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XVIII GRAND PRIX DE L'AUTOMOBILE CLUB DE FRANCE

Reims - Gueux (F), 3 July 1932.
5 hours x 7.826 km (4.863 mi) circuit


No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngine

2Jean GaupillatJ. GaupillatBugattiT512.3S-8
4Philippe EtancelinM. LehouxAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
6Max FournyM. FournyBugattiT512.3S-8
8Achille VarziAutomobiles E. BugattiBugattiT545.0S-8
10Raymond SommerR. SommerAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8DNA - did not appear
12Tazio NuvolariSA Alfa RomeoAlfa RomeoTipo B/P32.6S-8
14Benoît FalchettoB. FalchettoBugattiT512.3S-8DNA - did not appear
16Jean-Pierre WimilleJ-P. WimilleAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
18Rudolf CaracciolaSA Alfa RomeoAlfa RomeoTipo B/P32.6S-8
20Kaye DonK. DonBugattiT545.0S-8DNA - did not appear
22"Tim" BirkinSir H. BirkinBugattiT512.3S-8DNA - did not appear
24Goffredo ZehenderG. ZehenderAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
26Jean PesatoJ. PesatoAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8DNA - did not appear
28Earl HoweEarl HoweBugattiT545.0S-8
30Mario U. BorzacchiniSA Alfa RomeoAlfa RomeoTipo B/P32.6S-8
32Louis ChironAutomobiles E. BugattiBugattiT512.3S-8
34Giuseppe CampariSA Alfa RomeoAlfa RomeoTipo B/P32.6S-8Reserve driver for Alfa Romeo
36Marcel LehouxM. LehouxBugattiT545.0S-8
38Albert DivoAutomobiles E. BugattiBugattiT545.0S-8
40Emile TetaldiE. TetaldiBugattiT512.3S-8DNA - injured at Lorriane GP
42"Williams""Williams"BugattiT512.3S-8
44René DreyfusR. DreyfusBugattiT512.3S-8
46Pierre FélixP. FélixAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
Hugh HamiltonReserve driver for Earl Howe
Robert GirodReserve driver for Pierre Félix


A new great victory for Nuvolari with Alfa Romeo

by Hans Etzrodt
The 18th French Grand Prix on the fast Reims road course was the second event to the 5-Hour International Formula, which counted towards the 1932 European Automobile Championship. Maserati's decision not to participate in the French Grand Prix left it to a straight Bugatti and Alfa Romeo battle of 16 cars. The Italian team won convincingly, placing their new 2.65-liter single-seat cars in the first three positions with Nuvolari, Borzacchini and Caracciola. Varzi in the 5-liter Bugatti held second place for the first five laps before his transmission broke. But apart from that, only once did any of the Bugatti drivers succeed in displacing the Alfa Romeos from the first three places, when Chiron in the 2.3-liter works Bugatti held third place during the pit stops. Caracciola led the first 11 laps before Nuvolari claimed the lead. Divo in the second 5-liter works Bugatti drove in mid-field before he retired. Chiron in the smaller works Bugatti finished one lap behind the three Alfa Romeos in fourth place. The remaining cars comprised independent entries of which Dreyfus and Williams in 2.3-liter Bugattis finished fifth and sixth. Zehender and Félix in 2.3-liter Alfa Romeo Monzas were classified next, although many laps behind, and Earl Howe in his 5-liter Bugatti was last in ninth place.
The Sporting Commission of the ACF met in Paris at the beginning of March to determine the rules and regulations for the 1932 Grand Prix of France, which was to take place on July 3. The race was to be run over five hours and was for racecars without any limits of weight or engine capacity. The victor would be the driver who covered the largest distance. The venue chosen by the ACF was the 7.826 km permanent Reims road circuit, which had been used for the Marne Grand Prix annually since 1925. As the triangular road course had been carefully improved just recently, it was in very good condition and as a result had become very fast. The course featured two beautiful straights, one curved back leg and three sharp right hand turns at the village of Gueux, La Garenne and Thillois. The victor would receive a prize of 75,000 francs, the second 40,000 francs, the third 20,000, fourth 10,000 and fifth 5,000. The total prize money was 150.000 francs.
      Every driver had to appoint a reserve driver who would act as his relief driver. The relief could only be done in front of the pits and in no circumstance on the open roadway. Drivers who were still in the race after five hours were allowed to finish the lap. Drivers who participated at the French Grand Prix qualified to take part in the German Grand Prix, which was the third event in the 5-Hour International Formula. The results of the three Grands Prix were to be added up to determine the European Champion for 1932. Each of the three national clubs had to pay 50,000.00 French francs as its contribution to the European Championship.
      The battle at Reims was to bring a revenge of the Italian Grand Prix. Bugatti was expected to do everything possible to win the French Grand Prix while Alfa Romeo would concentrate on adding another victory to their list of 1932 wins. The standings in the European Championship before the French Grand Prix were one point for Nuvolari, two for Fagioli, three for Borzacchini, four for Campari, five for Dreyfus, six each for all others and seven for non starters. In the championship for Manufacturers Alfa Romeo was first with one point, Maserati second with two points and the Bugatti Factory next with six points.
Entries:
Unfortunately the Maserati works from Bologna, Italy had decided not to start and none of their cars were present. As a result it was a straight battle between Alfa Romeo and Bugatti. Societá Anonima Alfa Romeo, from Portello, Italy, entered three of their new 8-cylinder 2650 cc monopostos for Tazio Nuvolari, Mario Umberto Borzacchini and Rudolf Caracciola. Team manager Aldo Giovannini assigned Giuseppe Campari as reserve driver. Automobiles Ettore Bugatti from Molsheim, France arrived with Achille Varzi and Albert Divo in the heavy 5-liter Type 54 cars and Louis Chiron in one of their 2300 cc Type 51 cars. Meo Costantini, the Bugatti team manager, had chosen Guy Bouriat as reserve driver.
      Besides these two factory teams a great number of independent entries were represented. The capable Bugatti drivers comprised Jean Gaupillat, Maxi Fourny, Benoît Falchetto, Marcel Lehoux, Emile Tedaldi, "Williams", René Dreyfus, and from Great Britain were entered Kaye Don, Tim Birkin and Earl Howe with Hugh Hamilton as his reserve driver. Independent Alfa Romeo drivers were Philippe Etancelin, Raymond Sommer, Jean-Pierre Wimille, Freddy Zehender, Jean Pesato and Pierre Félix with Robert Girod as his reserve driver.
Race:
The Reims circuit, in use since 1925, had always been given as exactly 8 km long, even after circuit improvements for the 1932 race. The French journalist Charles Faroux uncovered this unprecedented scandal when he noticed that the circuit of Reims, which to official ACF statements should measure 8 km, was not that long. In L'Auto he published an extremely harsh attack against this unbelievable neglect by the ACF, who then had a surveyor re-measure the course just hours before the Grand Prix and found it to be not 8000 meters but 7826.90 meters in length. It was too late to establish a new calculation base for the official average speeds, so that one was forced to remain with the 8 km and was sufficiently embarrassed in doing so. In the meantime the correct average speeds were to be published.
      The race was set to start at 12:00 and end at 5:00 in the afternoon. There was nice weather on Sunday morning, and by noon there was a blazing sun, which helped to attract a large crowd, estimated to be 100,000, filling not only the grandstand and enclosures opposite the pits but lining the larger parts of the circuit.
Pole Position
6
Fourny

Bugatti

4
Etancelin

Alfa Romeo

2
Gaupillat

Bugatti

12
Nuvolari

Alfa Romeo

8
Varzi

Bugatti

24
Zehender

Alfa Romeo

18
Caracciola

Alfa Romeo

16
Wimille

Alfa Romeo

30
Borzacchini

Alfa Romeo

28
Howe

Bugatti

38
Divo

Bugatti

36
Lehoux

Bugatti

32
Chiron

Bugatti

44
Dreyfus

Bugatti

42
"Williams"

Bugatti

46
Félix

Alfa Romeo

When the president of the ACF, Vicomte Rohan, lowered the flag at 12:00 noon, it was the usual breath-taking picture with the engine roar of 16 blue, red and green cars as they darted out of a cloud of bluish smoke. Caracciola's red Alfa from row three leapt ahead past Nuvolari and Varzi to the front as the cars disappeared towards Geux village.
      After more than three minutes the cars appeared again. The red Alfa Romeo of Caracciola was in front and finished the first lap in 3m21s, followed closely by Varzi and Gaupillat, then a gap to Williams, Nuvolari, Borzacchini, Etancelin, Chiron, Wimille, Fourney, Dreyfus, Howe, Divo, Félix and Lehoux. Zehender had his car on fire at Garenne corner but soon restarted towards the pits with the tail of his Alfa Romeo scorched. After a stop of almost six minutes to have the carburetor replaced he rejoined the race again. Caracciola was still in the lead on lap two in front of Varzi. The two drivers refused to separate and were just a few meters apart. On this second lap Williams was credited with the fastest time at 3m02.5s. Earl Howe stopped for 1m37s to have his carburetor checked and Lehoux came in to change one damaged rear wheel in 37 seconds. Caracciola turned his third lap in 3m05s, an average speed of 152.346 km/h, then 3m03s at 154.011 km/h on lap four. Varzi followed five meters behind. Nuvolari by now had worked himself into third place. The Caracciola-Varzi duel lasted just five laps. They were followed by Nuvolari, Borzacchini, Williams, Chiron, Wimille, Dreyfus, Divo, Etancelin, Fourny, Gaupillat and Félix. Lehoux, Howe and Zehender made up the rear.
      On lap six Varzi started to drop back from Caracciola. On lap eight Varzi was passed by Nuvolari, Borzacchini, Williams and Chiron. On lap 11 Nuvolari drove even faster to catch his teammate and went into first place, shaking his fist while passing Caracciola at the grandstand. Félix pulled into his pit and handed over to his relief driver Girod, which took 56 seconds. While Nuvolari broke the lap record on lap 12 with 3m00s, equal to 160 km/h, Varzi retired with a broken gearbox bearing. This seriously diminished the Alfa opposition. Now the order was Nuvolari, Caracciola, Borzacchini, Williams, Chiron, Wimille, Dreyfus and Divo. Etancelin was lapped by the Alfa trio and he tried to stay for a while with Borzacchini but soon dropped back. By lap 18 the Alfa Romeo team had settled into their stride with Caracciola in the lead and the three red cars in close formation. After one hour, with 19 laps completed, Nuvolari was leading Caracciola by about 50 meters and the order was
1. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)
2. Caracciola (Alfa Romeo)
3. Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)
4. Williams (Bugatti)
5. Chiron (Bugatti)
6. Dreyfus (Bugatti)
7. Wimille (Alfa Romeo)
8. Divo (Bugatti)
9. Etancelin (Alfa Romeo)
10. Lehoux (Bugatti)
11. Gaupillat (Bugatti)
12. Fourny (Bugatti)
13. Zehender (Alfa Romeo)
14. Howe (Bugatti)
15. Félix/Girod Alfa Romeo)

During lap 20 Caracciola went into the lead again. Gaupillat retired his Bugatti on lap 20 and arrived on foot at his pit. On lap 30 Caracciola was still leading Borzacchini who had also passed Nuvolari, now third, followed by Williams, Chiron, Dreyfus and Wimille, while Lehoux, Divo and Etancelin were already one lap behind. Earl Howe in 11th place had fallen two laps behind because the gearbox of his 5-liter Bugatti gave him only first and third gear. Fourny, Girod and Zehender, who was last, were also two laps behind. The Alfa Romeos increased their lead while Williams lost fourth place when he refueled and changed two wheels on lap 34. After two hours, with 38 laps completed, Nuvolari was back in the lead at an average speed of 152.430 km/h and the standings were
1. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)
2. Caracciola (Alfa Romeo)
3. Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)
4. Chiron (Bugatti)
5. Dreyfus (Bugatti)
6. Wimille (Alfa Romeo)
7. Williams (Bugatti)
8. Lehoux (Bugatti)
9. Etancelin (Alfa Romeo)
10. Fourny (Bugatti)
11. Félix (Alfa Romeo)
12. Howe (Bugatti)
13. Zehender (Alfa Romeo)
14. Divo (Bugatti)

Howe came into the pits for fuel on lap 38. Girod stopped the Alfa Romeo to hand back to Félix. Williams stripped a rear tire thread on lap 39 and despite his fast wheel change was lapped by the Alfa Romeo trio. Lehoux, driving two laps behind the leaders, retired at Geux village due to a broken gearbox with 37 laps completed. On lap 45 there were just five cars left on the same lap, Nuvolari, Caracciola, Borzacchini, Chiron and Dreyfus.
      At around half distance Nuvolari came into the pits to change rear wheels and fill up in 1m40s but Chiron was able to pass him momentarily into third place behind Caracciola and Borzacchini. Chiron's stop at the Bugatti pit took 1m16s while Dreyfus was stationary for 2m15s and lost time. Caracciola's stop for rear wheels and fuel also took 1m40s. At this time with many pit stops going on, Borzacchini temporarily had a turn in the lead. Fourny spent 1m55s in the pits, Etancelin 3m16s including checking the clutch. Earl Howe's car was in the pits for 6m57s to have brake shoes replaced. His Bugatti was five laps behind when Hamilton took over. Borzacchini's stop for fuel and rear wheels lasted only 1m30s, less than that of his team leader, so that on lap 49 Borzacchini kept the lead. Borzacchini still led on lap 50, followed by Nuvolari, Caracciola, Chiron, Williams and Dreyfus. In his chase after his teammate, Nuvolari equaled his previous fastest lap of 3m00.0s on lap 50. Zehender avoided a serious crash on lap 50 when he tried to pass one of the Bugattis in the fast right-left swerve before Geux. His Alfa Romeo was thrown down but came back on its wheels, so that Zehender could continue racing. He had skidded off the road into the grass in an enormous cloud of dust and smoke, but appeared again carrying portions of a hedge. He continued cool-headedly until he reached his pit where the foliage was removed in 1m34s. On lap 53 Divo stopped his Bugatti just before Thillois hairpin and retired after the last fuel had run out of his cracked tank. Chiron had lost more ground to the three Alfa Romeos. The order of the Alfa trio changed once more when Nuvolari took the lead again. At the end of the third hour and completion of 56 laps, Nuvolari led at an average speed of 151.434 km/h, which had dropped due to the pit stops and the order was
1. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)
2. Caracciola (Alfa Romeo)
3. Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)
4. Chiron (Bugatti)
5. Williams (Bugatti)
6. Dreyfus (Bugatti)
7. Etancelin (Alfa Romeo)
8. Fourny (Bugatti)
9. Howe/Hamilton (Bugatti)
10. Félix/Girod (Alfa Romeo)
11. Zehender (Alfa Romeo)

Wimille was stranded on the far side of the circuit with 54 laps completed, after he ran out of fuel due to a miscalculation by his pit crew. At lap 60 the positions were Nuvolari, Caracciola, Borzacchini, Chiron, Williams, Dreyfus, Etancelin, Fourny, Zehender and Félix. As Earl Howe passed the grandstand, a piece from one of his Bugatti's wheels was breaking off and struck a photographer on the shoulder. On the following lap he had to stop to change the broken wheel. Fourny in the Bugatti retired on lap 60. When Williams stopped on lap 64 to change wheels, Dreyfus moved into fifth position. On lap 65 the leading Alfa Romeo trio went past Chiron, who was now one lap behind. Chiron tried to stay with Borzacchini for a while but eventually the Alfa Romeo drew away. After four hours, on lap 77, Nuvolari was in the lead at an average speed of 152.161 km/h and the order was
1. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)
2. Caracciola (Alfa Romeo)
3. Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)
4. Chiron (Bugatti)
5. Dreyfus (Bugatti)
6. Williams (Bugatti)
7. Etancelin (Alfa Romeo)
8. Zehender (Alfa Romeo)
9. Félix/Girod (Alfa Romeo)
10. Howe/Hamilton (Bugatti)
11. Fourny (Bugatti)

Etancelin had to park his Alfa Romeo with a broken gearbox on lap 71. Fourny, already 15 laps behind, retired with 62 laps completed. Near the end of the race second placed Caracciola had slowed down to follow the plan of engineer Vittorio Jano, who would have liked to see all three cars simultaneously at the finish to play up the result. So, Caracciola let Borzacchini move past him. On the last lap, therefore Jano signaled to Nuvolari to slow down and wait for Caracciola and Borzacchini to catch up but Nuvolari had a self-serving attitude and pretended not to understand the sign. So, Nuvolari finished first, closely pursued by Borzacchini with Caracciola third. Chiron was one lap behind in fourth place, followed by Dreyfus, Williams, Zehender, Félix/Girod, and Howe/Hamilton in last place.
      The French Grand Prix was the second event counting towards the European Automobile Championship. After Reims the championship for makes had Alfa Romeo with 2 points, Bugatti and Maserati each 9 points. The championship for drivers: Nuvolari first with 2 points, Borzacchini second with 5, Caracciola 9, Dreyfus 9, Fagioli 9, Chiron 10, Ghersi 11 and Williams 13 points.

Results

Pos.No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/Status

1.12Tazio NuvolariSA Alfa RomeoAlfa RomeoTipo B/P32.6S-892742.843 km
2.30Mario U. BorzacchiniSA Alfa RomeoAlfa RomeoTipo B/P32.6S-892742.443 km
3.18Rudolf CaracciolaSA Alfa RomeoAlfa RomeoTipo B/P32.6S-892741.588 km
4.32Louis ChironAutomobiles E. BugattiBugattiT512.3S-891733.062 km
5.44René DreyfusR. DreyfusBugattiT512.3S-890726.525 km
6.42"Williams""Williams"BugattiT512.3S-890720.343 km
7.24Goffredo ZehenderG. ZehenderAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-884675.759 km
8.46P. Félix / R. GirodP. FélixAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-882662.745 km
9.28E. Howe / H. HamiltonEarl HoweBugattiT545.0S-877623.432 km
DNF4Philippe EtancelinM. LehouxAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-870gearbox
DNF6Max FournyM. FournyBugattiT512.3S-862
DNF16Jean-Pierre WimilleJ-P. WimilleAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-854Out of fuel
DNF38Albert DivoAutomobiles E. BugattiBugattiT545.0S-852split fuel tank
DNF36Marcel LehouxM. LehouxBugattiT545.0S-837gearbox
DNF2Jean GaupillatJ. GaupillatBugattiT512.3S-820
DNF8Achille VarziAutomobiles E. BugattiBugattiT545.0S-812gearbox
Official numbers, based on 8.000 km circuit length::
Fastest lap: Tazio Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo) on lap 12 and lap 50 at 3m00.0s = 160.0 km/h (99.4 mph)
Winner's medium speed: 148.6 km/h (92.3 mph)

Corrected numbers, based on 7.826 km circuit length:
Fastest lap: Tazio Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo) on lap 12 and lap 50 at 3m00.0s = 156.5 km/h (97.3 mph)
Winner's medium : 145.3 km/h (90.3 mph)
Weather: sunshine, hot, dry
In retrospect:
The completed laps shown in the results have been figured from the distance given for each car after five hours and are based on a circuit length of 8 km. The organizer had also used the 8 km distance for their calculations instead of the latest 7.826 km measurement because the computation tables of the timekeepers were set up for 8 km lap length and could not be changed in time. The official results in km as issued by the ACF timekeepers will not correspond to the correct lap numbers if divided by the correct 7.826 km circuit length.
      The calculation of the average speed was also done with an 8 km circuit length and not with the 7.826 km version. Therefore the fastest lap of 3m00.0s was at a speed of 160.000 km/h to reflect the official timekeepers' version.
      The distances issued by the ACF timekeepers for every car at every hour are not shown in this report because those figures were dubious at best. The timekeepers had no means of recording the location of each car at the end of each hour. Nonetheless, they proceeded to publish locations presented to three decimal places, which gave the appearance that they knew where each was to the nearest meter of the track. In the absence of real data, they used their timing data to calculate the position of each car. The calculation involved the cars' times across the finish line, the length of the circuit and therefore their average speed. To be meaningful this calculation required that each car maintained a constant speed throughout the lap. On a triangular track like Reims, or any other track, this is completely impossible. Therefore the claimed locations are simply wrong and the cars were not at the locations quoted by the timekeepers. For most of the cars the calculations would probably have yielded reasonable estimates of their locations, maybe to the nearest kilometer, but certainly not to the nearest meter. That the distances were issued by the timekeepers makes them official, but it does not make them factual. It would be much easier to follow the race if the officials had given the times rather than these spurious distances. As recorders of history our mandate is to present the facts and to avoid fiction whenever possible, which is the reason why the distances issued by the AFC timekeepers are omitted from this account, except at the fifth hour, the end of the race.

Contradictions encountered:
· The mix up of certain starting numbers affected Alfa Romeo and Bugatti factory entries only. Originally in March the ACF assigned numbers to each team and driver to determine starting positions. At the time of the race the teams rotated their drivers but kept the originally allocated starting numbers and grid positions.
      Alfa Romeo:
Borzacchini #12 changed to #30
Campari #18 changed to #34
Caracciola #30 changed to #18
Nuvolari #34 changed to #12
Bugatti:
Chiron #8 changed to #32
Divo #32 changed to #38
Varzi #38 changed to #8
· Lehoux's moment of retirement is controversial. That Lehoux retired on lap 22 was reported by David Hodges and later copied by Edmond Cohin, Fouquet-Hatevilain and Dameron-Derauw & Mélin. In contrast, Lehoux is shown by the official timekeepers in eighth place after more than two hours racing or 36.6 laps completed, when he had covered 293.206 km as reported by La Vie Automobile and Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Wien). Lehoux's precise time of retirement is nowhere reported but must have been after lap 37. · Likewise the retirements of Gaupillat, Divo, Wimille, Fourny and Etancelin are doubtful since the various accounts reported a lower lap count than recorded by the timekeepers every hour for drivers still in the race.
1. Gaupillat was given 20 laps but official timekeepers recorded for him after 1 hour or at lap 20 a distance of 140.712 km, which amounts to only 17 laps. So if he retired on lap 20, he could at best have completed only 17 laps, according to the timekeepers.
2. Divo was given 52 laps but official timekeepers did not show him at all after 2 hours or 36 laps.
3. Wimille was credited with 60 laps completed, which is debatable. The timekeepers did not show him after 3 hours or 56 laps. Therefore Wimille at that time was at least one lap behind and then got stuck out on the circuit, which amounts at best to only 54 laps completed.
4. Fourny was given 60 laps but official timekeepers recorded for him 62 laps completed.
5. Etancelin was credited with 66 laps but the timekeepers recorded for him 70 laps completed.
· Confusion was also caused by different reporting in the various accounts at which lap certain pit stops or retirements occurred during the race. Timekeepers did their calculations with a lap of 8 km length, which is also the distance applied in this account. Finding the correct or closest version was a long-drawn-out exercise and it is hoped that this account is more accurate than reported somewhere else.

Primary sources researched for this article:
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
AUTOMOBIL-REVUE, Bern
AZ - Motorwelt, Brno
La Vie Automobile - incomplete copy
L'Éclaireur de Nice 04 July 1932
Le Figaro 04 July 1932
Le Petit Nicois 04 July 1932
MOTOR UND SPORT, Pössneck
Motor Sport, London - incomplete copy
The Autocar, London
The Motor, London



Star 9-10 July 1932: Les 10 Heures de Spa sports car race is held at the Spa-Francorchamps track in Belgium.
1. Antonio Brivio / Eugenio Siena (Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 MM)
2. Piero Taruffi / Guido D'Ippolito (Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 MM)
3. Earl Howe / Tim Birkin (Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 LM)
Star 16 July 1932: H. Hudgens, B. Wickens and E. Erith (Wolsey 1.3 litre) wins the L.C.C. Relay at Brooklands.



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© 2017 Leif Snellman, Hans Etzrodt - Last updated: 03.02.2017