Mercedes, Donington, Klemcoll

“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.” So wrote George Monkhouse in his wonderful book  Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Racing 1934-1955 in describing the start seen above for the Donington Grand Prix on October 2, 1937.

This was the height of the prewar Mercedes and Auto Union competition. Seen above on the left is the Mercedes W125 of Richard Seaman with his teammate Hermann Lang next to him. In the middle of the front row is n. 5 the Auto Union C of Bernd Rosemeyer with Mercedes poleman Manfred von Brauchitsch on the far right. The second row, largely hidden here, had the Mercedes of Rudolf Caracciola in the middle with the Auto Unions of Rudolf Hasse and Hermann Müller on each side. Prince Bira’s Maserati 8CM was the fastest of the other entrants, but almost 15 seconds slower than von Brauchitsch’s time. That alone gives a full indication of the superiority of the German teams.

This was, in effect, two races: one between the seven German cars and one involving the other eight cars which took the start. Once both Seaman and Lang retired with suspension and tire problems, respectively, before halfway, it Auto Union, Donington,klemcoll, Rosemeyerbecame a race between Rosemeyer and von Brauchitsch with Caracciola behind them on a conservative strategy of going through on one stop versus the others’ two. It proved a bit too conservative and left him over a minute behind Rosemeyer at the finish with von Brauchitsch second, trailing the Auto Union by 38 seconds. Bira was the best of the “other race” with Lord Howe in his ERA behind him. Bira had been lapped twice by the remaining German cars.

The victory by Rosemeyer was a very popular one. He may well have been the best of the prewar German Grand Prix drivers, as seen standing in his car at the left while he receives the winner’s wreath. Tragically, this promising career would be cut short when he was killed in the crash of an Auto Union streamliner during a record attempt in Germany in January 1938.

Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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