The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

1953

#21 – Hans Stuck — AFM – Bristol
Grid: 23rd / Race: Retired (0 laps)

(Source: Revs)
Born: 27th December 1900
Warsaw, Poland
Died: 8th February 1978
Grainau, Germany
Appearances: 5   (1951-3 Italian GP, 1952 Swiss GP, 1953 German GP)

Biography

The senior of most German post-war drivers, this Auto Union Silver Arrows star’s career had already seemed in decline by the late-1930s. However, he certainly must have felt differently about himself by his second or third summer of racing after the war.

His great popularity always helped him to meet the right people, opening doors which for others remained locked. For example, in 1929/30 he won the European Mountain Championship for Austro Daimler and the Austrians rewarded him with Austrian nationality ‘honoris causa’. He remembered this after the war, when German drivers found themselves without representation in the FIA and thus were not allowed to start races outside their country. So, while a resident of Grainau, Germany (albeit very close to the Austrian border) and always with German citzenship, Stuck took up negotiations with the Austrian clubs and authorities as a door-opener to the rest of world, earning himself Austria’s first racing license!

Thus, in 1947, he was able to join Piero Dusio’s Cisitalia ‘circus’ and he also took his little monoposto to Hockenheim to humiliate the supercharged pre-war Grand Prix monsters that had somehow survived the war. Nicknamed the ‘Bergkönig’ (Mountain King), he drove the Cisitalia to a couple of successes in Swiss and Italian hillclimbs and also into a fine second place at the 1948 Voiturette race at Berne. In 1949, he suddenly found himself without a drive again, when Dusio’s company collapsed over the development costs of their Porsche-designed Tipo 360 Grand Prix car. He found salvation in that of Alexander von Falkenhausen, who at that time was trying to establish his AFM make as an alternative to Veritas in the race car business. Von Falkenhausen recognised the chance of having his products promoted to an international audience by the popular Stuck.

While he did not have high hopes of winning the German championship in his brand-new Formula 2 monoposto, Falkenhausen did not hesitate to entrust the car to Stuck for participation in the 1949 Monza Grand Prix, one of the major Formula 2 races at that time. Disguised as an Austrian, this was the first start of a German driver in a German-built car after the war, and notorious jump-starter Stuck did his best to attract attention, using the torque of his car’s BMW engine to shoot into the lead from all the surprised works Ferraris right at the start. In the following slipstream battle he could keep up with the leaders, before he fell behind due to mechanical problems to be finally classified seventh. Nevertheless, it had been a promising start and back home Stuck underlined his honorific title as ‘Bergkönig’ to win the ‘Mountain Grand Prix’ at the Schauinsland and, shortly after, the important Maloja hillclimb in Switzerland. On the circuits it went less well, for – with the exception of a respectable fourth place at Lausanne and a somewhat surprising third on the highspeed Grenzlandring – Stuck’s car was usually plagued by mechanical failures, a prize all German teams had to pay for still being at least economically bound to second-hand materials. This was also his fate when he returned to Monza in 1950, where he gave another impressive show by winning his heat in front of no other than the great Juan Manuel Fangio, but then had to retire with bearing damage in the final.

Trying to find a way out of the trap, Stuck came to terms with Richard Küchen, who had already produced motorcycle engines in the 1920’s and had set up a new factory at Ingolstadt in 1946. Following the ‘multi-cylinder’ trend of the time, Küchen had developed a V8 DOHC engine, considered the lightest and most modern racing engine in Germany at the time. For this Stuck ordered another monoposto chassis from Falkenhausen and brought the new car to the Schauinsland hillclimb in 1950. A fourth place here followed by a third at the Solitude (behind the new Veritas Meteors of Kling and Lang) proved the car’s basic performance, but at the German Grand Prix Formula 2 race Stuck disappointed the expectant home crowd like all the other German starters when he was disqualified for being push-started after he had had to stop because the accelerator pedal had stuck. Similar problems happened to him at the Garda lake race and again at Marseilles early in 1951, where he, together with von Falkenhausen (now in his own car again) also became the first German driver to start in a race in France after the war. It turned out that, while the V8 engine was powerful, it had some basic design flaws that neither Stuck nor Küchen had the means or resources necessary for development. So Stuck, who was now talking about having been victim to acts of sabotage in 1950, could only make some minor modifications like installing a stronger battery and exchange the complicated eight motorcycle carburetors for Weber double carburetors.

The 1951 season was again a sequence of ups and downs, with a third place at the Munich-Riem airfield followed by three retirements in a row on his now traditional trip to Italy (Monza, Genoa, Caracalla), then a stroke of luck (class win and 2nd overall at the Susa – Mt Cenis hillclimb and overall win at Aosta – San Bernardino), a perhaps slightly disappointing second to Pietsch at the Schauinsland, an unspectacular 8th at Erlen/Switzerland and then finally a very surprising outright win on the Grenzlandring, where the engine lasted despite using permanent full-throttle to keep Stuck’s open-wheel monoposto ahead of all the other streamliners in the race.

Inspired by this and also by the promotion of Formula 2 to the highest motorsport level in 1952, Stuck seems to have intensified his international ambitions in 1952 and was hardly to be seen at home at all. Nevertheless, his starts at Syracuse, Torino, Pau, Marseille, Berne (Swiss GP and World Championship round) more or less all ended with the same result – retirement (or in the case of Marseilles at the back of the result table). So, from around mid-season he turned his attention back to his own real domain, the hillclimbs, where in the comparatively short runs reliability did not count so much and he could play out the advantages of his car and engine, winning the Formula 2 classes at Chiusaforte – Sella Nevea and Aosta – San Bernardino. Interestingly, while still staying absent from the circuits in West Germany, he found a new playground for a while in the Eastern part of the country, where he was clearly the big fish in the pond. Yet, around late summer he seemingly had enough from the AFM and its Küchen engine and was looking for something else to drive again. He came to a deal with Rudi Fischer, who ran two Ferraris under the Swiss Ecurie Espadon banner, to drive the team’s older V12 Ferrari in the Italian Grand Prix. Alas, the effort ended in non-qualification followed by a retirement at the Avus race.

Stuck once again had to look for a new idea for 1953. He pulled the Küchen-AFM out of the garage and made a trip to the Silverstone International Trophy, perhaps with his major interest in this journey being the purchase of a Bristol engine. As this had been basically a development from the BMW 328 it gave no problems to get it installed in the AFM chassis and with the British access to state-of-the-art parts and materials he certainly promised himself much better reliability. The engine had already proved to be no real match to the Ferraris and Maseratis in 1952 when installed in the Cooper chassis and it probably  needed more maintenance than Stuck was able to give. Thus he retired from the Eifelrennen and very disappointingly also on the first lap of the German Grand Prix, and even on the East German circuits he now regularly had to give way for Edgar Barth in the EMW works.

Even worse, Stuck started to loose ground on the mountains, so after a final attempt at the Italian Grand Prix, where he ended up near the tail end of the classifications, he finally saw the time to say farewell to the circuits and started over his career again driving for BMW to become German hillclimb champion in 1960.

1953 German GP, Hans Stuck (Source: 8w.forix.com)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *