On a used Porsche 356, von Trips drove his first car races and quickly discovered the prize money as a way to pay for his participation in the races as well as for the cost of permanent repairs. Championship titles were a minor matter. But that changed quickly. He learned from a trade magazine that after several races in the German championship of GT cars up to 1600 cc he was in first place – under the pseudonym “Axel Linther”. Von Trips drove under a false name because he hid the racing business from his parents. Especially his mother was always very afraid for him.
Porsche race director Fritz Huschke von Hanstein helped von Trips to participate in his first international race as co-driver at the 1954 Mille Miglia. Two years later von Trips was successfully driving the Porsche 550 Spyder together with Hans Herrmann in Sebring/USA, as well as in the ADAC 1000 km race at the Nürburgring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. At the Berlin Grand Prix on the AVUS, von Trips won superiorly and drove the absolutely fastest lap in all car classes.
Although von Trips drove almost all races for Porsche in 1956, he had no contract as a factory driver. Officially there was not even a Porsche racing team until 1957/58. But von Trips felt comfortable at Porsche and remained loyal to the brand. Even when von Trips had his first season for Enzo Ferrari in 1957, he always kept the option open to race for Porsche as well.
As a racing driver, sporting fairness was the top priority for von Trips. At the 1957 Mille Miglia, he let the old master and Ferrari colleague Piero Taruffi win the race with his defective car, although von Trips could have overtaken him with ease. But it was Taruffi’s last chance to win the Mille Miglia and von Trips was just at the beginning of his racing career. So for the last 200 kilometres he remained behind Taruffi until they crossed the finish line.
At the beginning of 1960 von Trips founded the first pure racing club in Germany, the Scuderia Colonia. The aim was to help young drivers in this sports drivers’ association to prepare their cars for racing events, to provide technical support on the track and to represent the legitimate interests of motor sportspeople towards authorities and legislators.
As a founding member and deputy president of the German Sports Drivers Association (DSK), von Trips was not only concerned with young racing drivers, but also with driving safety in road traffic. As an instructor at driver training courses, Trips tried to teach the numerous participants this “spirit of sporting fairness, which is called consideration in everyday traffic” and to train them in exceptional situations so that they could react correctly in case of danger.
In Modena, von Trips together with Valerio Colotti built cars for the newly founded Formula Junior racing class from the end of 1959: the TCA (“Trips-Colotti-Auto Union”) with a DKW three-cylinder two-stroke engine and the design of the Ferrari body Fantuzzi. Two of these masterpieces can be found in the exhibition.
From 1960 on, von Trips drove for Ferrari in Formula 1 and Formula 2. At the Syracuse Grand Prix, a Formula 2 race, he finally won his first Grand Prix. This was the first GP victory for a German after 1939. At the Solitude near Stuttgart von Trips clinched his second Formula 2 victory in a tactically clever race. With Hans Herrmann in a Porsche 718/2 – it is the car exhibited at Automuseum PROTOTYP – he fought a thrilling duel until he played off the superior performance of his Ferrari in the final lap and was the first to cross the finish line. At the end of the season, von Trips finished sixth in the Formula 1 standings behind World Champions Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Stirling Moss, Innes Ireland and his teammate Phil Hill.
Even when Porsche drove the modified 718/2 in Formula 1 in 1961, von Trips opted for Ferrari. The 1961 Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort became a glorious race for Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips, who led from the start and did not give up his lead until the finish. It was the first Formula 1 GP victory of a German racing driver since the introduction of Formula 1 in 1950. Von Trips was feted by the spectators at the finish with cheers and ovations. The Formula 1 World Championship title was within reach.
At the Italian GP in Monza on 10 September 1961, exactly five years to the day after von Trips became the first German to join Enzo Ferrari’s F1 team, von Trips had the chance to win the Formula 1 World Championship. But the race ended tragically. While turning into the Curvetta 180° curve of the fast Monza circuit, von Trips’ Ferrari collided with Jim Clark’s Lotus and hurled into the crowd alongside the track. Eleven spectators died, as did the “knight of the racetrack” Graf Berghe von Trips.
In addition to vehicles and exhibits from the Automuseum PROTOTYP collection, the exhibition shows permanent loans from the “Gräflich Berghe von Trips’schen Sportstiftung zu Burg Hemmersbach” and is not only devoted to the career of this exceptional German racing driver but also wants to show the multi-faceted personality of Count Trips.