Career Summary:

Charles de Tornaco

  • June 07, 1927
  • September 18, 1953
  • Belgium
  • Not Active
  • 9
  • Ecurie Francorchamps

Charles de Tornaco (1927-1953) was a Belgian racing driver who lost a life early, at the age of 26, in an accident at Formula One non-championship race Modena Grand Prix in September 1953.

Before his death, De Tornaco recorded four entries (two starts) in the Formula 1 World Championship with Ecurie Francorchamps. De Tornaco was a co-founder of the Ecurie Belgique team, which later became Ecurie Francorchamps.

He was also active in sports car racing, participating in greatest endurance races of that time (Le Mans 24h, Spa 24h, Paris 12h, Mille Miglia).

Charles de Tornaco

Charles de Tornaco

De Tornaco started a career alongside Jacques Swaters

Born in June 1927 in Brussels, Belgium, Charles de Tornaco recorded his first notable appearance in July 1949 at Spa 24 Hours. He and Jacques Swaters, who later became a founder of Ecurie Francorchamps, raced in a BMW 328, not finishing the race. It was the last race on the original 15km track and the winners were Luigi Chinetti and Jean Lucas in a Ferrari 166 MM.

In 1950, there was no 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps but De Tornaco and Swaters went to France to participate in Paris 12 Hours race at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhery. They were driving BMW-powered Veritas RS under the banner of Ecurie Belgique, not finishing the race. The race winners were again Luigi Chinetti and Jean Lucas in a Ferrari.

Charles de Tornaco in a Ferrari 500 at 1952 Dutch Grand Prix

Charles de Tornaco in a Ferrari 500 at 1952 Dutch Grand Prix

Three F1 Grand Prix attempts with Ecurie Francorchamps

The Ecurie Belgique became the Ecurie Francorchamps and Charles de Tornaco participated with the team in three events of the 1952 Formula One World Championship. Before his championship debut, De Tornaco participated in the non-championship Grand Prix of Monza.

He made a championship debut at his home track at Spa-Francorchamps, driving the #34 Ferrari 500 in the Belgian Grand Prix. He was 13th in qualifying and finished the race in seventh place, three laps behind race winner Alberto Ascari.

De Tornaco's second F1 Championship start followed two months later in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. At the wheel of the #24 Ferrari 500, he stopped after 19 laps because of a broken engine. In September, De Tornaco participated in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza but failed to qualify for the race in the #70 Ferrari 500.

Charles de Tornaco's #20 Jaguar C-Type at 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours

Charles de Tornaco's #20 Jaguar C-Type at 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours

Ninth place at Le Mans in a Jaguar C-Type

In 1953, De Tornaco's first race was Mille Miglia in Italy. He and Jacques Swaters were driving the #556 Ferrari 225 S Vignale for Ecurie Francorchamps, not finishing the race. In May, De Tornaco participated in the non-championship Formula Libre Grand Prix race at Albi circuit.

Then, in June, he joined Roger Laurent in the #20 Jaguar C-Type of Ecurie Francorchamps at Le Mans 24 Hours. In his debut at Circuit de la Sarthe, De Tornaco finished in the ninth place. They completed 275 laps, 29 laps less than race winners Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton in factory-entered Jaguar C-Type.

Charles de Tornaco at 1952 Belgian Grand Prix

Charles de Tornaco at 1952 Belgian Grand Prix

De Tornaco's last race was Spa 24 Hours

In June 1953, both Jacques Swaters and Charles de Tornaco came to Spa-Francorchamps to participate in the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix but they didn't manage to set qualifying times and didn't start the race.

A month later, De Tornaco participated in his last race. It was the 24 Hours of Spa. He didn't finish the race in the #22 Ferrari 212 Export of Ecurie Francorchamps, sharing a car with Honore Wagner.

In September, De Tornaco's career violently ended in a crash during practice for Modena Grand Prix. He rolled his Ferrari and suffered serious head and neck injuries. He died on a way to a hospital in a private saloon car.

Photos: LAT Photo,