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American races in Germany (1950s-1960s)

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#1 Rob Semmeling

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 15:47

Around the mid-1950s, American soldiers stationed in Germany founded a number of motor clubs, which began organising sports car races (mostly at military airfields), hillclimbs and rallies, as well as more leisurely events.

This is an attempt to outline the rather poorly documented American races in Germany of the 1950s and early 1960s.

First of all, there were the Eifel Motor Sport Club (EMSC), founded in Bitburg in 1953, and the Hesse Motor Sports Club (HMSC), founded in Wiesbaden in 1954. Both still exist today.

The latter club is best known for organising the Pferdsfeld airfield races:

03.04.1955 - 1st Pferdsfeld Races
18.09.1955 - 2nd Pferdsfeld Races

29.06.1958 - 1st Wiesbaden National Benefit Races (marred by a severe accident)

12.10.1958 - 3rd Pferdsfeld Races ('Columbus Day Races')
08.03.1959 - 4th Pferdsfeld Races
06.03.1960 - 5th Pferdsfeld Races
19.03.1961 - 6th Pferdsfeld Races

31.05.1959 - 1st International Pferdsfeld Races
08.05.1960 - 2nd International Pferdsfeld Races - cancelled

16.10.1960 - 2nd HMSC Races (Nürburgring Südschleife / not sure when or where the 1st edition was)

07.05.1961 - 3rd International Pferdsfeld Races
06.05.1962 - 4th International Pferdsfeld Races - cancelled

The HMSC organised at least two further meetings in the mid-1950s - the Landstuhl Air Force Base Road Races and Sembach Air Force Base Road Races - which are mentioned online twice, here and here:

If there was any doubt that the name of Sebring was being carried around the globe, evidence was presented in June, when a local boy stationed in Germany informed the Highlands County news that a 'Little Sebring' race had been staged by the Hesse Motor Sports Club in Landstuhl, Germany. The competition was run on a 3.9 mile course, which had been laid out on an unused airfield. Pvt. Alton Harnage said he also had seen newsreel footage of the Sebring races, and became homesick when he recognized Bucky Kahn cavorting around the track.

Johns compiled an enviable record of wins in European motor sports during his three-year stint there. He competed in more than 25 events and scored several important victories including first place finishes in the Eifel Motor Sports Club's annual lap times on the Nurburgring course; Landstuhl Air Force Base Road Races and the Sembach Air Force Base Road Races.

As the German media did not cover these events, nothing further is known. In later years, the HMSC ran races in Hockenheim and at Mainz-Finthen airfield.

Around the same time, the Eifel Motor Sport Club organised races at Trier-Euren airfield:

xx.xx.1956 Trier Airport Races (1)
28.04.1957 Trier Airport Races (2) ('Eifel-Race-Meeting')
27.04.1958 Trier Airport Races (3) 
10.05.1959 Trier Airport Races (4)
08.05.1960 Trier Airport Races (5) 
30.10.1960 Trier Airport Races (6) 
21.05.1961 Trier Airport Races (7) 
27.08.1961 Trier Airport Races (8) 
10.06.1962 Trier Airport Races (9) 
19.08.1962 Trier Airport Races (10) 
05.05.1963 Trier Airport Races (11) 
13.10.1963 Trier Airport Races (12) 
03.05.1963 Trier Airport Races (13) 
25.07.1965 Trier Airport Races (14) 
01.05.1966 Trier Airport Races (15) 
01.05.1967 Trier Airport Races (16) - cancelled

Aside from these races, I found three more dates for the year 1957. All three events took place, but I'm not sure who organised them:

03.03.1957 Wachenberg Hillclimb
12.05.1957 Race on the Nürburgring
22.09.1957 Hockenheim-Ring-Races (organiser: ISCC ?)

Then in 1958, the American Touring and Motorsport Association (ATMA) was founded in Frankfurt am Main, apparently as a sort-of umbrella organisation for the American clubs in Germany. ATMA announced these races for 1958 and 1959, but of most events it is not known if they took place or not:

27.04.1958 Trier Airport Races
29.06.1958 Pferdsfeld Races (moved to Wiesbaden-Erbenheim airfield)
20.07.1958 Zweibrücken Airfield Races
31.08.1958 München-Schleißheim Airfield Races
05.10.1958 Wachenburg Hillclimb (sic)
12.10.1958 Nürburgring Races
26.10.1958 Kaiserslautern Hillclimb
16.11.1958 Bitburg Hillclimb

01.03.1959 Wolfsfeld Hillclimb (near Bitburg)
08.03.1959 Pferdsfeld National Races
19.04.1959 Taunus Hillclimb
10.05.1959 Trier Airport Races
31.05.1959 Pferdsfeld International Races
28.06.1959 Sembach Races (or 16.08.1959 / tentative)
12.07.1959 Leipheim Races
06.09.1959 Pirmarens Hillclimb
04.10.1959 Wachenburg Hillclimb (sic)
25.10.1959 Wolfsfeld Hillclimb (near Bitburg)

One additional meeting not listed is known to have been held:

06.09.1959 Nürburgring Races (Betonschleife) (Link)

There was also an ATMA championship at least in 1960.

Anyone know more ?


#2 Michael Ferner

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 18:40

The EMSC is, today, a German club, and has been all the time I can personally recall. I suppose it's possible that it was originally founded by Americans, although that'd be news to me. Many, many years ago (about twenty-five!) I tried to research the Trierer Flugplatz Rennen, but didn't get very far. I looked into microfilms of the local newspaper, and asked the then president of the EMSC about their archives. Net result: almost zero! The newspaper did its best to ignore the event, and the EMSC president was clueless about any archives of the club, so I quickly forgot the entire episode. The EMSC still organises the Wolsfelder Bergrennen once a year, and I wouldn't think much (if anything) else.

I also recall a report in a fifties (sixties?) Auto, Motor und Sport about Americans racing in Germany, including I'm pretty sure the Pferdsfeld races. It was quite a good article, running to two or three pages with a number of photographs. Alas, I cannot really recall which issue, and I rather don't feel like going through my collection to find it (sorry!). In any case, it was the sort of "we had no idea" article, highlighting the curious nature of the event, and almost certainly a one-off. Throughout the postwar history in this part of Germany, Americans have lived here, but at the same time in another world. I wouldn't say they do not mingle at all, but they pretty much keep to themselves, and sort of hide from us. I know that, still in the eighties, Americans provided 50 % of the population in Bitburg, and also lived in most of the many small villages around here. Yet, you wouldn't have known from roaming the streets; they were (and still are) almost invisible.

#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 19:10

My guess would be that the only publication which might have reported these would be Stars & Stripes. A basic search for "Hesse Motor Sport Club" between 1950 and 1970 returns 390 results, although "Eifel Motor Sport Club" has only 16 hits. "American Touring and Motorsport Association" returns 17.


Seems very reasonably priced at $4.95 for a day pass or $7.95 for a month!

#4 Rob Semmeling

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 09:30

"Auto Motor und Sport" and other German magazines did cover some of these events, and "AMS" also published an article about ATMA (issue 7/1958 - thanks Lutz!). But most of these races fell under the radar because German involvement, especially in the early races, was relatively limited.

The main thing I would like to know is which races of those announced for 1958 and 1959 took place. A primary source for the as-yet undated Landstuhl and Sembach races would also be nice.

"Stars & Stripes" looks fairly promising, but I don't have a credit card... ):

#5 hlfuzzball

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 00:47

Quote: 06.09.1959 Pirmarens Hillclimb

That should read : PirmaSENS

I was stationed there and attended the hillclimb as a spectatorin 1960.

I should have some snapshots or 35mm slides of that event. I'll dig for them, but it will take some time.

I do remember Gerhard Mitter in a Lotus Formuls Jr., and I seem to remember Hans Stuck, the Gran Prix driver, also driving there in a BMW 700 !

I Found results for the Formula Jr. class in 1960 on the Net:


Pirmasenser Bergprüfung 1960
Deutsche Meisterschaft, Rd 9
Pirmasens, West Germany

August 21 2 x 3300 m = 6600 m Pole Position: --- Fastest Lap: ---

Pos Cla. # Driver, Nationality Entrant Car - Engine/Tuner Time, Laps Reason Out
1 1 Gerhard Mitter, D Autohaus Mitter Lotus 18 - DKW/Mitter
2 2 Herbert Ott, D Herbert Ott Ott-Eigenbau - DKW
3 3 Günther Wels, D Günther Wels PBA - DKW

And This:


Born for motorsport: the BMW 700 Coupé.
The sporting qualities of the BMW 700 Coupé came out quite clearly from the start, shortly after the beginning of production in July 1959: The first Coupés were to be admired on the track before the end of the year, for example in the Sahara-Lappland Rally. In 1960 BMW's fast Coupés brought home both gold medals and titles, Hans Stuck clinching the German Hill-Climbing Championship once again at the wheel of a BMW 700 at the age of 60.

#6 Ralliart

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 07:18

Pferd is German for horse so - horse field - strange name for an airfield.