The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#133 – Willi Krakau — AFM – BMW
Grid: 28th / Race: DNQ (Not allowed to start?)

(Source: Revs)
Born: 4th December 1911
Schonebeck-Felgeleben, Germany
Died: 26th April 1995
Peine, Germany
Appearances: 1   (1952 German GP)

Biography

Krakau was one of the most competitive drivers in the immediate post-war years, but he could never really produce the corresponding results. One reason was perhaps the unreliability of his machinery, with his car letting him down on more than one occasion while fighting with the leaders. Or it may have been that he did not concentrate on racing or the maintenance of his car as much as his opponents, for being a multi-talented sportsman, he might have had other kinds of sports and competition in mind.

He had already gained merits in disciplines like boxing, sailing, swimming, athletics, skiing (as ski teacher to the Greek Queen) and even as a member of the 1936 German Olympic rowing team, before he turned up with a virtually standard BMW 328 sports car at Hockenheim in 1947 for the very first ‘proper’ race in Germany after the war. At the subsequent race at Schotten, he finished second, followed by a third place at the Hamburg City Park race, but of course the field was still very small in this first racing season. In 1948, he appeared again, now with an open-wheel “Intertype” BMW sports car special of East German origin. In this car, he immediately set best practice time at Schotten to beat the all-dominant Kling, whom he fought closely in the early stages of the race until Krakau’s engine failed on the fourth lap. The picture would remain the same throughout most of the 1949 with Krakau in close fight with Kling at the Nürburgring, Schotten and the Nürburgring again, resulting in three wins for Kling with two retirements, alongside a second place finish at the Grand Prix of the Nürburgring for Krakau.

When Germany was finally represented by the FIA again for 1950, Krakau became the first German driver to make use of the new freedom to travel to a foreign event for the Formula 2 Monza Grand Prix, while Stuck, who was also present with the AFM, was still racing under his Austrian license. The story goes that the organisers initially refused Krakau’s “Silver Arrows”, so he had to paint it white using washable paint. On the other hand, he was happy to be lent some Pirelli tyres. During the event, Krakau did his best to represent Germany with a respectable fourth place in his heat, but then in the final event he dropped out with another engine failure. Back at home, the car lasted for once in the Eifelrennen for another fine second place, followed by third at the Solitude, but it seems he was now dropping slightly more towards the midfielders.

Either way, for some reason, he was not seen on a circuit again until 1952, by which time he had formed an association with Fritz Rieß. At the Eifelrennen, Rieß had bought himself into the cockpit of a private Ferrari so that Krakau could drive the team’s AFM monoposto, while he handed his own special to von Hanstein. In the end, none of them saw the finish line and after not even getting onto the grid at the subsequent German Grand Prix, Krakau gave up racing to turn his attention towards skin diving and alpine climbing.

1952 Eifelrennen, Willi Krakau (Source: Revs)

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