Watch Rudolf Caracciola smash the land speed record


Witness unearthed footage of an extraordinary but harrowing day from January 1938 when Caracciola set new marks in his streamlined Mercedes

Rudolf Caracciola at the 1935 French Grand Prix

Towering pre-war racer Rudolf Caracciola was born on this day in 1901. He swept most of what was before him in the 1930s, to the point that his achievements read like something from fiction rather than sane motor sport history.

Most synonymous with imperious Mercedes, he won the European Drivers’ Championship – likely the forerunner of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship – an unequalled three times, while his record of six German Grand Prix wins also remains to this day unmatched. Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton have managed only four each.

And his extraordinary ability went way beyond Grand Prix racing, including hillclimbs in which he won three European championships, while he also had success in trials and rallies. In addition he was a renowned master of wet conditions.

More: Caracciola, Rosemeyer, Gurney and Häkkinen

Then there were land speed records, which the King Rose Archives video below that we’ve unearthed shows him undertaking on the Frankfurt-Darmstadt Autobahn in January 1938, again with Mercedes.

It was an extraordinary day, on which you will witness Caracciola’s extraordinary sleek silver W125 Rekordwagen, a streamlined version of its Grand Prix racer, which, even to the modern eye, looks futuristic.

And he used it to reach an average speed of 432.7 kph (268.9 mph) to smash the world record for the kilometre and then set 432.4 kph (268.7 mph) to do the same for the mile record. It remained the fastest ever officially timed speed on a public road until it was beaten late in 2017 in a Koenigsegg Agera.

The day however ended in tragedy as Bernd Rosemeyer in an Auto Union, seeking to break’s Caracciola’s new marks, had a severe crosswind blow him off the road. He perished in the crash.

Caracciola had tried to talk Rosemeyer out of running due to the difficult conditions, and the death had a profound impact on him.

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