T WAS A DRIVE OF IMPERTINENT brilliance. Except perhaps for Giancarlo Baghetti’s triumph in the 1961 French Grand Prix,
There had never been a more impressive debut in motor sport’s top tier. Except Bernd Rosemeyer had competed in precisely one motor race prior to making the start of the June 1935 Eifel GP. And that had been three weeks earlier at AVUS. On top of that, he was armed with an Auto Union B-type; hardly the ideal learning tool with which to cross the line from amateur to experienced. Yet in many ways it was precisely his inexperience of more conventional racing cars that played in his favour. That and a fearlessness honed on motorcycles. But even so, this was the NCirburgring. Yet the 25-year-old mastered both the car and the circuit with consummate ease. Manfred von Brauchitsch had been fastest in practice and come race day scorched into an early lead ahead of Rudolf Caracciola. Rosemeyer had been ordered to pace himself and learn the ropes. He did just that, until at quarter distance in the 11-lap race
when he was told to quicken his pace. He proceeded to pass the Alfa Romeo of Louis Chiron for fourth place, and moved into third when Luigi Faglioli dropped out. He then chased down Caracciola, who was long established as the Ringmeister. He caught him, too. Misfortune forever rained abundant on von Brauchitsch who at one point had built up a lead of more than a minute, but his warring pursuers had closed the gap to 43 seconds after seven laps. Von Brauchitsch then buzzed his engine and was forced to retire, Rosemeyer squeezing past the Mercedes of his vastly more experienced opponent into the South Turn. There were seven seconds between them as they lap, and, with barely a mile left
entered the final lap, and, with barely a mile left to run, Caracciola reasserted his lead after his rival changed up too early. It was the start of a tempestuous rivalry, with Rosemeyer claiming honours the following year and again in 1937, only to perish in January ’38 on the FrankfurtDarmstadt autobahn where he was attempting to better Caracciola’s freshly set speed records aboard his Auto Union stromlinienwagen.