1937 Donington Grand Prix race report: Rosemeyer wins for Auto Union





HISTORY was made at Doning,ton on October 2nd. A record crowd, which looked like part of that on Epsom Downs for Derby Day, which the first reports give as 38,000 to 40,000 strong, lined the course to watch the Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union teams battle for the first time in this country —and battle they most certainly did, amid a: continuous high-pitched howl of sound and the . pungent smell of ” boot-polish ” dope. In practice the record lap was lifted by Von Brauchitsch (Mercedes-Benz) to 86.01 m.p.h.—compared with the lap record of 74.31 m.p.h. made before the 200-Mile Race by R. Mays (E.R.A.) over the shorter, and admittedly slower, circuit. Mays’s record, by the way, was not given in the programme of the Grand Prix., Definitely these German teams race each other, fight every inch of the way, the drivers taking heavy medicine. To suggest that they have got their ears to such a pitch of efficiency that racing becomes a mere pageant, a demonstration, is fallacious. Finality is never reached in motor-racing and despite the remarkable thoroughness of German preparation each new race brings its own problems. The DoningtOn. Grand Prix found weaknesses in the suspension of Lang’s Mercedes and sorely tried the tyres. As the mist lifted and gave way to brilliant sunshine we saw a moving sight at our premier road-racing circuit. Cars filled every park until finally they were left in the roads outside while their occupants hurried to the course. MercedesBenz models of all ages thundered into the grounds and owners of lesser marques moved their cars that these Mews. might be parked in the front rows. Drivers of B.M.1,V.s, Adlers, D.W.K.s and Opels looked especially proud. Community singing occupied the packed mass at the rails, the grandstand filled, and Fred Craner’s Ford V8 rushed about on divers errands. Programmes sold out and still the crowds poured in. The Auto-Unions came round to the pits early, Hasse doing a few preliminary laps. Then the Mercedes team arrived in formation. led by a 44–litre Lagonda, whose driver gave a Hitler salute before withdrawing. Quickly the morning passed and at last welhad the rather” throaty ” spectacle of the two crack German teams drawn up

to do battle on British soil. Crowds swarmed On the line, cameras clicked incessantly and the onlookers outside pressed forward to catch every move of the carsand their attendants. The bonnets of Branehitsch’s, Lang’s and Seaman’s Mercedes Were covered over but the Auto-Union bonnets were raised. The Mercedes-Benz cars were fitted with bonnet straps for the first time in order to Comply with the British regulations. Rosemeyer’s rear wheels were being changed on the line and chalked symbols were marked by Continental’s man on the cars’ tyres. The drivers took their places, Mercedes mechanics applied their portable electric starters, allowing only a few moments in .which to get the last engine (Seaman’s) running, and Ebby dropped the Union Jack • . . Brauchitsch (86.01), Rosemeyer (85.36), Lang (83.58) and Seaman (83.53) had occupied the front row (by reason of the lap times shown in brackets), with Muller, Caracciola and Hasse behind, then ” Bira ” (Maserati), Mays (14litre E.R.A.), Earl Howe (E.R.A.), Hanson (1k-litre Maserati), then A. C. Dobson (own E.R.A.), Charles Martin (E.R.A.), who practised with a II-litre Maserati as the E.R.A. had not arrived from Masaryk, Whitehead (E.R.A.), then, alone, Madure’s 1,750 c.c. unblown Riley. At the fall of the flag Lang led by about two lengths from Seaman with Caracciola swinging into third place in front of ROseineyer. They got round Red Gate in a tightly-packed bunch. All eyes on the hill-crest, where Lang shot into view at some 170 m.p.h., with a useful lead. They passed in the following order : Lang (Mercedes), Caracciola (Mercedes), Brauchitsch (Mercedes), Seaman (Mercedes), Rosemeyer (Auto-Union), Muller (Auto-Union), Hasse (Auto-Union), “Bira” (Maserati), Martin (E.R.A.), Mays (E.R.A.), Howe (E.R.A.), Whitehead (E.R.A.), Dobson (E.R.A.), Hanson (Maserati) and Maclure (Riley).

Another lap and the order was : Lang, Brauchitsch, Caracciola, Rosemeyer, Seaman, Muller, Hasse, ” Bira,” Martin, Mays, Howe, Dobson, Whitehead, Hanson, and Maclure. Rosemeyer patted the front of his AutoUnion as he passed the pits. On this second lap Muller rammed Seaman’s Mercedes at Coppice Corner. Seaman took to the escape road but immediately returned to the course and both cars continued, though parts of the off rear suspension hung loose from the Mercede.s. The leading cars were setting the astonishing lap speed of approximately 84 m.p.h., reaching 170 or so down to Melbourne Corner and leaping into the air at the crest of the sharp rise before the pits. Braking was commenced before the bump on the slope down to Melbourne. Muller, in particular, was driving sensationally in his Auto-Union and as Rosemeyer braked hard for Red Gate the whole car juddered furiously, steering column and wheel shaking, and the engine side panels flexing like so much aeroplane fabric ! After five laps Lang led at 82.6 m.p.h., 7.2 secs. ahead of Brauchitsch, who was 8.4 secs. in front of Rosemeyer’s AutoUnion, the rear-engined car having passed Caracciola on the previous lap. At Red Gate the German cars would slide very slightly, hesitate as the spinning rear wheelsgot a grip, then accelerate with smoking tyres and a shattering howl and crash of sound into the wood. Down Holly Wood Hill they slid furiously, cutting the very verges of the grass back from the road-surface. Meanwhile Charlie Martin and Arthur Dobson were steadily drawing away from Mays and Howe, albeit his Lordship was handling the blue E.R.A. splendidly, being especially fast through the S-bend at Holly Wood Hill. ” Bira ” was holding his place behind the German cars. Whitehead now struck trouble, his E.R.A. stopping on the grass by Starkey’s and finally restarting in sick condition, to retire in a smoke cloud on lap 11. After 10 laps the astounding average speed had risen a trifle, to 82.96 m.p.h., with Brauchitsch now a bare 3.4 secs. behind Lang and Rosemeyer 4.4 secs. behind the second Merc. Caracciola was fourth, Muller fifth and Seaman sixth. Neubauer and his assistants signalled from the track with long white boards on which the numerals were inscribed, held out very early, before the cars had.breasted the rise. Muller was indulging in very heavy braking before Red Gate and Rosemeyer nearly as much, their Auto-Unions fighting them strongly.

After seven laps the leading cars had lapped Hanson and Maclure and in another three laps the E.R.A.s were mingled with the German cars. Melbourne Corner provided the drivers with food for thought. Hanson on one lap took to the grass at this point. Excitement was at fever pitch. for Brauchitsch was closing to within twentyfive yards of Lang and Rosemeyer was catching the Mercedes. On lap fourteen Brauchitsch took the lead, having maintained an average of 83.21 m.p.h. to do so. At fifteen laps Lang was 3.2 secs. behind and at twenty laps 3.4 secs., but Rosemeyer was closing. Then Brauchitsch stopped for a tyre change. Fuel was put in and both rear wheels changed in an astounding pause occupying a mere 30 secs. Lang was in next, his position, as usual, indicated by Neubauer’s little black and red flag, and a dead bird was cleared from the radiator-grille and an examination made of the suspension at Lang’s request. These stops, rapid as they were, altered the placings and after twenty-five laps of the eighty had been completed Rosemeyer had a lead of 30.8 secs. for Auto-Union, at 83.27 m.p.h. —an average remarkably consistent with almost record time lappery. Caracciola kly second with Brauchitsch now 8.8 secs. behind him. Seaman was now fifth,. behind Muller and ahead of Hasse. Martin now retired his E.R.A. with a broken piston and a detached carburetter after an epic drive in the li-litre category. On lap twenty-six Lang drove slowly onto the grass before the pits and a tarpaulin was drawn over his MercedesBenz, which had succumbed to Donington’s rough surface and was retired without emotion with suspension maladies. Then parts of the off rear suspension unit were seen to be hanging loose front Seaman’s car and after twenty-nine laps his Mercedes was parked beside Lang’s and similarly covered over. Seaman then did some time-keeping from his pit-roof. The collision at Red Gate was responsible for the damage, which apparently threatened to break up the bodywork. This let ” Bira ” up to sixth place while Arthur Dobson’s old, white E.R.A. led the Bourne contingent. Muller and Hasse now visited their pits for fuel and fresh rear wheels, both rapid stops, one of which was officially timed at 28 secs. Mays seemed to find the works E.R.A.’s brakes weak, as he hit the off-side bank at the stone bridge, though Rosemeyer, now going all he knew, emulated the inglish car. By thirty laps, the leaders were in the same positions, but Caracciola was now only 25.2 secs. behind Rosemeyer and Brauchitsch was driving very fast indeed—Auto-Union versus Mercedes-Benz in earnest. Then Rosemeyer made his routine pit-stop. He just had time to lift his goggles and wipe his face with his hands as both rear wheels were changed and fuel dashed in through the big hose, the tank filler covered with a cloth. Caracciola also came in. Neubauer had a brief talk with him as both rear tyres and fuel were attended to, ” Caratseh ” wiping the screen himself. During the previously mentioned stops of Muller and Hasse, when rear wheels were changed and fuel added, Hasse snatched a drink and Herr Feureisen held him for a moment as a Mere. screamed past. Soon after these stops Rosemeyer, driving with great abandon, overhauled Caracciola, and whereas the latter led Brauchitsch by .0 of a second at thirtyfive laps, by forty laps Brauchitsch led Caracciola by 12.8 secs. at 8:3.03 m.p.h. Arthur Dobson’s fine drive was now broken as a result of trouble with the E.R.A.’s magneto rotor and 14 mins. were unfortunately lost before one was taken from Martin’s retired. ER.A., refitted, and the white car restarted. Now ItosemL‘yer lay second, and after forty-five laps were run was only 24 sees. from the leading Mere., and 26.4 sees. away at fifty laps. Streams of smoke now showed from the Mercedes brakes, while Roseineyer’s Auto-Union tlev.ed appallingly as its pilot sought to reduce the gap. The spectators clapped every pit-stop quite audibly. Still the October sun shone down on this great scene and flags of various nationalities waved lazily over the busy pits. Howe had a pitstop, the E.R.A.’s screen being cleaned, water added and the car refuelled, with bad overflow, and finally push-started, which took over a minute, although the wheels were not changed. ” Bira” brought the 3-litre Maserati in for fuel only and restarted easily on the handle. Craner blew vigorously on a whistle to move the German mechanics from in front of the pit-counters, but they were conveniently as deaf as drivers ! Poor Mays retired at fifty-one laps with useless brakes—a return of an old E.R.A. ailment—after a hectic moment at Mel bourne Corner. Came sensation ! At fifty-five laps Brauchitsch had brought his Mercedes up to 14.8 secs. of Rose meyer’s leading Auto-Union. Then, coming at 170 m.p.h. or so down to Melbourne the near front tyre flew to bits, maybe on account of a locking brake, and Brauchitsch had a stern struggle. He held the car successfully, but the Mercedes pit had not seen the incident, apparently-, although they had men spread out round the course to signal. The grandstand crowd clapped furiously, Brauchitsch lifted his goggles, the faulty wheel was exchanged by lightning movements and he got away before Caracciola had passed. But by sixty laps Roseineyer, who had averaged 83.06 m.p.h., led by 30.2 sees., and Caracciola was only 12.6 secs. from Brauchitsch instead of 51.6 as he was five laps earlier—so much for a faulty front cover ! Rosemeyer thus appeared to have eased up, or did Caracciola make a great bid to seize his chance ? At all events, at seventy laps Rosemeyer led by 34 secs at 82.81 m.p.h. and the third Mere. was 20 secs. from the second. Five laps later Rosemeyer was in front by a mere .8 of a second, but Caracciola was nearly 56 secs. away. Rosemeyer, you see, had stopped, quite by routine. The excitement was indescribable. Rear tyres were changed once more amid yells from the mechanics, and Rosemeyer lifted his goggles and looked desperately back. But he left ahead of Brauchitsch and won the greatest race yet seen in this country at 82.86 m.p.h., finishing 37.8 sees. ahead of Brauchitsch. Caracciola was third, Muller fourth, Hasse fifth, ” Bira ” sixth, Howe seventh, Dobson eighth, Hanson ninth, and Madure tenth on general -position, though actually only the Gentian cars finished within the

and the Riley stopped with serious trouble, condoned by clapping, after sixty-seven of the eighty laps. The British crowd actually cheered Rosemeyer as he was flagged, but the German National Anthem was not played as is the usual custom, and they clapped the next five finishers. Rosemeyer limped badly, was very sore, and his overalls, soaked in perspiration from head to foot, had to be taped up at the seat before he could meet Mrs. Shields and get his bouquet. According to the dailies, he had to toast his victory in lemonade, as the champagne was lost—though many spectators would gladly have handed him their all. A very disquieting noise was heard as Muller’s Auto-Union passed away from the pit. It was only the undershield which had been hit by a stone, and eventually had to be cut away with shears. He and Brauchitsch shook hands Smilingly for the press cameras and the winning AutoUnion was driven away by a mechanic. It had been a proud day for Auto-Union ; and for Mr. Shields, owner of Donington, and for Fred Craner. May the latter stage an equally international race in 1938. The crowd invaded the course rather badly towards the end, in spite of the appeals of F. L. M. Harris over the very efficient loud-speakers. Then remained only the vast trek back home, the road as far as Ashby-de-la-Zouch blocked for hours with a slowly moving stream of cars. That certain book-makers Made off before the finish worried those who had backed Rosemeyer at 5 to 1. It was a bad thing and we hope the race-organisers paid the German mechanics as they expected the bookies would. Long after it was all over the Mercedes-Benz publicity man and an assistant typed reports in the open in the Pressenclosure-our last glimpse of.German ‘thoroughness. A very great day in British motor sport. Our sympathies go out to the relatives and friends of the three persons who were killed near Ashby when trying to land in a small aeroplane in order to spectate. With aeroplanes at their present stage of development, landings away from aerodromes will always be risky and it would be interesting to know if there was a mark ed out ground at the course. Other arrivals by air got down and off again safely.

The full story is detailed herewith. Rosemeyer and Brauchitsch share the fastest race lap between the rival marques, at 85.62 m.p.h.-or .39 m.p.h. slower than Brauchitseh’s lap of 86.01. m.p.h. in Friday’s practice-which stands as a new Donington lap record, and is likely to stand for a very long while. The course was notably hard on the German cars’ tyres, which were not made from synthetic rubber:’ The average compares extremely favourably with the lap record speed. No doubt much more of interest will -arise when results and observations have been more fully analysed and we shall refer to the race again next month. Auto-Union took the Team Prize. ” Bira ” got the prize for the first car having a British entrant and driver, as Prince Chula and ” Bira” hold British R.A.C. Competition Licences and have been for some time resident in this country.


1, 13. Rosemeyer. (6,006 c.c. Auto Union, S.). 311. lm. 2.2s. 82.86 m.p.h.

2, M. von Branchitsch, (5,660 e.c. Mercedes• Ber17, S.). 3h. lm. 40s. 82,57.

3, IL Caraeciola, (5,660 c.c. Mercedes-Benz, S.). 3h. 2m. 18.8s. 82.28.

4, H. Muller. (6,006 c.c. Auto Un!on, S.). 3h. 4m. 50s. 81.16.

5, It. Hasse, (6,006 c.c. Auto Union, S.). 3h. 9m. 50s. 79.58.

6, “B. Bira,” (2,992 c.c. Maserati, S.). 78 laps in 3h. 13m. 49.6s.

7, Earl Rowe, (1.488 c.c. E.R.A., S.). 77 laps in 3h. 14in. 47s.

8, A. C. Dobson, (1,488 c.c. E.R.A., S.). 74 laps in 3b. 14m. 54.28.

9. It. Hanson, (1,490 c.c. Maserati, S.). 72 laps in 311. 14m. 54.2s.

10, P. Manure, (1,486 e.e. Riley). 67 laps in 2h. 57m. 21.8s.


• £100 for Fastest Lap • B. Rosemeyer (Auto Union) and M von Brau.chltsch (Mercedes-Benz), 2in. 11.4s. • 85.62 m.p.h

3325 Awards: To Leader at 15 laps : M von Brauchitsch. Leader at 30 laps : B. Roserneyer (Auto Union). Leader at 45 laps : M von 13rauchitseh. Leader at, 60 laps : 13. Roserneyer.

£100 (first .car having a British entrant and driver) : “B Bira ” (Maserati). Team Prize: Auto Union (Rosemeyer, Hasse and. Muller)

The non-starters were A. C. Dobson’s works E.R.A., Dobson therefore driving his own car, Hyde’s 3-litre Maserati, which practised but did not run,. PowysLybbe’s Alfa-Romeo and Tongue’s E.R .A. The race distance was eighty laps of the 3+ mile circuit, or approximately 250 miles, changed rather unconventionally from one hundred laps after the rules were issued.