The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#32 – Hans Herrmann — Veritas ‘Klenk’ – Meteor
Grid: 14th / Race: 9th

(Source: Revs)
Born: 23rd February 1928
Stuttgart, Germany
Appearances: 19


Like Seidel and to some extent, Bauer and Barth, the most important parts of Herrmann’s career would take too long to discuss. Here we concentrate only on the beginning, when he was perhaps the most promising new talent of German motor sport.

Living at Stuttgart, hometown of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, which attracted drivers, technicians and other enthusiasts, this was the ideal place to into the contact with the right people. At the age of 23 he bought a Porsche 356 sports car and began driving in rallyes.

At the German Grand Prix in 1952 he drove his first circuit race in the ‘Porsche’ class (1500 cc production sports cars) and was impressively quick before an engine failure.

The 1953 season began even better with a class win in the Mille Miglia with his friend and mentor Erwin Bauer as co-driver and on his return from Italy he also won his class in the support race at the Eifelrennen. Shortly after, he was invited by Porsche to drive one of the new works Coupes at Le Mans and, sharing the car with Helm Glöckler, rewarded this with a class victory – quite a steep career rise in such a short time! At the Avusrennen he appeared again in one of the Coupes and finished second behind no other than Hans Klenk in the works Borgward. Herrmann had already come to an agreement with Klenk to drive a season in Formula 2 under the wings of his Stuttgart-based team.

Herrmann had already obtained the Veritas ‘Großmutter’ which Ulmen had driven for two successful seasons and which had been straightened and updated since Ulmen’s heavy crash at the Sachsenring. At the Eifelrennen the car had failed during practise, but at the Avus it lasted for a good fourth place in Herrmann’s Formula 2 debut.

The next event to come was the German Grand Prix and Herrmann drove the Porsche to his first win in the German Sports Car championship. In Formula 2 he was allowed to take his place in the seat of Klenk’s Veritas Meteor, as the team captain had sustained severe injuries during a testing crash for Mercedes some days before. In the race, Herrmann was the only German who was not lapped, scoring full championship points for the second time in one day (as the round also counted towards the West German F2 championship).

With only the Schauinsland hillclimb left, Herrmann came to this event as Sports Car championship leader and he secured the title with his second win of the season. In his drive, he set the second fastest time of the day behind De Graffenried in his Formula 2 Maserati. In the F2 event, Herrmann still had hopes for the championship, but could only finish the hillclimb in sixth place. Worse, with Stuck making a guest appearance and driving into second place, he took away vital points from Herrmann, handing Theo Helfrich the prestigious title of German Formula 2 champion from Herrmann’s nose by just a single point.

No wonder that Herrmann was invited to test drive for Mercedes, as they were searching for drivers for their Grand Prix comeback in 1954. Chosen as No. 3 driver behind Fangio and Kling, Herrmann would remain in their shadow with a third place in the Swiss Grand Prix as his best result in the season. Meanwhile Herrmann continued with Porsche in the sports car class, where he repeated his class win at the Mille Miglia in a very spectacular way, driving the low Spyder under a closed railway gate just in front of the approaching train. Herrmann again won the title in the German championship and at the end of the season added another impressive class win and third in the overall ranking of the Carrera Panamericana to his records.

In 1955, Herrmann would suffer the first major setback of his career. Mercedes had signed up yet another top driver with that of Stirling Moss, making the internal competition even tougher. During practise at Monte Carlo, Herrmann crashed his car into a wall and sustained severe injuries which put him out of action for the rest of the season. In spite of this, he made a comeback in 1957 with a couple of rented drives in one of the Centro Sud Maseratis, but he could never really get his foot into Formula 1 again, even as No. 3 driver in Porsche’s Formula 1 team in 1961.

Instead, he would find his destiny in sports car racing, crowning his career with the famous Le Mans win for Porsche in 1970, after which he ended his driver career like he had promised to his wife.

1953 German Grand Prix, Hans Herrmann (Source: Revs)

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