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This Belgian nobleman was the son of very first winner of a car race on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
The tall and fair Charles de Tornaco began his own racing career in 1948 with an MG. He shared a BMW 328 with great friend Jacques Swaters in the following year’s Spa 24 Hours and they soon formed Ecurie Belgique. De Tornaco drove a Veritas RS-BMW during 1951 and enjoyed a varied start to the following campaign with the newly renamed Ecurie Francorchamps.
He drove a Lago-Talbot T26C in the 1952 Valentino Grand Prix and was fifth at Chimay in a one-off with HWM while waiting for his new Ferrari 500 to be ready. The Italian car may have been good enough to dominate the world championship but it was less successful in these aristocratic hands. De Tornaco’s only finish was on his championship debut when seventh in Belgium. He also started in Holland but failed to qualify for the Italian GP.
De Tornaco did not take his place on the grid for the 1953 Belgian GP as the team withdrew after practice but he finished ninth at Le Mans when sharing a Jaguar XK120C with Roger Laurent.
Scuderia Ferrari withdrew from the non-championship race at Modena later that year after a dispute with the organisers so de Tornaco’s yellow machine was the local marque’s only representative. However, he crashed during practice when accelerating out of a corner and the car rolled with the unfortunate driver suffering a broken neck and fractured skull. With no ambulance or doctor on hand, de Tornaco died while being taken to hospital in a hastily commandeered road car.