The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#123 – Willi Heeks — AFM – BMW
Grid: 9th / Race: Retired (7 laps)

(Source: Unknown)
Born: 13th February 1922
Moorlage, Germany
Died: 13th August 1996
Bocholt, Germany
Appearances: 2   (1952 & 1953 German GP)


Willi Heeks, born in 1922 and owner of a transport company, started automobile racing in 1949 when he took over the assets of former AFM customer Emil “Teddy” Vorster, an 1100cc sports car racer who had owned an AFM monoposto fitted with a supercharged 750cc engine. Heeks became a Formula 2 driver in 1950 when he replaced the AFM’s 750cc unit with the common 2-litre BMW 328 engine and drove it to a surprise victory in the very first race at Hockenheim. Albeit, the only other two competitors were Fritz Rieß and Toni Ulmen, the two top drivers of that era! In the following races, his performances were hindered by a series of retirements until he gained a win at Dessau at the end of the season against the comparatively weak East German competition.

In 1951, he achieved a fine third place in the Eifelrennen, but no further top results. So, for 1952 he ordered a new car from Alex von Falkenhausen’s AFM workshop, cannibalising parts from his old car. Entering this car into the German Grand Prix, Heeks qualified an excellent ninth and ran as high as seventh, before retiring after seven laps. After a series of retirements and lower place finishes against international competitors, he could only be content with a couple of second places on East German soil (Halle and Sachsenring). Besides this, Heeks was invited as reserve driver to Mercedes’ successful Le Mans team.

1953 saw him joining a new team called “Ecurie Nürburgring”, which was a desperate attempt by legendary race car guru and founder of the already ailing Veritas company, Ernst Loof, to finally come to success with a completely re-engineered version of the Veritas Meteor Formula 2 car. However, like its predecessors this was also pursued by technical unreliability and the company’s limited resources. So, by the time the Veritas-Nürburgring company had to close in late-summer, Heeks had not achieved a single countable result.

1952 German Grand Prix, Willi Heeks (Source: Revs)

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