This was the original Nürburgring at the height of its fame. Here is the start of the German Grand Prix which took place on August 1, 1954. This dramatic image was captured from the grass at the edge of the track a few hundred yards from the grid which was located next to the timing tower, the last building to the right, just above the other distant photographer standing on the grass verge. On the left as they brake for the old South Curve is Juan Manuel Fangio who started on pole in the new short chassis open wheel version of the W196 F1 Mercedes. Next to him, up from the second row, is Froilán González in a Ferrari 625 fitted with the latest Squalo wide valve angle version of the their 2.5 liter four cylinder motor. Behind them come the Ferrari 625 of Mike Hawthorn, the Maserati 250F of Stirling Moss and Hans Hermann’s envelope-bodied Mercedes W196. The old South Curve, now erased by construction of the present Grand Prix circuit, was at the end of the original pit straight, swinging to the right and then immediately beginning a 180º loop which entered the straight back up behind the pits.
After the troubles which the Mercedes drivers had had placing the streamliner versions of the W196 during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone two weeks before, where the German cars sent marker barrels flying, there were three open wheel versions for Fangio, Karl Kling and Hermann Lang, with Hans Hermann having to make do with one of the earlier envelope body types.
Practice at the Nürburgring that year was marred by the fatal crash of Fangio’s protegé Onofre Marimon whose Maserati 250F shot through a hedge on the descent to Adenau Bridge and rolled over down a bank. Marimon had been especially close to González who was deeply saddened by this accident. Although González drove hard at first, challenging Fangio, he subsequently drifted back and was eventually replaced by Hawthorn who gained on Fangio but could only finish second, over a minute behind.
Although Fangio’s Mercedes had been fastest, the W196 looked to have real competition from Ferrari. But that did not carry over into 1955 with Moss joining Mercedes, an anno horribilis for Ferrari, and González effectively retiring early in that year.
Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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