Hans Ruesch, the last remaining pre-war grand prix winner, died at his home in Massagno, near Lugano, Switzerland, on August 27. He was 94.
Though a Swiss citizen, Ruesch was born in Naples on May 17, 1913. Brought up in a multi-lingual environment, Ruesch went on to study law but quit in 1932 to go racing aboard an MG. Later that year he drove an Alfa Romeo to third in the 1.5-litre class in the Brno Grand Prix (Masaryk-Ring) and took wins in Switzerland in hillclimbs at Jaunpass, Klausen and Rheineck-Walzenhausen. In 1934 he acquired the ex-Guy Moll Maserati 8CM and, with the addition of a 6C/34 engine for the following season, enjoyed considerable success.
In 1936 Ruesch began the most successful period of his racing. Equipped with the ex-Nuvolari Alfa Romeo 8C-35, he entered the Donington Grand Prix, sharing the drive with Dick Seaman. Ruesch took the lead on lap three and held it until handing over to Seaman on lap 60. The Englishman proceeded to cruise to victory.
In the 1937 grand prix season he had a particularly good May, taking wins in the Finnish GP and the Grand Prix des Frontières at Chimay, rounding out the month with another win at the Bucharest GP. Ruesch came third in the Circuit de Milan and in October returned to England to win the Mountain Championship at Brooklands track by over 22 seconds.
Ruesch sold the 8C-35 in 1939 and moved to Paris, where he began writing professionally. With the Germans one day away from the French capital and the borders closed, he headed for Spain armed only with a transit visa. He was arrested in Madrid, but with the help of a friend managed to get released and continued on to Lisbon before travelling to America. He settled in New York and took up writing full time. Ruesch returned to Europe in 1946, landing in Naples and wrote a number of books including The Racer in 1953 that became a film of the same name starring Kirk Douglas.
In 1953 he made a return to driving in a Ferrari 340 MM Spider in the Gran Premio Supercortemaggiore but spun out and killed a policeman. Another carabiniere and two spectators were seriously injured but survived. Ruesch did not race again.
An animal lover since childhood, he subsequently became a noted campaigner against animal experiments and vivisection, writing several texts decrying such activities.