Wolfgang von Trips was killed 50 years ago today

Until Michael Schumacher claimed the first of his seven World Championship titles in 1994, Wolfgang von Trips remained Germany’s most successful Grand Prix driver.

In contention to claim he 1961 championship crown, a collision during the Italian Grand Prix would result in von Trips’ death and that of 14 spectators. His Ferrari team-mate Phil Hill would clinch the championship crown in the bitterest of circumstances.

Born into aristocracy, this dashing, handsome young count was raised on his family’s genteel estates on the outskirts of Cologne.

He earned a troublesome reputation as a bit of a crasher in his early motorsport career, but a move to the Ferrari team in 1960 helped improve others’ perceptions of him.

In 1961, he claimed wins at the Dutch and British Grands Prix in the beautiful ‘shark-nose’ Ferrari 156, and he was in contention for the championship title as the season reached its climax.

But the beginning of the sequence of events leading to his death was his poor getaway when the race at Monza got underway. Trying to defend his position on the second lap, von Trips tangled with Jim Clark as the pair approached the Parabolica.

The contact launched his Ferrari out of control and it crashed up a bank and along a fence (behind which was packed with spectators) before it flipped back onto the circuit.

Thrown from the car like a rag doll, von Trips lay dead on the circuit, while 14 spectators had been killed in the chaos.

[Image via The Cahier Archive]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.