I’m not exactly a very good racer, but I’ve always thought it would be pretty neat to be able to start a race at some point in my life just to say that I did it, even if I only managed to make it six and a half feet before my car decided to die. Just like one fine fella named Ernst Loof.
If the name didn’t give it away, Ernst Loof was born in Germany back in 1907, which means he was alive for the birth of Formula 1 racing. A successful motorcycle racer and car designer (his resumé includes contributing to the design of the BMW 328, among other things), Loof was likely one of those fine gentlemen out there that decided he had the means to start an F1 race. So, that’s just what he did.
Loof entered the 1953 German Grand Prix behind the wheel of a Veritas — a car tuning company that Loof founded, alongside Georg Meier and Lorenz Dietrich. After reworking a BMW, Veritas began designing open-wheel cars of the kind Loof would enter in the race. And while the race was technically a Formula 2 race, it was counted as part of the F1 World Championship at the time.
If Loof’s Veritas had done well, it would have been a great thing for the health of his company. Instead, his fuel pump died just six and a half feet from the starting line. And that was it. Loof’s day was done, while Nino Farina went on to win the race and Alberto Ascari took home the Championship.
Those few feet mean Loof holds the record for the shortest Grand Prix career, since he never went on to enter another Grand Prix. He really just decided after a sad six feet that there was no point in continuing. He was also likely very short on time: Three years after his start, Loof would die of a brain tumor at the age of 48.
If you think you’ve heard this record before but aren’t familiar with Loof’s name, there’s a good reason for it. Marco Apicella is often credited as being the driver with the shortest F1 career after he retired at the first corner of Imola. However, he made it a whopping 800 meters compared to Loof’s two.