Swiss Grand Prix

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Swiss Grand Prix
Dijon-Prenois (France)
Dijon-Prenois.svg
Race information
Laps 80
Circuit length 3.800 km (2.361 mi)
Race length 304.000 km (188.897 mi)
Number of times held 16
First held 1934
Last held 1982
Most wins (drivers) Germany Rudolf Caracciola (3)
Most wins (constructors) West Germany Mercedes-Benz (5)
Last race (1982)
Pole position
Podium
Fastest lap

The Swiss Grand Prix (French: Grand Prix de Suisse, German: Großer Preis der Schweiz) was the premier auto race of Switzerland. In its later years it was a Formula One race.

History[edit]

Bremgarten (1934–1939, 1947–1954)[edit]

Grand Prix motor racing came to Switzerland in 1934, to the Bremgarten circuit, located just outside the town of Bremgarten, near Bern. The Bremgarten circuit was the dominant circuit on the Swiss racing scene; it was a 4.52-mile (7.27 km) stretch through stunning countryside and forests, sweeping from corner to corner without any real length of straight. From the outset, Bremgarten's tree-lined roads, often poor light conditions, and changes in road surface made for what was acknowledged to be a very dangerous circuit, especially in the wet.

The first Swiss Grand Prix was a non-championship race; it was won by Hans Stuck in an Auto Union; British driver Hugh Hamilton died in a horrific accident in his Maserati. The car's left front wheel broke and then it violently hit a tree, and continued going for about 70 feet before it hit and was stopped by a bigger tree, shattering the car and killing Hamilton (who had not been thrown from the car) instantly. Despite this occurrence (there was hardly any, if any, thought put into safety in those days), the Swiss Grand Prix counted toward the European Championship from 1935 to 1939, during which time it was dominated by the German Silver Arrows.

Grand Prix racing returned after World War II, and the Bremgarten track remained the home of the Swiss Grand Prix. The first pre-war race was won by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Wimille, and in 1948 it was designated the European Grand Prix, in a time when this title was an honorary designation given each year to one grand prix race in Europe. This event saw veteran Italian racer Achille Varzi die during practice in an Alfa Romeo. Helmets were not compulsory in those days, and Varzi, whose Alfa had overturned during the accident, was crushed by the car and had no chance (Varzi was not wearing a helmet). The race also saw Swiss Christian Kautz die in a Maserati after going off the road and crashing into an embankment at the second Eymatt corner; the race was won by Carlo Felice Trossi. Frenchman Maurice Trintigant was nearly killed in another accident after crashing and being thrown out of his car and landing unconscious on the track. Three drivers including Nino Farina went off and crashed while trying to avoid the motionless Frenchman- who survived after multiple serious injuries and spending 8 days in a coma.

1950 saw the Swiss Grand Prix being inducted as part of the new Formula One World Championship (although at the time, all the races were run in Europe except the Indianapolis 500, but this race was not run to F1 regulations). This race was won by Italian Nino Farina, who would go on to be the first Formula One world champion. 1951 saw Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio dominate in his Alfa after taking advantage of Farina's wrong decision not to make a pit stop, and 1952 saw Briton up-and-comer Stirling Moss run as high as third in his underfunded Alta-powered HWM, and Italian Piero Taruffi scored his first and only F1 victory; it was also the only championship race not won that year by his Ferrari teammate and countryman Alberto Ascari. Pre-war great and three-time Swiss GP winner Rudolf Caracciola was competing in a support sportscar race and crashed into a tree, and the violent accident that ensued ended up breaking one of his legs, which effectively ended his long racing career. 1953 saw Ascari battling back after a pit stop to fix the misfiring engine in his Ferrari; he came back out in fourth and stormed round the circuit, passed Fangio in a Maserati, his teammates Farina and Mike Hawthorn to take victory. Ascari also won his second driver's championship at that event. 1954 saw Fangio (now driving a Mercedes) lead from start to finish in rainy weather and he took his second driver's championship from countryman José Froilán González.

In 1955, however, the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten was to be no more. After the Le Mans disaster in France that year which killed more than 80 people, the Swiss government declared motor racing to be an unsafe sport and it was promptly banned; this forced the organizers to cancel the Grand Prix that year. The ban has not been lifted since, and Bremgarten was then abandoned and was never used again for motor racing.

Dijon-Prenois, France (1975, 1982)[edit]

The Swiss Grand Prix returned in 1975 as a non-Championship Grand Prix just across the border, at the Dijon-Prenois circuit, France. Swiss Clay Regazzoni won the race. The next, and last, Swiss Grand Prix was a round of the Formula One World Championship in 1982, also held at Dijon, which was won by Finn Keke Rosberg in a Williams after a spirited drive in which he passed several cars, was held up by Italian backmarker Andrea de Cesaris and caught and passed the leader Alain Prost in a Renault. It was Rosberg's first Formula One victory.

Absence[edit]

On June 6, 2007 Swiss Parliament voted to lift the ban of circuit racing in Switzerland, 97 in favor and 77 opposed.[1] However, the legislation was subsequently not ratified by the Swiss Council of States (the Senat) and the ban is now highly unlikely to actually be lifted.[2]

Winners of the Swiss Grand Prix[edit]

Circuit Bremgarten, used from 1934-1939 and 1947-1954

Events which were not part of the Formula One World Championship are indicated by a pink background.

A cream background indicates an event which was part of the pre-war European Championship.

Year Driver Constructor Location Report
1982 Finland Keke Rosberg Williams-Ford Dijon
(France)
Report
1981
-
1976
Not held
1975 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni Ferrari Dijon
(France)
Report
1974
-
1955
Not held
1954 Argentina Juan Manuel Fangio Mercedes Bremgarten Report
1953 Italy Alberto Ascari Ferrari Report
1952 Italy Piero Taruffi Ferrari Report
1951 Argentina Juan Manuel Fangio Alfa Romeo Report
1950 Italy Nino Farina Alfa Romeo Report
1949 Italy Alberto Ascari Ferrari Bremgarten Report
1948 Italy Carlo Felice Trossi Alfa Romeo Report
1947 France Jean-Pierre Wimille Alfa Romeo Report
1946
-
1940
Not held
1939 Germany Hermann Lang Mercedes-Benz Bremgarten Report
1938 Germany Rudolf Caracciola Mercedes-Benz Report
1937 Germany Rudolf Caracciola Mercedes-Benz Report
1936 Germany Bernd Rosemeyer Auto Union Report
1935 Germany Rudolf Caracciola Mercedes-Benz Report
1934 Germany Hans Stuck Auto Union Bremgarten Report

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Switzerland lifts motor racing ban". Updatesport.com. June 6, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  2. ^ "Swiss vote against racing". GrandPrix.com. October 10, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-14.