Bernd Rosemeyer

Auto Union, Rosemeyer, Donington

Rosemeyer at Donington

This one is a famous Klemantaski prewar photograph. The Donington Grand Prix in October 1937 saw the first appearance in England of the Mercedes and Auto Union behemoths. The start was described by George Monkhouse*, “Nothing I can say will give any idea of the reaction this amazing start produced in the spectators, who had never heard, smelt or seen anything like this in their lives, and were knocked flat by the deafening noise, the perfectly bestial aroma of ‘Merc’ fuel and burning rubber, and the way the cars had sorted themselves out of a seemingly impossible tangle.”

At the end of the race the winner was Bernd Rosemeyer with an Auto Union Type C, a car designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche – with its supercharged 550hp V16 mid-engine setup. In this photo Rosemeyer is just topping the hill on the fast Starkey’s Straight. Rosemeyer and Tazio Nuvolari were the only drivers who seemed truly able to tame the tricky handling of the Auto Union Grand Prix cars and compete on even terms with Mercedes. Rosemeyer was a less than committed German who lived for racing and for his wife, the famous aviatrix Elly Beinhorn. Bernd Rosemeyer won three races on the difficult Nürburgring and a number of other Grand Prix, all with Auto Unions.

During the 1930s both Mercedes and Auto Union competed head-to-head on German Autobahns to set ever higher world land speed records, using streamline-bodied versions of their Grand Prix cars. These were dangerous undertakings indeed, with speeds being attained of over 250mph on a normal two-lane side of a divided highway with rather unknown aerodynamic implications. On January 28, 1938 Rosemeyer went out to try to top a new record just set by Rudolf Caracciola’s Mercedes, lost control, perhaps due to a wind gust between groups of trees, crashed and was ejected and killed. Today, a memorial erected after his death still stands in the trees nearby where his body was found.

Anyone interested in learning more about Bernd Rosemeyer should read Rosemeyer! – an excellent biography of this great driver by the late Chris Nixon and Elly Beinhorn Rosemeyer.

Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection

Mercedes Grand Prix Racing 1934-1955, White Mouse Editions of New Cavendish Books, 1984

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18 comments

  1. […] formula 1Bernd Rosemeyer Rosemeyer at Donington This one is a famous Klemantaski prewar photograph. The Donington Grand Prix […]

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  2. Carol Thompson · · Reply

    Peter

    Wonderful to remember Rosemeyer

    To best of my knowledge, even his motorcycle racing

    Was limited to machines of only 250cc size…must have

    Been a real Natural, My good friend “ Jenks” admired

    Him tremendously..think he bicycled to Donington Park

    Jim Sitz

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