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Audi press release: 100th anniversary of Bernd Rosemeyer’s birth


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#1 Holger Merten

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 14:00

Ingolstadt, 2009-10-06

100th anniversary of Bernd Rosemeyer’s birth


> Racing legend Rosemeyer would have turned 100 on October 14


The 100th anniversary of the birth of racing driver Bernd Rosemeyer, who was born on October 14, 1909 in Lingen in north-west Germany, is approaching. Audi Tradition will be laying a bouquet at the memorial on today’s A5 Autobahn. Rosemeyer achieved international fame primarily as one of Auto Union’s top drivers in Grand Prix races and world speed record attempts in the “Silver Arrows” era of the 1930s. His racing triumphs in Europe, Africa and the USA made him a public idol – not least because of his swashbuckling driving style. Bernd Rosemeyer was a hero of his time, who tragically lost his life at the zenith of his career while making a world speed record attempt in early 1938.

Bernd Rosemeyer started his career by participating in motorbike races on grass tracks and on the road. He signed up as a works driver at NSU in 1932 before switching to DKW in the following year. In October 1934, he passed a test for up-and-coming drivers in Auto Union’s challenging mid-engined racing car with flying colours. He was then immediately promoted to the company’s racing car team alongside Hans Stuck and Achille Varzi. And thus his meteoric rise in the motor-racing universe began. Following his debut in the Auto Union Silver Arrow in the 1935 AVUS Race, he quickly attracted attention in the Eifel Race in particular, when he finished second, just behind ex-champion and racing legend Rudolf Caracciola. And then on September 25, 1935, Rosemeyer went one better, winning his first Grand Prix in Brno. In the following year, the triumphs came thick and fast: he won the Grand Prix of Germany, Switzerland and Italy, as well as the Großer Bergpreis hill-climb race. 1936 was also the year in which he won the hand of the renowned sports pilot Elly Beinhorn in marriage.

In the 1937 season, Rosemeyer achieved some true milestones in motorsport: in the Eifel Race at the Nürburgring, with a time of 9 minutes and 54 seconds, he was the first driver ever to complete a lap of the legendary North Loop in less than 10 minutes. In the Avus Race, at the wheel of the streamlined Auto Union Type C, he achieved a straight-line speed of 380 km/h for which he is still famed today. In the world speed record attempts on the motorway near Frankfurt, he was the first driver to break through the 400 km/h barrier on a public road. His last victory was in the Grand Prix of Donington on October 2, 1937. A renewed attempt to break the world speed record on January 28, 1938 on the motorway between Frankfurt and Darmstadt (today the A5) ended in tragedy when the car skidded out of control at over 430 km/h. The ensuing accident cost Bernd Rosemeyer his life.


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#2 D-Type

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 23:56

It's nice to see Audi recognising their heritage - even if the motivation is probably commercial

#3 AJB

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 20:38

It's nice to see Audi recognising their heritage - even if the motivation is probably commercial

Maybe not. I visited the memorial in 2003 and there was an Audi wreath there then. Although that was the 65th anniversary of Rosemeyer's death, I have heard that they pay their respects every year.
Alan Brady


#4 MCS

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 21:07

Audi UK serviced my car recently and whilst waiting for them to finish I sat in their reception area and leafed through a history of the company and it's "Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer" amalgamation - all very interesting. And surprising, to somebody like me with only a little knowledge of pre-war racing.

Whilst I would tend to concur with D-Type's comment, I think they may actually be aware of their past...(or at least their currrent marketing department is, anyway)...

#5 Vitesse2

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 21:27

Audi UK serviced my car recently and whilst waiting for them to finish I sat in their reception area and leafed through a history of the company and it's "Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer" amalgamation - all very interesting. And surprising, to somebody like me with only a little knowledge of pre-war racing.

Whilst I would tend to concur with D-Type's comment, I think they may actually be aware of their past...(or at least their currrent marketing department is, anyway)...

Indeed they are - Dr Kirchberg, the authority on Auto Union history, is the head of their Heritage division. They are also active in commissioning replicas of their most significant racing cars (the remaining real ones having almost all disappeared in Russia after WW2). The book you saw was probably the one given to all Audi mechanics when they finish their training. Copies turn up on eBay fairly regularly (that's where I got mine!)

Here's one of Leif Snellman's pictures from his pilgrimage to Bernd and Elly's grave earlier this year:

Posted Image

You can find the rest of the pictures here.


#6 Holger Merten

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 17:20

Indeed they are - Dr Kirchberg, the authority on Auto Union history, is the head of their Heritage division. They are also active in commissioning replicas of their most significant racing cars (the remaining real ones having almost all disappeared in Russia after WW2). The book you saw was probably the one given to all Audi mechanics when they finish their training. Copies turn up on eBay fairly regularly (that's where I got mine!)

Here's one of Leif Snellman's pictures from his pilgrimage to Bernd and Elly's grave earlier this year:

Posted Image

You can find the rest of the pictures here.


Head of Audi tradition is my former boss at Audi Public relations department Thomas Frank. Kirchberg, now 75 years old, is the flagship historian (as a consultant) in that division, which celebrates this year 100 years Audi, 60 years Audi in Ingolstadt and several other events supported byw many publications and merchandising material. Check on ebay.

Last year, they held a symposium at Zwickau to remember that Rosemeyer died 70 years before during SRA. Resultat was a publication about the Rosemeyer career. Next week prototyp museum in Hamburg will open an exhibition, to remeber the 100th anniversary of BR birth, supported by Audi. The small but effective tradition department does a lot over the year to bring back the heritage. Sure, this is marketing, but I know, that department earns money with their activities and is very present to bring back the spirit of a very fascinating and innovative brand, which raised like phoenix from the flames several times.

And when I enter my car I often think, thank god, it's an Audi. :cool:


#7 byrkus

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 09:21

Bernd would have been 100 today. Still one of the greatest EVER. :up:


#8 Tim Murray

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 10:06

... and still my favourite driver. Happy Birthday, Bernd.

#9 ensign14

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 10:47

It's nice to see Audi recognising their heritage - even if the motivation is probably commercial

I would have thought the opposite, has one person in ten thousand heard of Bernd Rosemeyer? It's nice they have gone out of their way to pay tribute. :)

#10 SEdward

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 14:32

I agree with ensign14 and I don't see why we should be systematically cynical about their motives. Audi clearly values its history and heritage and continues to support endurance racing, when they no longer need to because they have won at Le Mans countless times already.

Remember that 99% of Audi drivers have no idea who Rosemeyer was, so they deserve all the more credit for reviving his memory and maybe introducing many of our contemporaries to this bygone icon.

Edward

#11 kayemod

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 14:49

... and still my favourite driver. Happy Birthday, Bernd.


Me too, along with Tazio and Sir Stirling.


#12 Eric Dunsdon

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 16:11

I would have thought the opposite, has one person in ten thousand heard of Bernd Rosemeyer? It's nice they have gone out of their way to pay tribute. :)



Back in 2003 Audi collaborated with Auto Italiana to produce an excellent 190 page soft backed booklet devoted to the career of Tazio Nuvolari. One hopes that Alfa-Romeo might do something similar for their Centenary next year.

#13 Rosemayer

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 17:11

Here is an older Autosport article.


Thirteen Flowers:
The Story of Bernd and Elly Rosemeyer

Until she passed away last year, and for the past 69 years, Elly Beinhorn made sure that thirteen flowers were placed every January 28th on the grave of her husband, Bernd Rosemeyer, in Berlin's Walfried Dahlem cemetery. Why January 28th? Why thirteen flowers? Thomas O'Keefe tells the remarkable story of Bernd and Elly Rosemeyer
By Thomas O'Keefe
autosport.com contributing writer



They are both gone now, the uber-couple of the Golden Age of Grand Prix racing: Elly, the dashing, tomboyish aviatrix, who flew solo flights around the world at the tender age of twenty four; and Bernd, the handsome young racing driver who mastered the magnificent rear-engined V16 Auto Union in the high summers of the 1930s when the Silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union raced across the earth.
A lucky couple who seemingly had everything, they nonetheless bucked the odds and adopted the unlucky number 13 as their talisman since so many good things - for example, some of Bernd's most important race victories and their marriage - seemed to take place on the 13th day of the month or on multiples of 13.
And, they were lucky - in love at least.
But on January 28, 1938, 70 years ago this week, luck began to run out for this charmed couple when 28-year-old Rosemeyer had a fatal accident during a speed record attempt on the Frankfurt-Darmstadt autobahn in his Auto Union streamliner.
The streamliner touched 265 mph before it skidded, rolled and crashed, throwing Rosemeyer into a clump of trees in the nearby woods where he died soon after.
And on November 28, 2007, Elly Beinhorn Rosemeyer died of natural causes, in a nursing home near Munich, having turned 100 years old in May 2007.
Elly was literally the last survivor of the Silver Arrows era and for the first time in 70 years, when January 28th comes around, Bernd's beloved wife and fellow sportsman will not be there to remember him and their life together, a life that summed up an age.
Romance and Racing
How did the Bernd and Elly story begin?
By 1935, because of her dangerous solo flights around the world, Elly Beinhorn was already a world famous sportsman and a household name.

Elly Beinhorn in 1933 © SV-Bilderdienst/Scherl
Bernd, two years younger than Elly, was in a lesser league, only having recently graduated from racing motorcycles for DKW to the Auto Union team, where he was still a journeyman driver. Because of Elly's prominence, Bernd must have known who Elly was, but the reverse was not true, until the autumn of 1935.
The day Bernd and Elly met it all came good for Bernd Rosemeyer, in more ways than one. It was towards the end of the 1935 Grand Prix season on September 29, 1935, at Brno for the Masaryk Grand Prix.
Elly, who happened to be in Brno to give a lecture to a local flying club, had been invited by Auto Union to the Grand Prix as a celebrity in the paddock, and she assumed she would be greeting Auto Union's principal driver, Hans Stuck, as the winner when all was said and done.
But life had a surprise waiting for Elly when young upstart Rosemeyer beat his betters, outlasting Auto Union teammates Stuck and Achille Varzi as well as Alfa Romeo's Tazio Nuvolari, to win the race.
Auto Union's press officer saw that Beinhorn was reluctant to congratulate the rookie winner and said to her: "Please be kind - go and congratulate the young man. It is his first victory - he'll be so happy."
Elly complied, and so, at the victory ceremony - Rosemeyer's first victory in a car race, let alone a Grand Prix - 26-year-old Bernd and 28-year-old Elly first met and, after a vigorous pursuit on his part, he finally won Beinhorn over.
Inch by inch, by means of theatre dates, visits to the Berlin Zoo and the occasional spirited ride in Bernd's company car, a Horch sedan, Bernd continued to insinuate himself into Elly's busy life in the off-season, almost against her will, finally blurting out one day: "It must always be like this. And when the racing season begins, you must come with me."
Even then, Elly stubbornly resisted, though weakening to his boyish charm:
"That made me smile! 'Bernd, you innocent child, I thought to myself, 'you don't seriously imagine that I'm going to associate with your traveling circus of motor racing hooligans, do you?' Oh no, not me, not Elly Beinhorn."
But, by the time of the 1936 season, Elly had succumbed completely to Bernd's blandishments and the pair were a serious item. Rosemeyer and Auto Union were also an item and were about to have their best season, winning five Grands Prix and two mountain climbs, with Bernd taking the 1936 European Championship and humbling the better financed Mercedes-Benz and their star driver, Rudolf Caracciola.
To top off the extraordinary 1936 season, after their whirlwind courtship, the pair got married, choosing July 13 (their lucky number) as the date.
The Honour Guard they chose was a distinguished one, composed of Bernd's Auto Union mechanics and the Shell Oil Company flying mechanics that helped Elly with the logistics of her record flights.

Bernd and Elly Rosemeyer in 1936 © SV-Bilderdienst
Elly drives the Auto Union
By the time of the 1936 Italian Grand Prix at Monza on September 13, Mercedes-Benz had seen the writing on the wall - this was to be Auto Union's year - and did not even bother to put in an appearance.
With Rosemeyer guaranteed the 1936 championship and Mercedes-Benz not among the competitors, there was perhaps a kind of end-of-term atmosphere in the air at the Royal Park that surrounds Monza, and in that context, Elly got the chance to do yet another extraordinary thing: to drive the Auto Union.
Bernd had been scheming for months to give his wife a chance to drive the magnificent beast. At Monza, Auto Union had brought along an older, long-tailed version of the Grand Prix car as a training/spare car and, once practice was completed, that car could be considered surplus - or so Bernd had convinced Auto Union's team manager, Dr Feuereissen.
This is what happened next, told in a very personal way by Elly herself in My Husband, the Racing Driver:
"Bernd presented me with the challenge and at first I was not at all keen to accept it. I had always had a burning desire to drive what was by now the fastest car in the world, but not at Monza, where I was surrounded by friends and dozens of reporters and photographers.
"Before I knew it I found myself seated in the silver car with the long, long tail, equipped with Bernd's helmet and goggles and listening to his instructions.
"One of the reporters bent down towards Bernd, who was squatting by the car. 'Why are you so anxious to get rid of your wife, Rosemeyer?' The mechanics pushed me off. 'Let her go!'
"It was just like a race. I carefully dabbed at the accelerator and five hundred horsepower roared behind me. At first I was somewhat stunned and it took me a lap to begin to find my bearings. Miraculously enough, the monster could be driven slowly. Not very slowly, it's true - but slowly - and the gearbox was very easy to deal with.
"After another, even more exciting lap I was given the signal to stop from the pits, just like one of the aces, and naturally, like a well-disciplined driver, I drew up at once. 'Bernd, I'm so pleased and grateful. That was wonderful!'
"'I'm glad that you are still safe and sound,' he said. 'But you could have gone a bit faster on the straight - 200 km/h [125 mph] at least!'
"Needless to say, I have never forgotten the excitement of those two all-too-brief laps."
And make no mistake about it, the Auto Union Type C that Rosemeyer turned over to Elly was the mightiest of the Auto Unions, with its brutish-looking six-litre, 16-cylinder engine developing 520 bhp at 5000 rpm, making it quite a handful for any driver, let alone a novice like Beinhorn.

Bernd Rosemeyer drives the Auto Union C in the 1937 German Grand Prix at the Nordschleiffe © LAT
Bernd and Elly: Sidesaddle at the Nurburgring
Elly would have one more go in the Auto Union, this time as a passenger and, as it would turn out, a pregnant one at that.
Rosemeyer had lost a hard fight at AVUS against Mercedes-Benz on May 30, 1937, Elly's 30th Birthday, when a lengthy pitstop to replace his Continental tyres cost him victory in the final heat.
Earlier on he had battled his arch rival Caracciola in the Mercedes-Benz streamliner in the first heat, turning a lap of 172.75 mph and losing by only seven tenths of a second.
The next race was to be the Eifelrennan at the Nurburgring on June 13th. It was a track that no one drove better at than Rosemeyer, and he won his third successive victory at Nurburgring.
The day after the race, Bernd was asked by the Auto Union team to return to the Ring to do some filming, which gave the always-mischievous Bernd an idea, according to Elly's biography:
"He had long wanted to take me around the Ring in his racing car and here was his chance. 'This is a golden opportunity, Elly. You simply sit on the edge of my seat and I will drive very carefully, but fast enough that you may get an idea of what its like when I'm racing.'
"I was all for it, but my enthusiasm evaporated after the very first corner! At every bend I was ready to swear an oath that we would never get round and I was almost thrown out of the Auto Union by the centrifugal force.
"As I clung on for dear life my husband laughed himself silly. 'What are you complaining about? I can't drive fast at all on these running-in plugs. Dawdling along like this wouldn't get us tenth place!'
"I was by no means ashamed of my timidity. On the contrary, I was grateful for the chance to get some idea of what Bernd got up to on a circuit and it was abundantly clear to me that driving a racing car was infinitely more difficult than flying."
According to the records, Rosemeyer put in a 12-minute lap with Elly on board; his qualifying time was nine minutes and 46 seconds.
America and the Vanderbilt Cup Race
Bernd Rosemeyer was able to win four Grands Prix for Auto Union that year, but the 1937 Vanderbilt Cup race at Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island in New York was the most prominent of his wins, a kind of race of two worlds, pitting Europe's best against America's Indy 500 drivers, "My man's greatest success," is the way Elly characterised this victory.
It was a profitable weekend for the pair as Bernd's first prize was $20,000, a considerable sum of money.
What Bernd and Elly did with at least some of his winnings was revealing as to their true state of mind in the middle of 1937, after four years of Hitler's rule.
Although trotted out by the Nazis as the ultimate Aryan couple - the affable, handsome blonde Rosemeyer and his attractive and accomplished aviator wife - none of the German drivers and their wives were committed Nazis, least of all the Rosemeyers.
Interestingly, this is what they did with the 1937 Vanderbilt Cup winnings: as a hedge against future events, Bernd and Elly opened up a bank account at a New York bank and into the account went a portion of the $20,000 prize money.
Many years later, when Beinhorn became aware of a group of American women pilots who wanted to honour Amelia Earhart with a US postage stamp, Elly tracked down the New York bank account she and Bernd had established, and the proceeds were used to support a successful campaign to honour Earhart with a commemorative stamp.

The Bernd Rosemeyer memorial in 2007 © Schlegelmilch
Bernd Jr
Elly had been pregnant during this trip to America for the Vanderbilt Cup race and at Nurburgring, for her joyride in the Auto Union after the Eifelrennen. On November 12, 1937, Bernd Junior was born, with Tazio Nuvolari picked by the couple to be his Godfather.
A charming picture dated January 25, 1938, has come down to us of Bernd Sr holding 10-week-old Bernd Jr at home in Berlin-Charlotteburg, Bernd Sr looking up at a model of the Auto Union Type C on top of a cabinet that contained Bernd's trophies, the same kind of Auto Union driven by both Bernd and Elly.
Six months after the Vanderbilt Cup race in the summer of 1937 and only three days after that picture with Bernd Jr was taken, the Bernd and Elly fairytale ended abruptly on a winter's day, on a windswept autobahn that ran between Frankfurt and Darmstadt.
Elly wanted desperately to be at the record run but was giving a sold-out lecture that day in what was then Czechoslovakia, the same country where they first met at Brno less than four years earlier. The last words in her autobiography are: "I never got to Frankfurt on time."
Although Elly subsequently remarried and had other children, she never forgot her whirlwind courtship and marriage to Rosemeyer. The son Bernd and Elly had together just before the accident, Bernd Jr, is still with us and is a professor of orthopedics in Munich.
Elly, in recognition of their bittersweet life together and the couple's lucky 13, made sure throughout her life years that there were 13 roses placed upon Bernd's grave on January 28th, the anniversary of Bernd's death.
This year on January 28th, Bernd Jr will honor his mother's tradition and provide the 13 roses in honor of both of his remarkable parents, who lived and loved so well.

Author's Note: Elly Beinhorn was a fabulous writer as well as an ace flyer. She wrote 'Mein Mann, der Rennfahrer' (My Husband, the Racing Driver) in what she called "The darkest hours of my life." In 1986, Silver Arrows expert Chris Nixon worked with Elly on an English translation called 'Rosemeyer!' which has been relied upon here. :cry:










#14 wolf sun

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 18:43

Thanks for that, Rosemayer.

And what a peculiar coincidence that I obtained "Auto-Union Die großen Rennen 1934-39" and "Mein Mann, der Rennfahrer" within the last two days (and for less than 20 Euros altogether, astonishingly). The latter is in fact an old edition, and features the original appendix with Dr Feuereissen's account of Rosemeyer's last run and condolences from all the Nazi top brass, among others...

A fascinating read so far, I have to say, for a multitude of reasons - has anyone read both the original and the Nixon translation? If so, are there major differences?

#15 RStock

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 01:12

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Godspeed Bernd . You are gone but not forgotten .

#16 taylov

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 13:55

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Berlin 24.4.1937

Tony

#17 Holger Merten

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 08:33

A time, when smoking a cigarette was totally PC. :smoking: