Rudolf Hasse’s appearance was the exact opposite of the archetypal racing driver – tall, bespectacled and with a chubby face. The abiding image of his career is footage of his Auto Union spinning out of Monaco’s tunnel on the opening lap in 1937 but Hasse was also a Grand Prix winner that summer.
He rode Wanderer motorcycles for three years from 1926 before competing in endurance car races. Reliable rather than spectacular, Hasse normally brought his car home.
Racing career with Auto Union
Born just 10 miles north of Auto Union’s Chemnitz factory, he signed for the team in 1936 as a junior driver. He finished fourth on his GP debut in Germany and was fifth in the following month’s Swiss GP.
The 1937 Belgian GP was an unusual affair for both Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz were weakened by sending teams to America for the previous week’s Vanderbilt Cup. Rudolf Caracciola, Bernd Rosemeyer, Tazio Nuvolari and Dick Seaman were all absent from Spa-Francorchamps and form suggested an easy win for Hermann Lang and Mercedes. But the steady Hasse conserved his tyres and scored his only GP victory by beating the better fancied Hans Stuck, Lang and Manfred von Brauchitsch.
"Over-zealous through the tunnel" at Monaco according to the 1937 race report in The Motor, he escaped with just a broken foot from that lurid accident. Auto Union endured a difficult 1938 season and Hasse’s final result of note was second in the 1939 Belgian GP before war brought sport in Europe to a halt.
The 36 year old Hasse was serving in the German Army on the Russian Front when he fell ill and died in a field hospital.