JANUARY 22, 2007

Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried

Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried has died at the age of 92. He was a leading F1 driver in the early years of the World Championship and won the first British Grand Prix in 1948.

The de Graffenried family is one of the oldest in Berne, dating back to around 1270 and became one of the most prominent families in Switzerland in the Seventeenth Century. Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried was born in Paris in 1914 but grew up in his native Switzerland and in the 1930s decided that he would like to go racing and acquired a 1.5-litre Maserati voiturette which he raced at events on the Bremgarten circuit in Berne and at occasional foreign events until the outbreak of World War II in 1939. When the war ended he established Team Autosport with Christian Kautz and began to get some better results, finishing fifth in the Grand Prix des Nations on the streets of Geneva in the summer of 1946 and then third in the Grand Prix de Lausanne the following year and in 1948 was third at both Monaco and in Geneva. After the death of Kautz that summer at Bremgarten, de Graffenried closed the team and in 1949 joined forced with Enrico Plate's Maserati team and finished second at Pau, in the Jersey Road Race and then won the British GP at Silverstone. The season concluded with second places in the Swedish Summer GP at Skarpnack and the Zandvoort GP in Holland. This was to be the high point of his racing career. In 1950 he entered his own Maserati in a number of events in the new World Championship and scored points in Switzerland and Italy, while driving an Alfa Romeo to second place in the GP des Nations in Geneva. In 1951 he raced for both Alfa Romeo and Maserati, finishing fifth in Berne and later sixth at Pedralbes. He returned to Maserati in 1952 and was sixth in Berne but did much better in non-championship events at Cadours and Aix-les-Bains where he was third on each occasion. The 1953 season would be rather more successful with fourth in Belgium and fifth in both Holland and Germany plus victories in the non-championship races at Syracuse and Goodwood and in the Formula 2 race at the Nurburgring. There were only a few more events after that but no more points although he did win the non-championship events in South America at Gavea and Interlagos. He acted as a double for Kirk Douglas in action scenes for the movie The Racers (which was released in 1955) and then made his final appearance at Monza in 1956 where he raced a Maserati 250F. At 42, however, he decided it was time to stop racing to concentrate on his garage in Lausanne, from where he sold Alfa Romeos and later Ferraris and Rolls-Royces. He would return in the 1970s as an F1 ambassador for the Lausanne-based Philip Morris tobacco company's brand Marlboro.