The Swiss GP meeting on May 17th and 18th was held under ideal weather conditions but was marred by two fatal accidents during the motor-cycle races which preceded the Formula II Grand Prix. DE Bennett, a new rider in the Norton “works” team and Ercole Frigerio, the Italian sidecar champion, crashed in the closing stages of their races and were killed instantly. In the International sports-car race, Carraciola crashed his Mercedes and suffered a broken leg, and in the GP Rosier (Ferrari) and Abecassis (HWM) crashed but were unhurt.
With the change to Formula II the Swiss GP took on a new interest for the starting list contained a wider range of competitors than in the previous years. Ferrari was still dominant but Simca replaced Alfa-Romeo. while the rest of the opposition came from England in the form of four HWMs, two Cooper-Bristols and a lone Frazer-Nash. With Ascari in America for Indianapolis and Villoresi not fit enough to drive after his road accident, Farina was apparently going to have an easy time. Taruffi was his team mate and at the last moment the third four-cylinder Ferrari was given to the French driver Andre Simon. Privately-owned four-cylinder Ferraris were driven by Fischer and Rosier, and Peter Hirt drove the 12-cylinder Ecurie Espadon car. In opposition were Manzon and Behra with 2-litre Simcas, the latter having a brand new car only completed the Thursday before the race and which he drove from Paris to Berne in order to arrive in time to qualify. Abecassis, Collins and Macklin were entered us the HWM team and, as a fourth car was available, Stirling Moss took the wheel. Running in their first GP were the Ecurie Richmond Cooper-Bristols driven by Brown and Brandon, while Ken Wharton drove his new single-seater Frazer-Nash. The rest of the entry was made up by Plate with his two Maserati cars, Stuck (AFM), Ulmen (Veritas) and Bira with a 1.500-cc “works” Simca.
During practice it was obvious that the dropping of Formula I for the premier event at Berne was a mistake, for the 2-litre cars were not very much faster than the sports cars on such a rapid circuit, and past the pits they were tame in comparison with the more powerful cars in previous years. However, lack of Formula I support forced the change and the variety of entries made up for the slower speeds.
Farina appeared to have the race in his pocket from the start, with Taruffi backing him up, but duelling with the third “works” Ferrari was Jean Behra on the new Simca, driving a regular and faultless race. Moss started well but came in after only four laps to put the right plugs in and set off again to work his way up through the field. Abecassis led the English cars, holding fifth place until the 13th lap, when a rear stub-axle broke, causing the car to run up a bank and roll over back into the road, George eecaping uninjured. On the same lap, further round the course, Collins had the same trouble and gyrated to a stop, whereupon John Heath called in Moss and Macklin and they agreed to abandon the race.
Of the Bristol-engined cars, Wharton was easily the fastest, driving very confidently and steadily, whereas the Coopers gave the impression they were about to disintegrate, and were rather outclassed. With leas than a third of the race completed Farina suddenly stopped circulating, the popping and banging emanating from the works indicating serious trouble. He returned to the pits on foot and Simon was called in and a change of drivers made. This left Taruffi comfortably in the lead, Behra second and Farina making up time in third place. Manzon’s 2-litre Simca split a water hose and Gordini and a mechanic removed the radiator and most of the front of the car before they were able to replace it. After having lost nearly 20 laps to the leader, Manzon set off again and at the same time Behra pulled in crying for water to be thrown into the cockpit ! His exhaust pipe had broken off and the side of the cockpit was very hot. Having been doused with water he set off again in third place behind Farina and Manzon was called in to have his tail pipe removed. Behra came in again, more water was thrown over him and the tail pipe fitted, but it was found that the mounting bracket would not fit. While the pipe was cut in two Debra continued to circulate in his inferno and came in once more to have a short length of pipe fitted sufficient to take the heat past the cockpit, but while all this was happening, Fischer, who had been driving very consistently, moved up into third place. Not long after Farina burst his second four-cylinder Ferrari and retired at the pits with more expensive noise.. At the same time Bira in the 1,500-cc Simca, disappeared having driven a very steady race, and this reshuffle left Taruffi still in the lead. even after stopping for fuel. Fischer running non-stop in second place. Behra, showing brilliant form, third, and Wharton a well-deserved fourth, this order remaining until the last of the 62 laps.
Preceding the GP was the “Preis von Berne” an International sports-car race which was dominated by the Mercedes-Benz team of 300SL saloons. From the beginning of practice this team made a deep impression by its air of efficiency and confidence, there being the three Mille Miglia cars, painted red (Carraciola), blue (Lang) and green (Kling), and a spare car in silver driven by Fritz Reiss. The last was a new car with modified doors that extruded down the side of the cockpit. The Swiss driver Daetwyler had a new “works” 4.1-litre Ferrari that was easily the fastest car present, Duke and Parnell had “works” DB2 AstonMartins. Biondetti his Jaguar special, now looking like an XKI20C. Bonetto and Fagioli in “works” Lancia Aureiias,. while the V8 Fiats did not appear. Daetwyler should have walked the race with the big Ferrari, having lapped in practice nearly as fast as the Formula II cars but he muffed his start and broke the rear universal joint on the prop-shaft, much to the disgust of “works” Ferrari people. The Mercedes had no opposition and gave a fine demonstration, bring followed by Duke and Parnell.
Swiss GP. (62 laps, 451.360 kms.).—1st : P Taruffi (4-cylinder Ferrari). 3 hr 1 min 56.1 sec, 149.346 kph. 2nd : R Fischer (4-cylinder Ferrari), 3 hr 4 min 23.3 sec, 146.862 kph. 3rd : J Behra (2-litre Simca). 1 lap behind. 4th K Wharton (Fraser-Nash), 2 laps behind. 5th : A Brown (Cooper-Bristol). 5 laps behind. 6th : E de Graffenried (Maserati-Plate), 4 laps behind. 7th : E Brandon (Cooper-Bristol), 6 laps behind. 8th : P Hirt (12-cylinder Ferrari), 6 laps behind.
Fastest lap :Taruffi (Ferrari), 2 min 49.1 sec, 155.076 kph. Also started: Moss, Macklin, Abeeassis, Collins (HWM): Bira, Dattner (1,500-cc Simca): Manzon (2-litre Simca); Schell (Maserati-Plate); Farina. Simon. Rosier (four-cylinder Ferrari): Stuck (AFM); Ulmen (Veritas).
Pries von Berne (18 laps, 131.040 kms.).—Ist : K Kling (300SL Mereedea) 54 min. 8.4 sec; 145.223 kph. 2nd : H Lang (300SL Mercedes) 54 min 46.4 sec: 143.544 kph. 3rd : F Reiss (300SL Mercedes) 1 lap behind. 4th : GE Duke (Aston-Martin DB2) 1 lap behind. 5th : R Parnell (Aston-Martin DB3) 1 lap behind. 6th : F Bonetto (Lancia Aurelia) 1 lap behind. 7th : L Fagioli (Lancia Aurelia) 1 lap behind.
Fastest lap : H Lang, 2 min 56.1 sec, 148.825 kph.