and Beeck, the Grenzlandring was built before World War II and was shrouded in mystery and seemingly without purpose. But the egg-shaped oval did have a purpose, and it was simple. It was meant to push race cars to the absolute limit and to scare their drivers as the same time, and it would do this quite effectively.
Basically an odd-shaped oval with two corners of differing radii, the only time drivers lifted their foot off the gas was to feather the throttle going around the Roermonder and Beecker Curves. Paved with concrete and lined with trees, the circuit drove like a bumpy tunnel driven at average speeds in excess of 125 mph.
Brudes would arrive at the event with a Veritas RS and a Borgward 1500RS. He would enter the sportscar race under the Borgward banner with the Borgward 1500RS. And he would enter the third round of the Formula 2 West German Championship with a Veritas RS under Toni Ulmen's team name Ulmen Renngemeinschaft.
In the sportscar race, Brudes had started from 2nd place on the grid next to the Veritas RS of Peul Pietsch. The East German racer, Arthur Rosenhammer, would start 3rd in a DAMW R1. Despite starting the race well, Brudes wouldn't be able to finish in the same manner. An oil pump failure would lead to Brudes' retirement from the race. Hans-Hugo Hartmann would end up surprising many as he would beat out Pietsch by eight seconds to take the victory.
In the Formula 2 race, Brudes would switch to one of Ulmen's Veritas RS cars. Ulmen himself would drive an RS, but with a clear hood over the cockpit to aid in aerodynamic efficiency.
While Ulmen was concerned with aerodynamic efficiency, the majority of the nineteen car field was more worried about the efficiency of attrition. The concerns, as usual, were not unfounded. Despite being only 12 laps and totaling 67 miles, the ultra-high speed nature of he circuit made it clear drivers had to strike a balance between speed and endurance. And at this point in the season, endurance had to be weighted more heavily than speed.
While Ulmen streaked into the lead with his streamlined RS, Eric Brandon, of the visiting Ecurie Richmond team, would find out the Grenzlandring was cruel to foreigners and nationals equally. Brandon would be the first out of the race, but he wouldn't be alone. A slew of other drivers would end up retiring from the race. Brudes continued to run, but it became clear it was just a matter of time.
It seemed as if he was running on a treadmill falling further and further back toward a steep cliff off the back of the treadmill. Soon enough, Brudes would fall off and into retirement. This made it three rounds of the West German Championship in which Brudes had failed to finish. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be the last to retire from the race. The most tragic retirement was still to come.
Just a few laps remained in the race. It seemed the cars remaining would be able to make it to the end. The cars continued their high-speed circulation of the track. But then, there was a commotion. Obviously there was another retirement, but upon arriving at the scene, it was obvious a greater horror had played out just moments prior. Helmut Niedermayr had been speeding his way through the long, arcing Roermonder Kurve when he would lose control and would plow, like a missile, into the assembled crowd. His car would hit and end up killing fourteen people. Niedermayr himself would escape with very minor external injuries, but he would not be able to escape without incurring large emotional and subconscious damage.
In spite of the tragic events, the race would go on to conclusion. And when it all ended, it ended. Toni Ulmen would cruise to victory by eighteen seconds over Hans Klenk. Josef Peters would round-out the podium by finishing in 3rd place over a minute and forty seconds behind Ulmen. The last race at Grenzlandring had been run. The tragic deaths of fourteen spectators had sealed the high-speed public road course's fate. While the Nordschleife would come to be considered one of Germany's most dangerous circuits, it would only do so as the result of lost memory of Grenzlandring.
While nothing could compare with the loss of all those spectators, Brudes' racing season was on the verge of death as well. Even sportscar events had gone poorly for the former nobleman. He just could not get allegiance out of his tired, worn-out entries. Although he still had at least one round of the West German Championship left, Brudes was done in Formula 2 for 1952. He would only travel from his home to the Avus Circuit in western Berlin at the end of September in order to take part in the fifth round of the German Sportscar Championship.
Brudes had to make a decision. It was costly to take part in races. He was also getting up there in age. Therefore, he needed to take part in races in which he would have a reasonable return on investment. Thus, Brudes would only take part in the sportscar race at Avus.
The decision would end up being a good one. Whereas in the Formula 2 races, Brudes never started up at the front, sportscars held a completely different story. Heading into the fifth round of the sportscar championship, Brudes would start the race from the pole. He had taken the Borgward Hansa 1500RS and managed to beat out Arthur Rosenhammer and Hans-Hugo Hartmann.
In the race, Brudes would finally see the finish line. Considering the type of season Brudes had had, he would end the race and the 1952 year on a bright spot. He wouldn't earn the victory, but he would still finish on the podium. Hans-Hugo Hartmann would end up winning the race averaging 104 mph. Helmut Glockler would come in 2nd. Adolf Brudes would finish 3rd.
While the 3rd place would help to save Brudes German Sportscar Championship season, the failure to take part in the final round of the Formula 2 West German Championship sealed his fate in the standings. His three retirements meant he had earned no points in the championship.
After taking part in his first-ever World Championship race, Brudes would concentrate mostly on sportscar races from then on. He would become a works driver for BMW, as well as Borgward. In 1953, at the age of fifty-two, Brudes would take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but would fail to finish. His best result of the season would be his first sportscar race when he scored a 2nd place during the Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring.
Brudes would be seen in sportscar racing during the 1954 season, but would fade from the major racing scene afterward. Although well into his sixties, Brudes could still be found competing in hill-climbs and other local racing well into the late 1960s. He would even be found racing old BMW 328s in historic races at places like the Nurburgring and other circuits he had come to know so well.
Brudes' racing career would span almost fifty years. He had witnessed and been a part of a lot over the course of those years. When Brudes died in 1986, motor racing had certainly lost an elder that had a lot of experience and wisdom to share. While not among the elite, his longevity undoubtedly made him something of royalty and nobility in motor racing history.