The pre-war Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix driver Hermann Lang died on October 19 at the age of 78, after a short illness.
Lang rose from the rank of mechanic in the Daimler-Benz racing department in 1934 to works driver, and became European Champion in 1939, the equivalent of today’s World Champion.
There was some opposition to the appointment of a mechanic to the status of Grand Prix driver from other members of the team, but Hermann Lang achieved his promotion by his ability rather than by influence, and the Mercedes team-manager Alfred Neubauer supported Lang strongly, appreciating his natural talent as a driver.
After “test-drives” with the W25 in 1935 and 1936 he was made a fully-fledged member of the works team for 1937 with the 5.6-litre W125 Grand Prix cars. By 1939 he was virtually unbeatable and became the yardstick for others to try to beat, winning five of the eight major Grand Prix races with the 3-litre V12 Mercedes-Benz.
The 1939-45 war cut short his meteoric career, and six years later it was too late to pick up the threads of his 1939 glory, though he made a few unsuccessful attempts in Grand Prix racing, and won the 1952 Le Mans 24-Hour Race for Mercedes.
Always a “Mercedes-Benz man”, living in Bad Canstatt not far from the Daimler-Benz works, he was looked after by his old employers to the end.