Anton 'Toni' Ulmen: 1952 Formula One Season
World War II destroyed many lives. Like all wars, it also destroyed a number of careers. So much potential is lost as the result of war. Due to World War II, the racing world lost the opportunity to foster the full potential of the German racer Anton 'Toni' Ulmen.
Born in Dusseldorf in 1906, Ulmen racing career took off during the later 40's. In 1948 Ernst Loof established Veritas. Veritas was able to make the first racing cars in Germany after the end of World War II. The pairing of Ulmen and Veritas became a potent combination.
In the immediate years after World War II the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) announced German participants, either drivers or manufacturers, were not allowed to take part in any international racing events. Speculation concerning the ruling abound, especially since there were a number of notable exceptions and oversights which made the ruling appear arbitrary. Sentiments and positions toward Germany varied greatly. Undaunted by this fact, Ulmen would participate in a number of grand prix and sports car events throughout out Germany during the late 1940s and going into the early 1950s.
Paired with his Veritas, Toni Ulmen would end up becoming the German F2 champion in 1949. He would also go on to earn a good number of victories and podium finishes throughout the late 1940s in sports car racing. In early 1950, Ulmen traveled to Erlen, Switzerland to take part in the 2nd Grand Prix of Ostschweiz-Erlen.
The race was 40 laps around the triangular 1.74 mile Circuit Erlen. Ulmen would face off against Scuderia Ferrari's 166s driven by Luigi Villoresi and Roberto Vallone. Never was Ulmen intimidated by the Italian racing team. Although he would be beaten by the two Ferraris, he would end up finishing 3rd, mere seconds behind.
Later on, in August of 1950, Ulmen squared off against Scuderia Ferrari again. This time Alberto Ascari was at the wheel. The race was the 13th Grand Prix of Germany and it was held on the 14 mile long Nordschleife.
The Formula 2 non-championship race was still a test. It was 16 laps and totaled over 226 miles in race distance. Ascari was able to take the pole and would go on to win the race. Once again Ulmen showed great strength behind the wheel of the Veritas RS as he would finish the race 4th.
In 1951, Toni would earn three victories throughout the season at sports car races at Hockenheim and Grenzlandring, but also in a hillclimb held in Schauinsland. Truly, Ulmen and Veritas was a successful combination.
Ulmen's Veritas-Meteor RS, with its 2.0-liter 6-cylinder engine, conformed to the FIA's regulations for the Formula One World Championship in 1952. The regulations set forth for the 1952 season stated the cars running the Formula One World Championship would have to conform to Formula 2 specifications, which included a maximum size of 2.0-liters for the engines.
Due to already taking part in a number of Formula 2 races in Germany, Ulmen decided to expand his 1952 season to include a couple of Formula One World Championship events. However, Toni's season didn't start with a Formula One event. Instead, Ulmen's season would warm-up with a trip across the English Channel.
On the 10th of May, Ulmen prepared to take part in the 4th BRDC International Trophy race at Silverstone in England.
The race was broken up into two 15 lap heat races, followed by a 35 lap final. Toni found himself in the first heat race. Amongst those in the heat with him were Mike Hawthorn, Ken Wharton and Jean Behra.
In practice before the heat race, Ulmen was able to lap the 2.92 mile road course in two minutes and ten seconds. This time was ten seconds slower than Hawthorn's pole time, and meant Ulmen would start 14th on the grid.
During the heat race, Toni couldn't match Hawthorn's pace. Hawthorn would win the heat followed by Behra and Peter Collins. Ulmen had ended up being lapped but managed to finish without incident in 11th.
After the completion of the second heat race, the grid for the 35 lap final was set. The grid was determined by times set during practice prior to each individual heat race. Therefore, Ulmen's time of two minutes and ten seconds enabled Toni to start the final race from 19th on the grid, which was on the 6th row of the 4-3-4 arranged grid.
Starting as far back as he did, chances at a top-five finish were remote. However, a top-ten could have been a better possibility. In the final, attrition was rather light, but it did strike a number of the top cars. Driving a steady pace, Ulmen was helped by these troubles and moved up the order. In the end, Lance Macklin won the race in his HWM-Alta. Fellow HWM-Alta pilot Tony Rolt finished the race 2nd, ten seconds behind. Emmanuel de Graffenried finished on the podium in 3rd in the Plate/Maserati. Ulmen drove a solid race, but just missed out on a top-ten finish. Toni piloted the Veritas-Meteor to an 11th place finish.
One week after his first race of his season, Ulmen was back on the European continent to take part in the first round of the Formula One World Championship. The race was the Swiss Grand Prix and it was held on the Bremgarten 4.52 mile road course near Berne, Switzerland.
Scuderia Ferrari had become the dominant team in grand prix racing throughout the course of the 1951 season. The departure of Alfa Romeo firmly planted Ferrari as the favorite team coming into 1952 season, despite running in Formula 2 specifications.
In practice, the former World Champion and Ferrari driver, Giuseppe Farina would set the fastest lap and would take the pole. His Ferrari teammate Piero Taruffi would establish a time a little over two and a half seconds slower and would start 2nd. Robert Manzon, of Equipe Gordini, would upset Ferrari's bid to occupy the front row when he was able to qualify 3rd. Ulmen's pace in his Veritas wasn't anywhere near that of the Ferraris. Recording a time just over eighteen seconds slower, Toni would start the race 16th.
The race was 62 laps and began with Farina leading the way at the front. While all of the drivers were trying to settle into a pace for the race, Toni's race came undone. Four laps into the event, Ulmen's Veritas Meteor developed a fuel leak that could not be repaired. Thus, the German retired from his first ever Formula One World Championship race, and after only 4 laps.
Magneto problems would end up striking Farina causing his race to also come to an end. In all, only eight of the original twenty-two starters would end up making it to the finish. Taruffi would win the race leading the final 46 laps. Rudolf Fischer, driving for Ecurie Espadon, would end up finishing 2nd. Jean Behra, of Equipe Gordini would finish 3rd.
Another week after the failed attempt at the Swiss Grand Prix, Ulmen returned to Germany, and the Nordschleife at the Nurburgring, for the 16th running of the ADAC Eifelrennen.
Sixteen drivers would qualify for the 7 lap race around the 14 mile Nordschleife. Fischer, for Ecurie Espadon would start from the pole. Right beside him on the front row were three Brits Stirling Moss, Duncan Hamilton and Ken Wharton.
Out of the sixteen that would start the race, the long and twisty Nordschleife would reduce those numbers dramatically. This time, Toni would be one of those still running at the end. Fischer, in the Ferrari 500 would lead the way and would win the race. Stirling Moss finished 2nd forty seconds behind. Ken Wharton would complete the podium with a 3rd place finish. Five cars would remain still running at the end. The 5th place car was Ulmen in his Veritas. Toni would finish the race seven minutes behind Fischer, but still on the same lap.
Ulmen's next race for 1952 was the 5th Grand Prix of the Autodromo of Monza on the 8th of June. The grand prix consisted of two heat races, whereby the winner was declared by the aggregate time of the two heats. Each heat race was 35 laps of the 3.91 Monza road course.
Toni faced off against a slew of Ferraris. Alberto Ascari would take the pole in the first heat race. The rest of the four-wide front row consisted of Farina, Gonzalez and Villoresi. The best Ulmen could do was to start the race from 18th.
The race started with the front of the field awash with Ferraris. Twenty-nine drivers would start the race. But attrition would reduce that number quite quickly. One of those targeted by attrition very early on was Toni. He hadn't even completed ten laps when his race came to an end. With the total race being an aggregate of the two heats, Toni didn't bother to enter the second heat. His Grand Prix of Monza last only 9 laps, instead of 70.
After a victory earlier on in the sports car 2.0-liter class of the Grand Prix of Nurburgring, Ulmen prepared to take part in the Formula One German Grand Prix on the 3rd of August. The German Grand Prix was also part of another championship in 1952. It counted toward the West German Championship.
The race on the 14 mile long Nordschleife was 18 laps and totaled over 255 miles. Ferrari teammates Ascari and Farina qualified one-two for the race. Ulmen had just won a race on the course earlier, and therefore, was quite knowledgeable of the twists and turns of the long course. Unfortunately, Ulmen wasn't able to achieve the pace possible to challenge the Ferraris at the front. The best the German could do was 15th.
Thirty-two would qualify for the race. However, only thirty would start the race. When the race did start, it was over. Ascari pulled away in the lead and would be untouchable throughout the eighteen laps. The only moment of drama at the point came when Ascari had to stop for oil. The lengthy stop cost him the lead going into the last lap. However, Ascari had more than enough pace over his Ferrari stable-mate and would pass him to take the victory by fourteen seconds.
The real battle was behind the top-three. Only twelve would be running by the end. All of the attrition enabled lower qualifiers to come up and battle it out for top-ten, even top-five finishing positions. Toni moved up well from his 15th starting position. Toward the end of the race he was locked in a battle with another BWM-powered Veritas driven by Fritz Riess. Though lapped by Ascari by the end, Ulmen would finish his second Formula One World Championship event in 8th place. He had only missed out on the points by three places. Nonetheless, it was a very good top-ten result for the German.
While the World Championship season, for Ulmen, had come to an end, another championship would just be heating up. The 8th place promoted Ulmen up in the standings in the West German Championship. The championship consisted of four rounds. The first had been the Eifelrennen.
At the end of May, Ulmen had finished 5th at the ADAC Eifelrennen. This had been the first round of the West German Championship. The second round of the championship had been the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring at the beginning of August, which was also counted toward the Formula One World Championship. The third round took place at the end of August.
On the 31st, the 5th DMV Grenzlandringrennen was set to take place. Hosted in Grenzlandring, the egg-shaped course was 5.7 miles in length and featured some high average speeds.
Over twenty drivers and cars prepared for the 12 lap race. Right from the start, Ulmen was on the charge. He would end up setting the fastest lap of the race with a lap of the 5.7 mile course in two minutes and thirty-one seconds. Over the course of the lap, Toni averaged over 132 mph!
Battling a field full of Veritas chassis, Ulmen would prevail. He would finish the 12 laps in thirty-one minutes and twenty-two seconds. His margin of victory was just under twenty seconds over Hans Klenk in another Veritas Meteor. This splendid victory helped Ulmen climb up amongst the leaders in the West German Championship. Three races down, one to go.
In between the third and fourth round of the West German Championship, Ulmen was able to take part in the final round of the East German Championship. Unfortunately for Toni, he had been unable to take part in any of the other rounds. And then, his result at the fourth wouldn't have helped any.
Toni took part in the 4th Sachsenringrennen at the beginning of September. The race was only 12 laps of the 5.41 mile road course. It mattered not that Ulmen hadn't taken part in any of the other rounds, for it was almost as though he hadn't taken part in the last round either. After only a few laps into the race Ulmen suffered from a crash and was out of the running.
Although Toni suffered a disappointing result at the Sachsenring, he had the opportunity to become champion of the West German Championship at the end of the month.
On the 28th of September, Toni was at AVUS preparing to take part in the fourth and final round of the West German Championship. All that stood between him and the championship was 25 laps of the 5.13 mile road course and Fritz Riess' performance in the race.
Fritz was Toni closest rival for the championship. However, for Fritz to take the championship he would have to take the victory. It was good for Toni that Fritz had to come up with such a performance because he would need every little bit of help he could get.
Ulmen couldn't help his own cause in the race because it came to an end after only 1 lap of the 25 scheduled. This meant all of his hopes for a second championship rested upon Riess being unable to score the victory. Thanks to Rudolf Fischer and his Ecurie Espadon Ferrari 500, he had no chance. Fischer lapped the field in his victory run. Hans Klenk finished 2nd and Riess finished 3rd. This gave the West German Championship title to Toni Ulmen!
Though he would not finish his last race of the season, Ulmen went out a champion. Once again, the pairing of Ulmen and Veritas had proved to be a championship-winning combination. However, at least as Formula One is concerned, it would be the first and last year the combination would take part in Formula One.Sources:
'Toni Ulmen', Driver Database. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
'25th of January: Anton Ulmen',P1 Magazine. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
'1952 Non-World Championship Grands Prix', 1952 Non-World Championship Grands Prix. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
'Race Results by Driver: Toni Ulmen', UltimateRacingHistory.com. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Toni Ulmen', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 December 2010, 22:08 UTC, accessed 11 February 2011
Wikipedia contributors, '1952 Formula One season', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 January 2011, 15:51 UTC,accessed 11 February 2011
'Why Only Germany?' AutoSport.com: Bulletin Board. Retrieved 11 February 2011. By Jeremy McMullen