Page 1Rudolf Fischer and a few other gentlemen Swiss drivers would create the race team 'Ecurie Espadon'. The 'Stable of the two-handed Sword' would debut in 1951. But it would be in 1952, when it began to wield its Ferrari 500, that the team ran amongst the knights of World Championship racing. Despite being a gentleman racer, Rudolf Fischer would put his Ferrari 500 to good use and would end up 4th in the World Championship standings at the end of the season. Fischer would also go on to score a few important victories in non-championship races as well. Even though he would end up 4th in the standings at the end of the season, Fischer recognized that it really wouldn't get any better and would end up retiring from the World Championship at the end of the season. Just like that, Ecurie Espadon would go from a rather serious contender to one series question mark. One obvious issue the team of gentlemen drivers faced was the reality of the presence of Scuderia Ferrari and the growing challenge from Maserati. In 1952, Alberto Ascari practically won every single race. And despite utilizing the same equipment, points-paying results were not easy to come by for the Swiss team. By the end of the 1952 season, a serious challenge from a resurgent Maserati factory effort threatened to make points-paying results even harder to come by. So if the team was to continue grand prix racing in the upper formulas it would have to be careful as to where it did so, and even then, everything would need to go right. Throughout Europe there was still one place that offered competitive racing without the need of a serious factory effort backing up the team. In addition, this part of Europe offered another great advantage to Ecurie Espadon. Because they had a Ferrari 500 at their disposal they would almost always be considered a favorite to win each and every time out. The place that offered the team so many positives was West Germany. The destruction from World War II had put Germany in a worse position, materially, than most every other European nation. The vast devastation and the resulting reparations from the war would hurt Germany industrially. The split of West and East Germany also didn't help. What all of this did help was to create small manufacturers and privateers that practically made their own home-built designs. The worthless state of the nation's currency kept costs low and discouraged factory efforts. This was the perfect setup for a team which had superior technology at its disposal. And in 1953, Ecurie Espadon knew and would exploit this to its benefit. Unlike 1952, West Germany would not host its own Formula 2 Championship. There were a couple of reasons for this. For one thing, Grenzlandring had been abandoned after Niedermayr's horrible accident that killed a great number of people. This then led to the second reason, which was the fact West Germany just didn't have that many circuits at which to host races. A far greater number were located within the borders of East Germany, which is why they continued to host their own championship in 1953. Another reason was the fact that West Germans weren't as restricted in their travel as what the East Germans were. Therefore, the German racers, if they could afford to, could travel outside of the nation to compete in other races. All of this meant West Germany was left with only two main circuits, which were Avus and the Nurburgring. Although these were some of the most well-known, and probably even most-feared, circuits in Europe, because there were only the two, there would only be a couple of races throughout the course of the year. This meant the grand prix season would start late and not last long. Sure enough, Ecurie Espadon's season wouldn't kick off until late May. On the 31st of May, the Ecurie Espadon team was busy making final adjustments to its Ferrari 500 in preparation for the 17th Internationales ADAC Eifelrennen held on the famous Nurburgring. This event had been good to the team in the past. Just one season prior, Rudolf Fischer would take his brand new Ferrari 500 and would start the race from the pole. While that was already something of a highlight for the team, his forty second margin of victory over the great Stirling Moss was an even bigger cause for celebration. It was one of just many great results for the team throughout the 1952 season. Because of Fischer's success just one season prior, Ecurie Espadon returned to the Nurburgring as one of the clear favorites to win the race. At the end of practice this would seem to be something of a sure thing. The Nurburgring Nordschleife has remained anything but a tame racing circuit. Built in the 1920s to serve as a safer alternative to the road races that had been held on public roads throughout the Eifel mountains, the Nurburgring would soon earn a reputation almost as fearsome as what it was meant to replace. Surrounded, at most, by hedges and dirt banks, drivers of the Nurburgring were welcomed to a 'Green Hell' with danger lurking around every blind corner and every readily visible one as well. Fast and windy, the circuit would just wait for the smallest mistake and it would come out and take a severe bite. At 14.1 miles, and featuring around 170 corners, the circuit wears on the drivers and punishes the cars. Concentration is of greatest importance but is the one thing that takes the most brutal of beatings over the course of a lap. Its technically challenging design, with its large elevation changes, make the circuit one of the most demanding and dangerous circuits in the world. Its very nature is the reason why so few have come to master it, but many hate it. In practice for the 1953 Eifelrennen, Kurt Adolff seemed to enjoy the circuit just fine. Adolff would end up following Fischer's example of the previous year and would go on to set the fastest lap time and would; therefore, take the pole for the 7 lap, 99 mile race. Adolff would have the Belgian Paul Frere to his left in 2nd place. To the left of Frere in the 3rd place starting position would be Hans Klenk in his Veritas Meteor. The 4th, and final, spot on the front row would end up being occupied by Stirling Moss in the Cooper-Alta Special.At the start of the race, another Swiss entry, that of Baron de Graffenried, would make good use of his Maserati and would get a great jump from off the grid. Although he had started the race from the third row, de Graffenried would power his way past Adolff into the lead of the race. Adolff would settle in behind de Graffenried in the 2nd position and would do his best to try and figure a way back into the lead of the race.Immediately de Graffenried was on the pace. The usual Eifel mountains weather was beginning to really play a part. Rain had been falling even before the start of the race. The circuit was wet and treacherous. In the conditions de Graffenried was beginning to shine. He would go on to set what would be the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of eleven minutes and twenty-four seconds. This pace would end up being too much for Adolff to handle. Soon, Adolff would have to stop looking ahead trying to attack de Graffenried and would; instead, have to start looking behind himself.
Page 2The pace and the conditions were proving to be more than what many could handle, not just Adolff. A number of entries would fall out of the race before it would be all over. Included in those that would be out of the race would be three of the Hans in the race. Hans Herrmann, Hans Klenk and Hans Stuck would all find their day come to a premature end. They would end up being joined by Chico Landi, Paul Pietsch and Lance Macklin. In all, there would be nine that would fall out of the running by the end.While de Graffenried continued to pull away at the front of the field, Adolff was beginning to come under attack from Paul Frere and another of HWM's pilots, Peter Collins. Stirling Moss just couldn't get his Cooper-Alta to handle well in the conditions and would slip further down in the running order.Despite Adolff's best attempts, both Frere and Collins would manage to get by. Knowing that he really couldn't battle with Frere and Collins, Adolff settled in to make sure he made it all the way to the finish. He had a comfortable margin over Edgar Barth, and therefore, could concentrate on keeping the car on the track.Emmanuel de Graffenried would lead from the very beginning. He would battle with Frere throughout the closing stages of the race but would end up taking the victory by just under two seconds. Just another fifteen seconds behind Frere, Collins would come across the line to finish in 3rd. It would take Adolff an hour and twenty-five minutes to complete the 7 lap, 99 mile, race distance. He would cross the line in 4th place some thirty-seven seconds behind Collins in 3rd. This result had been both good and disappointing at the same time. Adolff had started the race from the pole. He obviously had the car and the pace to do better than a 4th place result. Certainly the wet conditions played a part, but in the end, Adolff just couldn't keep pace with de Graffenried to challenge for the win, which certainly seemed to be within his reach.In the end, the Ecurie Espadon team started off its short season late and managed to come away with a top five result. Their strategy certainly seemed to work. The closest East or West German at the finish had been Edgar Barth, but he ended up some three minutes and twenty-some seconds behind Adolff. Although the number of races would be few, Ecurie Espadon certainly had the opportunity of scoring some great results. Of course the next time the team would return to the Nurburgring it would be for the seventh round of the World Championship. And in that race Ecurie Espadon certainly had nowhere near any guarantee of a good result.The Ecurie Espadon team would leave the Nurburgring and would wait more than a month before they would head to yet another notorious circuit known for its incredible high speeds and dangerous final turn known very simple as the 'Wall of Death'. Toward the middle-part of July Ecurie Espadon made its way to Berlin, Germany for the 1953 edition of the Avusrennen. It was the 9th Internationales Avusrennen and it would feature a number of foreign entries for the 25 lap race. This event had been another of those special moments for the team during the 1952 season. Just like the Eifelrennen earlier on in the year, Rudolf Fischer would go on to average more than 115 mph en route to his victory over Hans Klenk and Fritz Riess.Avus was another of those circuits that had been built during the 1920s. It had originally been cut out of the woods as a motor racing circuit and an automotive proving grounds. The original circuit design measured a little more than 12 miles in length and featured parallel straights almost measuring 6 miles each. At each end of the circuit were tear-drop turns that would each have steep banking built some time later. This brick-paved banking would help to keep average speeds incredibly high.A series of accidents would make the circuit unsafe. On top of everything else, its use would come to a standstill because of the outbreak of World War II. However, the circuit would be reborn after the war. The circuit would be shortened to a little more than 5.1 miles and would utilize a hairpin turn at its southern end while the northern end would keep the infamous 'Wall of death'.Adolff would be back behind the wheel of the team's Ferrari 500. Adolff wouldn't end up having the only Ferrari 500 in the field. He would be joined by Ecurie Francorchamps and their owner/driver Jacques Swaters. In practice around the circuit, nobody would be faster than Swaters. Turning a lap with an average speed greater than 121 mph, Swaters would go on to take the pole for the 25 lap race. Despite having the same Ferrari 500 which powered Swaters to the pole, Adolff couldn't match the pace. The rest of the front row would end up including Alan Brown in 2nd place and Rodney Nuckey starting in 3rd. Heading into the race, Adolff knew that he hadn't quite touched the speeds of Swaters in his Ferrari. He knew his car was fast but would need to fight hard for position. However, he would also need to be very careful as to not make a mistake. Otherwise, the race could be all over before it even began. This unfortunately would be the story of the race for Adolff.The field roared away at the start of the race. The competition at the front of the field was tight. Swaters was looking good but he wasn't alone. Adolff was also right there streaking down the long straights and into the steep banking at the northern end of the circuit.
Page 3Everything looked good for Adolff through the first lap. However, the second lap would be an entirely different story. Powering down the long straights seemed easy enough, but the circuit was also easy to get wrong. It was nothing for drivers to hit a bump and miss an entry and find their races come undone. This would happen to Adolff. He would lose control of his car and would go off the circuit wrecking the car. Adolff would throw away any chance of the team repeating as victors of the Avusrennen. However, Adolff wouldn't be alone. Alan Brown would also suffer an accident thereby ending his race as well. Prince Bira, Rudolf, Krause, Edgar Barth and many others would all come up short in their bids at victory. In fact, of the twenty-six starters for the race, only nine would actually make it to the finish.With Adolff, Brown and Bira out of the race, Swaters' main threats came from Nuckey, Johnny Claes and the rest of the Germans in the field. Nuckey would fade over the course of the race and Claes just couldn't come close to matching the pace of Swaters. With the threat from these two pretty much eradicated, Swaters just put his car on cruise and powered his way towards the checkered flag.Nothing, not even Theo Helfrich's fastest lap time, would manage to upset Swaters' position at the front of the field. Averaging more than 117 mph, Swaters would take only one hour and five minutes to complete the race distance. He would come off the banking one last time and would make the short sprint to the finish line and the victory. He would cross the line to take the win and would enjoy a margin of victory spanning some two minutes and forty-two seconds over Hans Klenk in his Veritas Meteor. Fourteen seconds behind Klenk would come Helfrich in 3rd.In Adolff's case, the wreck would end up doing more than damaging the team's chances at a good result at the very circuit it had achieved victory the year before. The damaged car would also serve to wreck the relationship between himself and Ecurie Espadon. This was a tough situation for the team, as well as, Adolff. There were just a few weeks to go until what would be the first round of the World Championship in which the team would take part in 1953. The team had lost confidence in Adolff right before the seventh round of the World Championship, the team's third race of the season. Although he would be behind the wheel for the next race, it would be his last with the team.Three weeks after the bitterly disappointing Avusrennen the estranged Ecurie Espadon team was back at the Nurburgring preparing for what was its first World Championship race of the season.What a different a year would make. One season prior the Ecurie Espadon team was regularly bringing one or two cars to almost every single round of the World Championship. And while not challenging for victories, by the end, the team was usually battling for points-paying results. Just one year later, Ecurie Espadon arrived at the Nurburgring with a driver it didn't really trust and a season in which it had failed to defend any of its victories from the previous year.Coming into the German Grand Prix on the 2nd of August, things would look even more perilous for the team desperately looking for a good result; something similar to what it had managed to achieve one year previous.Heading into the German Grand Prix, Ecurie Espadon arrived to play a part much like many of the privateer German racers: nothing more than background dressing. By this point in the season the battle between the factory Maserati and Ferrari teams was well entrenched. Every single one of the previous races had been a battle between the two. Although Ferrari still retained its winning streak, Maserati certainly had its chances. This meant that most, if not all, of the points-paying positions would be spoken for. Ecurie Espadon; therefore, arrived at the Nurburgring without much hope but praying for a miracle.The team would need a very big miracle as they would end up having to look to an older chassis after the damage caused to the 500 F2 during the Avusrennen. This meant Adolff would have an even lesser chance of starting up in the first-half of the grid.He certainly wouldn't be able to start the race from the pole. That position was the sole property of Alberto Ascari. Ascari was within reach of the first back-to-back World Championship. He wasn't about to let anything get in his way. During practice, not even the circuit would get in his way, just time. He would put together such an incredible lap that he would actually break the ten minute mark in practice. This would be an improvement of almost five seconds over the previous year. What's more, the time would be within four seconds of his own qualifying effort in a Formula One car back in 1951.Ascari would end up being almost four seconds faster than Juan Manuel Fangio, who would start 2nd on the grid. The rest of the front row would include the 1950 World Champion Giuseppe Farina and the young Briton Mike Hawthorn. Fangio's Maserati was the only car, other than a Ferrari, to start from the front row. Kurt Adolff's pace was hindered by having to use the aged Ferrari 166. The best time he would manage to put together during practice would be a lap time of eleven minutes and fifty-three seconds. This time was achieved during dry conditions. He had been lapping that fast in the rain in the Ferrari 500 during the Eifelrennen. As a result of the deficient performance, Adolff could do no better than 27th on the grid, which was in the middle of the eighth row.The day of the race would break with sunny skies and mild, dry weather. The cars lined up on the grid would pull away at the start of the race with Fangio jumping into the lead. He would be followed by Ascari and a whole host of other Scuderia Ferrari 500s. Adolff was mirred down in the back of the grid and would have to carefully make his way through the first few corners before he too could settle into a rhythm.Ascari would quickly settle in. Despite being beaten off the line by Fangio, Alberto would come storming back into the lead of the race after just a mile or so. Now with Fangio, Farina and Hawthorn in tow, Ascari would begin to stretch out an advantage.After about ten and half minutes Ascari would appear in view and would just as quickly vanish with the rest of the front-runners. Looking down through the rest of the field it was realized that a couple of cars failed to make it around to complete even the first lap of the 18 lap race. It would be found that neither Ernst Loof nor Hans Stuck had made it through the first lap.
Page 4Three more, including Maurice Trintignant and Roy Salvadori, wouldn't make it through two laps. This was incredibly difficult for Trintignant who suffered almost the same exact fate the year before.In spite of being behind the wheel of an aged piece of machinery, Adolff had managed to make it through three laps of the 14 mile circuit. It seemed that if he could keep things together he would have an opportunity at a good result. Unfortunately, it would be too much to ask. Adolff had managed to complete three laps when he would run into trouble. The troubles would be such that he would be unable to continue.While it wouldn't make the team feel any better about themselves, Ecurie Espadon wouldn't be alone in its troubles. By the time eight laps had been completed some twelve cars would be out of the race. While the attrition would be high the number still running would remain relatively high. This was because thirty-four cars had started the race.Not even the front-runners were immune from trouble. Ascari had been at the front of the field and pulling away. Just as the previous year, it seemed he could drive at whatever pace he liked and the Ferrari 500 would respond favorably to his request. However, before reaching ten laps into the race, Ascari would be seen limping his way around the race track. He had lost a wheel and would be doing all that he could to make it back to the pits so that repairs could be made.Ascari would make it back to the pits. Meanwhile, Farina and Hawthorn would each spend some time in the lead of the race. First it would be Hawthorn at the front of the field. While Hawthorn was leading the charge, Ascari was waiting for his friend and mentor, Luigi Villoresi. Villoresi was going to pit and give Ascari his car.Villoresi would pit, handing his car over to Ascari. Immediately, Ascari would set out fully intent on climbing his way back to the top. The presence of Hawthorn at the front of the field was threatening to Ascari. Were Hawthorn to go on and win the race there would be a real fight for the championship on Enzo Ferrari's hands. Ascari wasn't about to just let it happen.Ascari would pick up the pace and his times would be absolutely incredible. By the 12th lap of the race, Ascari had put together a lap that was nearly four seconds faster than his pole effort and within half of a second of his best time from the 1951 season, which he would set in a Ferrari 375 Formula One car.As Ascari charged back up the order, Farina charged ahead of Hawthorn. Fangio would even get by the young Brit. Ascari couldn't take anything for granted. He; therefore, would keep his foot on it. Unfortunately, by the time he had completed 15 laps, he had come to ask too much from the car. The engine in the Ferrari would let go, leaving Ascari's second championship in the hands of his teammates and fellow competitors.Farina would end up coming through for his teammate. Farina would end up leading 11 of the 18 laps and would go on to win the race by a minute and four seconds over Fangio. Thirty-nine seconds would separate Fangio in 2nd place and Hawthorn in 3rd. That was it! Ascari had done it! He would repeat as World Champion.Ecurie Espadon was taking part in only a few races during the 1953 season. They needed every single one of them to count. But at the end of the German Grand Prix, the team had come to suffer two-straight retirements. There were only a couple more races on the team's calendar. Almost each one depended upon a strong result from the previous one. Every single one of the race in which the team had competed thus far in 1953 had been races in which the team had either won or finished quite well in. But in 1953, it was an entirely different story. The team had little confidence in anything as it left the Nurburgring for the last time. The team needed things to turn around. The team would turn around and head home after the German Grand Prix. This was a blessing for two reasons: first of all, the next race in which the team would compete would be the Swiss Grand Prix. Secondly, by heading home the team would have the opportunity to prepare its Ferrari 500 to make one more assault on the World Championship for 1953.Two weeks separated the German and Swiss Grand Prix. This gave the team time to repair its cars and prepare its new drivers for the race at Bremgarten. The team would make its repairs, would pack up and would head off to Bern to prepare for the eighth round of the World Championship.One year prior, the Swiss Grand Prix had been the first round of the World Championship and it would be the race that would set the tone for all that Ecurie Espadon would achieve in 1952. During the 1952 Swiss Grand Prix, Fischer would manage to bring his Ferrari 500 home to an incredible 2nd place finish behind the Ferrari of Piero Taruffi. This result delighted the Swiss crowd and would set the stage for Fischer's incredible top five finish in the World Championship. The eighth round of the World Championship took place at the Bremgarten circuit located just a couple of miles to the northwest of center of Bern. Always turning and twisting, almost the entire length of the Bremgarten circuit featured no straight portions at all. This made the circuit a wonderful track to drive from the purist's point of view. But it would also be one of the more dangerous circuits upon which grand prix racers drove.Achille Varzi had lost his life on this seemingly relatively straight-forward circuit, but it was the little noticed aspects of the circuit that it made it so dangerous. Much of the circuit was comprised of cobblestone paving which already made the circuit rather slippery. However, almost all of the circuit was situated in the dense woods along the Wohlensee river. If it rained even the slightest bit the circuit would become incredibly slick and in many cases fatally dangerous.The weather for the 1953 edition of the Swiss Grand Prix was shaping up to be anything but cool and wet. In fact, the day of the race would see very sunny conditions which would make things very hot if not protected in the shade.
Page 5The Ecurie Espdaon team would emerge from the cover of the shade to line its cars up on the starting grid. This would be the one and only time during the season in which the team would enter two cars in a race. It was the Swiss Grand Prix. The team needed to enter two cars for its home race. Unfortunately, neither of the cars would line up where they had the year before.During practice, Juan Manuel Fangio would prove to be the fastest over the 4.52 miles. His best time would be two minutes and forty seconds. He would end up six-tenths faster than Ascari, who would line up beside him on the front row of the grid. The last position on the front row would go to the only other World Champion in the field Giuseppe Farina would end up being two and a half seconds slower than Fangio and would line up in the 3rd position.With the team parting ways with Adolff, Peter Hirt would end up driving the Ferrari 500. His best time in practice would be a rather sedated three minutes and one second. This would put the Swiss racer all the way down in 17th place on the grid, which was the middle of the seventh row.The team's other car would be its Ferrari 166. It would be driven Max de Terra. Max's best time in practice with the aged machine would only be a lap of three minutes and twenty-one seconds. This would put him all the way down in the last row of the grid in 19th place overall.Fangio would make a great start as the green flag flew to start the 65 lap race. Right there with Fangio was Ascari. Farina would have trouble leaving the line and would actually drop well back in the field before he would get back up to pace.Even though Fangio had the better start, Ascari would come through into the lead of the race. Fangio, Farina and Hawthorn would follow. Behind this group of four things were already getting exciting. Louis Rosier and Jacques Swaters would both suffer accidents on the very first lap of the race. Just one lap later, Paul Frere would end up out the race when a connecting rod broke in his HWM. After this early drama things would settle down for a little while.Ascari continued to lead the way. His lead began to increase with each and every lap. The heat and the nature of the circuit would cause the field to become spread out with large gaps in between the competitors. Fangio was losing time to Ascari and the other Ferrari pilots not so much because of the nature of the circuit as much as his gearbox began to run into trouble. Something would need to be done. Fangio had only completed 12 laps when he would turn into the pits with the gearbox problems. Just moments later, Felice Bonetto would pull into the pits and would give Fangio his car. Bonetto would take over Fangio's troubled car for the rest of the race.With Bonetto's new car, Fangio would be on a charge to get back to the front. Just about the time Fangio was making his way back up through the field with Bonetto's car, Ecurie Espadon's Ferrari 500, with Peter Hirt at the wheel, would rapidly lose oil. The oil loss would cause Hirt to spin out of the race after just 17 laps. This left the team with just the aged Ferrari 166 to uphold the team's honors.Max de Terra was still running in the race but was by no means one of the faster cars on course. By the time Hirt had retired due to his oil loss de Terra was already a number of laps down and merely circulating around the track.Ascari's circulation around the track would be held up with about 25 laps remaining when his engine began to suffer from an ignition problem. He would bring the car into the pits to have the issue resolved. The issue would be taken care of and Ascari would be one of the fortunate ones to make it back out on track. Many others, like Hirt, wouldn't be so fortunate.Fangio's second chance would run out just before halfway when the engine in the Maserati expired. A valve problem would sideline Lance Macklin. Oil pipe and oil pressure problems would end up causing Jean Behra and Onofre Marimon to fall out of contention. Many strong competitors would find themselves the victim of the heat and the circuit. In all, there would be nine that would retire from the race. There would be a number of others, like de Terra, that were still continuing to run out on the circuit but were so far back that they were all but retired as well.Ascari's ignition problem fixed he had made his way back up through the field and sat behind Farina and Hawthorn with teams orders stating 'Hold position'. Ascari would do no such thing. He would push, and to the surprise of his teammates, would end up going by into the lead of the race.Ascari was back on the fly. With just 15 laps remaining in the race, he would turn what would be the fastest lap of the race and would be all alone at the front of the field. It seemed like just about every five minutes de Terra would have the opportunity to wave to Ascari as he passed by en route to a sure victory.It would take Ascari just a little more than three hours to cover the 293 mile race distance. As he crossed the line, his margin of victory would end up being more than a minute and ten seconds over Giuseppe Farina. Two minutes and about forty seconds would separate Ascari and Hawthorn in 3rd place at the finish. So dominant was the performance of these three that they would be the only cars left on the lead lap. In the case of de Terra in the 166, to be only one lap down at the finish would have been something of a victory. Instead, de Terra would end up 'not classified' at the end of the race because he would be more than 17 laps behind Ascari at the finish. Those 17 laps would translate into a margin of around an hour in which de Terra trailed Ascari at the finish.
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