The Story of Count Berghe von Trips

The voice sounds like that of an old medicine man, and the young millionaire, supporting his head with his arms at a giant desk, is disappointed. "Yes, Joe, it`s me. That´s the way I would look like today." The pale-blue overall, even with the Dunlop logo, but not fire-proof, the silver-coloured helmet with the symbol of the Scuderia Colonia on it, and outside, on the veranda, with his dark glasses, Enzo Ferrari is waiting as a phantom. This scene, making get a goose-flesh, is fiction and reality at the same time. It is taken from that movie, universal genius Chris Rea, himself one of the world`s uncountable Ferraristi, but really with Italian blood in his vains, had given a final, great memorial to the heroe of his youth: La Passione - the passion.

Once he was called only Wölfchen (little wolf) by his parents, later the British named him sometimes Count Crash because of his many accidents of his very beginnings, but the world knew him only under that name: Taffy. That the Welsh immigrants to America had given to their bravest and most fearless men.

That Wolfgang Reichsgraf Alexander Berghe von Trips was not a only respected, but loved in the world, as the first ever German after the end of the war, had nothing to do with the fact, that he came from a 700 years old dynasty of knights. Not with the fact, that he was Germany`s first Grand Prix winner since Hermann Lang in 1939. The reason was his even under Grand Prix circumstances excellent personality. "Courage, the passion for fighting, the joy of winning, all these are virtues being as old an the entire mankind," he once had said. As a child he had admired Bernd Rosemeyer. That had been those daring Auto Union driver, being the only one to stand up to the Nazis, while most of the others had an awful closeness to that regime.

Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips was not affected by the system of the National Socialists absolutely. For the Hitler Jugend, the Nazi`s young people`s organisation, he was too invalid. There were massive problems with his ears, a meningitis and a paralysis of his face. Later, at the time of actively competing, he suffered under that desease he called "my contrast of diabetes": The sudden decrease of the blood sugar level. In his cockpit Wolfgang von Trips always had taken something to eat with him.

In spite of being trained as an air force helper in Belgium, he had not got the order to go into action. For that reason he was not considered as an ex-serviceman. That meant a massive disadvantage for his educanonal career, because in contrast to the former soldiers he had to go the normal way to the school exam. A thing, that was not always easy to do, because Wolfgang von Trips was considered as intelligent, but lazy. When he had to repeat the Sexta, the first class of the grammar school, because of an illness, his parents sent him to a Rudolf Steiner School. Later, at the agricultural academy, he made his exam with excellent grade.

When the first American soldiers arranged quarters on the Hemmersbach castle, he learned English by them in record-breaking time. He also spoke fluently French and Italian and was earlier a real European than Adenauer and de Gaulle could be. When von Trips started talking about his race events on US-television, American housewives suddenly stopped doing their work.

During the years of 1935 and 1938, at the age of only 10 years, he often had gone to the Nürburgring, that really is not far away from Cologne. The duel between Mercedes and Auto Union he had been able to watch live and like his heroe Bernd Rosemeyer he later started his own career in motorsport on two wheels. For Mercedes he drove in sportscar races under the leadership of legendary team manager Alfred Neubauer in the mid-fifties. For the first time he really earned enough money, because Stuttgart paid their drivers well ever.

Axel Linther, the name had it´s origins in an exstinct branch of his family, was the pseudonym, under which he he entered his first car races even as a student, but in contrast to so many families of that time, motorsport became no problem of permanent quality, in spite of the fact of being the only child. When he raced, hundreds of thousands of people were sitting at the rim of the tracks and millions were listining to the radio transmissions, because the aristocrat was not only an ambassador for his sport, but also a tribune of the people. Juan Carlos, later becoming the King of Spain, was taught how to drive a car by von Trips, in spite the German had never passed the driver`s exam. That had been lost in the post-war quarrels completely. He promoted car accessories as well as agricultural products and for Germany`s greatest Sunday newspaper he regularly wrote car tests. The people idolized him and when he said something, they found absolute respect for. Not only in Germany, but all over the world.

In 1959 the Commendatore had suspended him most of the season, because the number of accidents had become too much. Enzo Ferrari was a patriarch, but also a psychologist, and therefore the ban showed it`s effect very quickly. From that time on von Trips drove both fast and safely.

No doubt, this man was made for the media. And he understood dealing with them, not only because he produced films of his own and wrote articles. As a chair at his desk he used a saddle, but when speaking his texts onto his tape recorder, he mostly sat cross-legged on the floor. The radio commentator Günter Isenbügel was one of his best friends. One day he had shocked him when presenting him two go karts he had taken via hand-luggage from the USA. The surprized journalist did not know what to do with them at the moment, so he decided to take them into the cellar of his Hamburg flat for while. Later they found a company there to copy the spaceframes and an engine originally used for lawn-mowers. When von Trips constructed a track for them near Hemmersbach castle, in Kerpen, European kart racing was born. He was very engaged in promoting the sport`s young people, for young talents he had founded the racing organisation of the Scuderia Colonia and together with Italian engineer Valerio Colotti he had designed the TCA (for Trips - Colotti - Auto Union) Formula Junior car with a DKW-engine - as a cheap alternative to the products of the commercial racing car manufacturers.

Ferraris are always something wonderful, but when they see the shark nose of the Tipo 156 of the year 1961, millions of people still become crazy. What only a few people know: In Maranello, in contrast to the British teams, all original forms and tools are kept and therefore detailed copies of the cars are no problem.

1961 had been a year of catastrophes for the young Federal Republic of Germany. In Berlin the wall was built. At the 10th September a plane that had started in Düsseldorf crashed in Ireland on it`s way to Chicago. There were no survivevors. The agricultural engineer Wolfgang von Trips originally had been booked on this flight for being the German representative for an agricultural exhibition in the United States. On this warm late-summer Sunday the man from the Hemmersbach castle, the last of the Trips dynasty, had two chances to die, but no to survive. Only death, caused by the mistake of another competitor, could seperate him from the worldchampionship title and that only by a single point.To learn Latin grammar and vocabulary was not the favourite thing to do for Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips when being a pupil. In spite of that under the coat of arms of the Count of Trips there are three words in Latin: IN MORTE VITA - in death there is life.

Klaus Ewald




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