One interesting point about the Nurburgring is its excellent concrete Paddock, with lock-up garages around the sides and the majority of teams take advantage of this, consequently there is always much of mechanical interest to be seen during the practice periods. Of the three works Ferraris, Ascari and Taruffi were using the new engines with the magnetos mounted in front of the cylinder block, while Farina had the earlier model with the magnetos in the scuttle. On the new engine a drive is taken from the nose of the crankshaft, through spur gears in a bolted-on aluminium casing on which the two four-cylinder magnetos are mounted. Originally the main fuel pump was driven from this point and with the modifications it has been moved to a higher position driven off the idler gear which drives the inlet camshaft. It seems that the magnetos in the old position under the scuttle ran too hot, even though cool air was ducted on to them. Fischer had his rear axle ratio changed on his four-cylinder Ferrari and at the same time attended to brakes, shock-absorbers and clutch, so that the car was stripped to the bare chassis frame at the back.
Another car that had its rear end exposed was Cantoni’s Maserati A6G, not to change the ratio but to correct a nasty clicking noise. Like the Gordini, the Connaught and the Veritas, the Maserati has no chassis frame extending beyond the rear axle centre line, the fuel tank being over-hung and the oil tank bolted on to the back of it. Clearly the Formula II Maserati is a hybrid born of the old 4CLT and the 2-litre sports A6G, for the rear end is still hung on splayed ¼-elliptics and is a normal single piece axle, but with reduction gear from the prop.-shaft and an anti-roll bar behind the axle. Double-wishbones in conjunction with coil springs and an anti-roll bar look after the front, while the engine which is set to the near-side a little is a double overhead camshaft six-cylinder coupled to a 4CLT-type gearbox and the prop.-shaft runs at a slight angle to the centre line of the car. Cantotii and Bianco, on identical cars, formed the Escuderia Bandeirantes, representing Brazil, while Bonetto was driving the latest works car designated an A6GCM, which a wit suggested might mean “con motore.” Outwardly this car was similar to the Brazilian car, with the exception of solid rubber blocks in the centre of the front suspension spring coils. Undoubtedly it was different inwardly as it was a lot faster and its crisper note indicated a higher compression and more exciting valve timing. It was interesting that this new six-cylinder contrived to make the same flat exhaust note as the old 4CLT when being pushed-started and before the revs, got up above 3,000 r.p.m.
Among the other private-owners of Italian cars the Belgian-owned four-cylinder Ferrari, a “production” model that only goes to 6,500 r.p.m., had a piece of inlet valve break off so that a first-rate view of the interior was to hand when it was dismantled. Impressive were the size of the rods, the slimness of the timing gears, the vast diameter of the inlet valves and the beautiful high-lift cams operating the hairpin-spring controlled valves through rollers and tappets. Ferrari’s kindly lent one of their men to do the assembly.
The H.W.M. team arrived very late for Practice and with none of the cars ready to run, due to having been racing at Caen in a French National event the week before. Paul Frere was the only one to put in any real practice, Peter Coffins breaking his car before completing a lap and consequently not being allowed to start, and Claes qualifying only by reason of’ having raced on the “Ring” before. It was obvious that John Heath was trying to do too much with insufficient equipment; cars and mechanics were all sadly in need of a slight break from working virtually non-stop since the beginning of the season. This insufficiency of preparation has been noticeably mounting up during the season and obviously the H.W.M. programme requires twice as many mechanics and another two or three cars to fulfil all its engagements in first-class order. Tony Gaze was running his privately-owned 1951 H.W.M. fitted with the engine and gearbox from his Alta, having bought the H.W.M. as a chassis, the Formula II Alta chassis having a Jaguar engine fitted to make a sports-car. After running in some new bearings he motored quite effectively, getting himself in the fourth row of the start alongside Paul Frere. Bill Aston had fitted Allard-Steyr cylinder heads to his Butterworth engine with a new carburetter layout and was motoring fairly contentedly.
Of the French cars the three Gordinis were all running well, but could not hope to challenge the Ferraris from the driving point of view, Manzon was doing his best, as was Trintignant, but Behra was still sore after his crash and the Nurburgring is not a good place to recommence racing before being 100 per cent. fit. There was also an odd-looking French vehicle that slightly resembled a Gordini, but had a B.M.W. engine, which had been constructed by its owner, Marcel Balsa. Many of the German cars also had B.M.W. engines, the A.F.M.S. of Hecks and Niedermayr, the former being the fastest Gertnan using a B.M.W. The two-seater Veritas of Ulmen, Riess, Peters and Helfrich were all B.M.W. powered, but Pietsch and Klenk were using the o.h.c. Veritas engine in their single-seaters, the former experimenting with Weber carburetters in place of the normal Solex.
Among the sports-cars the main interest lay in the Mercedes camp, for first of all they had two 300 SL cars fitted with super-chargers and designated 300 SLK and secondly four of the cars had the little saloon tops cut off and all unnecessary Le Mans luxuries removed. The saloon tops had literally been cut off with tin-snips and the welding in of extra panels was most beautifully carried out. The drivers’ door remained the same shape as the Le Mans car, but with no upper portion and opened forwards and upwards. By removing the passenger seat, upholstery, roof, windscreen, wipers, electric motors, windows, speedo, clock and fitting smaller dynamos the weight had been reduced by 100 kilogrammes and, of course, for a twisty circuit like the Nurburgring visibility was greatly improved. On maximum speed they were 16 k.p.h. down on the saloons, due to the drag of the open cockpit-hole, but they made up on lap times by increased handling ability.
The 300 SLK, while having more power and being faster than the 300 SL was no faster on lap times, due to having too much power for the twisty parts of the course, a fact Mercedes-Benz learnt in 1939 with the 3-litre cars against the 1937 5.6-litre cars. The super-charged model was tried out on two occasions, but it ran rather hot so the blower was removed and Kling ran in the 3-litre category with his team-mates. Not only was the blower removed, but the K on the rear name plate was cut off also. It was interesting that the front and rear axle weights on all four open cars varied slightly, but in each case there was more weight on the rear than the front when fully loaded. At the end of practice Kling and Lang had recorded third and fourth fastest times, respectively, only Ascari and Farina being faster with the works Formula II Ferraris. Mercedes were not very worried that Moss did not arrive with the XK120C, but they were glad there were no DBIII Aston-Martins entered.
Impressive as the Mercedes-Benz equipe was, the little 2.3-litre Gordini driven by Manzon, overshadowed them by its fantastic speed, and in the race it lay second for four laps until gearbox trouble caused its retirement. On maximum speed the 2.3-litre sports-car is faster than the Formula II single-seater and it uses normal fuel against the single-seater’s alcohol fuel; its lower race speeds are attributable to the poorer handling qualities, especially on left-hand bends, as it has a normal two-seater cockpit with right-hand drive.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Nurburgring, the finest “driver’s-circuit” in Europe, a display of past German glory was arranged at the entrance, consisting of a 1922 Targa Florio Mercedes, a 1937 Grand Prix car, a 1939 Grand Prix car, all from the factory museum and the original Auto-Union chassis that was built as a Show model and exhibited in Berlin in 1934. In the face of such mechanism the 1952 Formula II cars appeared as toys and many was the enthusiast who would have willingly foregone the Formula II Grand Prix just to hear the 5.6-litre eight-cylinder Mercedes-Benz in full song once more, but it was not to be and silent tears were shed for the greatest period motor-racing has ever known, or probably ever will know, when Mercedes battled with Auto-Union for world honours, and one felt a patronising sorrow for those newcomers to the greatest of all sports to whom the name Auto-Union was not even history, while Mercedes meant 300SL.
On August 3rd the Nurburgring celebrated its 25th anniversary and at the same time held the 1952 German G.P., which was confined to Formula II cars, in accordance with most of the Grands Prix this year.
Before the main event a series of sports-car races were held in which the new open versions of the 300SL Mercedes gave an impressive demonstration, the other categories being rather dull in comparison. The Formula II event was held over 18 laps of the tortuous circuit, a total distance of 410.58 kilometres, and an impressive field of 31 starters left the line. However, the first 22.8-kilometre lap caused violent havoc, for Bonetto spun the new six-cylinder Maserati when fourth and caused some violent swerving, but fortunately no accidents, and he came in at the end of the lap with a flat tyre. Trintignant hit a solid object on the edge of the course and bent the suspension of his Gordini Six, Pietsch broke his Veritas gearbox, Carini on the Scuderia Marzotto V12 Ferrari lost all his brakes, Frere’s H.W.M. ruined its preselector arrangements, Peters (Veritas) retired, Helfrich (six-cylinder A.F.M.) stopped for a moment, and Bianco didn’t complete the lap in his A6G Maserati. While all this commotion was taking place the imperturbable Alberto Ascari was way out in the lead, with Farina and Taruffi following, all driving four-cylinder Ferraris. Manzon with the leading Gordini was keeping up, as was Fischer (Ferrari), who was showing brilliant form. The English contingent was small and unimpressive, Aston losing all the oil pressure from his Butterworth engine and deeming it wise to stop before anything broke, and Gaze (1951 H.W.M.) running in eighth place until a broken de Dion tube put him out. The only remaining English car was the second team H.W.M. driven by Johnny Claes and, after a bad start, he worked up to 10th place and then a pit stop to fix the magneto put him at the back of the field and though he went well afterwards he could only hope to finish. Up in the lead Ascari was showing his mastery and after nine laps he came in and had both rear wheels changed in 31 seconds, keeping the motor running the while, and was away with no time wasted. Immediately afterwards Farina came in for the same treatment in 33 seconds, but had two goes at getting away, nearly stopping the motor on each occasion. Just before this Manzon lost a rear wheel and retired unhurt, so that the “works” Ferraris were unchallenged. Taruffi’s wheel change took place after 10 laps and he was stopped for only 30 seconds. So the Ferrari procession ran on, with Fischer, running non-stop, backing up the “works” team splendidly and Behra, still not fit after his crash at Sable d’Olonne, holding his Gordini in fifth place.
After 12 laps Taruffi suddenly pulled into his pit and demanded a new near-side front tyre, and the pit had not long got over this surprise when Ascari arrived in a great hurry, with two laps to go, yelling for oil, as most of his was in the cockpit. The tail tank was filled and away he went, but not before Farina had gone by and gained nine seconds lead. By the end of the twisty part of the circuit Alberto was on Farina’s tail and by the end of the lap he was back in the lead, where he stayed for the remaining lap. On his 17th lap Taruffi, lying third, had his de Dion tube break and, though the near-side wheel lay at an angle to the car, the wily Piero nursed it along to the finish, waiting just before the line for about 15 seconds, until the joyous Alberto sailed across to win his third successive race at Nurburgring, and then drove gently in to be placed fourth, one lap behind the leader.
1st: A. Ascari (four-cylinder Ferrari), 3 hr. 6 min. 13.3 sec. 132.3 k.p.h.
2nd: G. Farina (four-cylinder Ferrari), 3 hr. 6 min. 27.4 sec. 132.1 k.p.h.
3rd: R. Fischer (four-cylinder Ferrari), 3 hr. 13 min. 23.4 sec. 127.4 k.p.h.
4th: P. Taruffi (four-cylinder Ferrari), 1 lap behind.
5th: J. Behra (six-cylinder Gordini), 1 lap behind.
6th: R. Laurent (four-cylinder Ferrari), 2 laps behind.
7th: F. Riess (six-cylinder Veritas/B.M.W.), 2 laps behind.
8th: T. Ulmen (six-cylinder Veritas/B.M.W.), 2 laps behind.
9th: H. Niedermayr (six-cylider A.F.M./B.M.W.), 3 laps behind.
10th: J. CLaes (four-cylinder H.W.M.), 3 laps behind.
11th: H. Klenk (six-cylinder Veritas), four laps behind.
12th: E. Klodwig (B.M.W. Special), 4 laps behind.
Fastest lap: Ascari (Ferrari) 10 min. 5.1 sec. — 135.8 k.p.h.