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Formula One loses Swiss pioneer

"Toulo" de Graffenried had a string of admirers

(Keystone)

The death of Swiss Formula One pioneer Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried at the age of 92 marks the end of a chapter in Switzerland's involvement in Grand Prix racing.

He was one of only three Swiss drivers – and the last one living – to have won a Grand Prix event.

His death on Saturday in Lausanne, western Switzerland, came a month after another Swiss Formula One driver, Clay Regazzoni, was killed in a road accident in northern Italy.

Jo Siffert, who died in a Formula One crash in 1971, was the only other Swiss to have won a race at the top level of motor racing.

De Graffenried was born in Paris in 1914. He started 22 Grand Prix races in his Formula One career, scoring a total of nine championship points.

"Toulo"

Nicknamed "Toulo", de Graffenried won the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1949, a year before the official championship began.

It was attended by the entire royal family, which has never occurred since.

Before his death, he was the last surviving Formula One starter from the inaugural Formula One World Championship race, the 1950 British Grand Prix, also at Silverstone.

De Graffenried, who came from a noble Bernese family, cut a dapper figure and had many acquaintances in high places.

One of his fellow school pupils was Reza Pahlevi, who later became the Shah of Iran. And when de Graffenried celebrated his 80th birthday, the King of Spain travelled to Switzerland to visit him.

His final Formula One outing came in a Maserati at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza in 1956, after which his racing career began to decline.

Into film

However, he came out of semi-retirement to double for actor Kirk Douglas in action scenes during the making of the film "The Racers".

It was the first time in the history of cinema that an on-board camera was used.

The Swiss returned from Hollywood with memories of the film and a photograph dedicated to him in German by Marilyn Monroe.

In retirement de Graffenried continued a successful Lausanne-based car dealership that had sold Alfa Romeos since 1950 and later also cars from Rolls-Royce and Ferrari.

From the beginning of the 1970s he attended races again as an ambassador for the Lausanne-based tobacco company Philip Morris which had become one of the sport's biggest sponsors.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Emmanuel "Toulo" de Graffenried was born in Paris on May 14, 1914.
His first Formula One race was in Britain in 1950. His last was in the Italian Grand Prix in 1956.
Before his death he was the last surviving starter from the inaugural Formula One race in Silverstone in 1950.
He took part in 22 major races, scoring nine championship points.

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