Tragedy At the ‘Ring: The 1954 German GP

Onofre Marimón [12.23.23 - 7.31.54]

A Distinct Evolution.

I can only imagine the legions it would have taken to run a race and accommodate the hundreds of thousands of visitors that would attend the 1954 German Grand Prix.  I’ve seen the old videos of the Nürburgring, and it is a fantastic place.  As an American largely stuck in the dead center of the US, I haven’t had the opportunity to visit the mystical place known simpleys the ‘Ring.  But, it exists in my subconscious as the amalgamation of  hundreds, if not thousands, of laps driven virtually.  I claim no actual skill at driving the Nürburgring, but I can claim to know how this track is like an ever-changing dragon seeking to punish the smallest of errors.  And yet, the consistency of the times that unfolded over the weekend, were within about 6 seconds at the front of the pack.  For a 14 mile course to only yield a few seconds difference of pace over the course of the weekend, suggests these men were inch perfect, corner after corner, lap after lap.  What it must have been like to be inside Fangio’s mind as he clicked his tires over apex over apex.  Did he memorize the braking points, or did he drive on sheer instinct alone?

English: Grosser Preis von Europa, Nuerburgrin...

Juan Manuel Fangio at the 1954 German Grand Prix with the newly redesigned W196 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With preparations being made at the track, Mercedes-Benz was putting the W196 chassis through a radical re-design.  As it unfolded in the prior post, the Mercedes-Benz revolutionary and beautifully designed car was causing some sort of lift resulting in the car being un-drivable at high speeds making cornering vague, to say the least.  And to be honest, the enormity of the evolution that transpired is just now hitting me.  In under two weeks, the mechanics created an entirely new chassis.  Basically, the new chassis removed all the bodywork which previously covered the wheels.  Presumably, then, this would have required almost all new sheet-metal, if not an entire new frame.  Mercedes, not only accomplished the radical transformation, but they showed up with four brand new cars.  Folks, big money has arrived in F1, and it is here to stay.

English: Grosser Preis von Europa, 1954, Nuerb...

Karl Kling in car #19 at the 1954 German GP. Note the uncovered front and rear wheels as compared to their appearance in the last couple races. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ononfre Marimón Fatally Injured in Practice.

Since the inception of the Formula 1 Championship, no driver had yet been fatally injured at a points-scoring race.  This weekend changed that record.  In a sense, this marks the beginning of a long and dark shadow which hangs over the halls of Formula 1 history.  I go back and forth as to whether racing should ever have continued, in its then current form.  Is ultimate quickness eve worth losing your life for?  Still, I have no reasonably well considered answer to this question.  As such, it will remain a major theme of GP Evolved.

It happened in practice.  During the session, Marimón was at high speeds headed downhill toward the Adenua corner and was fatally injured in a crash.  His death, as it should, cast a heavy tone over the race.  This tragedy must have weighed heavily on the drivers as they grieved the loss of their fellow driver.  It is difficult to imagine the courage, and dedication to speed, that possessed these men to continue, qualify, and ultimately race for the victory.

The Race Itself: The 1954 German Grand Prix.

The great Juan-Manuel Fangio set the best qualifying time around the fourteen mile circuit in 9 minutes and 50 seconds.  Notably, this is only a few seconds faster than the previous GP, last year, under F2.  This evidence further bolsters my conclusion that these guys were running inch-perfect around apexes of this monster.

González took the early lead; however, he would lose it to Fangio before they completed their first lap.  Meanwhile, Karl Kling hustled from the back of the pack.  Eventually, he caught, challenged and took down Fangio from the lead position.  Meanwhile, the entire time, Kling–like a boss–is ignoring furious signals from the pitboard to drop the position back to Fangio, the championship leader.  Eventually, Kling was forced to retire due to a rear suspension failure.  But, his point was made since he managed to hold onto fastest race lap honors.  The German had proven quick, but Fangio–who saved his car–proved ultimately quickest.

English: Grosser Preis von Europa, Nuerburgrin...

English: Grosser Preis von Europa, Nuerburgring Germany, August 1st, 1954, racing driver: Hermann Lang, Mercedes-Benz W196 Monoposto Deutsch: Großer Preis von Europa, Nürburgring, 1.8.1954, Hermann Lang auf Mercedes Benz W196 Monoposto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)