Where Motor Racing is a National Sport
—IN WHICH OUR CONTRIBUTOR DESCRIBES THE ENTHUSIASM OF MODERN GERMANY FOR MOTOR-RACING, AND THE MIRACLE OF ORGANISATION WHICH LIES BEHIND THE SUCCESS OF THE NURBURG RING We arrived at Adenau on the Friday night before the Grand Prix which was to take place on Sunday. Fortunately we had taken the precaution of reserving a room in a private house on our way south a fortnight previously. As it happened we were a little apprehensive about finding the room still available,
because the arrangement had been made with a voluble, smiling hotel porter with whom we had deposited “one English pound.” True to his word, he greeted us on our arrival in the crowded village street and conducted us to a comfortable room in a house over a garage. Remembering the tales we had heard of all-night streams of traffic through the village we were glad to note that our abode was in a quiet side-street. Just how quiet this
street was to prove we discovered later. We tried the KrOne for dinner, but no longer was it the sleepy little hotel of a fortnight before. The tables were crowded with excited Germans, eating as only Germans can eat. We endeavoured to show them, then and throughout the evening, that they are not the only people who can drink. The one topic
of conversation was the day’s practising, and all the German drivers came in for their share of praise. Hermann Lang, in particular, was the object of much admiration. Strolling down the thronged village Street afterwards we made the usual
surprise encounter with English friends. The rest of the evening consisted of a series of ” prosits ” over which we draw an involuntary veil. Two things we do remember : the resigned look on George the waiter’s face at the Eifelerhof when
the Mercedes party broke up and we were left to argue in the midst of deserted tables, and the inexplicable presence of at least four keyholes in the front door of our house. The next morning aparty of wan-cheeked enthusiasts congregated at the “Start ;Ind Ziel ” of the Nurburg Ring to watch the practising. Motor-racing in Germany is motor-racing in style. The long restaur ant under the grandstand, with tables outside as well, provides a “boulevard atmosphere,” but the passing cars were doing a steady 150 m.p.h., instead of a top-gear crawl. Fortified by skinhagers or enzians, according to choice, we were able to take an intelligent interest in the proceedings, and realised for the first time that at the next table a cheerful
party was in progress consisting of Hans and Frau Stuck, the Rosemeyers, and Prince Zu Leiningen. Exciting noises in the paddock made us hurriedly gulp down our drinks, and armed with our official brassards we entered the holy of holies. The Ferrari Alfas were warming up, and soon they shot through the tunnel up to the course. Richard Seaman VMS watching his works Maserati being checked on the weighbridge. It was found unnecessary to
Cie off bits and pieces to make the weight-limit. We followed the Alfas to the pits,
The Alfas were taken round the course for warming-up laps by the genial .Guidotti, head mechanic of the Alfa concern, and then. one by one the drivers went out for some serious practice. Fascinated, we watched the great Nuvolari spend at least five minutes adjusting his headgear, making sure that his helmet was on securely and that the goggles were not too tight. While he was St) engaged we examined the -cockpit of his car, and noticed the little wedges on each side of the seat which prevent him from rolling about. Brivio, Dreyfus, Seven i and Nuvolari all covered several laps, coming past the stands at a fine bat. Then it Was the turn of the Metes. The whole team were out except Von Brauchitsch, whose clothes, incidentally, would have excited the attention of an ‘
esquire” artist. These racing cracks have most decided sartorial ideas. Both Ntivo4ari and Chiron were wearing English “cubbing-coats ” with vents each side, Trossi and Brivio were as immaculate as ever.
To return to the Ring, the Mere. ‘drivers put in one fast lap each, and then the cars were taken round several short ,circuits of the South Curve and back past the pits. Meanwhile Wimille had covered several laps, and then, after lunch, came a roar from the Auto-Union :depot behind the restaurant. With short, sharp barks from their stubby exhaust pipes the squat, silver projectiles appeared from their lair, and soon they were streaking round the Ring at terrific speed.
Varzi Was indisposed and Hasse took his place, but otherwise the whole team -was in action. While the P.Wagons were out ChOhnondeley-Tapper appeared, earning the gratitude of his fellow countrymen. tie covered several laps, but was handicapped by poor brakes. At four o’clock we of the Press–ahem —were to be allowed to romp round the Ring before the mere public were allowed -on, and we impatiently awaited the hour when we could unleash the mighty power ‘of our 12 h.p. family saloon. At last we received the word ” go ” and all at once we found ourselves on the wide open spaces of the track. We were one of the first to start, and having decided to risk no funny business on the first lap, we kept a wary eye in the driving mirror for overtaking cars. At first it took us some time to get used to using the whole road, instead of expecting someone to be coming the other way. It was just as
well that we were wary, for the corners
were simply terrific. Think of all the most tricky main-road corners you know, the kind that go on and on and on, string them all together and you have some idea of what driving on the Nurburg Ring is like. As we have said, we were taking it ‘easy. A glance in the mirror showed us an Opel pulling out to pass us. A corner of uncertain radius was ahead of us, So we allowed the German car to go’ by, thinking that he must know the road as he was travelling so fast. Apparently he knew it even leas than we did, for the corner was well up to standard. The driver wrenched the steering-wheel and the high family saloon straddled sideways, straightened abruptly, slid sideways again, and then managed to get around. By this time we had caught it up, and a
soundly shaken driver pulled in to let us by. Up and down, round and about we went, and after some hectic corners we came across a warning sign ” corners ahead.’ We never realised before that the Germans had a sense of humour. Our passenger, who had been round the Ring before, informed us that we were approaching Karrusselkurve, that concrete, steeplybanked” ditch “on the inside of an almost
circular corner. A big American was overhauling us, so with the unknown before us we decided to let him go by. We just had time to pull diagonally across the road to reach the entrance to the Karrussel, but we had forgotten to change down in the flurry of the moment and our speed was much too low. With a sickening lurch our little saloon tilted on one side at an angle of forty-five degrees, and the passenger gave a strangled cry as he looked out and saw the ground coming up to the window. Once in the curve we quickly gained speed, and our heart-beats returned to normal. Meanwhile the American saloon which had been largely responsible for our bad show had funked the ditch, but we had the pleasure of catching up with it on the inside as it fought its way round the ordinary road. The second best corner from our point of view was the Wippermann. There is a steep down-and-up, and at the top the road goes sharp round to the right. Boldly we kept our foot down, and started
to take the corner. For one horrid moment we thought the corner was going to be sharper than it looked, but then we were round. By the time we returned to the pits we were itching to do another lap.
This time we took the Karrusselkurve in third gear, maintaining a steady 35 m.p.h. with the utmost concentration on *steering. There is a terrific temptation to come out of the corner too soon, a procedure which sometimes removes the sump, for the angle of the ditch and the roadway is sharp, This time we took the Wippermann a good deal faster, and slid bodily across the road for our pains. All very delightfully terrifying. Chastened by our debauch of the previous evening we retired early, and it was just as well we did. At four o’clock we were wakened by the tramp of many boots, as of an army marching” at ease.” Then from a loud-speaker suspended from a house a few doors away blared a military march, and the dreadful truth
dawned on us. The first of the 120 special trains had arrived, and our quiet little side-street was the pedestrian route from the station! The march changed to an announcement that the train excursionists were to meet in the Marktplatz again in the evening at 9.20. This went on for an hour or so, and. when we had heard the instructions about the Marktplatz for the hundredth time— we counted them–we decided to do some
marching ourselves. The main street of Adenau was roped off each side so that pedestrians should not suddenly step into the path of the traffic, and wooden bridges across the road were erected to avoid holding up the traffic flow. What is generally known as “typical German thoroughness.” On race days the six miles from Adenau to the “Start und Ziel ” takes about two hours to cover, so we made use of our Press pass on the car to join the circuit at the Adenau Bridge. The run round the Ring in the early morning was exhilarating. Thousands of spectators had camped out all night, and now they were breakfasting round camp fires. The loud-speakers disseminated cheerful music and the portable soup kitchens good cheer. Our arrival at the Karrussel
kurve brought the spectators running to the railings and occasionally we received a cheer.
At 7.15 a.m. we were strolling round the paddock, where Guidotti was covering innumerable circles in order to warm up the Alfa-Romeos’ axle grease and gear-box oil. Sommer’s Alfa was having its wheels balanced, and the Maseratis were having a final polish.
As the hour of the start drew nearer the crowd grew even more dense. The motor-cycle police arrived, led by a band, and the black-helmeted ranks made an impressive sight. We took our seats in the grandstand just as the cars were pushed from the pits to the starting-grid. Korpsfiihrer Huh.ulein, Germany’s motor-sport leader, walked up to a microphone in the middle of the track. He
glared around him for silence. Then, with incredible ferocity, he barked out his speech : “Men and women of Germany . . .” Engines were started, and the noise grew terrific. There was much blue smoke and running about. The starter’s flag was raised, dropped, and with a thunderous roar the race was on. From the second row Von Brauchitsch shot into the lead, easily distinguished by a scarlet helmet. Down to the North Curve the cars howled, and then back behind the pits to the North Curve. Von Brauchitsch was still leading, with Lang, Caracciola
and Rosemeyer close behind. We dimly tried to imagine the drivers’ tasks as they disappeared down the valley, streaks of silver, blue, and red.
The story of that race is now history.. Von Brauchitsch led until half-way round the second lap, when he suddenly slowed and let Rosemeyer into the lead. Hermann Lang was fulfilling the promise of his practice times and was driving the race of his career in second place. Behind battled Carratsch and Nuvolari. Then Lang broke his finger and his car was handed over to Von Brauchitsch, who had retired, but later the crowd roared its enthusiasm when the young Mercedes driver was allowed to take over Fagioli’s car. Zs.l’uvolari was making a fight of it until his car packed up on the far side of the
course. There was’ definite sympathy in the groan of the crowd when the loudspeakers announced the Italian’s retirement.
And so it was ” Shrimp ” Rosemeyer’s race, and by winning he gained the title of champion of Germany. Frau Rosemeyer—Beinhom that was—watched the race with Frau Stuck in the Auto-Union pits, and the enthusiasm. of the crowd was complete at the end of the race. Then the Nazi anthem was played, and a forest of arms swore allegiance to the Fiihrer.
The mobile guards meanwhile lined thetrack with arms linked by rods of steel, and then marched past singing a song.
All very impressive, but rather tedious. when you have seen too much of it. But the organisation is undeniably perfect, and with all its amenities the Nurburg Ring is undoubtedly the finest racing track in all Europe.