Hans Baltisberger was of course highly praised by the press after his surprising sixth place at the German Grand Prix near Stuttgart in the 500cc class. We have dedicated a separate chapter in our history to the Reutlinger rider born in 1922, see “History – Riders” on this page.

Starting point before the last 3 Grand Prix weekends

The Norton factory racing team was already severely weakened at the German Grand Prix on the Solitude due to the failure of two drivers. The reigning world champion Geoff Duke was still in hospital in Schotten, although his condition had improved so much that it was even hoped that he would return at the end of August. But nothing came of it and he was expected to be out until the end of the season. As a replacement for Ray Amm, who was also injured, Syd Lawton was included in the Norton team for the Solitude event, and he did excellently. For the 500cc race he completed the podium behind Armstrong and Kavanagh and in the 350cc class he came fourth. In addition to Duke, Moto-Guzzi’s quarter-liter ace Bruno Ruffo was missing for the rest of the season. For the Ulster Grand Prix, which takes place on the 26.5 km long Clady Circuit, the English-speaking drivers should once again share the podium in all classes, with only one exception.

The MV Agusta 4-cylinder racing machine from 1952 was groundbreaking for many years to come and would become the benchmark until the 1960s.

Ulster Grand Prix 1952 – Round 6 of the World Championship

It was to be the last time that the Grand Prix circus was held on this track, which was unpopular with many pilots. A total of 7 racing drivers had fatal accidents on the Clady Circuit. The worst accident occurred on August 15, 1951, when the Italian Moto Guzzi factory riders Sante Geminiani and Gianni Leoni were involved in a collision and teammate Enrico Lorenzetti was lucky not to be involved. Geminiani was thrown about 40 meters through the air and died instantly. Leoni stood up moments after the accident, but then collapsed unconscious together and died in a hospital in Belfast on the same day. A year later things were to be less dramatic, with the eight-liter class race becoming a farce, as in 1950. Back then, only two pilots saw the checkered flag and two years later there were three of them. Ubbialli (FB-Mondial) crashed while lying in P3, as did Williams on the MV, who broke his handlebars and was therefore unable to continue. Mc Candless and two other Mondial pilots did not see the checkered flag due to technical defects, so only the three remained on the podium.

Ulster GP runner-up Bill Lomas in 1952 on his journey to second place out of only three pilots who reached the finish line.
Carlo Ubbiali (FB-Mondial) drove on the track near Belfast for only the second time after his victory two years ago in 1952. In 1950 he was only on the podium with his then teammate Bruno Ruffo, who was unable to compete this time due to injury. With the victory of his strongest opponent this season, Cecil Sandford, the World Championship was now as good as lost for the Italian defending champion.

The middle classes up to 250 cm³ and 350 cm³

In the 250cc race, with 25 participants, there was a higher chance that world championship points could be awarded at least up to sixth place, in contrast to the eight-liter race. With Anderson, Lorenzetti, Graham and Wood there were only 4 factory drivers at the start. Fergus Anderson took the lead early on and would probably have won had he not broken a rocker arm on his Moto-Guzzi. In the end, Enrico Lorenzetti still had to give in to a private pilot with Maurice Cann and Les Graham completed the podium on the fastest Velocette. For Cann it was the sixth victory at the Ulster Grand Prix in the 250cc class in a row after 1947. A total of 48 pilots started the race in the 350cc category, in which sun and rain fought for dominance. Arthur Wheeler had to park his Velocette after 6 laps with a defective front brake and Syd Lawton (Norton) had to retire due to technical problems. Coleman and Brett had to go to the pits to refuel and this cleared the way for Ken Kavanagh, who arrived at the finish ahead of Norton colleague Reg Armstrong and the two AJSs of Rod Coleman and Jack Brett. For the Australian Kavanagh it was the first GP victory of his career, which was to be followed by four more by 1956.

The route sketch of the Ulster Grand Prix held near Belfast, on the Glady Circuit until 1952 and then Dundrod.

The race to the premier class – the last one should be the first

Without Norton ace Geoff Duke out injured, everyone was excited to see who and which manufacturer would take victory in the 500cc. A total of 37 pilots took off after the siren sounded 4 minutes earlier and here too there were numerous failures. Curiously, it wasn’t one of them who would win, but Cromie McCandless arrived a few seconds late on his Gilera and ended up causing the sensation of the day. After two laps he was still in P21 and one round later he was already in 13th position. While Norton factory driver Armstrong was still leading with a comfortable lead, Jack Brett (AJS) and Giuseppe Colnago were fighting for P2 behind them until the latter had to stop with problems to change the spark plugs on his Gilera. As with Brown, the devil of a defect struck Armstrong and he had to retire with a broken chain. In the end, the initial bottom team was waved off as the winner and the audience was able to celebrate a local hero at the top of the podium. The local Cromie McCandless won his first 500cc GP. Milani was injured and Piero Taruffi had entrusted his bike to McCandless, who thanked him with his home victory. With the young John Surtees on Norton, a driver scored points who would later make a name for himself, and not just in two-wheel racing.

Unfortunately there was another fatality at the Ulter Grand Prix. Northern Irishman Norman Stewart died after a crash on his 500cc Norton at Ballyhill.
Guzzi factory driver Enrico Lorenzetti was the only one classified in the Ulster Quarter Liter Grand Prix who didn’t speak English. The Italian had to clearly admit defeat to his factory teammate Cann, but at least he was able to leave Les Graham well behind him on the fastest Velocette.

The tragedy on the Grenzlandring

On the track near Mönchengladbach, often known abroad as the Wegbergring, car and motorcycle races were held on a concrete oval track from 1948 onwards. The event, which was held on the slightly banked curves, was held in front of several hundred thousand spectators. From 1950 the races were also advertised internationally and on August 31, 1952 there was a catastrophe at the car race, which meant the end of this popular event. When a Berliner named Niedermayr left the track at the Roermond curve shortly before the end of the Formula 2 race, disaster struck. At around 200 km/h, his Veritas two-seater became a deadly missile, hitting numerous spectators sitting unprotected along the route. At least 13 deaths and 42 injuries were the sad result of this last event on the previously popular Grenzlandring.

The layout of the Grenz or Weglandring, which was known for its high speeds from 1948 to 1952. On a counterclockwise, almost oval-shaped and 9,005 kilometer long concrete course. The 6.8 meter wide ring road was built before the Second World War on the left bank of the Lower Rhine as a military supply and transport route around the town of Wegberg near Mönchengladbach.

The result of the DM race that has become a minor matter

When it comes to motorcycles, the decision was made for the German championship in almost all categories. In the 8 liter class there was a sensational victory for NSU newcomer Werner Haas, who was also able to repeat his triumph in the 250cc category. He beat top drivers like H.P. Müller and Karl Lottes (both on FB-Mondial) and delivered another example of his speed after his surprise success on the Solitude. Otto Daiker from Stuttgart on NSU then became German champion up to 125cc and Hein Thorn-Prikker (Moto-Guzzi) secured the title up to 250cc. At NSU they decided to take part in another round of the World Championship in Monza with their new figurehead Werner Haas and they should not regret this.

On the left, Werner Haas as the 125cc winner with Otto Daiker as the newly crowned German 125cc champion at the Grenzlandring award ceremony in 1952. Thanks to the victory of NSU brand colleague and shooting star Haas, the 41-year-old Swabian son of a cattle dealer won his first and only national championship title.

GP of the Nations in Monza – the return of the sensationalist

Anyone who thought the exploit by Werner Haas and the NSU on the Solitude was a flash in the pan should be proven wrong in the royal park of Monza at the latest. For the eight-liter GP, Carlo Ubbiali, as the reigning world champion, had already lost the title fight against MV figurehead Cecil Sandford after the Ulster Grand Prix. Shortly before the start, old master H.P. Müller had problems with his FB-Mondial due to magnetic damage to the ignition and the reporters from his country were outraged in their report that no one came to help him despite the Italian machine. Back then it was actually quite normal and completely common for competitors to help each other with problems. Something that hardly anyone can imagine in completely commercially dominated racing from the third millennium onwards.

Route sketch of Monza from that time, with an additional high-speed oval and at that time without the chicanes that were later installed for safety reasons. Few other courses have become a deadly trap for so many stars of motorsport history. Idodes such as Alberto Ascari (1955), Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips (1961) and the German-Austrian superstar Jochen Rindt in 1970 lost their lives in car racing. Unfortunately, there were also far too many victims in motorcycle racing.

The 125cc class race with a surprise winner

Presumably due to poor carburettor settings, the NSU pilots from Germany had their problems after a bad start and were unable to intervene in the fight for the podium. The machines had been locked up overnight and the temperatures had changed significantly, which of course put the foreign teams at a great disadvantage. After an exciting battle, local hero Emilio Mendogni achieved his first victory ahead of Ubbiali and thus secured Morini’s first historic triumph. At 20 years and 124 days, he became the youngest winner of a Grand Prix to date. MV Agusta ace Cecil Sandford retired as the new 125cc world champion in 1952 with technical problems. Hubert Luttenberger was able to just leave NSU teammate Haas behind in a close battle for the last World Championship point.

Monza 1920 in the early years of racing for two-wheelers – with a display board that could even stand up to the giant video screens that were common a hundred years later.

Title decision in the 250 class and an outstanding Haas

While NSU suffered a serious defeat in the smallest category with Haas and Luttenberger, the Neckarsulm factory took revenge with their driver Haas in the 250cc class. In the 20-lap Grand Prix in the quarter-liter class, he achieved a historically close result when he crossed the finish line just a fraction of a second behind Guzzi factory driver Lorenzetti. The local hero secured his first and only world title ahead of the German in a successful career that would last for many more years. Teammate and opponent Fergus Anderson finished the 250cc Grand Prix in third place and became runner-up in the world championship. The reporters from Germany were deeply impressed that the Italians even cheered when Werner Haas temporarily took the lead. This is the positive side compared to the observations in the 125cc class that were difficult for them to understand. The fact that the NSU factory driver had shifting problems was only mentioned in passing in the report. The runner-up himself was Swabian modest in the interview after the race and said that he had once again been able to learn a lot from his fast opponents.

GP Monza 1952 in the 250cc category with winner Enrico Lorenzetti (Moto Guzzi) just ahead of Werner Haas (NSU). Now the Germans, who had no chance at the beginning of the year, had already caught up with the absolute world leaders shortly before the end of the season. It was already interesting to see how the situation would develop next year. More about this in our series about the 1953 Motorcycle Grand Prix season.

Italians clearly beaten in the larger categories

With the dominance of Ray Amm on his Norton in front of the AJS pilots Coleman, Sherry and Brett, as well as Goffin on another Norton, no one would have suspected the impending end of English dominance as far as the manufacturers were concerned. Roland Schnell on his perfectly prepared home-built Horex lived up to his name with 6th place. The winning streak in the 350cc class didn’t stop after the last race of the year, but with Moto-Guzzi a more than equal opponent should already be in the starting blocks and give the single-cylinder engines from England hell from the coming season. In the premier class, the replacement had already come and Reginald Armstrong had to feel literally demoted by the Italian armada with his Norton on the high-speed route. Behind three Gilera and two MV Agusta pilots, in the absence of his still injured teammate Geoff Duke, the Irishman only had a measly championship point with 6th place ahead of the Englishman Brett (AJS) on the best Norton. Winner Les Graham from England achieved his sixth Grand Prix success at the MV and also managed the feat of scoring points in all 4 solo classes, something almost unbelievable decades later. The local heroes Masetti and Pagani (both Gilera) were badly beaten like all of their many participating compatriots. As with the sidecars, the title fight in the 500cc was only to be decided in the final race in Spain, while Geoff Duke’s world championship in the 350cc could no longer be taken away after round four in Belgium.

World Championship final at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona

Of the solo classes, only the smallest and largest categories were advertised, of which the 125s were particularly important to the hosts at the time. The main reason for this was two pilots from the country and a local manufacturer, Montesa. The Catalan Jose-Maria Llobet did quite respectably with 8th place and compatriot Ramon Soley on MV achieved another respectable success with P11. Monza winner Emilio Mendogni on the extremely powerful Moto Morini won in the 125cc class ahead of the multi-talented Les Graham and Cecil Sandford (both MV Agusta). With 5th place behind Romolo Ferri (Moto Morini), the German warrior Hermann Paul Müller scored his first World Cup points on his private FB-Mondial at the age of 42, his first World Cup points of his career. For H.P., as his compatriots called him, this did not mean the end of his incredible career. Veteran Ewald Kluge on DKW was also able to finish ninth, but unfortunately there were no points for that at the time.

H. P. Müller before the start – shortly before the Second World War, the man from Bielefeld was even successful as runner-up world champion in automobile racing with over 500 hp as an Auto Union factory driver. But what he was to achieve afterwards can confidently be described as historical successes. More about this in our reports on the following years from 1953 in the motorcycle world championship.

The title decision in the premier class

Les Graham, the first 500cc world champion in 1949 (then on AJS) and MV, was also unable to secure the title for the second victory in a row. Gilera ace Masetti shouldn’t have finished better than fifth so that the Englishman could have secured the first title in the premier class for Count Agusta’s brand. But the time of the helicopter manufacturer was yet to come. The title went to the Italian and his employer Gilera for the second time after 1950. Nevertheless, one still has to take one’s hat off to the performance of Vice World Champion Leslie Graham on his MV. With two victories in the premier class, two podium places each in the 125cc and quarter-liter categories, as well as one point in the Belgian Grand Prix up to 350cc, he would have earned a combined world championship title. This ranking still exists in ski races decades later, but in two-wheeled racing, after Les Graham’s exceptional performance 50 years later, there should no longer be any participation in several categories.

Rudi Felgenheier finished fifth in the World Championship on DKW and exceeded all expectations thanks to his victory in the home race of the German Grand Prix on Solitude. With the Italian Bruno Ruffo, he even left a Moto-Guzzi factory driver behind in the final tally. He was considered a promising talent in German motorsport, but unfortunately an accident the following year abruptly stopped his career.

Conclusion of the first real motorcycle world championship

Although the expectations in Germany were very low, the works and pilots immediately made sure that British-Italian Phalanx was shaken in their foundations in the World Motorcycle Championship. Immediately after they were approved in the Grand Prix Sport again, the Germans demonstrated their strengths despite modest means. This was not only true for the Motorcycle World Cup, but also happened at the same time in automotive racing. There, Mercedes immediately caused turmoil with her century sports car and this should only be the beginning. Within a very short time, they prepared violent headaches and traditional brands such as Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Jaguar, Aston Martin and as they were all called, steal their show. And in 1952 the motorcycles should only be the beginning before some pilots and works from Germany still put a lot of one on it.

Werner Haas (NSU) – The vertical starter from 1952 in the Grand Prix Sport. From a private driver on Puch with fresh and only shortly before the GP dissolved license (before that he drove in the so -called ID class) due to injury bad luck of the two NSU work pilots and immediately caused the great sensation on the solitude. From then on it just went up and it was excited to see what the coming season will bring for him. More on this in our report on the Grand Prix season 1953.

Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© MotoGP).