TeamsOswald Karch: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
During the 1st century B.C., the area that would become known as Ludwigshafen would be conquered by the Romans and would be absorbed into the empire. From those very early days and onward, Ludwigshafen would be embroiled in war after war including the Thirty Years' War, the French Revolution and of course the First and Second World Wars. During the rise of the Nazis, the city was very much a working-class town with heavy oil production. This would make the city a strategic target for aerial bombing during the Second World War. All of the warfare, the incessant presence of foreign entities would give Ludwigshafen a different persona compared too much of the rest of Germany. In the years following World War II, the rest of Germany would come to understand exactly what Ludwigshafen had gone through throughout its entire history.
Ludwigshafen would go on to give birth to an individual that would witness the amalgamation first hand. In March of 1917, a man by the name of Oswald Karch would be born. By the time of the outbreak of World War II, Karch was merely 22 years old and would witness first-hand the warfare that had been so much a part of his hometown's history. In the years after the cessation of hostilities, he too would have the opportunity to witness the invasion of foreign ideas and power that would come to blend with native culture. He would also come to see how the results of the destruction and the loss from the war would trap himself and his countrymen behind their own borders.
By no means was the defeat of the Nazi regime a terrible thing. For the first time in a number of years, men, who could care less about political maneuverings and power, were able to get back to what they loved and enjoyed, which was motor racing.
Karch could be included in the list of German drivers happy to see the end of the war. By 1949, he was taking part in sports cars races. But in 1950, he would come to realize just how isolated he really was.
In 1950 the Formula One World Championship would be officially formed. Travel restrictions meant that none of the German racers would be able to take part in this new series. Then, in 1951, when the World Championship would come to Germany, only one German racer would be able to take part because the costs of Formula One were such that the war-devastated German nation could not afford to take part. So while the foreigners could come and compete on their circuits, the German racers themselves, were not able. Once again, the German peoples were something political prisoners and would have to endure the influence of foreign entities within its borders.
Then, after 1950, and especially heading into 1952, a couple of opportunities presented themselves. While most all of the German racers still could not afford to travel outside of their own country the travel restrictions would be greatly reduced. This meant German racers could go and competitively invade other countries. An important decision heading into the 1952 would also make it possible for the German racers to uphold their own honor in the World Championship.
Heading into the 1952 and 1953 seasons it would be decided the Formula One World Championship would be competed according to Formula 2 regulations. This served two big purposes: for one thing it helped to reduce the incredible costs associated with the series. Secondly, it had the effect of increasing competition because there were already a number of teams competing in Formula 2. The reduced costs also had the effect of increasing competition because the lower costs would encourage teams that otherwise would not get into Formula One, because of the costs, to actually get involved. And this would be the door in which many privateer Germans would find opened to them.
The cars in which the vast majority of the privateers were entering in races in Germany already conformed to Formula 2 regulations. Therefore, those racers that otherwise never had a chance to compete would find they had practically an automatic invitation. As a result, there would be many German racers that would take the opportunity to be a part of one race, and then, would take part in no more. Oswald Karch would be one such racer.
Over the course of his sports car career, Karch enjoyed a number of top ten results as well as a 2nd place at the Sachsenring in 1951 and 1952 and a victory at Leipzig in 1952. In 1953, Karch would be coming off of an 11th place result at Circuito de Monsanto in Portugal in his Veritas RS before he would pack everything up and would make his way back to West Germany for the German Grand Prix.
The German Grand Prix would take place on the 2nd of August at the infamous Nurburgring. It was the seventh round of the World Championship but it would be the first World Championship race in which Karch would partake.
The Nurburgring was certainly a circuit in which Karch was familiar. He had turned many laps around the circuit, but in 1953, he would be doing so amidst a battle for the World Championship. While of little concern to himself, Karch, like many other German racers, found himself as part of a World Championship battle. Therefore, he would have the opportunity to take to the track against the best in the world at the peak of their game.
Nobody would be more at their peak than Alberto Ascari. During practice, he would complete a blindingly quick lap of the 14.1 mile long Nordschleife. He would handle the arduous elevation changes and numerous corners with relative ease and would actually post a time that would break the ten minute mark. This hadn't been done since the World Championship used Formula One cars.
Ascari's time would end up being four seconds faster than his nearest competitor, which would be the 1951 World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio. The rest of the four-wide front row would include another World Champion, Giuseppe Farina and a young Briton by the name of Mike Hawthorn.
Karch would be locked in a battle of his own during practice, but it would be to avoid the very last starting spot on the grid. He would fight another sports car driver Erwin Bauer for the better starting spot. Unfortunately, Bauer would get the better of Karch, which meant Oswald would start from 34th on the grid, dead-last.
As the green flag waived to start the 18 lap race, Fangio would get the best start and would be the early leader. However, he would have the job of trying to hold back the freight train called Alberto Ascari. This would be practically impossible, even for a man like Fangio, and Ascari would soon take over the lead of the race.
At the very tail end of the field, Karch was looking to pick his way carefully through the first lap and then settle down for the long run that would; hopefully, end with the seeing of the checkered flag.
He would prove more fortunate than a number of other drivers. Ernst Loof and Hans Stuck wouldn't even make it through the first lap before retiring due to mechanical troubles. On the second lap of the race, the incredibly large field would be reduced by three more as Maurice Trintignant, Roy Salvadori and Erwin Bauer would all fall out of contention. Even though Bauer had beaten Karch for the better starting spot it would be Karch that would be faring much better at this point in the race.
Karch would continue to circulate without even a hint of a problem. Of course he was by no means challenging Ascari's pace, which was only increasing with every single lap. By the time a half a dozen laps had been completed, Ascari was enjoying a comfortable lead over Farina, Hawthorn and Fangio. But Ascari knew better than to get too comfortable when driving on the Nurburgring.
Then, on the 9th lap of the race, it happened. All of Ascari's hard work and fast pace almost came to naught when his Ferrari lost a wheel. While he would manage to hold onto the car, Ascari was now faced with the task of bringing the car all the way back to the pits for repairs. While he slowly made his way to the pits, Hawthorn and Farina would go through into the lead of the race.
Ascari would make it back to the pits and quickly the crew descended upon the car to fix its issues. While Ascari waited to rejoin the race, one driver's race was coming to an end. After a rather impressive display in his one and only World Championship race, and with very little experience, Karch's race would come to an end. His Veritas RS would run into trouble and would be forced out of the running.
While Karch would be out of the race, Ascari wouldn't be. With the help of Villoresi's Ferrari, Ascari would rejoin the fray and would immediately set course on a blinding display of courage and speed. What basically amounted to a qualifying effort every single lap, Ascari would begin to achieve some rather incredible times. It would all culminate on the 12th lap of the race when he would set the incredible time of nine minutes and fifty-six seconds. This time was nearly four seconds faster than his own pole-winning effort in practice.
Farina could feel the heat. He had lost the race the year before because he didn't expect to see Ascari return to the race after some mechanical issues. One year later, and in relatively similar circumstances, Farina could just feel Ascari coming on hard. Unfortunately for Ascari, it would be too hard.
With just three laps remaining in the race, Ascari was gaining ground and still had plenty of time considering his pace. However, considering his pace, his Ferrari was hanging on by a thread and that thread would finally break after 15laps. Ascari's title hopes now laid in the hands of his competitors. If Farina managed to hold on the championship would be his once again. However, if Hawthorn could put together an impressive performance to come back and win the race the championship fight would rage on over the two remaining rounds.
Ascari would end up having little to worry about. Farina's smooth driving style enabled him to cruise comfortably to the checkered flag. He would go on to win the race by a little more than a minute over Fangio. Another forty seconds separated Fangio from Hawthorn in 3rd. And even though he was out of the race, Ascari would have reason to celebrate as he would be the first repeat World Champion in its young history.
Karch was in no way concerned with the World Championship battle. He had come to battle his fellow patriots and the circuit. He would certainly lose his battle with the circuit but he would go on to fare better than a number of his fellow German racers.
After his one and only foray into the World Championship, Karch would focus back on his sports car racing. He would go on to compete for only another year before he would retire from major motor racing. While his motor racing career would span only a few years, Karch would go on to live into his nineties and would die at the age of 91 in January of 2009.