City Racing

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Those who hope for a “round-the-houses” race through the streets of Birmingham, a British Monaco, as it were, are still trying hard, and the latest news is that at least some of the authorities who have to be convinced are enthusiastic and that there is to be another demonstration in Birmingham by racing cars next October.

Street racing within city confines has become difficult under post-war conditions, but continues, as at Monaco etc. Even before the First World War Germany was aware of the attraction of city racing, which it prepared for Berlin, but not through the streets or round the houses. Instead, a proper race track was constructed in Charlottenberg, in West Berlin 100 yards or so from the special building which was built for by the German equivalent of our SMM&T for the purpose of staging motor shows. This 22,000 square yard stone Kaiserdamm Hall meant that the German Motor Industry had its very own exhibition building.

This hall, with an overflow building to display machine tools, was used for the Berlin Motor Show of October 1921, a purely national exhibition, from which even Austrian cars were excluded.

The nearby Grunewald race track was apparently started in 1913 but the war intervened. There were two straights some six miles long, with an average width of 33 ft, running almost ruler straight and with only slight gradients, mostly through pure woods, to Nikolasee. At each end these parallel straights were joined by 60 ft-wide very short-radius loops, slightly banked, giving a lap of 12.2 miles. The surface was tarmacadam. There was nothing to stop cars running into trees lining the course or going over the banking.

It seems that the track was not used because of the war but was opened in conjunction with the 1921 Berlin Motor Show, with a main race of some 80 miles. This was won by Frederick Opel, at an average speed of around 76 mph, but I have been unable to ascertain what sort of Opel he drove. There were some accidents before the official opening of the track, suggesting that improvements to the circuit were needed. On the day of the opening meeting the attendance was stated to be 200,000, which is an astonishing “gate” compared for instance with the 30,000 or so spectators at a “big” Brooklands meeting or the 60,000 who watched the 1937 Donington GP, where the German teams ran. It is akin to the crowds who are said to have gathered for pre-war races round the Nurburgring and it says much for concentrating racing within a big city, auguring well for the Birmingham project. Which is why it was suggested at the time that the 1921 French be run round Longchamp! Incidentally, the Grunewald track became the better known Avus track by 1936, when the north loop was steeply banked. – W.B.

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