I vividly recall one time there at his Swiss home when my photographer colleague Geoff Goddard and I were being kept entertained by the old boy’s memories, in his carnozet “man-cave” cellar retreat, and his butler appeared at the foot of the stairs to announce, “Monsieur le Baron, messieurs, voici le Baron von Hanstein…” – and who should appear but the beaming Baron Fritz Huschke von Hanstein – fellow retired racing driver, 1940 Mille Miglia winner (for BMW) and former racing director, of course, of Porsche. “Ahaah!”, roared ‘de Graff’, reaching for yet another bottle of wine and turning to us: “You see, you have a surfeit of Barons…”.
Indeed we did – but as a double act, they were both good fun…and both motor racing figures of considerable stature.
One story that ‘Toulo’ always enjoyed telling starred the FIA’s first-ever World Champion Driver, ‘Nino’ Farina, no less – on his way home after some early postwar British race. “It was at Heathrow Airport which in those days just had big canvas marquees as the terminals. I walked in and there was ‘Nino’ – you know, typical Farina, still in his racing overalls, crash helmet over his arm, striking the pose – “Io”, the great racing driver.
But he said to me ‘Ugh, Toulo, I don’t feel so good, terrible stomach pains…’ and he was rubbing his tummy. But I had some of those new Alka Seltzer tablets in my bag and I said ‘Here, take two of these’ intending he should get some water, you know, to dissolve them before drinking. But instead, he just said ‘Aah, thank you” and immediately popped both tablets straight into his mouth.
“And so it was that within moments there was the World Champion racing driver – Io, the Great Farina – in his racing overalls, helmet over one arm, in the check-in area at Heathrow…foaming at the mouth…” And I still relish the image of ‘Toulo’ de Graffenried doubled-up with laughter at the mind-picture he had just recalled – enabling us to reach back into history…
Images courtesy of The GP Library