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British Industrial History

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B. Rosemeyer

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December 1937.
November 1937. B. Rosemeyer on a standing mile run.

Bernd Rosemeyer (October 14, 1909 in Lingen, Lower Saxony, Germany – January 28, 1938 on the Frankfurt/Darmstadt Autobahn) was a German racing driver.

His father owned a garage and repair shop where young Bernd Rosemeyer worked on motorcycles and cars. Having started by racing motorbikes, Rosemeyer became a member of the Auto-Union racing team with hardly any experience in normal race cars. This was later considered a benefit as he was not yet used to the handling of traditional layout race cars. The mid-engined Silver Arrows of Auto Union were hard to drive, and only he and Italian Legend Tazio Nuvolari truly mastered these 500 bhp (370 kW) beasts.

In only his second ever Grand Prix, at the daunting Nürburgring, Rosemeyer took the lead from the great Rudolf Caracciola and was almost in sight of the finish line when he missed a gear and was over taken. However in subsequent years he made up for this mistake by winning three consecutive races at the Nurburgring, one famously in thick fog. Later in 1935 he won his first Grand Prix at the Brno Masaryk Circuit in Czechoslovakia.

Whilst on the podium he was introduced to the famous aviatrix Elly Beinhorn. Their celebrity relationship was too good an opportunity to miss for the Nazi Party and Heinrich Himmler chose to make him a member of the SS, an 'honour' he would have been unwise to refuse. All German drivers were required to join the National Socialist Motor Corps, but Rosemeyer allegedly got away with never wearing a uniform.

Several sensational Grand Prix motor racing victories in 1936 and 1937 (also in the Vanderbilt Cup in the USA) made him popular not only in Germany. He won the European driving championship in 1936.

His marriage to young flying ace Elly Beinhorn added even more celebrity hype. It also made it possible for him to learn to fly a private plane, something which many race pilots of later generations would do also. Before a testing session, he once used a now defunct airfield next to the Flugplatz section of the Nürburgring as a landing strip, and rolled his plane to the pits via the race track - in opposite direction.

His son Bernd Jr was born in November 1937, but only ten weeks after his son's birth Rosemeyer was killed during a world speed record attempt.

Rosemeyer considered 13 to be his lucky number. He was married on July 13 1936. 13 days later he won the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. His last Nürburgring victory came on the 13th June 1937. His last race victory came at his 13th start of the 1937 season at Donington Park.[1]

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