The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#34 – Kurt Adolff — Ferrari 500
Grid: 27th / Race: Retired (3 laps)

(Source: Private Collection)
Born: 5th November 1921
Stuttgart, Germany
Died: 24t January 2012
Kreuth, Miesbach, Germany
Appearances: 1   (1953 German GP)

Biography

The textile industrialist from Aachen was another German newcomer of the post-war era who caused some sensation when he set pole and finished second (after losing the lead because of a tyre failure) in his very first sports car race at Hockenheim in 1950 in a Veritas RS. Shortly after at the Solitude he would drive to his first win in front of his old school comrades to finish runner-up in the German championship. However, perhaps this had put a little bit too much pressure on him as, on his next visit to Hockenheim in 1951, he drove too fast into the Stadtkurve and ended up with his car rearwards on the straw bales in a spectacular spin, just in front of the camera filming the weekly newsreel to be seen in the cinemas all over Germany! Unfortunately this would also be his last time he saw the track for a while, as he was put out of action for the rest of the season by illness.

On his comeback at the Eifelrennen in 1952 he seemed very much like before, starting on pole and finishing in a fine third place. He also made the long joruney to Oporto to start in the Portuguese Sports Car Grand Prix, where he came home with a fine second place in his class. However, after that he missed some races and in the ones he started, his very much worn-out Veritas did not reach the finish line.

He knew that he had to look for a better option if he wanted to continue his career more successfully. Early in 1953, it was announced, that a new team called the “Ecurie Nübrurgring” had been established, with the aim of getting a competitive German Grand Prix car into the races. Adolff and Heeks were signed up as drivers. Ernst Loof produced two completely ‘remastered’ Veritas Meteor Formula 2 cars for them, with the same modifications being made to Adolff’s old Veritas sports car. The same announcement had featured a vague mention of a further “high-performance car of Italian origin” for the team, which turned into reality when Adolff sensationally appeared at the Eifelrennen in one of the all-conquering Ferrari 500s which had absolutely dominated the 1952 Grand Prix season! Adolff’s car, painted in the red-and-white Swiss national colours, had been used by Rudi Fischer in 1952 to become highest-finishing privateer in the World Championship with a second place in the Swiss Grand Prix and a third in the German Grand Prix. Despite this performance, Fischer was deeply disappointed not to have been taken up into the Ferrari works team and decided to quit racing. Right from the start, Adolff tried to present himself worthy for the car and put it on pole position for the Eifelrennen. Though, in the very wet race on his dry-weather tyres (according to his own report) he had to give way to De Graffenried in the new Maserati and also to the two HWM drivers Frère and Collins, to finish at least best of the Germans in fourth place.

Again, one could gain the impression that he put himself under a little too much pressure when he spun out of the banked Avus Nordkurve, luckily into the infield. For this, he gave the excuse that he had to avoid Behra who had also spun on an oil spot right in front of him. How reliable his statements are is uncertain, however. For example, he reported in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring that he had firstly been handicapped in practise by problems with the shock absorbers and then – after a disappointingly unspectacular drive in the midfield – was taken out of the race, because Ascari needed some spare parts from his car after he had lost a wheel! Well, whether true or not, his performance in the Ferrari had not met the expectations by far.

Also, by this time, Ernst Loof’s Veritas-Nürburgring company was already close at its end and this seems to have had effect on the Ecurie Nürburgring as well (the explanation as to why they might have ‘sold’ parts of the car to the Ferrari works team). At the Schauinsland hillclimb, only a week after the Grand Prix, Fischer drove his old Ferrari once again and the Veritas sports car was in the hands of another driver, while with Adolff there was nothing there to see.

He tells he had to care for his industries again, so gave up racing.

1953 German Grand Prix, Kurt Adolff (Source: Revs)

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