TeamsBaron de Graffenried: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried had started out the 1952 World Championship at his home grand prix and would end up enjoying a good result despite driving a much older car that had just been revised to conform to the Formula 2 rules that were to be used for the 1952 and 1953 seasons.
However, the rest of the World Championship season was less than spectacular. Driving for the Enrico Plate team, the car was sorely outclassed and was also stretched to its limits when it came to reliability.
Emmanuel de Graffenried certainly wasn't short of talent. He had won the first British Grand Prix back in 1949 and had also scored a number of other good results throughout his career. However, by the time the World Championship began, larger factory efforts would dominate the landscape. Usually competing as a privateer, de Graffenried would need a solid car to be able to compete against such main forces. Enrico Plate certainly didn't have the car during the 1952 season. However, toward the end of that season an important player would reemerge.
Maserati had thrown its hat back into the World Championship ring with its new A6GCM. With tweaks and evolutions, the car would end up being as fast, if not faster, than the Ferrari 500 by the end of the 1952 season. Since de Graffenried had grown used to driving Maseratis throughout a good majority of his career, he was keenly interested in the new chassis. The Baron recognized that from a privateer point of view the new Maserati certainly seemed to offer the most competitive package.
Therefore, the decision was rather easy. However, making it to the first round of the World Championship for 1953 wouldn't be. While de Graffenried would be waiting to take delivery of his new Maserati A6GCM the larger factory efforts like the Maserati, Scuderia Ferrari and Equipe Gordini were all making their way across the Atlantic to Argentina for the Argentine Grand Prix.
Because of the inclusion of the Argentine Grand Prix the series would truly become a World Championship. In addition to it being now a World Championship, the race would also take place in January. This would cause the season to start very early.
Being that the costs associated with making the trip to Argentina were going to be anything but cheap, de Graffenried would end up missing the race and would end up waiting until the end of March before he would take part in his first grand prix race.
The first race of the 1953 season for de Graffenried would be a non-championship race. It was the 3rd Gran Premio di Siracusa and it took place on the 22nd of March.
Throughout its existence, Syracuse has been the site of battle after battle and conquering army after conquering army. During World War II, Syracuse would come to host a United States Army Air Force base from which attacks on the Italian mainland would originate. However, after the end of the war, the countryside to the west of Syracuse would be filled with the sounds of the grand prix cars.
Believed to be on the site of the former United States Army Air Force base, the Autodromo di Siracusa would be comprised of public roads that traversed the countryside and the ancient ruins to create a 3.34 mile road course.
The field would include fourteen drivers and cars. Scuderia Ferrari would come to the race and would enter four of their Ferrari 500s. There would be a number of Cooper-Bristols also entered in the race. Most of the rest of the field, including de Graffenried, would be driving the Maserati A6GCM.
In qualifying, things looked to be a repeat of the season before. In 1952, the Ferrari 500 absolutely dominated grand prix racing. By the end of the practice it seemed there was going to be more of the same.
Alberto Ascari would lead the way setting the fastest lap and taking the pole. The rest of the three-wide front row would include Scuderia Ferrari drivers. Giuseppe Farina would start the race 2nd while Luigi Villoresi would start 3rd. Emmanuel de Graffenried, despite being something of a gentleman racer, had always proven to be quite fast. And with the new Maserati chassis, de Graffenried would prove he wasn't going to be bullied. Instead, he would bully Mike Hawthorn to take the 4th starting position on the second row, beating out Ferrari's fourth driver.
Like many other races at that time, the 80 lap event would see Ascari up at the front pulling away with the lead of the race. Luigi Villoresi's race would come to a premature end when a valve problem sidelined him for the remainder of the race. It would also serve as a foreshadowing of Ferrari's fortunes on that particular day.
Ascari continued to run up near the front with Farina, de Graffenried and Hawthorn all giving chase. Other than Villoresi's early retirement things would be rather quiet. But just when a third of the race completed all hell would break loose, and Ferrari was the main target.
Tom Cole and Sergio Mantovani would crash after 36 laps. This would trigger a chain-reaction that would strike at the heart of the front runners. The first to suffer would be the new World Champion. Ascari's Ferrari would also suffer from valve troubles and would be forced to retire from the race. However, only the car would retire. Ascari would end up taking over Mike Hawthorn's car for the remainder of the race. This wasn't particularly pleasing to the Brit, but he was new and young and at Ferrari. He needed to expect things like this.
It really wouldn't matter much anyway because just twenty laps later the valves on Hawthorn's car would run into trouble. This would leave Ascari again stranded. This left just Farina, who was in a fight with de Graffenried now for the lead of the race.
Ferrari had experienced such dominance that days like this one would shake them awake and lead them to wonder what had happened. Just four laps after Ascari's second retirement, Ferrari's last hope would also retire. Farina had been running well. However, a mechanical problem would end up costing him the victory. In a truly bizarre and rare happening, Ferrari would have no cars finish the 80 lap race.
Ferrari's misfortunes would end up leaving de Graffenried all alone in the lead. All he needed to do was cruise to the finish line. While he would be careful, the Maserati A6GCM was such a strong performer that even being careful wasn't by any means toddling along. Nonetheless, in his first race of the season, de Graffenried would cruise to victory. He would average almost 92 mph and would enjoy an advantage of three laps over Louis Chiron in 2nd. The Baron would then enjoy an advantage of six laps over Rodney Nuckey in his Cooper-Bristol T23.
What an incredible way to start out the year! After struggling the year before with an aged piece of machinery, de Graffenried would have his perseverance rewarded. The season looked promising for the gentleman Swiss.
Heading into the month of April, a number of races began to pop up on the calendar and presented drivers with some options. April 6th of 1953 would certainly be a good example. While Scuderia Ferrari and the Equipe Gordini team were in France preparing for the Grand Prix de Pau, de Graffenried would instead head across the English Channel to England in order to take part in the Easter races held at Goodwood.
Goodwood was just one of a number of decommissioned airfields to turn into motor racing venues. While an auxiliary landing field during the war, it would come to host a number of impromptu races. A number of pilots would end up visiting auxiliary fields, like Westhampnett, on their days off and would race around its perimeter road. Thankfully for the motor racing enthusiast, they would have a friend in the Duke of Richmond, the owning of the Goodwood Estate. This motor racing fan would end up giving the airfield over to motor racing purposes once it would become a decommissioned airfield.
Goodwood would host a number of different races throughout the year and a number of different shorter event races in the very early spring as part of Easter. As much demonstrations as anything else, there would be a number of races carried out throughout the day that would number only a few laps each. One of those races was the Lavant Cup. Named for the nearby village to the west, the Lavant Cup, which was the 5th edition of the race, would be 7 laps around the 2.39 mile circuit.
Emmanuel would enter the only Maserati in a field of twenty. The vast majority of the field, not surprisingly, would consist of Cooper-Bristols and Connaughts. A couple of other British marks, like HWM, would also be intermixed in the field.
Practice would see an incredible duel for the pole develop between de Graffenried and Roy Salvadori. When all of the times were posted it became clear that it would be Salvadori that would start from the pole. He had set a time of one minute, thirty-five and four-tenths seconds. This time would end up being just two-tenths faster than de Graffenried's effort but still good enough for the pole. Salvadori and de Graffenried would be joined on the four-wide front row by Bobbi Baird driving a Ferrari 500 and Tony Rolt driving a Cooper-Bristol T23.
The gap between Salvadori and de Graffenried over the rest of the starting grid was more than two seconds. During the 7 lap race, this would translate into a battle mostly between the two. Salvadori would prove he wasn't going to give up easy. He would go on to set what would end up being the fastest lap of the race. However, de Graffenried had the confidence from his last victory and a superior Maserati. Not only would he keep the pressure on, he would even manage to pull out with the lead of the race.
Once in the lead, de Graffenried began to draw away slightly. Salvadori would have to continue to turn qualifying-type laps in order to keep up. Bobbie Baird had found the pace too much for him and would end up slipping down the running order. Tony Rolt and Kenneth McAlpine were perhaps the only other drivers that really seemed to be on the charge; looking to challenge the pair at the front.
After scoring victory at Syracuse, and now being out front in the Lavant Cup race, nobody was going to haul de Graffenried in. Emmanuel continued to get stronger and stronger with every lap until he had utterly broken away from Salvadori.
At only 7 laps in length, a lead of anything more than a couple of seconds would be a good result. Heading into the final lap of the race, de Graffenried didn't have the luxury of a couple of seconds advantage. Instead, he was almost fifteen seconds ahead! It would take de Graffenried just eleven minutes and thirty seconds to win in his second-straight race of the season. Salvadori would come across the line a soundly beaten 2nd, down to Emmanuel thirteen seconds at the end. Tony Rolt would give it everything he had but he would end up finishing more than six seconds behind in 3rd.
Two races, two wins. This was the stuff of dreams. Emmanuel hoped the success would continue; it wouldn't just flash brilliantly and then fade quickly. It would be almost a month before he would find out which it was going to be.
Heading into May, it had been well over three months since the first round of the World Championship. And despite the Indianapolis 500 counting toward the World Championship, and taking place at the end of the month of May, it would be a whole other month before the third round. But as de Graffenried could attest, there still were a number of competitive non-championship races in which teams and privateers could enter in order to prepare themselves.
One of the many non-championship races on the calendar would end up taking place on the 3rd of May. It was the 3rd Grand Prix de Bordeaux. The race would be a 120 lap event around the Place des Quinconces.
Situated along the Garonne River, Bordeaux has become known for its main industry: wine. The city is steeped in architectural and historical significance and has been at the center of many battles, revolutions and uprisings throughout the years. On the 3rd of May, in 1953, the tranquil sounds of the city would be broken by the sound of the grand prix cars screaming in anger along the Quai Louis XVIII and around the Place des Quinconces.
At only 1.52 miles in length, Bordeaux favored nimble handling cars with good acceleration and reliability. The Scuderia Ferrari team would prove their Ferrari 500 more than adequately covered all major categories as Luigi Villoresi would go on to capture the pole for the race. He would beat out Ascari by just a mere tenth of a second. A little more than half of a second would separate Villoresi's time and that of Maurice Trintignant in 3rd place.
Compared to the last couple of races, de Graffenried would struggle slightly in practice. His best time in practice would end up being a lap of one minute and twenty-seven seconds. This time would be four seconds slower and only good enough to start the race from the 9th place position overall and on the fourth row of the grid.
The large number of laps and the nature of the circuit would make the race something of a car-breaker. Those the race didn't destroy, Ascari and Villoresi would end up handling easily.
Ascari and Villoresi would get away at the start of the race well and would be pressing the issue quite quickly. The rest of the field would snake their way along behind without incident.
The laps would continue to click off without problem. Giuseppe Farina was proving to be more than up for a challenge as he would go on to set the fastest lap of the race. Despite not starting well, de Graffenried also continued in the race up near the front.
Nodody could touch the pace of Ascari and Villoresi, who were running together throughout the first portions of the race. Their Ferrari teammate would have his incredible pace brought to an end when after 57 laps his gear selector would fail thereby ending his race. A number of other very competitive drivers would follow suit over the remaining laps. Talented drivers like Trintignant, Chiron, Rosier and Macklin would all fall by the wayside.
Meanwhile, Ascari and Villoresi continued to pull away at the front of the field. Emmanuel would desperately do what he could to keep up with the flying Italians. However, not even de Graffenried's perfect record could continue on infinitely.
Most bitterly for the Swiss Baron, the race would come to an end after his rear axle failed on his Maserati. The most devastating part of the failure was the fact it happened with less than 20 laps remaining in the race.
Given the pace up front, the actual race had been over quite early. There really were no other battles throughout the rest of the field. Each was separated by at least a lap. Coming down to the end, the only battle on the circuit could be found up at the front. Villoresi was following Ascari on the same lap. However, about forty-nine seconds separated the two.
Therefore, Ascari would drive steady, completing the 120 laps one minute less than three hours. Villoresi would end up slowing to finish the race about fifty seconds down in 2nd. After an early battle with Ascari, Farina, and Villoresi, Juan Manual Fangio would end up four laps down in a very quiet 3rd place.
After riding all during the two previous races, de Graffenried would come crashing back down to earth hard. Still, there were a number of positives that could be taken from the race. In fact, the car had lasted well more than two-thirds of the race before trouble hit. Although not the result Emmanuel had certainly been hoping for he still had reason to have confidence and not to feel daunted.
Baron de Graffenried wouldn't have too much time on his hands to get bitter. He would need to pack everything up quickly and head to the coast to head back across the Channel once again. He was heading back to the site of his victory in the 1st British Grand Prix.
On the 9th of May, de Graffenried was back at a familiar site and place of good feelings. Baron de Graffenried was back at Silverstone and was preparing to take part in the 5th BRDC International Trophy race.
The International Trophy race followed a different format than the World Championship rounds. The race consisted of two heat races and a final. The entire field would be divided up into heats. Finishing times from each heat race would then determine the starting order for the final. Each of the heat races were 15 laps of the 2.88 Silverstone circuit. Starting positions for the heat races would be determined by practice times before each heat.
Baron de Graffenried would be positioned in the first heat along with other such drivers as Stirling Moss, Louis Rosier, Tony Rolt and Prince Bira. In practice; however, nobody would prove faster than de Graffenried. Emmanuel's best lap in practice would end up being one minute and fifty-one seconds. Bob Gerard, Tony Rolt and Kenneth McAlpine would end up joining the Baron on the front row. However, their best times would all be at least three seconds slower.
Gerard would try and get the jump at the start and would end up being penalized for it. Stirling Moss; however, wouldn't jump the start but would certainly seem as though he had as he would end up right up there at the front of the field chasing de Graffenried.
A great battle would ensue between de Graffenried and Moss. Each would go on to set the same fastest lap time for the heat and never more than a few seconds separated the pairing at really any given time.
Prince Bira and Tony Rolt were desperately trying to track down de Graffenried and Moss but were have no luck whatsoever. The best battle in the field would end up being for 5th place between Kenneth McAlpine and Louis Rosier. These two would fight tooth and nail and would be within a second of each other seemingly throughout the course of the 15 lap heat.
Though Moss was pressing hard from behind, de Graffenried would hold on to take the heat win by five seconds over Moss. About seventeen seconds would separate Moss from Prince Bira finishing in the 3rd spot. McAlpine would manage to fend off Rosier for 5th place. Less than a second would separate the two.
The second heat would see the lone Scuderia Ferrari of Mike Hawthorn go up against the likes of Ken Wharton, Roy Salvadori, Maurice Trintignant, Peter Collins and others. In practice, Ken Wharton would prove superior in his Cooper-Bristol and would take the pole by a second over Hawthorn, Chiron and Trintignant.
While the efforts in practice may have been slightly slower than de Graffenried's, the pace in the second heat would certainly be more furious. The times from practice between Hawthorn and Wharton were close. In the heat race, the two would continue to keep their close relationship with each other.
Chiron would falter out of the gate; losing precious ground to Hawthorn and Wharton. Trintignant would be right there for the majority of the race. However, Wharton and Hawthorn would battle it out at the front of the field.
Wharton and Hawthorn continued to press each other. Hawthorn pushed hard trying to force Wharton to make a big enough of a mistake that he would be able to escape. To help keep the pressure on Hawthorn would turn the fastest lap time.
Trintignant had been one of the favorites coming into the heat. However, with just one lap remaining, his race would come to an end due to transmission issues. This certainly left Hawthorn and Wharton all alone at the front. Hawthorn had the position but was trying to shake Wharton loose.
Hawthorn just couldn't shake him loose. Although Hawthorn would go on to win the heat, he would do so by only about a second over Wharton. Roy Salvadori would end up finishing a distant 3rd. The best battle in the second heat would be between Harry Schell and Peter Collins. Schell would end up holding off Collins by just two-tenths of a second for 7th.
Finishing times from each heat race would determine starting order for the 35 lap final. Hawthorn and Wharton had demolished the second heat field, and even some of the top finishers of the first heat. Therefore, Hawthorn would start from the pole. He would be joined on the front row by his antagonist from the second heat Ken Wharton. Emmanuel de Graffenried and Stirling Moss would finish off the front row in 3rd and 4th respectively.
Baron de Graffenried knew he would have to push hard if he was to battle Hawthorn for the victory. He would do just thought. Emmanuel would get a good start and would be immediately on the pace. He would be right up there with Hawthorn and would be soon joined by Salvadori and Rolt.
Even though he was a privateer entry, de Graffenried was showing that he certainly didn't lack the pace to challenge as he would go on to match his practice effort by setting a lap time of one minute and fifty-one seconds. Unfortunately, Hawthorn would respond and would match his time tenth-for-tenth.
The season had started out with two-straight victories. He had earlier earned a victory in the first heat race. However, for actual race finishes, de Graffenried would end up earning two-straight retirements. In spite of his early pace, all was not right with de Graffenried and he would end up withdrawing his car after 16 laps. This left Salvadori to try and chase down Hawthorn.
It wouldn't work. Proving he was willing to match anybody's pace, Hawthorn would power his way to the victory. Salvadori would only manage to draw within twelve seconds of Hawthorn and would have to be happy with finishing the race 2nd. Tony Rolt would come from starting the final in 8th place to finish more than a minute and a half behind Hawthorn in 3rd place.
Over the first, four races of the season, de Graffenried had either won them or retired. He had a 50 percent success rate, but was on the downward trend as he headed closer to what would be his first round of the World Championship. He would need to turn things around in order to have some confidence going in. After a failed qualifying effort for the Ulster Trophy race, de Graffenried would wait until the end of May before trying to get his season back on the right track.
Baron de Graffenried needed to get his season back on the right track. The choice for his next race in which to do that would certainly be a questionable one. When it was all over, it would end up looking like a brilliant decision.
After failing to qualify for the Ulster Trophy race during the middle-part of May, de Graffenried would head back across the Irish Sea and the English Channel and would continue on to West Germany. His destination was Nurburg, Germany and the 17th running of the Internationales ADAC Eifelrennen, which took place on the 31st of May.
While Scuderia Ferrari, Equipe Gordini and BRM were busy taking part in the Grand Prix de l'Albigeois, one of the few remaining Formula One races still continuing to exist, de Graffenried wouldn't find any lack of competition where he was headed. And if the likes of Stirling Moss, Peter Collins and a bevy of other German racers wasn't enough competition than the circuit surely would be able to provide all he could handle.
The Eifelrennen took place on the notorious 14 mile long Nordschleife, or 'North Course' of the Nurburgring. A lamentable 'Green Hell', the Nurburgring offered danger and difficulty around each of its 170 corners. Combining constantly twisting and turning portions with blindingly fast sections, the circuit tested the limits of car's endurance. And at over ten minutes a lap in 1953, it would severely test the driver's patience and concentration.
The Nurburgring would certainly suit the Maserati. While the handling wasn't a light and nimble as some of the smaller cars it could still hold its own. And after holding its own with its handling, it had the ability of blowing by the competition with its greater horsepower.
In practice, de Graffenried would find there would be plenty of competition to be concerned about. The year before, Rudolf Fischer had taken his Ferrari 500 to victory. One year later, Kurt Adolff would take the same Ferrari 500 to the pole. He would be joined on the front row by Paul Frere, Hans Klenk and Stirling Moss. Emmanuel wouldn't even manage to make his way onto the second row of the grid. Instead, he would start the race from the third row.
The race would start in wet conditions, which at a circuit like the Nurburgring, would certainly present the drivers an ever-more dangerous proposition. Perhaps feeling the pressure around him, Adolff would lose out his position at the front when he would slip off the wet circuit just two laps into the race. He wouldn't retire from the race just then, but was certainly out of the running for the victory.
In such conditions, the doors opened up for a number of drivers. In these conditions it wouldn't be about top speed as much as it would be about keeping the car in one piece. Hans Klenk would end up losing out on his 3rd place starting position and would be out of the 7 lap race rather early on. Peter Collins was looking good coming up to challenge near the front.
Although he had started the race with a rather poor position, de Graffenried would use the conditions to his benefit. He would make a great start and would soon be up at the front of the field and leading the way. The Swiss Baron would be willing to take some chances in the less than ideal conditions. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race and would be battling with Paul Frere for the overall lead.
Frere was especially used to these conditions. The Belgian was from the lands of the Ardennes and wasn't too far away from the similar changing weather conditions of the Eifel mountains. This offered him a tremendous amount of experience. But de Graffenried would also prove to be quite at home in the conditions. Normally, over a course measuring more than fourteen miles, the entire field becomes spread out. However, because of the weather and the closeness of the competition, less than five minutes would separate the top five, even going into the final lap of the race.
Any one of the 170 corners could lead to disaster and losing the race. Emmanuel would prove to be unflappable and would end up doing a lot to turn his season around as he would cross the line just under two seconds ahead of Frere to take the victory. Peter Collins, another HWM pilot like Frere, would round-out the top three when he would cross the line some sixteen seconds behind de Graffenried.
Emmanuel not only had to battle the circuit for 7 laps, he had an incredible brawl with Frere throughout the closing stages. It had been an incredible race and the confidence-builder he needed since the very next race would be the third round of the World Championship.
Baron de Graffenried was coming off a tremendous result at the Nurburgring. He had successfully combated the circuit, the weather and the competition to take the win. This was the best way to head into what would be his first round of the World Championship.
Just about four hours to the northwest of Nurburg, Germany, situated on the wind-swept dunes overlooking the North Sea, the Zandvoort circuit would play host to what would be the third round of the World Championship. The race was the second installment of the Dutch Grand Prix.
Although it was only the second time in which the Dutch Grand Prix had been part of the World Championship, its venue was perhaps one of the more popular with the drivers. Measuring 2.64 miles in length, the circuit certainly wasn't one of the longest. Nor would it allow cars to reach their absolute top speeds. However, with the slightly–banked 'Tarzanbocht' first turn and the incredibly quick right-hand flick called 'Tunnel Oost', Zandvoort became popular for its hair-raising and very quick corners.
Coming into the race, de Graffenried, like the Maserati works team, would have use of the Maserati A6SSG 'Interim'. This chassis would handle better than the previous one, but it also developed much more horsepower. This would help to bring the car onto equal terms with Ferrari's supercar, the 500 F2.
In spite of the new car, Alberto Ascari would continue to prove to be the fastest as he would take the pole. His best lap would be a lap of one minute and fifty-one seconds. This would end up being more than a second and a half faster than Juan Manual Fangio in the first of the A6SSGs. It would be an all World Champion front row as Giuseppe Farina would round it out with a 3rd place starting position. Emmanuel would struggle during practice. His best time would end up being over seven seconds slower. Nonetheless, de Graffenried would start the race from the middle of the third row in the 7th position.
Even without the element of nature the corners at Zandvoort were already quite tricky. The day of the race, conditions would make things far more disconcerting. Sand blowing across the track would make it very slippery and difficult because the grip would change from corner to corner, and even from lap to lap. Therefore, the one that would be the most successful would be the one that could constantly adapt and continue to do it for some 90 laps.
Heading into the first turn at the start of the race, Alberto Ascari would lead the way. He would be followed by his Ferrari teammates Giuseppe Farina and Luigi Villoresi. Fangio would manage to break up the Ferrari stranglehold at the front by sliding in front of Hawthorn. Baron de Graffenried would take things a little easier. Searching for grip, de Graffenried would follow Harry Schell through with his Equipe Gordini T16.
Ascari would lead an incredibly talented train of drivers throughout the first portions of the race. The speeding freight train would begin to click off lap after lap. Emmanuel de Graffenried continued to run very carefully but well inside the top ten.
The train continued unabated. Then, after just 22 laps, the first signs of trouble began to show amongst the front-runners. The Maserati A6GCM and the A6SSG had a propensity for rear axle failure. Sure enough, the same problem would come to visit the Argentinean Jose Froilan Gonzalez. Gonzalez would be out of the race, but for only another couple of laps. Felice Bonetto would end up being ordered in to hand over his car to Gonzalez for the remainder of the race.
The pesky rear axle problem would come calling again. Still short of halfway, the rear axle would fail on Fangio's Maserati as well. The problem he had was that there wasn't another car that could be given to him for the rest of the race. Therefore, the former World Champion's race was over.
Ascari was out front, but wasn't without company. Giuseppe Farina remained within striking distance if Ascari made a mistake. And Luigi Villoresi was proving to just get into the flow of things as he would end up turning the fastest lap of the race. However, just as he was finding his pace the car would suffer from throttle problems and would be forced to retire from the race. Harry Schell's departure just a few laps before was also helpful to de Graffenried, who by now, had come to distance himself from Maurice Trintignant and was running solidly in the points.
Although Farina was giving chase there was nothing that could be done with Ascari. Alberto would go on to lead every single one of the 90 laps and would take the victory by eleven seconds over Farina. Gonzalez would recover from his earlier misfortunes and would take full advantage of the second chance to finish the race in 3rd, albeit one lap down.
Emmanuel de Graffenried was behind Mike Hawthorn in 4th place by a lap and enjoyed a lap advantage over Maurice Trintignant who was running in 6th. As long as he kept his car on the road and under control he would have the final points-paying position locked up. Although two laps down at the end, de Graffenried would hold everything together to make his first World Championship race of the season a points-paying result.
For his 5th place effort, de Graffenried would earn 2 points toward the World Championship. Perhaps more importantly, the momentum gained by the victory at the Eifelrennen continued on into the first round of the World Championship. Perhaps for the first time since his victory at the British Grand Prix back in 1949, de Graffenried had a car truly capable of some competitive performances and he had proven to this point of the season that he was going to take advantage of any opportunity presented to him.
After starting out the 1953 World Championship season with a points-paying result at the Dutch Grand Prix, de Graffenried would wait and prepare for two weeks before taking part in his next race. There had been a gap of a number of months between the first and second rounds of the World Championship. Now they were beginning to come in a much more rapid succession. Two weeks after Zandvoort, de Graffenried was preparing his car to take part in the Belgian Grand Prix.
The Belgian Grand Prix had been part of the World Championship since its first year of existence. In 1953, the teams would be taking part in what actually was the 14th Grand Prix de Belgique. And as usual, Spa-Francorchamps would serve as its host.
During World War II, the Ardennes forest was the scene of some especially savage fighting. It was a dangerous and deadly location. For the grand prix driver a danger existed amongst the misty, heavily-wooded hill country. At 8.77 miles in length, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit was almost nothing but pure speed, but therein laid its danger. Literally flat-out throughout almost the whole of a lap, its fast sweeping corners like Eau Rouge, the Masta Kink and Stavelot were just accidents waiting to happen. Concentration and bravery were an absolute must.
In 1952, the unpredictable weather would come to play a role in the race. Although Ascari would prove victorious, the weather would even the playing field and would even see other drivers, like Jean Behra, take a turn in the lead. In 1953, the usually unpredictable weather was serving up some welcomed dry weather running. This meant the pure speed of the circuit would be witnessed by spectator and driver alike.
By this point in time, the Maserati A6SSG was producing almost 200 horsepower. The power would come into play during practice. Juan Manual Fangio would use the power to his advantage and would streak to the pole-position after he set a time of four minutes and thirty seconds. Incredibly, this time would prove to be two second faster than Ascari in his Ferrari 500. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would complete the front row when he would qualify with the third-fastest time.
Although it was obvious the Maserati had the power to earn top starting positions, Baron de Graffenried's best time in practice would certainly be much more conservative. His best lap would be four minutes and forty-nine seconds. At nineteen seconds slower than Fangio, de Graffenried would start the race from the fourth row in the 9th position.
Fangio was confident heading into the race and when the field broke and roared away at the start Fangio would oblige and let Gonzalez go through into the lead going up through Eau Rouge. Gonzalez would quickly begin to pull away from the field. Gonzalez's first lap would complete stun the crowd as he would average 110 mph over the course of the lap.
While Gonzalez was quickly pulling away at the front of the field, de Graffenried was settling into a comfortable pace up inside the top ten. He knew he had a fast car and just needed to wait and look for those opportunities to move forward.
Gonzalez was turning in some incredible lap times. He would set what would become the fastest lap of the race on just the 2nd lap. He would go on to match the time on the 3rd, 9th and 11th lap of the race. However, his car had become accustomed to running flat-out, and after completing 11 laps, his car's accelerator pedal would have issues and would end up leading Gonzalez to dropping out of the race. His lead had been a minute. Now it would be Fangio that would take over the lead with a thirty-second advantage himself.
All of Fangio's confidence would be shattered after just two laps in the lead of the race. The engine would let go in his Maserati. After being the fastest car in the field, such a result just wouldn't do. Therefore, he would take over the Maserati of local Belgian Johnny Claes in an effort to claw the victory back.
Besides Gonzalez's and Fangio's troubles, Giuseppe Farina would end up dropping out of the race with an engine failure. All of these issues up towards the front of the running order were helping de Graffenried to move up the order. He was busy chasing Onofre Marimon for position and enjoyed something of an advantage over Ferrari's fourth driver Mike Hawthorn and the Equipe Gordini driver Maurice Trintignant.
Fangio's loss would be Ascari's gain. The World Champion had driven a steady race to that point and had been awarded with the lead of the race. By this point in time, only about 23 laps remained in the 36 lap race. It was still enough time for Fangio, who had taken over Felice Bonetto's car, to claw his way back up and challenge for the lead. And this was what Fangio had in mind.
Despite falling out with engine failure, Fangio would end up getting by de Graffenried and Marimon and was rapidly chasing Ascari and Villoresi down. Ascari continued to hold onto the lead going into the final lap of the race.
Ascari and Villoresi were holding station at the front but Fangio was driving as hard as ever to try and recover from the failed engine. He would push hard; a little too hard. Driving on the very edge, Fangio would make an uncharacteristic mistake and would step off the edge. He would end up crashing his car and would end up out of the race. This would be another break that would benefit de Graffenried.
With the threat from the Argentinean lying off the side of the road out of the race, Ascari was free to just cruise to the victory. Averaging a little more than 112 mph, Ascari would go on to take the victory by more than two and a half minutes over Villoresi. Onofre Marimon would benefit from Fangio's mistake and would end up inheriting a 3rd place finish.
Like Marimon, de Graffenried was over a lap down to Ascari. However, de Graffenried's steady pace, along with the retirements of other top drivers, would end up promoting the Swiss gentleman racer to a 4th place finish.
Emmanuel de Graffenried had recovered from the two-straight retirements earlier in the season. Now, he was enjoying his second-straight points-paying result. The 3 points he earned in the Belgian Grand Prix, when combined with the 2 points from the Dutch Grand Prix, would place him just outside of the top five in the championship standings. After a couple of years with less than spectacular teams and equipment, de Graffenried was certainly being rewarded. His main concern was keeping the momentum rolling.
Two weeks after the Belgian Grand Prix, de Graffenried would come rolling into Reims, France, getting ready to take part in the fifth round of the World Championship. As with the first two seasons of the World Championship, Reims would host the French Grand Prix. The race would take place on the 5th of July; a date that would come to be remembered in grand prix history as perhaps the 'race of the century'.
The World Championship had left one ultra-fast circuit and arrived at another. Unlike the Rouen-les-Essarts, which had been the host for the French Grand Prix in 1952, the Reims circuit was all about speed. This would be made even more the case coming into the 1953 season.
The circuit had changed in 1952. The triangle layout would be interrupted. The hairpin turn in the village of Gueux would be abandoned in favor of a fast, sweeping right-hand turn just past the start/finish line. This would remain for 1953. But in addition, the circuit would bypass the run down to Garenne, and instead, would sweep through some S-bends until reaching the tight hairpin turn known as Muizon. This made the long, long straight run down to the final corner, the Thillois hairpin, even longer. This layout would lend to the use of slipstreaming to pass fellow competitors. However, the full effect of the changes would only become realized when the race would start.
Maserati had dominated the pace at Spa. Therefore, Ferrari needed to do something to overcome their rival's advantage. The nose of the 500 would be altered slightly. In practice, it would be found the changes certainly worked. The competition was pulled tighter amongst the two main factory challengers.
The times amongst the factory Maserati and Ferrari teams were incredibly close in practice. Alberto Ascari would end up setting the fastest lap time but he would only beat out Felice Bonetto for the pole by three-tenths of a second. Luigi Villoresi would end up starting in the 3rd, and final, position on the front row. Just seven-tenths of a second would separate the entire front row.
Just five seconds would separate de Graffenried's time and that of Ascari. Emmanuel's best time of two minutes and forty-six seconds would end up earning de Graffenried another 9th place starting position on the fourth row of the grid.
The day of the race would break sunny and hot. Gonzalez would break away from the field also on fire. He had started the race with half-full fuel tanks and would use his lighter weight to pull out an advantage. The sight behind him would become something absolutely spectacular to behold.
Lap after lap, with Gonzalez streaking further out in front, the spectators would be greeted with an incredible display of talent and bravery. These elite drivers would put on a show and would make it clear as to why they were in fact the elite drivers in the world. Lap after lap, the top ten wouldn't be separated by more than a couple of car lengths. In the case of the top five, less than a car length would separate the competitors. In many cases, the Ferrari teammates would be seen rounding corners side-by-side. In many other instances, the Ferrari drivers, as well as Fangio and Onofre Marimon, would be interlocked powering down the long straights. The scene was incredible to behold from a spectators point of view. Even the drivers would come to recognize just how incredible an episode the whole thing had been.
While it was good entertainment, and even though the drivers completely trusted and respected each other's talent, not all were amused. Many of the team managers were less than enthusiastic about what they were witnessing. But they could do little, and they certainly weren't going to tell Ascari, Fangio or Farina how to drive.
There was never a let-up in the action. Although Gonzalez had pulled out an advantage of almost thirty seconds, when he stopped for fuel, he would be thrown back down into the shuffle and would only add to the excitement.
The pace was too much for many to handle. A number of competitors, including Maurice Trintignant, Elie Bayol, Stirling Moss and Felice Bonetto, would all come to watch the incredible action from the sidelines. Others, like de Graffenried, would find the pace so incredible that to try and keep up was simply futile and dangerous. As the race would wear on towards its climax, many would actually slow down as the front runners would come pass. They too wanted to forget about racing for a moment and witness the mesmerizing sight.
Toward the last third of the race, the pace continued to increase. The incredible pace was beginning to spread these elite drivers out, but whereas minutes would separate competitors at other races, like Spa, only a second or two would separate the top three or four. And the battle amongst those top three or four remained intense.
Coming down to the last few laps of the race, de Graffenried was in a rather safe position. His pace had been quick enough that he enjoyed an advantage of more than two laps over Louis Rosier. Unfortunately for de Graffenried, his pace hadn't been enough to keep up with the front-runners. Coming down towards the end of the race, de Graffenried was running in 7th, but was down two laps to the top six. No matter, he would have the opportunity to slow and witness the action.
He, as well as the rest of the screaming crowd, would witness a titanic battle between Fangio and Hawthorn. Lap after lap, the two would pull beside each other along the long straights and would just give each other a look, trying to measure each other up. Wheel-to-wheel the two would battle.
Who the winner was going to be was not any clearer when the two headed out on the final lap of the race. Heading down the long straight to the final hairpin turn, Hawthorn held a slim lead. Fangio was desperately trying to power his way by. He went to the outside and would try and outbreak Hawthorn. The crowd peered down the long start/finish straight straining to see who would come through the final corner in the lead. Then there they were!
Fangio had given it his best shot but Hawthorn would match his late-braking maneuver. This threw Fangio off. Fangio would have to quickly recover to maintain his 2nd position as Jose Froilan Gonzalez was right there looking for any mistake from which he could take advantage. Hawthorn's brave move enabled him to pull out a lead of a second as he powered his way to the finish line. The lost momentum was allowing Gonzalez to come alongside of Fangio and challenge for 2nd.
Amidst the throng of a cheering and yelling crowd, Hawthorn would power his way to his first, and arguably, most dramatic World Championship victory. Gonzalez's front wheels had managed to pull even with Fangio's rear wheels but could not get by before crossing the line.
Arguably, everyone finishing outside of the top three was practically forgotten about. What was missed was Baron de Graffenried finishing a very solid 7th place. Though he had finished out of the points for the first time in any of the World Championship races in which he had competed, the result was still an incredible result for the gentleman racer. Almost all of the factory Maserati and Ferrari team members would finish the race. This would be a hard act to follow. And yet, de Graffenried would put together an impressive performance of his own. There was every reason for him to hold his head up high as he packed and left on his way to the coast and on to England.
The World Championship rounds were now coming in rather rapid fashion. Baron de Graffenried would pack up his car and equipment and would leave Reims. There would only be two weeks before the sixth round of the World Championship. He would need to make his way back across the English Channel once again and head on up to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix.
Emmanuel de Graffenried had won the first British Grand Prix in 1949. One year later, it would be the first round of the newly formed Formula One World Championship. In 1953, de Graffenried returned to Silverstone looking for retribution.
In the first heat race of the BRDC International Trophy race back in May, de Graffenried had been strong. He had won the heat and looked poised to battle Hawthorn in the final. In the final he was fast setting the fastest lap of the race, but he would soon withdraw his car and would be out of the running. Returning on July 18th, de Graffenried would find himself amidst a flurry of Maserati and Scuderia Ferrari entries, but he knew he still had a shot.
Like Goodwood, Silverstone came into existence as a bomber base for the Royal Air Force. It would serve proudly throughout the war but would become abandoned soon after. In 1947 it would hold its first impromptu race. A bunch of local racing enthusiasts would make their way onto the airbase and would hold a motor race there. That first race would see a fatality. A sheep would wander onto the circuit. It would be struck and killed. Although a medium-speed circuit its 2.88 mile layout had a way with killing the hopes and dreams of many who had competed on its track. It had come along and ruined de Graffenried's run back in May; he could expect to have to fight more of the same when he returned in July.
News had quickly spread of the young Mike Hawthorn's victory at Reims. The British faithful were hoping for more of the same. Even though the competition would remain tight, it was, after all, a new race taking part at a different venue and in weather quite different than what the competitors had in Reims.
Although it was a new race at a different venue the same players from Reims would find their way to the front row of the grid. Ascari would end up turning the fastest lap in practice with a time of one minute and forty-eight seconds. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would be just a second slower and would start 2nd. Mike Hawthorn would delight the fans as he would start 3rd. And Juan Manual Fangio would complete the front row by starting 4th. Ascari's time was about three seconds faster than de Graffenried's fastest effort back in May. It really wouldn't matter what time Ascari posted for de Graffenried to aim at. His performance in practice would be slowed and he would end up starting the 90 lap race from the eighth, and final, row of the grid in 26th overall.
In typical English fashion, the race would be greeted with overcast skies promising to drop rain. Trying to get the jump on the field and the rain, Fangio would be first heading into the first corner. However, he would make another slight error in judgement and would go in too hot. He couldn't hold it and would end up having to slip in behind Ascari in 2nd place. Emmanuel de Graffenried would have to try and work his way forward from the final row of the grid. It wouldn't be easy. He would need patience. But that meant he would also be much slower than the front-runners and risked being in another kind of difficult situation.
At the better part of three hours, the 90 lap race wouldn't be a quick affair. However, there would be a number of competitors that would find their days shortened prematurely. Mechanical problem after mechanical problem would sideline driver and car. Before a third of the way had been completed there would be eight out of the race. Another couple would end up out of the event due to the slippery conditions caused by the rains when they came. Mike Hawthorn wouldn't retire but he would lose a number of positions when he spun out in the wet conditions and tried desperately to get back on track.
In such conditions, car control becomes incredibly important. Not just steering input becomes important. Even feeding in the power is almost as important. Unfortunately, this means the transmission and its components take a great deal of stress. The stress for de Graffenried's Maserati would be too much to bear. He would not be able to take his vengeance. The clutch would break and he would be out of the race before even reaching halfway.
Were it not for the attrition making things interesting the British Grand Prix would have been a rather boring Ascari exhibition. Once Fangio made his mistake going into the first corner at the start of the race…well that was all that Ascari needed. He would take over the lead and would not look back. With each and every lap he would continue to stretch out his lead. Everyone else basically got in line and performed a game of 'follow the leader' for the next almost three hours.
Ascari would take exactly two hours and fifty minutes to cross the finish line the victor. Exactly one minute would separate him and Fangio at the finish. The pace of these two would be such that Giuseppe Farina would finish in 3rd but would end up two laps down at the end.
Baron de Graffenried had performed well at Reims but left without any points. While his effort at the French Grand Prix would make the result easier to deal with, the result at the British Grand Prix would be difficult. He had won that race in the past, but ever since 1950, he had only managed to finish the race one time. He needed to leave English shores and head to a more favorable climate. He would repeat his pattern from back in May and would hope it would net something similar in result.
In between the sixth and seventh rounds of the World Championship, de Graffenried would take part in a non-championship race in the southeastern part of France. The race was the Circuit du Lac. The race was held in the relaxed and tranquil setting of Aix-les-Bains. And after the frustration of Silverstone it seemed to be the perfect place for de Graffenried to be.
Known for its hot sulphur springs, the small town of Aix-les-Bains had once been a haven for the Romans. With Lac du Bourget serving as the foreground and the foothills of the Alps creating the background, the small town was the perfect place to get away and enjoy life. The town's tight streets would also serve as the basis for a 1.49 mile street circuit.
The Circuit du Lac would be another race with a slightly different format than that of the World Championship. The race would consist of two 50 lap heat races in which all of the competitors would take part. The final results would be determined by the aggregate scoring for each competitor in each heat.
Although the Maserati certainly had the power, on the tight and twisty streets, all of the power would actually make things a little more difficult. This would be very evident in practice. While the Ferrari and Maserati had been dominant throughout most of the races of the season it would be a Gordini T16 driven by Harry Schell that would take the pole. Onofre Marimon would end up in the middle of the front row with a 2nd place starting spot. Maurice Trintignant would complete the front row in another T16. Emmanuel de Graffenried would end up qualifying in the second row in 4th place, right off of Schell's left shoulder.
If de Graffenried thought Silverstone was bad he would wish he was back there once the race got started. Schell would make a good start and would be fast right away. Emmanuel would be right there with Marimon and Trintignant. However, the entire first-four starters would run into problems during the race.
Baron de Graffenried would be the first to experience the trouble. Unfortunately, after just five laps of the 50 lap first heat the oil pump would fail on de Graffenried's Maserati thereby ending his race. Marimon and Trintignant would follow on the same lap. Trintignant would suffer from a fire while Marimon would be sidelined as the result of damaged suffered in a crash.
The whole field would receive a big shakeup. Even Schell's early quick pace would come crashing to a halt and he would end up drifting down the running order. After the first heat, it would be Jean Behra that would come up from 6th to take the victory. Elie Bayol would drive consistently to finish in 2nd. Louis Rosier would start the race from 7th and would finish in 3rd.
Starting position for the second heat race would be determined by finishing position from the first. Therefore, Behra would start from the pole. Bayol would sit 2nd while Rosier would complete the front row in 3rd. After such a bitterly disappointing first heat de Graffenried was certain to make another go of it despite being well out of the running. Therefore, he would line up dead-last on the grid.
Once the second heat would start de Graffenried would quickly realize that he actually had been ahead in the first heat and should have quit then. After just three laps, de Graffenried's car began to suffer from an ignition problem and was severely down on power. He would end up retiring from the race after having completed just 8 of the 100 laps.
Jean Behra would end up running into trouble about a third of the way into the race and would end up handing the lead over to Elie Bayol. Louis Rosier was his closest competition. If he could hold him behind him over the remaining thirty laps or so he would be assured of victory.
He would do just that. Bayol would take the victory in the heat and the overall win. Louis Rosier would finish the heat in 2nd and would complete the race finishing in 2nd as well. Lance Macklin, who had started the first heat from the 8th starting position, would end up finishing in 3rd overall.
Back toward the end of May, de Graffenried was longing for a good result. He would head to Germany and would come away with perhaps more than he had hoped for. He was now in need of a good result all the more. Thankfully, he was heading back to Germany. He had found blessings there before; maybe he could find some again.
As he had at the end of May, de Graffenried headed to West Germany and the Nurburgring at the very beginning of August. It was the German Grand Prix and it would pit car and driver against each other and against the 14 mile long Nordschleife for 18 grueling laps.
After starting out his World Championship season with two-straight points scoring results, de Graffenried had suffered a string of two in a row where he had come up with nothing. The French Grand Prix had been a good race despite not scoring any points. The British Grand Prix would be a disaster that would carry over into one of the non-championship races in between the race at Silverstone and the German Grand Prix. As with the Eifelrennen, de Graffenried was looking to the German Grand Prix to provide the turn around he needed for the remainder of the season.
If the Maseratis had looked dominant heading into the Belgian Grand Prix, then the Nurburgring would certainly seem to be the private playground for the Scuderia Ferrari team. Alberto Ascari would end up being fastest in practice but his time would be truly remarkable. While only two-tenths quicker than a ten minute lap it would still be less than four seconds slower than his own pole time set in a 4.5-liter V12 Formula One car during the 1951 season. On top of that, his time would end up being almost four seconds faster than Juan Manual Fangio's. Giuseppe Farina and Mike Hawthorn, two of the three other Ferrari drivers, would end up on the front row with Ascari.
The best lap de Graffenried would manage to put together was pushing the eleven minute mark more than it was the ten. At ten minutes and forty-six seconds, de Graffenried would find himself starting in 11th place on the outside of the third row.
The last time he had been to the Nurburgring, the race was contested in the wet. That would not be the case this time. As the field roared away on its first lap it would be Fangio that would get the jump. However, unlike at Silverstone, he would manage to make it stick and would go on to lead the field for all of about a mile or so before Ascari's superior pace would bring him through into the lead.
Ascari had the lead and would begin to draw away from the rest of the field. The rest of the field would begin to fall prey to attrition. Some wouldn't even complete a single lap before their day was over. Five would be out after just one lap. Eight would be out before five would be completed.
Meanwhile, Ascari continued to run away with the lead of the race. Emmanuel de Graffenried was busy trying to settle into a rhythm, which certainly wasn't an easy thing at a track the size of the Nordschleife.
Baron de Graffenried would focus on driving hard but staying out of trouble. Others that were in front of him would begin to run into trouble. Maurice Trintignant would repeat his German Grand Prix of 1952 and would be out of the race before having completed two laps. Just after six laps into the race another of the Equipe Gordini cars, one piloted by Harry Schell, would retire with engine related issues. Just one lap later, the sole remaining Equipe Gordini chassis would retire. Jean Behra's T16 would suffer from gearbox failure and would be out of the race. All three had started the race better positioned than de Graffenried. Their failures would end up vaulting de Graffenried up near the top five. It would get better.
All was not well with Ascari though he was in the lead and running away with the race. All of a sudden, other drivers would come to realize they were passing him driving a three-wheeled car. A wheel had broken loose and he was desperately trying to nurse the car back to the pits. His troubles would end up benefiting Hawthorn and Farina who would each take turns in the lead.
It seemed Ascari would be out of the race. But he would be bailed out one of many times by his friend and mentor Villoresi. Luigi would pit his car and turn it over to Ascari for the remainder of the race. Ascari would immediately set off while Villoresi would wait for Ascari's car to be repaired.
Ascari would drive like a man possessed. If his pace had been impressive before the wheel came off, it would be beyond description afterward. Eight laps remained in the race and Ascari would do his best to turn each one of them at qualifying pace. On the 12th lap of the race his pace was extremely apparent and beyond mere words. He would turn the fastest lap of the race with a time of nine minutes and fifty-six seconds flat. Not only was this time much faster than his qualifying effort, it was also faster than most of the Formula One cars from just a couple of years prior.
This pace would make many, de Graffenried included, look like they were more than outmatched. Ascari's presence back in the race would also cause de Graffenried to lose a place as well. Emmanuel certainly wasn't up amongst the front-runners. In fact, he would end up a lap down before the end, but at least he was near the top five. However, Ascari and Villoresi's appearance back in the race brought the potential for points under fire.
Ascari was driving like a man on fire. He had a championship to win. He needed to make sure he did everything he could to ensure that he would retain the title. He would help from the others in case he wouldn't make it to the end.
Ascari would end up needing the help. His pace throughout the last eight laps would be absolutely incredible. However, while Ascari may have been comfortable completing lap after lap at that pace, Villoresi's Ferrari wouldn't. Just three laps from the end the engine would expire in the Ferrari. The fate of the World Championship would be left to the competitors still out on the circuit.
Giuseppe Farina would end up taking advantage of the situation presented to him and would power his way to victory. He would end up finishing ahead of Fangio by a little more than a minute. Ascari's real threat would be Hawthorn. Hawthorn needed the victory to keep the hopes alive. Unfortunately, he would finish the race almost two minutes behind in 3rd. This would be one of those rare moments where a retirement would do little to harm a driver's championship hopes.
It would also be one of those moments where one man's loss would be another man's gain. Ascari's last minute exit from the race would end up promoting de Graffenried up to the final points-paying position, 5th. He would end up one lap down but would manage to beat Stirling Moss by more than two minutes for the final points-paying position.
Once again, the dangerous Nurburgring would serve up a dose of positive momentum for de Graffenried. This was rare. There were very few Ringmeisters. Most would find their momentum brought to an absolute stand-still by the 'Ring', but in 1953, it would serve as something of a savior to de Graffenried. The 2 points now brought de Graffenried's tally up to 7 and firmly inside the top ten in the championship standings.
After Germany, de Graffenried could look forward to going home. There was three weeks between the seventh and eighth rounds of the World Championship. And besides that, the next race would be the Swiss Grand Prix.
Berne, Switzerland would serve as host for the eighth round of the World Championship. The Swiss Grand Prix would make use of the 4.52 mile Bremgarten road circuit located just to the northwest of the city center. The race would take place on the 23rd of August and it would be the second-to-last round of the World Championship.
On paper, the Bremgarten circuit seemed harmless enough. Although there really wasn't a straight part to the whole circuit it still featured some very straight-forward corners. But it was its rather gentle and sleepy nature that made it so very dangerous. Its constantly moving layout and cobblestoned corners would make it easy to get things wrong very quickly. On top of that, its rather tranquil setting was perhaps its biggest danger-point. Situated along the Wohlensee river and heavily wooded it seemed the circuit was constantly wet. The heavy foliage would seem to block the tarmac from completely drying.
On the day of the race, there wasn't any amount of water, except for the river that is, that could stand up to the heat. Cars would be covered by branches pulled off the trees and spectators, crews and drivers would seek out shade at every moment.
When the cars were uncovered and brought out to line up for the start of the race it would be Juan Manual Fangio that would line up in the pole-position. His time of two minutes, forty and one-tenth seconds would end up being six-tenths faster than Ascari. Giuseppe Farina would make it World Champions' row as he would start in 3rd.
Many of the fans would be cheering their man de Graffenried on and he would end up with a decent starting position on the grid. His best time in practice would be almost ten seconds slower but it would still be good enough to line up 8th, on the outside of the third row.
The field would roar away. Fangio and Ascari would get good jumps off the line and would be reaching ever forward. Onofre Marimon would make a great start and would even have the lead at points during the first lap. Giuseppe Farina would make an absolutely terrible start and would be in danger of falling outside of the top ten. But that danger wouldn't last long.
Although Marimon had made a great start and would lead portions of the first lap it would be Ascari that would officially lead the first lap. A lead group would form. In that group would be Ascari, Fangio, Marimon and Hawthorn. Farina would recover from his terrible start and would be quickly working his way back up amongst the front-runners.
Baron de Graffenried had made a good start and was sitting there amongst the top ten. Bremgarten, with its constantly flowing nature would require a tempo and a pace in order to be fast and the Baron was finding his way trying to move forward.
The group ahead of him on the road wouldn't make it at all easy. The factory Maseratis were well intermixed with the Scuderia Ferraris and promised to make any ascent up the running order very difficult.
Of course the biggest competitor on this day would perhaps be the weather, and it didn't have favorites. Fangio had been right behind Ascari but all was not well. Although he had been fast all throughout practice and the first couple of laps, Fangio would need to pit and change cars with Bonetto. This would happen after just 12 of the 65 scheduled laps.
Fangio's troubles would leave Scuderia Ferrari drivers up at the front of the field with just Onofre Marimon holding down the fort for Maserati. Baron de Graffenried was still circulating, and well, but was not up amongst the leaders.
Not all was well with the Ferrari foursome though either. Late in the race, Ascari would suffer from some engine related issues. Marimon would run into troubles of his own and would end up retiring from the race. Because of his departure, and Fangio's gearbox problems, Ferrari knew his team was safe. Therefore, when Ascari returned to the race he had been instructed, like the other Ferrari drivers, to just hold station all the way to the end of the race.
Ascari would have none of it. He would end up going by his surprised teammate and would take the victory. It was his fifth victory of the season. Farina would end up coming in a little more than a minute behind in 2nd place. Mike Hawthorn would complete the Ferrari sweep by finishing in 3rd.
The Swiss Grand Prix wouldn't end up being a welcome race for de Graffenried. He had looked good throughout two-thirds of the race. However, after completing 48 laps the camshaft would break in his car thereby ending his race. This was a truly disappointing result for the Swiss driver given the fact that over the last few years he had been dealing with aged and outclassed machinery.
As de Graffenried packed up to leave his home nation he knew he had just one more round of the World Championship left. But before he would compete in the ninth, and final, round he would head off to France for another non-championship race.
One week after the disappointing Swiss Grand Prix, de Graffenried would be in Cadours, France for the 5th Circuit de Cadours. This was yet another race comprised of heats and a final and it would take place at the Cadours circuit.
Though not as popular as some of the other French motor racing venues, the Cadours circuit was a technically difficult circuit comprised of public roads traversing the countryside to the northwest of the village of Cadours. Featuring only one straight of any notable length, the Cadours circuit was a mixture of S-bends and tight hairpin turns. This challenging and rather slow circuit measured just a little more than 2.54 miles in length and was very easy to get all wrong.
The Circuit de Cadours race would be run similar to the International Trophy race run at Silverstone back in May but there would be some minor differences. Should a driver fail to make it through their heat, in order to take part in the final, he would have to compete in a 10 lap repechage. The final would consist of a 30 lap race around the 2.54 mile circuit.
There would only be a field of eight to take part in the first heat race. In practice before the first 15 lap heat race Maurice Trintignant would prove to be fastest. Emmanuel de Graffenried would enjoy a good starting position as he would start the race 2nd. Flanking de Graffenried's left would be Charles de Tornaco in his Ferrari 500.
The front row would take a large hit. During the race, Charles de Tornaco would have an oil pipe break and would be forced to retire from the race. Baron de Graffenried would also have his race end prematurely as the rear axle problem for the Maserati would end up sidelining him.
With the immediate pressure off of him, Trintignant would pull away with the lead of the race. Jean Behra would be the man on the move. Despite starting 6th, he would make his way up through the field and would be following just seconds behind his Equipe Gordini teammate.
Trintignant would cruise to victory in the first heat. He would end up finishing eight seconds ahead of Behra. Third would go to Yves Giraud-Cabantous in an HWM-Alta. He would be almost a minute and a half behind Trintignant.
The second heat would see Louis Rosier sitting on the pole in his Ferrari 500. He would be joined on the front row by Elie Bayol and Harry Schell.
In the race, the order would almost be reversed. Schell would be the fastest one in the field as he would turn a lap of one minute and fifty-eight seconds. This would enable him to pull out a little bit of a lead over Rosier. Rosier would also enjoy a decent gap over Bayol in his OSCA 20.
Schell would go on to take the victory. He would end up finishing his heat race fifty seconds faster than what Trintignant had in his victorious first heat. Schell would be followed home by Rosier some twelve seconds behind. Elie Bayol would finish in 3rd and he would be forty-one seconds behind, but still faster than Trintignant's finishing time.
Baron de Graffenried had tried to enter the second heat at Aix-les-Bains only to have the second heat last a shorter amount of time than what the first had. Therefore at Cadours, de Graffenried wouldn't even attempt to try and make his way through the repechage. Charles de Tornaco; however, would and would end up winning the 10 lap race over John Heath.
De Tornaco and Heath would therefore join the rest of the finishers from the two heats and would prepare for the start of the 30 lap final. Schell's impressive finishing time would earn him the pole. He would be joined on the front row by those who had followed him across the line in the second heat. Rosier would start 2nd while Bayol sat waiting in 3rd.
Bayol's chances would evaporate after just the first lap when transmission ailments would end his run. Rosier seemed to fade against the impressive performances of the Equipe Gordini trio of Trintignant, Schell and Behra.
Trintignant had made a great start from right behind Schell and would immediately be challenging at the front of the field. Behra would also fight his way up and would be intermixed in a battle with his teammates over the course of the final race.
Rosier's only hope would be a misstep from one of the Gordini pilots. None would. And Trintignant would lead home an Equipe Gordini sweep. Trintignant would cross the line to take the victory. Four seconds behind would come Schell. Schell was defending his position from Behra who was less than a second behind. Schell would power down the straight and would cross the line barely ahead of Behra for 2nd.
Baron de Graffenried had travelled all the way to Cadours to take part in just a handful of laps. Just a handful of laps were basically all that remained on the season. He would need every single one of them to count.
Only one more round was left for the Formula 2 cars in the Formula One World Championship. The final race of the season would be on the 13th of September in Italy. It was the Italian Grand Prix and it would take place at the well known and ultra-fast Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.
With the exception of the previous season, the Italian Grand Prix had been the final round for the World Championship. A season's worth of build up would lead to the race being attended by a large throng of fans and every year since the very beginning of the World Championship the Italians had had reason to cheer.
In 1953, not only was Ascari the first repeat World Champion, but Ferrari had a challenger. What was best about the competition for Ferrari was the fact that it had been coming from another Italian automotive manufacturer.
Monza had become the center for Italian motorsports almost from the very moment it was opened in September of 1922. It would also become known as a place for speed. When first laid out in the Royal Villa of Monza park the autodromo would consist of three different circuits all in one complex. Throughout the early history of the circuit the 3.91 mile road course would be combined with the 2.64 mile steeply banked oval to create 6.21 miles of sheer speed. This layout would be incredibly fast, but also, incredibly dangerous. More than a few would lose their life challenging the circuit. However, the oval wasn't needed. Average speeds around the road course were more than high enough and the layout seemed safer than using the banking.
A single lap around the 3.91 mile road course would see drivers with their foot firmly to the floor well more than three-quarters of the time. This favored the cars that had the greater horsepower advantage. In 1953, this would clearly make the Italian Grand Prix a battle between Ferrari and Maserati. Thankfully for de Graffenried he could be included in the equation with his own A6SSG.
Although it was the Italians' backyard the race was quite popular with a number of drivers from all over the world. Therefore, there would be thirty slots for the 80 lap race. As with what seemed to be just about every other World Championship race, Ascari would end up taking the pole. His time of two minutes and two seconds would end up being half a second faster than Fangio. For one last time in 1953, Farina would make it champions' row when he would qualify third-fastest.
As with just about every other World Championship race during the 1953 season it seemed de Graffenried always started just inside the top ten. At Monza, his best lap would end up being just three seconds slower than Ascari's and would earn him a 9th place starting spot, which was on the outside of the third row.
Another beautiful day greeted race day. And as the field roared away it would be the Ferraris that would get the best jump. Fangio would make a terrible getaway and would be quickly in catch-up mode. The slow getaway by Fangio would end up helping de Graffenried come up to around 5th at the start. Marimon was again right up there with the Ferraris challenging for the lead.
The race would settle in and would be as promised: fast. The pace up at the front of the field was intense. As with Reims, a number of the front-runners assumed positions running nose-to-tail with each other lap after lap. Although there was obvious attrition it would be spaced out and would be rather minimal throughout the first half of the race. By the halfway mark, only seven out of the thirty starters were out of the race.
Just before halfway, Marimon continued to hang with the group that included Ascari, Farina and Fangio. However, running as hard as they were at that point in the race it took very little for problems to come and rear their heads. A radiator problem would come and plague Marimon. Although he would drop down a number of laps, the problem would be fixed and he would re-enter the race with the very group he had been running with all along until the problem arose.
Baron de Graffenried continued to run hard. He was looking steady and fast, but not as fast as the leaders. He would come under threat of being lapped more than once. However, it wouldn't be the front-runners that would be de Graffenried's biggest threat.
As with most of the competitors the pace at the front pulling on the rest of the field was certainly strong and posed a serious issue when it came to car reliability. It seemed the factory Ferraris and Maseratis could run all day on the ragged edge and have very little trouble. For others, it seemed the time along the ragged edge was quite short before they would lose balance and slip off to the side. With just ten laps remaining, de Graffenried's engine had decided it had run along the ragged edge too long and determined to come to a stop. This would bring Baron de Graffenried's 1953 World Championship campaign to an unsuccessful end. And it was truly too bad as the last ten laps of the race would certainly be the most exciting.
The battle was amongst Ascari, Farina and Fangio. These three great champions continued to scrap and fight each and every lap. As far as Ascari and Farina were concerned it was an opportunity for an Italian to come through victorious in his home race. This motivation, and the desire to win the last World Championship race of the year in front of the home crowd, would push the Italians harder and harder. Fangio would keep in touch just a few car lengths back. Fangio was looking to keep a level head and just wait and look for an opportunity to get by.
On the last lap things would become truly hectic. The fight for the lead continued to be wheel-to-wheel and nose-to-tail. However, going into the last corner, it was the last opportunity any of these drivers would have to be the hero and take the win, for all that remained was the sprint to the line.
Coming into the final corner, Farina was in the lead and holding the inside position. Ascari would try and wild maneuver going around the outside in hopes that the car would stick and that he could go on to edge out Farina for the victory. Fangio sat back a couple of lengths to see what would happen.
As if he knew what was going to happen, Fangio would witness Ascari losing control trying to hold his car in on the outside of the corner. However, it was useless. Ascari would fight to save the car but in his wild attempts to wrestle control of his car, Farina would be forced to go off the circuit to avoid hitting him. Being back just far enough, Fangio would see the situation developing and would choose a line in hopes of getting through without any trouble. It would work. The Argentinean was now in the lead of the race with less than a mile remaining.
Poor unfortunate Marimon, who had fought hard to remain with the group even after his radiator issues, had no place to go. Ascari would end up right in front of him. With nothing possible to do Marimon would plow into Ascari knocking the both of them out of the race within sight of the finish line.
Farina would manage to keep his car going and would follow Fangio home to a 2nd place finish about a second and a half behind. Luigi Villoresi would end up also benefiting from the last corner melee. Villoresi had been lapped just a couple of laps earlier, but instead of backing off he would do his best to keep up with the group. Since Ascari wouldn't manage to cross the finish line to complete the 80th lap, Villoresi would come through to finish 3rd.
It had been a wild ending to a truly incredible season. Not only had there been some truly remarkable racing, but the addition of the Maserati challenge enabled many other privateer entries, like de Graffenried, to enjoy having such a competitive car. Although the last two races of the World Championship hadn't ended as he would have liked them to, de Graffenried would still end up with 7 points toward the World Championship. And when the results were all tallied, Baron de Graffenried would end up 8th in the standings. This was his best result ever in the World Championship.
Baron de Graffenried had concluded his World Championship season. However, his grand prix season hadn't come to an end just yet. There was still the matter of one more non-championship race before he would close the book on the 1953 season.
Baron de Graffenried would stick around Italy after leaving Monza. He would end up travelling about two hours southeast to Modena, the headquarters for Maserati, and within just a short ride of Maranello. The 4th Gran Premio di Modena was the following week and de Graffenried thought he would take part in just one more race before the end of the season. He would decide he would enter the race just down the street, practically, from the very manufacturer that had given him his best results in the World Championship.
Things were up in the air with Ferrari, and therefore, the only Ferrari chassis to be seen at the race would be that of the Ecurie Francorchamps team, driven by Charles de Tornaco. It would be a most dreadful farewell to the season for de Tornaco as during practice he would crash his car and would die as the result of the injuries suffered.
It seemed so unlikely to have a fatality at such a venue as the Modena Grand Prix. The race took place on a temporary circuit created from the local aerodrome. Although surrounded by residences and other buildings, the aerodrome was something more of a wide open park than a circuit situated in downtown Modena. At only 1.46 miles, the circuit boasted on simple short bursts for straights. It did feature some rather quick corners but certainly nothing more dangerous or obviously dangerous as some other circuits. Nonetheless, the start of the race would be mired by the dark cloud of death when de Tornaco rolled his Ferrari in practice.
Almost lost in the tragic events of practice was Fangio taking the pole for the race. His time of one minute, six and two-tenths seconds would be just two-tenths faster than Marimon's best time but certainly fast enough for the pole. Baron de Graffenried would look good in his bid to end the season well. He would be less than a half of a second slower than Fangio and would start from the 3rd, and final, position on the front row. In all, thirteen drivers would prepare to take part in the 100 lap race.
The all-Maserati front row presented a huge challenge to the other competitors in the race. At their home circuit, the Maserati would certainly prove to be like a concrete wall just waiting for its competition to try and break through but find they only dash themselves to pieces as a result.
A couple of the major contenders wouldn't even make it a quarter of the way through the race before they would be out of the picture. Jean Behra would be out after just a lap due to a bad piston. After ten laps were completed Roy Salvadori would retire from a failed engine.
Although the circuit was short, the Maserati drivers knew they had the better car. The only trick would be to keep one of the more agile and sprightly quick cars from getting up amongst the front-running Maseratis. With Behra out, this meant the Maserati pilots would have to watch out for Maurice Trintignant and Harry Schell.
Nobody could touch Fangio this day. He would set the fastest lap of the race with a time that was nearly a second faster than his own qualifying effort. This was just too much for Marimon. It was well more than what de Graffenried could handle. But de Graffenried's pace over the course of the race would be more than the vast majority of the field could handle just in itself.
Fangio would go on to take one more victory. He would finish the race about forty seconds in front of Marimon in 2nd. Marimon had just gotten by de Graffenried for a second time when Emmanuel would cross the line to finish the race 3rd.
Although he was two laps down to Fangio and Marimon, de Graffenried would enjoy a two lap advantage over Trintignant in 4th. Schell's threat materialized and then vanished in the smoke of his expiring engine.
However small it may have been, the 3rd place at the Modena Grand Prix was certainly a welcome result for de Graffenried. It would have certainly been something else to have pulled out a top three result in front of the very people in which he had received the car from.
After three years of struggling along in the World Championship, de Graffenried finally received the car that could let him show what he could do. He was known as a winner and he would go on to prove that it wasn't unfounded. And against the superior elite talent behind the wheels of the Maserati factory effort and at Scuderia Ferrari, de Graffenried certainly held his own.
Heading into 1954, Baron de Graffenried was pushing forty years old. However, this man of position would put it all on the line and would be there the very next season. He had driven much older cars and proven capable of achieving success. The next year he would try and get the best out of himself and see if he could do even better.