TeamsDora Greifzu: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Had he survived the tragic accident at Dessau, Paul Suhler Greifzu, the beloved motor racing driver from Suhl in East Germany, likely would have been present with his self-built Greifzu-BMW Eigenbau lined up against Scuderia Ferrari and other major teams in the German Grand Prix, the seventh round of the World Championship in 1952. However, instead of the hearts of the East Germans being filled with excitement and enthusiasm, there would be nothing but great depression and a great sense of loss.
Nearly three months before the German Grand Prix, when the majority of the German racers would finally have an opportunity to take part in a round of the World Championship, tragedy would strike at the heart of East German motor racing fans and the family of Paul Greifzu.
During practice for the Dessau Autobahnspinne, the gearbox would seize on the car sending Greifzu spinning off the autobahn portion of the circuit. When the car finally came to a rest it was painfully obvious Greifzu had perished in the accident. A deep sense of grief and of loss would fall over the circuit and East Germany's motor racing scene.
Although East Germany still had their share of talented drivers, like Edgar Barth and Rudolf Krause, Greifzu had been the one to beat the West Germans on their own soil at Avus the year before. He was the nation's champion and was expected to be able to challenge the apparent dominance of western competitors. That would all be lost on the 11th of May with Greifzu's death.
Though the national hero was gone, the car was not. While the car was mangled and still filled with the memory of a lost hero and husband, Dora Greifzu, Paul's widow, would take the car and would have it repaired by Greifzu's mechanics over the remainder of the season and winter months. While some believe there was 'persuasion' to bring back East Germany's greatest car the simple fact was the car was back and ready to be raced again.
The year was now 1953. Fully repaired, the car would be packed up and would begin the two hour trip northeast from Suhl to Dessau. Fittingly, the car would make its first appearance in a race at the very same location in which its pilot had lost his life. Named in honor of the man who had lost his life, the Greifzu-BMW would be readied to take part in the 1st Paul Greifzu Gedachtnisrennen on the 7th of June.
Before Greifzu's famous death, Dessau had been noted as an industrial city and the home of Junkers. Sitting at the junction of the Mulde and Elbe rivers, Dessau would experience almost yearly flooding. Then, during World War II, the city would almost be raised to the ground by Allied bombing raids. Once a place known for its architecture, Dessau would become a city of very simplistic design as the city to be quickly rebuilt with uninspiring concrete designs.
Dora Greifzu would bring her husband's car to take part in the race, which was the second round of the East German Formula 2 Championship. Bobby Kohlrausch would have the honor of being behind the wheel of the car in the race named to memorialized the driver the car had made famous.
While Greifzu had been East Germany's hero, the people had already moved on to another. Edgar Barth was by no means an incapable driver. However, Greifzu had placed Barth in his shadow by his performances. With Greifzu's death, Barth would assume the throne as East Germany's great motor racing driver. He would go on to prove his royalty during the race.
Fourteen cars would start the 16 lap memorial race around the 3.1 mile road circuit that included portions of the autobahn and other public roads that meandered through the Mosigkauer-Heide forest. Among those fourteen starters there would be four West Germans looking to take the honor of victory at a race honoring an East German hero. Therefore, the East Germans in the field would be intent on fighting for the victory. Very little fighting would be necessary as the race would come to make clear.
Hans Stuck would be fast in his AFM 50. However, the West German would be trumped by Edgar Barth. Barth would go on to turn the fastest lap of the race with a time of two minutes and seven minutes. This would help Barth to hold onto, and increase, his lead over the rest of the field. Bobby Kohlrausch would also be impressive in the Greifzu-BMW. Though he would not be amongst the top three, he would manage to steer clear of trouble and the car would take him on up inside the top five.
Out of the fourteen that would start the race, only five would be left still running at the end. However, it wouldn't matter all that much as Barth would control the race in his EMW 52/53. Barth would go on to take the victory over Stuck. Rudolf Krause, driving his aged Reif-BMW, would end up coming across the line a distant 3rd. Admittedly, Kohlrausch was not on the level of talent of Greifzu or Barth. He didn't need to be the best as the car would make up much of the difference. Kohlrausch would avoid the attrition and would make his way on through to a 5th place finish.
While not the Cinderella story many had hoped it would be, the return of the Greifzu-BMW to Dessau would still prove to be very emotional and would end up providing an uplifting result to the occasion.
Rudolf Krause had been at Dessau with his aged Reif-BMW. While a good car, it had really come to be outclassed. Therefore, Krause would approach Greifzu's widow about driving the car for the rest of the season. Krause was one of the favorite East German racers but had his career suffer from unreliability. Both he and Dora realized that with Greifzu's old car, Krause would become an immediate contender with a car that had reliability to match. This would be very important in Krause's attempt to battle for the East German Formula 2 Championship. Therefore, an agreement would be reached and on the 5th of July, Krause would appear with the car at the 4th Strassen-Rennen Halle-Saale-Schleife.
Situated along the Saale river, Halle had a very ecclesiastical history. It would become part of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg in the 10th century. The city would also become a very important location for Martin Luther's Reformation. As a result, the city would become host to Martin Luther University.
But besides the ecclesiastical history, Halle's history is one that is also filled with its share of war and destruction. In the early 19th century the French and Prussion forces would clash in the Battle of Halle. Then, in the 20th century, the Second World War would see Halle become a target for Allied bombing. But the planned attack would end up being cancelled because surrender would be negotiated between the mayor of the city and American forces.
Armed with the Greifzu-BMW, Krause was prepared to do battle. Unfortunately, Krause would have to do battle with Edgar Barth. Fears would be justified as Barth would go on to take the pole for the 20 lap race around the 3.25 Halle street circuit.
Eleven cars would start the race. The field would roar away at the start of the race. Barth would immediately go to the head of the field but he would have Hans Stuck all over him once again. In addition, Krause would be right there with the aged, but new, car.
It would be obvious the car still had the ability to compete as Krause would go on to set the fastest lap of the race breaking the course record. This pace would apply tremendous heat upon Stuck. However, Barth would just continue to slowly edge away as the race carried on.
As with the race at Dessau, attrition would be rather high. Over half of the starting field would retire before the end of the race. Again, as with Dessau, just five cars would make it to the end of the race.
In spite of Krause's fastest lap, Barth just continued to pad his lead over the rest of the field and would go on to take the victory completing the 20 laps in fifty-one minutes and twenty-eight seconds. The battle between Stuck and Krause had been entertaining, and for the East German fans, brought shades of Greifzu battling with West German competitors flooding back to mind. Unfortunately, Krause was not Greifzu. Perhaps weighed down by the shadow of a dead racing hero, Krause just wouldn't quite haul Stuck in. Stuck would go on to finish the race in the 2nd position beating Krause by a little more than two and a half seconds.
Once again, the car proved itself still to be a capable challenger. It would, therefore, prove to be Krause's best hope for the season. Because of the capabilities of the car Krause would allow himself to hope he would be able to victory in his next race.
On the 26th of July, three weeks after the race in Halle, Krause gather up the Greifzu-BMW once again and would head to Dresden, another city in East Germany. He was on his way to Dresden to take part in the 1st Dresden Autobahn-spinne, which was the fourth round of the East German Formula 2 Championship.
While the race would officially be listed as taking place in Dresden it would actually take place a few miles north up near the Dresden airport. As with most of the East German circuits, Dresden would essentially be nothing but motorway and access ramps. Therefore, the circuit would twist back and forth and would create a number of very tight hairpin turns. The layout of the circuit would end up being to the benefit of the large crowds that would assemble to watch the events. With so many changes in direction, a majority of the circuit would remain in the field of view of many of the spectators.
It was not at all surprising this would be the first Dresden Autobahn-spinne. Dresden had been so badly damaged during World War II as a result of the bombings by Allied bombers that it would be amazing the city arose from the ashes in the first place. Therefore, its resurrection would be very important to the East German state, and the addition of Greifzu's car in its first race only further reinforced the city's rising from the rubble from World War II.
Just one week away from the seventh round of the World Championship, the German Grand prix, the field for the 15 lap race would include a number of West German competitors looking to compete in just one more race before the World Championship round. Though there would only be nine starters, four of them would be West German.
In spite of the presence of a number of West Germans, it would be Edgar Barth again taking the pole for the race. Though Barth would start out on the pole, Krause wouldn't be far off the pace. In fact, he would start right beside Barth in the middle of the front row in the 2nd spot. This was certainly to provide Krause a greater hope than he once had with his Reif-BMW.
As with just about every other round of the East German Formula 2 Championship, Barth would take off and immediately take over the lead of the race. The rest of the field would be fighting for position trying to take the fight to Barth.
The field would make it through the first lap without incident. But then, on the 2nd lap of the race, the attrition that was quite usual in the German racing scene would begin. Heinz Melkus would end up out of the race with mechanical trouble after just two laps. The attrition would not stop there.
While Greifzu's car had come to earn a reputation for being quite reliable it was some years old and had suffered more than one bad accident by the time Krause found himself behind the wheel of the thing. While devastating, it wouldn't not be all that strange to have the car run afoul of mechanical trouble and retire also after just two laps.
The trouble would continue to come upon the field. Just one lap after Melkus' and Krause's retirements, Adolf Lang would also retire from the race. At the current pace, the entire field had to be concerned about making the entire race distance.
One that seemed totally unaffected by the high attrition rate would be Edgar Barth who would go on to set the fastest lap of the race and only increased his lead. Though he seem unaffected, Barth had every reason to be concerned. The 3.99 mile circuit was taking a terrible toll on the field. Before the end, attrition would take such a bite out of the field that there would be just two cars still running at the end of the race.
The only two cars left in the race would be Barth's and the BMW Eigenbau of Kurt Straubel. Comparatively, Straubel could do nothing to match, let alone catch, the pace of Barth. Therefore, Barth would cruise to his third-straight victory in the championship and would do so in dominant fashion as he would cross the line nearly two minutes ahead of Straubel.
The failure would put tremendous pressure on Krause and the mechanics since the seventh round of the World Championship was just one week away. Therefore, the team would set about making the necessary repairs and preparing the car for its first meeting against the mighty cars from the west.
The team would quickly make repairs to the Greifzu-BMW as they headed the five hours driving distance west to Nurburg in West Germany. The Nurburgring, the final destination, would be the site of the German Grand Prix and it promised to field a grid of some of the greatest teams, cars and drivers in the world.
Motor races had been held on public roads around Nurburg since nearly the turn of the 20th century. However, the danger of competing on such roads was becoming too costly. Therefore, an answer needed to be found. The answer would be about as dangerous as what it was meant to address. 14 miles of sheer excitement and danger, the Nordschleife was a blend of fear and great joy. A natural road course in just about every sense, the circuit rose and fell around a thousand feet and threw more than 170 corners at drivers and cars. The constant twisting, turning, rising and falling made for an epic adventure each and every lap. But it would also quickly become a driver's biggest nightmare with even the slightest mistake. Lined with nothing but some hedges here and there, the circuit was certainly unforgiving and presented a potentially lethal threat.
Heading into the German Grand Prix, the greatest threat Krause would have to worry about would come from the circuit itself. Since it was the one and only round of the World Championship in which he would take part in he would not be concerned with the fight for the title that would come to a head at the race. Knowing the chances against teams like Scuderia Ferrari, Maserati and Equipe Gordini were already slim, Krause would turn his attention to his fellow Germans. It would be against them that he would be competing for position. Perhaps more than anything, Krause would be competing against his previous World Championship experience. The previous season, Krause had retired from the race. Now with Greifzu's special, Krause would certainly be looking to overcome the failure and come away with a good result.
To the East German racing fan there was interest in Alberto Ascari being on the verge of the World Championship title for the second year in a row, but there would be more interest in the East German entries in the field like Edgar Barth and Rudolf Krause. The miracle hoped for would to see either one pull off an incredible result.
Practice would make such a miracle appear as a vain hope as Alberto Ascari would dominate. Ascari would go on to set a time under ten minutes and would take the pole. The rest of the front row would make the miracle seem even more unlikely as Juan Manuel Fangio would start 2nd in his Maserati. The rest of the front row would include Giuseppe Farina in another Ferrari in 3rd place. And Mike Hawthorn would complete the front row in 4th place with yet another Ferrari.
Exactly a minute would separate Ascari's time from the fastest time set by a German, either West or East, in the field. Hans Herrmann would have the honor of being the highest-starting German in the field when his time planted him on the fourth row of the grid.
Nearly fifty seconds would separate Herrmann from Krause's best time. This time would place Krause firmly in the middle of the West and East German contingent in their home race. Krause would start from the eighth row and would be 26th out of 34 cars that would line up on the starting grid.
The sun would be shining as the field took off at the start of the 18 lap race. Fangio would get the jump on the field and would lead through the first part of the lap. However, the strength of Ascari and his pace would be too much to hold back. Therefore, Ascari would take over the lead of the race. Two cars wouldn't make it through the first lap of the race. Thankfully for Krause, he would not be one of those that would not make it through even the first lap of the race. In fact, all he would need to do would be to settle into a comfortable pace for attrition would help him move up the order without really doing anything.
Over the next five laps, eight more cars would fall out of the running. This meant ten cars would have retired from the race. This would help to move Krause further up the running order. But Krause would come close to adding his name to the list of those out of the race when the car suddenly began to shudder while getting around Helfrich. He would almost lose control of the car. It would be found the door that had been originally design in the car fell off and became wedged between the rear wheel and the chassis itself. While still running, Krause would reach back and dislodge the piece and carry on, though he had lost the ground gained by the attrition and would be at the back of the field fighting to make his way back forward. This trouble would obvious hurt his pace against Ascari and the rest of the front-runners.
Very quickly, Ascari would build up a lead over Hawthorn, Farina and Fangio. After a half a dozen laps, Ascari would enjoy a lead of nearly forty-five seconds. But, he would find out just how fast that seemingly large lead could evaporate.
Soon, Hawthorn, Farina and Fangio would blast by to the head of the line. A wheel had broken off of Ascari's car. While he did not have to fight the whole 14 miles on three wheels, he would still have a long way in which to go just to make it to the pits. Ascari would wrestle the car all the way back to the pits but would lose a lot of time doing so. More time would be lost while he waited for repairs to be made.
Ascari's race seemed over. However, he would receive some help. Ascari's friend and teammate Luigi Villoresi would come into the pits and would hand over his Ferrrari to Ascari. While Ascari would be given a chance to claw his way to a good result, Villoresi would take over Ascari's car.
While Ascari was quickly getting back up to speed in Villoresi's Ferrari, Krause had looked good throughout the race. He continued to circulate the track without a hint of problems and would doing a very respectful job against the Ferraris and Maseratis.
Ascari would take the second chance given to him and would put together one of the most impressive performances every to be witnessed. Not only would he turn laps in the region of his qualifying performance but he would absolutely blow his own time out of the water on the 12th lap of the race. He would go on to record a time nearly four seconds faster and in the region only thought attainable by the Formula One cars a couple of years prior.
At the same time as Ascari was putting together one of the most impressive laps of all time, Barth's race was coming to an end. This meant Krause was the leading East German in the field and 3rd amongst Germans. Sure enough, the car was doing exactly what Krause had wanted it for. He just needed to make sure he made it to the end of the race.
Making it to the end of the race should have been Ascari's main concern. While the lap performances were truly incredible, it would take too much of a toll on the car and with just three laps remaining it would all come to naught when the engine would let go.
Farina had been in the lead of the race for a number of laps. He had managed to build up a comfortable margin over Fangio and Hawthorn and just needed to make it to the end and the victory would be his. The same was true for Krause. Although he was a couple of laps down, he was still on track to earn a good result, not amongst his fellow Germans, but overall also.
Farina would be in control almost from the moment of taking over the lead with about half of the race remaining. Consistently and gradually he would build up an advantage over Fangio. He would use this advantage to be careful over the last couple of laps and cruise to the victory. His advantage over Fangio in 2nd place would end up a little over a minute. Around a minute and forty-five seconds would separate Farina from Hawthorn in 3rd.
Just about the time Farina was coming across the line to take the victory, Krause was disappearing into the distance starting his final lap. That was just how close he came to going three laps down to Farina. Instead, Krause would finish two laps down in 14th. Krause certainly improved upon his retirement from the season before. After the scary and wild moment earlier on in the race in which it almost all went awry, the Greifzu-BMW would end up carrying him on to a 1st place finish amongst the East Germans in the field and 3rd overall amongst all Germans. Therefore, the car proved itself in the World Championship, just as many would suspect it would.
Ascari's pace, and ultimate failure, would also prove not to be his undoing as Farina's win would actually assure Ascari would take the championship title for himself. Therefore, while the failure in the race was unfortunate, the ultimate result would certainly not be.
The only unfortunate part about the whole experience for Krause, the car and the team would be the fact that it was likely to be the last. The new Formula One regulations were to take effect the following season. This meant most of the East and West German racers, like Krause, would again be unable to take part because of costs and availability of equipment. Therefore, the Krause would earn a very positive farewell and the car would do its best to provide itself a memorable place in the small bit of World Championship history into which it played a part.
Although World Championship appearances for the team and for Krause would come to an end after the German Grand Prix, the season would not. There were still a couple of races left in which the team and car would make an appearance. One of those races would take place over a month after the German Grand Prix, but it would take place on East Germany's closest example of the Nurburgring. Measuring 5.41 miles, the Sachsenring was like a miniature version of the Nurburgring in almost every way. And on the 6th of September the Sachsenring would play host to the 5th Sachsenringrennen.
One of the few road courses in all of East Germany not to use the autobahn, the Sachsenring would also boast of a number of other similarities to the Nurburgring. It would be filled with elevation changes that would make for some very interesting corners, some of which that had blind entries that made for some very dangerous corners.
A beautiful circuit, Sachsenring threw just about everything at its competitors. It would start out with a series of esses that would lead to a sharp left-hander at Bodberg. All this time, the road gradually climbs and continues to do so until it suddenly dipped before immediately climbing again going through the MTS Kurve. After navigating another tight left-hand bend at Jugend the circuit would fall sharply while descending through a series of fast, sweeping bends back to Queckenberg and the start/finish line.
Coming into the race, Krause was clearly safe in 2nd place. The retirement at Dresden would really hurt his attempt to unseat Barth's position at the top, but still, he would have an opportunity at the Sachsenring. If he could use the car to his advantage he could still pull out the championship.
Nine cars would line up for the start of the 12 lap race. Right from the start it would become clear it was going to be a battle between Barth and Krause. Armed with the Greifzu chassis, Krause was certainly faster than he had been in his old Reif, and therefore, could go on the attack instead of waiting for something to happen to help him.
Barth would continue to hold onto the lead but Krause would be right there with him throughout the first part of the race. However, Krause would have a battle of his own to deal with. At the same time Krause was busy trying to stay with Barth, Hans Stuck would be right there all over Krause.
Attrition, compared to the other rounds of the championship, would be rather light. Theo Helfrich would depart after three laps. Werner Jager and Karl Wojciechowski would also join Helfrich. However, besides the three, there would be no more retirements from the race at all.
As the race wore on, Barth's pace began to wore down his competition. Aided along by a fastest lap time of three minutes and fifty seconds around the 5.41 mile circuit, Barth would gradually open up a lead over Krause who was also able to pull away slightly from Stuck.
Heading into the final lap of the race, the only hope either Krause or Stuck had would be if another made a mistake or had a last minute failure. It was entirely possible, especially at a circuit like Sachsenring.
Barth would go on to succeed in not putting a foot wrong at any time during the 12 lap race and he would take the victory. Krause would also show he was equal to the task as he too would hold on through the final descent and through Queckenberg. He would cross the line in 2nd place some twenty-two seconds behind Barth. Though he wouldn't beat Barth, Krause would make it two East Germans at the top as he would hold off Hans Stuck by five seconds.
Barth's victory made it four-straight. This clearly handed the championship to him and made it clear East Germany had a new champion. Krause would use the deceased champion's car to good effect. He would end up just six points down in 2nd.
Another championship had come to an end and Krause surely benefited from having Greifzu's car at his disposal. Krause had used the car to earn a strong result at the German Grand Prix. Then he would follow that up with a 2nd place in the race at Sachsenring and in the East German Formula 2 Championship. The season had already basically ended on a high note. It would be Krause's intention to keep it there with the final grand prix race of the season.
The final race of the season for the team would be to the northeast of Berlin in Bernau bei Berlin. First mentioned in the 13th century, Bernau bei Berlin would actually be inhabited much earlier than that. Involved in the Thirty Years' War, Bernau would survive as a result of extensive defenses including a wet moat and large walls. Then as East Germany became its own nation, Bernau would become the residence of most of the political leaders, and therefore, isolated from the common people. Motor racing was enjoyed by many classes of people. Therefore, the autobahn running around Berlin and near Bernau would be the site for the 2nd Bernau Autobahnschleife. The event was a 14 lap race that took place on the 27th of September.
Actually, like most every other East German Formula 2 race, the race would take place along a portion of the autobahn running around to the northeast of Berlin. The 3.59 mile circuit would use a portion of what would become the E28 outer ring and the road leading to Bernau bei Berlin.
As with most every other autobahn circuit, the layout would be twisty and winding. This would enable the majority of the action to take place within a tight compact area. It also kept speeds around the circuit down as there would be nothing but tight hairpin turns and sharp bends.
Edgar Barth would prove to be comfortable on this circuit as well as he would go on to take the pole with his EMW 52/53. In all, there would be eleven cars that would line up on the grid in expectation of the start of the race.
The race would be difficult for just about everyone. As usual, there would be a high rate of attrition over the course of the forty minute, 14 lap race. Some of the favorites, including Theo Helfrich, would find the distance too difficult and would be out before the end.
Even Edgar Barth would have competition at the front of the field. Arthur Rosenhammer would be at the wheel of an EMW 52/53 as well and would give Barth everything he could handle throughout the 14 laps. The two would battle it out with nothing more than a few car lengths between themselves.
Unfortunately, Krause would not be included in the battle between Rosenhammer and Barth. In fact, Krause would not even be amongst the top three. He would struggle to match the pace of the front-runners and would be fighting to finish in the top five.
Krause's position in the top five would receive a lot of help from the retirements of other competitors. Out of the eleven to start the race, only five would finish the race.
Rosenhammer and Barth continued to battle each and every lap. Powering their way down the autobahn for the final time, Rosenhammer would be able to disrupt Barth's incredible winning streak by taking the victory finishing the race in forty-three minutes and forty-eight seconds. Just one second behind would come Barth in 2nd. Hans Stuck would end up over a minute behind but would finish the race in 3rd place. Krause would, basically by default, hold on to finish in the top five. He would cross the line 5th in what would be the final race of his season.
While the final race wouldn't end as successfully as most of the others, Krause would still manage to bring home just one more good result before the team would stop and wait out the winter months.
Though a year removed and void of its great champion, the Greifzu squad would finally make its appearance in a World Championship race. The car would go on to prove what a genius Greifzu had been putting together a racing car. His work would end up carrying Krause to some of his best results, not only in the East German Formula 2 Championship, but in the World Championship as well.
Given the fact the governing-body would switch over to the new Formula One regulations for the 1954 it was going to be highly unlikely that either Krause or the Greifzu squad would make another appearance in the World Championship.
Sure enough, Krause would reappear in 1954 with the Greifzu once again and would be quite successful again behind the wheel. However, there would be no appearance by either at any rounds of the Formula One World Championship that year. Therefore, Krause achieved what he had been intent in doing, which was improving upon his result in the 1952 German Grand Prix, as well as, becoming a stronger contender in the East German Formula 2 Championship.
After making some modifications to the car for the 1954 season, Krause would campaign successfully for the East German Championship. He would earn poles and victories besides a number of a number of other top results. However, after some tragic developments at the final race of the season, Krause would be forced to live with the knowledge of being the best East German racer but having no title or award officially bestowed on him saying so.
After the 1954 season, the car would not take part in any more major events but would end up being put on display in a museum in Greifzu's native Suhl. Krause would continue to race but motor racing would begin to fade into the background. Krause would end up passing away in 1987 in his home town of Reichenbach/Vogtland.
While the human element to the intriguing story of Paul Greifzu and his masterful talents as a racer and car-builder would pass away, the key, the pivotal element of the whole narrative would continue to live on forever enshrined.