The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#131 – Ludwig Fischer — AFM – BMW
Grid: 31st / Race: DNQ (Not allowed to start?)

(Source: Fischer’s 1966 Autobiography)
Born: 17th December 1915
Straubing, Germany
Died: 8th March 1991
Bad Reichenhall, Germany
Appearances: 1   (1952 German GP)


Ludwig Fischer is certainly among the most controversial personalities of German post-war motor racing. Resident of Bad Reichenhall, a German town surrounded on three sides by the Austrian border, he had recently been sentenced for customs irregularities in some obscure cross-border trades when he turned up in the motorsport world in October 1950 driving a Denzel at Gaisberg and on the Salzburg-Liefering autobahn circuit not too far from his home. Pictures from the latter event suggest that he had some trouble keeping the car in the correct direction, a trademark that he would keep for most of his career. Another characteristic was to never blame himself for anything, for example, claiming that he deliberately avoided using the brake pedal because it slowed him down too much.

Inspired by his own performance, he grasped at a chance offered to him in the shape of Alex von Falkenhausen’s old – but faithful – first AFM Formula 2 monoposto. This was the very car in which Hans Stuck had achieved a lot of publicity inside and outside of Germany in 1949, which was then driven by Manfred von Brauchitsch in 1950 in his luckless-as-ever effort to revive his career. Fischer used the race at the Munich-Riem airport to “test drive” the orphaned car and was obviously content enough to come to a deal with Falkenhausen, in spite of having been disqualified from fifth (and last place out of seven starters) for receiving outside assistance. Full of enthusiasm, he joined Paul Pietsch and Hans Stuck on the journey to Genoa for the international “Christopher Columbus 500 Years” Grand Prix – only his second Formula 2 race – where he lasted until the 23rd lap as the last of the three Germans in the race. Back home, he made two starts in the Eifelrennen, qualifying the AFM 21st and last in the Formula 2 race before retiring on the first lap, with an additional DNF in the Denzel in the 1100 cc sports car class. Fischer also competed at the Schauinsland hillclimb, where he drove with a broken hand after he had crashed the Denzel against a rock during practice, followed by a DNS at the Sachsenring where he blamed the locked brakes of his AFM for yet another practice crash.

Undaunted, he carried on into 1952, usually appearing in Austrian and East German events, where he was obviously more welcome in showing off his ‘proper’ Grand Prix car than in West Germany, where the race organisers were more demanding. These organisers perhaps made an exception for the world championship German Grand Prix that year by accepting anybody in the race, albeit under the condition they demonstrate a certain level of competence in practice to be allowed into the race. Three of the local drivers failed to do – among them of course Ludwig Fischer.

In the meantime, to add to his misfortunes, at the Sella Nevea hillclimb in Italy he hade made use of a rock that happened to get in his way to end the life of the Denzel and when he appeared with the AFM at the Maloja hillclimb in Switzerland, the press reports explicitly regretted the “miserable state” of the former proud car in which Stuck still held the track record from his drive in 1949.

In 1953, Fischer got into further trouble when he made a visit to Chimay without the permission of the ONS (national German motorsport board) and to make matters worse, in the race he was accused of interfering with “B. Bira”, which gave the ONS a (perhaps not unwelcome) reason to seize his license until after the upcoming German Grand Prix.

For Fischer, conspirative acts like this against him were, of course, no reason to give up, nor were they a consideration when he wrote endless letters to institutions fighting yet another suspension after he collided with Porsche team director Huschke von Hanstein in the first corner of the airfield race at Zeltweg in 1958. Of course, Fischer regarded this situation the other way around and accused the authorities to be conspiring against him with Hanstein.

All of the injustices he suffered were ultimately told in his self published autobiography (of a very unconventional style, in type-written layout with hand-written side notes), which came out in 1966 and in which he also claimed to have been the real inventor of Formula Junior racing…

1951 Christopher Columbus 500 Years Grand Prix, Ludwig Fischer (Source: Revs)

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