Sunday, 29 November 2015

Giving You Formula One Legend Wolfgang Von Trips

Wolfgang Von Trips last race in this shark nose Ferrari


I saw a small shark nose Ferrari on sale via web and could not resist the ornamental buy. I have a fascination with old Formula one racing drivers and I had read a book about Phil Hill (USA) and Wolfgang Von Trips (Germany). Two Ferrari team mates who were neck and neck with one another in the 1961 F1 championship. These guys had come up through the 50s decade with many of the greats who had perished to the dangers of the sport. These modern day knights who flirted with death in every race. Most lived fast and died young. The shark nose Ferrari ornamental car above is Wolfgang's racing car as it was in his last fatal race. The Italian Grand Prix of 1961. He had some sort of minor collision or altercation trying to avoid Jim Clark (Great Britain) A new up and coming talent that would also perish to the sport in 1968.

Wolfgang veered off track and smashed into the barriers killing himself and several spectators. It was a very sad day for the sport and the passing of many spectators plus a fine gentleman F1 racer.


One of Wolfgang Von Trips Races - Millie Migllia 1957


In Italy of 1957, during the golden age of danger and dare; Formula One racing car drivers began to emerge from around the world to compete with the charismatic Italian racers and car designers. The world of fast racing cars was a small bubble of freedom in the developing world where regulation was held at bay.

Young men emerged, who were dashing, daring. Many were eager to skim the edge of death, then live to tell the consequences. After the race, they would talk to each other of such daring undertakings. Perhaps they were coming forth in search of adulation and prestige. This came with winning. They had a dire need for speed and to live on the edge for a few brief moments and then come down from the high adrenalin buzz, in each other’s company. Often they liked to discuss their deeds and desires in bars and restaurants. They spent racing seasons doing this from one racing event to another and each driver was moulded in a different way, with different views to come to grips with the constant danger they faced. Many lived fast and died young. It was part of the compelling aspect of danger that gripped some.

We all know how dangerous Formula One Racing has been and still is, but in the decades of 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, so many racers were getting killed in the pursuit of high-speed glory.

Still, young men came forward to dice with high-speed vehicles, constructed by the world’s top designers. Among the best of these designers in the 1950s was Enzo Ferrari. He wanted to make better and faster cars all of the time and needed such men to be daring enough to push his dream machines to the limit.

Among such drivers was one old veteran who had never won a major race, but had taken part in many. His name was Piero Taruffi and he was 51 years of age in 1957 and he had a wife and family. The great Italian Formula One race of the Mille Miglia was coming around for its annual staging, and Piero Taruffi wanted to emerge from semi-retirement to dance once more with the Mille Migila, the prestigious Italian race. He had attempted to win the race twelve times before but to no avail. There had always been more determined and better contestants. In 1957 there was a new breed of young men who were hungry for victory. Piero had often said to his wife he would retire if he could win the Mille Miglia endurance race that started in Brescia and went on for a thousand KM in a circle of roads around central Italy to finish back at Brescia, where it started. His wife must have been under strain and worry because like all racers Piero always seemed to need to achieve a goal that was just out of reach. At 51, he had lived longer than many. The law of averages was against him.


Among the youngsters entering the 1957 Mille Miglia were many great up and coming names, like Stirling Moss, Phil Hill, Mike Hawthorn and others who were big names of the time.

In a small Italian restaurant, there was a gathering of such awe-inspiring names before the final dash toward Brescia and the finish line. They were young Ferrari teammates enjoying one another’s company. A group of young daredevils who would not live to be old. One was about to die, while the other two would see a few more races before coming to an untimely end.

One was Alfonso de Portago – London-born Spaniard of 28. He sat with Wolfgang Von Trips – a young German from Cologne who had overcome illness of polio to attain such fitness to drive a Formula One Ferrari. Then there was Peter Collins – a fine looking young fair-haired Englishman who was also in the Ferrari team. With these three young racers was an actress called Linda Christian – a beautiful looking lady from Mexico who had been married to Tyrone Power. She was engaged to be married to Alfonso de Portago, the Spanish driver. All three of these great drivers would fall victim to the Formula One circuit and pay for their love of racing with their lives. However, this was to be the last time Portago would indulge in such camaraderie with his good teammates Wolfgang and Peter. As said before, they would live for a few more years and races yet. It would also be the last time Alfonso and his fiancĂ© Linda would see each other. This little moment in eternity for a group of searchers and chancers.

These drivers went into the last part of the contest with many others equally determined to win the endurance race. It was the last 30-mile stretch that Wolfgang Von Trips and the old veteran Silver Fox (Piero Taruffi) got into a duel with one another. Each driver pushing his Ferrari for a little extra, wondering if there was a little more to the dream machine’s limit.

A few minutes behind was the Spanish driver Alfonso de Portago. Wolfgang and Piero had each thundered through the tiny village of Guidizzolo where spectators from the little dwellings had gathered along the roadway to watch the fast racing cars zoom past on the final run toward the finishing line at Brescia, some thirty miles beyond. They happily cheered, while Wolfgang and Piero zoomed through the humble little place. Each man was lost in their duel of speed, no doubt leaving the small village receding behind. Oblivious of the diabolical fame about to be bestowed upon the little Italian habitations. The two competing racer’s thoughts were upon the contest as pulsing pistons thrashed up and down willing the engines to motor the fine Ferrari vehicles towards the glory of the approaching finishing line that was over a few more hills and not so far away.

The village spectators waited for other racing cars to come charging passed. All were cheering and waving excitedly in eager anticipation. They saw the fast approaching car of Alfonso de Portago speeding down towards their little village at around 130 miles per hour. Many may have gasped in awesome dread expecting his vehicle to roar by.

Suddenly Alfonso’s speeding vehicle lost control and skidded into a huge telegraph pole. Alfonso was decapitated as the wrecked car lifted into the air and smashed into the spectators. Nine of the villagers were killed including five children. Plus others were injured too. The carnage and death were horrendous as shell-shocked spectators began to view the race, amid the destruction, in a less enthusiastic light. Their loved ones were hideously left dead and dying before their very eyes.

Up ahead, Wolfgang Von Trips and Piero Taruffi were unaware of the disaster behind them as they sped away from the village towards Brecsia. Neck and neck the old veteran pitted himself against the dashing young German driver Wolfgang Von Trips.

What went through Piero’s mind must have been difficult to comprehend. This one elusive prize that he had coveted winning and this was his final chance. They were upon the final run, still neck and neck. Piero’s car was beginning to cause problems as he was nearing the line with the gallant German still at his side. He is believed to have looked sideways to Wolfgang who was looking back at him. It is not known for sure what transpired between the young German racer and the underachieving Italian veteran, but Wolfgang decided to ease off slightly and throw the race in order that the old veteran should have his day of glory at the Mille Miglia. The Silver Fox crossed the line in first place with the noble young Wolfgang coming second.
Piero’s dream came true and Wolfgang congratulated the veteran racer upon getting out of his car amid the crowd of applauding people. The celebrations would soon be marred by the terrible news of what had happened back at the village of Guidizzolo.




The Bishop of Mantua would launch protests that went to the core of government in Italy. The Mille Miglia had been staged from 1927 until this final race of 1957. It would not be staged anymore because of the danger. It would only re-open in 1977 as a vintage show race. Piero Taruffi was the last Formula One driver to win the prestigious and dangerous race.  



Splendid book of Wolfgang Von Trips and Phil Hill




I loved this era of Formula one racing and Le Mans too. The 1950s was one of the most dangerous times during the history of motor racing. This book delves into the life of American F1 hero Phil Hill, German hero Wolfgang Von Trips and car designer Enzo Ferrari who had both the racers on his elite motor racing team. All the other great are featured as well, including Hawthorn, Collins, Ascari etc.

It is buzzing with excitement and eye witness accounts of many fatal crashes, including Le Mans 1955. Old time greats come into this historical account. I honestly could not put this book down. It was a cracking read. If you love the history of Motorsports; you'll love this. I have not enjoyed anything on par for a long time. We see Hill and Von Trips advancing up the rankings of the Ferrari team as those drivers above are killed.
We see the relaxation life of the driving superstars as they go around the world waiting for the next big race and who will be dining and laughing afterwards. These guys are speed gladiators and one of them: Stirling Moss survived all this. This is a real eye opener.

The Limit
Michael Cannell


How Formula One's 1961 Contestant Wolfgang Von Trips was So Close Yet Denied.




Wolfgang Von Trips was in a fierce competition against his Ferrari team mate Phil Hill during the Formula One world championship of 1961. Both drivers were close to securing the Formula One World Drivers Championship. For Wolfgang Von Trips it would secure Germany's first FI championship win, while for Phil Hill it would be a first for the USA.

There was just the 1961 Italian Grand Prix to go on the 10th September and if Wolfgang could finish third or better; the FI championship 1961 would be his. This was all he had worked for and like all F1 racers, who diced with death during every race, it was his dream to come true if he could clinch the third spot or better.

 Wolfgang Von Trips was born in Cologne Germany in 1928 and was a well to do family. They owned a castle outside of Cologne. As a lad of 14, Wolfgang caught polio and was treated. Once he had overcome this obstacle he was summoned and sent into the Hitler Youth. This was during WWII when Germany was under the rule of National Socialism. In 1944, he along with friends of the Volkssturm and Hitler Youth had to try and defend Cologne from advancing American troops.

He was among the captured when the city fell. Once the war ended, he returned to the family castle to find it had been ransacked by allies. Obviously, his family had much restoration to do. He was motivated by occupying British and American troops to take up his interest in Motorbikes and cars. He had an obvious talent in this field. This was probably disappointing for his family because it was their intention that young Wolfgang Von Trips was destined to run the family farm. He did attend collage studies in agriculture and passed these in 1954. However he was buying cars and entering racing competitions and was talent spotted in 1956, by no lesser man then Enzo Ferrari.

Wolfgang began his F1 carrier during the 1956 season. All this effort and risk in the fast lane, like his fellow competitors, culminated in the grand standing of 1961's Italian Grand Prix at Monza. All he needed was the third place or better and the much-coveted championship would be his. 

As the race started the duel between Wolfgang and Phil Hill got under way. This particular Grand Prix was a dangerous one of significance and had claimed lives before. This was also during an era of formula one racing when deaths were very often happening during every season. The drivers that do this sort of sport are great thrill seekers and it is argued that many are misfits in some way - speed merchants that need the buzz of dicing close to the edge of death. Perhaps Wolfgang Von Tripp was such a thrill seeker who was coming so close to glorious victory; that he could taste it - go that extra yard for the all desired prize.

There was a new up and coming young Scot named Jim Clark in this race and on an all important bend of the Monza circuit, Wolfgang turned his Ferrari into the chasing path of Jim Clark's Lotus. At that moment Wolfgang's rear wheel clipped the front of the pursuing 'future British Champion' Jim Clark's car. The German driver went into a terrible spin-off of the track and onto the verge. His car lifted as it hit the crash barriers and killed 14 spectators. Wolfgang Von Trip was also killed in the crash as he was thrown from the cascading wreckage.

He was a gallant racer, and like so many before and after him. Wolfgang Von Trips died tragically in pursuit of the sport he obviously had a passion for. The terrible legacy was the death of the Italian spectators too. It had shades of the horrific Le Mans disaster of 1955

The USA's Phil Hill went on to take the Formula One trophy of 1961. Wolfgang went out in an explosive blaze of Formula One legend and gloried tribute. He is remembered with honour by those who love the sport.  




Wolfgang Von Trips Crash 1961 Italian Grand Prix






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