The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#125 – Toni Ulmen — Veritas RS – BMW
Grid: 15th / Race: 8th

(Source: Revs)
Born: 25th January 1906
Düsseldorf, Germany
Died: 4th November 1976
Düsseldorf, Germany
Appearances: 2  (1952 Swiss & German GP)


The most successful of all German drivers of the immediate post-war era in race victories and championship titles, the Düsseldorf-based car dealer Toni Ulmen had already gained some success in motorcycle racing from 1925 onward.

After the war, he started his career on four wheels, driving a BMW 328 in the very first circuit race at Karlsruhe in 1946. He continued with the car throughout 1947, coming to his first win in the sports car race at Hamburg at the end of the season. In 1948, he became one of the first customers to race a Veritas RS sports car, but in that season there was no way around Karl Kling, who won all the races of the newly introduced championship. Only at the non-championship race at Nürnburg, where Kling did not take part, Ulmen was able to add another victory to his record. However, his trophy collection would soon be greatly increased in 1949. While Kling still remained the dominant driver in the sports car class, Ulmen now usually appeared with a second Veritas pontoon, taking part in the additional Formula 2 category race and winning the championship with victories at Hockenheim and the Nürbrugring, as well as the non-championship races at the Munich-Riem airfield, the Grenzlandring, Solitude and at autobahn-junction circuit of Cologne. Here, he was also able to finally beat Kling in the sports car race of the same event, which he could add another sports car victory at the first race on the East German Sachsenring.

For 1950, Ulmen had converted one of his Veritas pontoons into a ‘proper’ open-wheel, central-seat monoposto to renew his attack on the German Formula 2 championship, while also continuing with the other RS in the sports car class. While his former rival Kling had more or less taken himself out of the championship with the decision to switch to the new, but awfully unreliable Veritas Meteor Formula 2 car, Ulmen found his new chief opponent in Fritz Rieß, who would remain Ulmen’s arch-rival more or less for the next three seasons. In the sports car class, Ulmen did not get anywhere that season. Despite achieving no wins in Formula 2 either (against two victories of Rieß), he still managed to defend his title. This may look undeserved, but Ulmen’s fourth place in the German Grand Prix was counted like a win, as he had been the first and only of the local drivers who had not been completely outclassed by the international guests.

For 1951, he had his monoposto built back into a two-seater, but with the wheels covered by removable fenders, so he could enter it in both sports car and Formula 2 races on the twisty circuits. This car – nicknamed Großmutter (grandmother) – was campaigned internationally on occasion in its open-wheeled form, with Ulmen entering it in races in Naples and Erlen in 1951. For faster, less technical circuits such as Avus, Hockenheim and the Grenzlandring, he referred to his typical Veritas pontoon ‘streamliner’. With wins at Hockenheim, Schauinsland and the Grenzlandring, he could keep Rieß behind him in the sports car championship this year, while in the Formula 2 class they were both beaten by Pietsch by a single point.

In 1952, Ulmen continued to enter into international events. He made his championship Grand Prix debut at Bremgarten for the Swiss Grand Prix driving Großmutter and later raced it at Silverstone for the International Trophy. At the German Grand Prix 2-litre sportscar race, Ulmen took Großmutter to a decisive victory, beating the next best car by over three minutes. The same day, he entered the Formula 2 Grand Prix, interestingly choosing his Veritas streamliner over the Großmutter as his steed. After three hours of driving, Ulmen crossed the line in 8th place two laps down on winner Ascari and one place behind best local finisher Rieß

1952 also saw him involved in another close battle for the sports car title, with this time Rieß being the lucky one (with equal points but more wins), while Ulmen got his consolation, gaining his third Formula 2 title in his penultimate year as an active driver. In 1953, he took 3rd place overall alongside Herman Roosdorp at the 1953 Spa 24 hours driving a Jaguar  C-Type. At the Nürburgring 1000km a month later, the pair’s car was crashed ending their race. This was Ulmen’s final major race and he retired afterwards to concentrate on running his car dealership in Düsseldorf.

1952 German Grand Prix, Toni Ulmen (Source: Internet)

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