TeamsRennkollektiv EMW: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Heinrich Ehrhardt would establish Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach all the way back in the 19th century. Soon the Ehrhardt name would become as prominent as some of the others in Europe. This empire of a company would go on to build armament factories, automobile manufacturing plants and other military production facilities. It would be fitting, then, that this same company would become one of the greatest weapons East Germany would wield during the very heated days of the Cold War.
Ehrhardt began producing automobiles as early as 1899 under license from the French manufacturer Decauville. This would end up proving to be a great failure, but it would not deter Ehrhardt. Later known as Dixi, the company would end up producing cars and other vehicles in the First World War.
Just prior to the 1930s, the Eisenach company would come to be sold to BMW who would turn around and start producing its soon to be famous 3xx series at the plant. This would be a very important decision that would have major implications and impact in what would become East Germany after the end of the Second World War.
Though originally held by American soldiers in the immediate days after the end of the Second World War in Europe, the factory would be handed over to the Russian forces and almost immediately would receive the new name of SAG Awtowelo.
The manufacturing plant had been saved from major destruction. Therefore, in the later part of the 1940s, the plant would again start producing BMW 3xx series designs under its own name. With the tensions growing between East and West Germany, there would arise an issue of the use of the BMW name. East Germany would lose the battle and would switch its name from BMW to EMW (Eisenacher Motoren Werke).
At a time when national politics and the image of the socialist state was of greatest importance, having a figure, or means, to be used for propaganda reasons was greatly coveted. Therefore, East Germany would establish an official race team. With the labor force categorized, the name for this team would be rather easy. It would become called Rennkollektiv ('racing collective') Johannisthal. Very simply, the name meant that a collective of labor focused on 'racing' would be in charge of designing and building competitive racing cars.
While the team was meant to foster great national pride, it would be the privateer Paul Greifzu that would prove to be East Germany's greatest threat to the international and West German competition. East German officials would take full advantage of this situation and would use both as weapons against its West German opponents. Throughout the early 1950s, the racing between the two German nations would be very close. Celebrations would break out across the nation, however, when Greifzu would manage to take his car and beat the West Germans at Avus, their own circuit.
Then, in 1952, with the switch from Formula One to Formula 2 regulations for the World Championship, an even larger wave of international competition began to start washing up at German races. Dominated by the stronger western cars, and with the death of Paul Greifzu, the East German nation was seemingly without a motor racing champion. However, this time of national uncertainty would be merely the perfect opportunity for Edgar Barth to step into the national limelight.
Born in 1917, Barth would begin racing motorcycles in the 1930s. Barth would return to motorcycles at the end of the Second World War but would soon be noticed by from Rennkollektiv. As a result, Barth would make sporadic appearances in Formula 2 races from 1951 onwards.
Though Greifzu may have been the nation's champion, Barth would deservedly step into that role after his performance in 1952 that would see him take a number of wins in the East German Formula 2 Championship. With only one retirement in any of the rounds, Barth would go on to take the championship convincingly. East Germany had a new champion.
Heading into the 1953 season, Rennkollektiv would be incorporated with EMW. The race team would then move to Eisenach. While at Eisenach, the cars would be nearly redesigned nose-to-tail by the team's engineer Walter Gerstenberg. Barth would be given the team's grand prix car. However, the team's 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter machines would be left open, and therefore, determined on a race-by-race basis.
The team's first race of the season would come on the 3rd of May in what was known at that time as Karl-Marx-Stadt. The team had come to the city to take part in the 1st Strassen-Rennen Karl-Mrx-Stadt. The race was a 16 lap event around the 3.1 mile autobahn circuit situated to the northwest of the city.
Renamed Chemnitz after the reunification, Karl-Marx-Stadt was certainly a city full of beauty. With the Ore Mountains to the south, along with Czechoslovakia, the city would initially be a site for a Benedictine monastery. Then during World War II, the city would be a site for many factories with forced labor. It would also be right in the thick of the Operation Tunderclap Oil Campaign during World War II.
A thunder of a different kind would fill the area on the 3rd of May. The best grand prix cars, drivers and teams, mostly from East Germany, would line up to take part in the 16 lap race around the autobahn circuit.
Karl-Marx-Stadt was certainly a place Barth was familiar. He would be born just to the south of the city in 1917. This time, Edgar Barth would come to the city with a redesigned EMW 52/53 and would look great. He would go out and would take the pole for the event and would even dominate much of the proceedings.
Helmut Zimmer would not manage to make the start of the race. But he wouldn't be the only one that wouldn't make the entire race distance. Willi Heeks, the only West German in the field, would end up retiring early with clutch failure. This would leave the first round of the East German Formula 2 Championship strictly a battle between East Germans.
It seemed the battle was over from the very start as Barth continued on in the lead and with a sizeable advantage over the rest of the field. However, it was not to be. Magneto trouble after 10 laps would bring Barth's charge to an end. It would then throw the race wide open.
Rudolf Krause would take advantage of the situation and would come through to take the victory after setting the fastest lap of the race. Krause would end up beating Karl Weber and Haeinz Melkus to take the first round of the championship for 1953.
After a very promising start, the race would not reward Barth for all the effort. He would hope things would go better at the team's next race. He would certainly need everything to go right considering where and who he would be going up against.
In late May, the team would make its first trip into West Germany. The team's destination would be a small village in the Eifel Mountains that had a truly international reputation. They were on their way to the infamous Nurburgring to take part in the 17th Internationales ADAC Eifelrennen on the 31st of May.
For many, the Nurburgring's Nordschleife was nothing more than 14 miles of pure hell. For others, it was nothing more than 14 miles of some of the purest purpose-built road course in all the world. However, in every way, the circuit was a mixture of both. Rising and falling with the terrain, the circuit was a true road course that rewarded with some truly excellent and courageous corners. At the same time, lying just beyond the edge of those majestic corners and undulating terrain was a danger just waiting to pounce on any lapse of concentration or mistakes.
The Eifelrennen would present Barth with his first opportunity of the season to compete against competition from outside of Germany. This fact would be obvious looking at the front row for the 7 lap race. Kurt Adolff would have the pole. And while Adolff was German, he had earned the pole driving an Italian-made Ferrari 500. The Belgian, Paul Frere, would start 2nd in a British HWM-Alta. Hans Klenk would be the highest-starting all German entry as he would start on the front row in 3rd. Stirling Moss would round-out the front row starting in 4th place. The patriotic Brit would be at the wheel of Cooper Car Company's Cooper-Alta Special.
Barth would look impressive in practice. He would take the redesigned car and would put together impressive enough times to start the race from the 5th position on the grid. This meant he would start the race from the first position on the second row.
Rain would fall on the circuit before the start of the race. This would cause expectations to be thrown right out the window. Sure enough, at the start of the race, Emmanuel de Graffenried would make an incredible leap up from the third row of the grid. He would be right behind Adolff threatening to take the lead of the race. Peter Collins would also make a great start. He would get by Barth and would be right there behind his teammate Frere as they chased de Graffenried and Adolff.
Adolff couldn't hold back either de Graffenried or Frere. He also wouldn't be able to keep Collins at bay either. The three would head off to the head of the field and would disappear into their own battle.
Barth had started the race 5th and remained right there as Klenk retired with engine and axle problems. Although work had been done to address road-going ability and stability, Barth struggled in the conditions and would battle with Stirling Moss, who was struggling himself in the Cooper-Alta Special.
Being from Belgium, Frere had grown accustomed to the weather around the Hurtgen and Ardennes Forests. As a result, he would be all over de Graffenried despite the fact Emmanuel was in a faster car.
Out of the twenty that started the race, there would only be seven cars that would retire before reaching the end. Despite the pressure from Frere, de Graffenried would prove equal to the task and would power his way to victory completing the race distance nearly two seconds ahead of Frere. Collins would end up running pretty much by himself as the race wore on. He would come across the line fifteen seconds behind Frere in 3rd place.
Barth would be left behind in the conditions. While de Graffenried, Frere and Collins all managed to blow by Adolff in the Ferrari, Barth would struggle just to maintain his position. With Moss fifteen seconds behind, Barth would come across to finish the race in 5th place. However, he would end up over four minutes behind de Graffenried and Frere.
Although Barth would struggle in the conditions and against the western competition, Barth would still prove to be one of the strongest German competitors in the field. He would earn a 2nd place result behind Adolff driving an inferior car. This was a good sign as the team headed back across the border and on to the second round of the East German Championship.
Just one week would pass between races for Rennkollektiv. Therefore, the team would gather up all of its things and would head back east into East Germany. The team's ultimate destination would be about five hours to the northeast of Nurburg. The team would be on its way to one of the darkest places in all of East Germany. The team was on its way to Dessau, East Germany in order to take part in the 1st Paul Greifzu Gedachtnisrennen on the 7th of June.
Prior to May of 1952, Dessau had been best known amongst Germans as the home to Junkers aircraft manufacturing company. However, after Paul Greifzu's unfortunate and tragic death along the autobahn section of the 3.90 mile circuit, Dessau would become a memorial for East Germany' great racer. Many buildings and structures throughout Dessau would come to bear Greifzu's name. But as the East German Formula 2 Championship arrived for what was round 2 of the series, the East Germans had a new champion to cheer.
The Dessau circuit would follow a similar pattern found in almost every other East German road circuit. Like England with its many airbases coming to be motor racing venues, East Germany would become recognized for its numerous autobahn circuits. Dessau would be no different.
Found to the south of the city, the circuit would utilize the autobahn for about half of its total distance. The circuit would feature an out and back run down the autobahn plus another fast portion of circuit with a tight hairpin turn that would disappear into the Mosigkauer-Heide, the heavily-wooded forest covering a large portion of the area.
Rennkollektiv would enter two cars for the 16 lap race. Barth would obviously be behind the wheel of one of the team's cars. Werner Jager would then have the honor of starting in the second car.
While the race may have been so named to honor the memory of Paul Greifzu, the East Germans would go home talking about Barth.
Fourteen cars would roar away to start the race. Of the fourteen cars that would leave the grid to start the race, four would be visiting West German entries including Hans Stuck, Willi Heeks, Theo Helfrich and Willi Sturzebecher.
Stuck would be strong in his AFM 50. However, Barth would end up proving to be stronger. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race and would put the pressure on the rest of the field to try and keep up.
The pace would end up being too much for a number of cars in the field. In fact, before the race would come to an end, there would be only five cars that would be known to be left still running.
Nobody would touch East Germany's new champion. Barth would take the fastest lap and would make his way to his first victory of the season and first in the East German Formula 2 Championship. Barth would go on to complete the distance and take the victory ahead of Stuck and Rudolf Krause. In 5th place would be Bobby Kohlrausch. Kohlrausch would be important to the proceedings merely due to the fact that he had been driving Greifzu's car; the one in which Paul had earned a great deal of his success, and had lost his life in at Dessau the year before.
Barth's season had finally got on track. After the retirement in the first round, he needed to come back strong. He would do that, but he would still have a long way to go. The team, however, would not have all that far to go to take part in its next race.
While geographically Dessau would be close to Rennkollektiv EMW's next race, chronologically, there would be a long distance between the two. It would be nearly a month before the team would take part in another race. Then, in early July, the team would travel just about a half an hour or forty-five minutes south of Dessau to arrive in Halle for the 4th Strassen-Rennen Halle-Saale-Schleife.
An ecclesiastically important city, Halle would take on an importance of a slightly different kind under East German rule. While an important center for Martin Luther's Reformation, after World War II, the city would become the capital of the 'Bezirk', or, administrative district of Halle only.
While it played something of a diminished role under East German rule, it would be practically impossible to diminish Halle's history that finds its origins all the way back prior to 950 AD. Portions of the city could find its beginnings in the 11th century, if not earlier. The city's early wealth would result from White Gold, or, salt. Its later wealth would come from its residents. George Muller, Johann Friedrich Reichardt, Georg Friedrich Handel and many others would all hail from the beautiful city.
As the Rennkollektiv EMW team arrived for the race on the 5th of July, it would be Barth's intention to dominate Halle and make it his springboard toward the East German Formula 2 Championship.
In practice, Barth would lay hold of the 3.25 mile circuit and make it is own. He would go on to navigate the circuit with an average speed greater than 73 mph and claim the pole for 20 lap race.
The team would bring two cars to the event just as it the previous. However, the team would have a different driver behind the wheel. Paul Thiel would attempt to pair up with Barth and rule over the rest of the field.
Eleven cars would line up to start the race. Barth would end up preparing to battle it out with many of the same competitors he had faced at Dessau nearly a month earlier. Hans Stuck and Theo Helfrich would be some of the West Germans in the field that Barth had run up against at Dessau. And of course, there would be the familiar East German entries trying to unseat Barth and his position at the top.
The field would set off on the first of 20 laps. Barth would lead the way with Stuck and Krause right there with him. Krause would pose a strong challenge to Barth in the race. Not only had Krause taken the victory in Karl-Marx-Stadt while Barth retired, but Krause was now behind the wheel of Greifzu's competitive self-built car.
As the field began to rattle-off the laps, their numbers began to dwindle. Oswald Karch and Theo Helfrich would be among those that would end up facing an early retirement. Rennkollektiv's second car, that driven Paul Thiel remained in the race, however, and was locked in a duel with Ernst Klodwig.
Although Krause was in the Greifzu Special, he would be unable to use it to his advantage and reel in Barth. Though Krause would set the fastest lap of the race, Barth would pull away in the lead. He would leave Stuck and Krause to duke it out for the runner-up position in the race.
It would take Barth fifty-one minutes and twenty-eight seconds and he would come across the line to take yet another victory, his second in a row. He would then turn his attention to the fight for 2nd.
Almost throughout the entirety of the 20 lap race, Hans Stuck and Rudolf Krause would be within a couple of seconds of each other. Coming to the finish line, Stuck, stuck in there in 2nd place and would come away with nearly a three second margin over Krause. As with Dessau, the final order would be Barth, Stuck and Krause.
Paul Thiel would also have a good race in the second EMW 52/53. Though he would not be able to reel in either Stuck or Krause, he would manage to stay ahead of Ernst Klodwig to finish in 4th.
Barth had turned his first round failure into two-straight victories. His season had truly begun to come together. Because of the success many in East Germany would believe a repeat of the 1951 Avusrennen was in the making. The truth would come to reveal itself in just one week's time.
After scoring what had been the team's second-straight victory at Halle, the team would pack everything up and would head about two hours to the northeast to the western sector of Berlin. Their destination was the famous Avus Circuit running between Charlottenburg and Nikolasse. The team was on its way to Avus to take part in the 9th Internationales Avusrennen on the 12th of July.
While the Avus circuit ran along a major road between Charlottenburg and Nikolasse, the circuit actually didn't start out its life as an autobahn circuit. At the turn of the 20th century, the west of Berlin was mostly all Grunewald forest. However, the Automobilclub von Deutschland would come up with a plan for what could be used for both a motor racing venue and a test track. The circuit's design would be very simple and straightforward. Combining nothing more than two extremely long straights with two tear-drop-shaped corners at each end made it very clear as to its purpose. After delay after delay, the circuit would be finally finished in 1921. Essentially two long straights, the Avus circuit would boast of some incredibly high average speeds and would encourage a number of land speed records. The death of Bernd Rosemeyer in a record attempt in 1937 would cause the circuit's length to be shortened from 12 miles to 5.15 miles. This same length of circuit would still be used when Barth and the Rennkollektiv team arrived to take part in the Avusrennen.
Because of the high average speeds and the prestige of the circuit, the Avusrennen would draw a number of foreign entries, as well as, local East and West Germans. While Jacques Swaters was not present for the Eifelrennen at the end of May, he would join Prince Bira who had been. These two would be just a couple of the foreign entries in the field. And it would be the foreign entries that would dominate the front row for the 25 lap race.
Swaters would take the power of his Ferrari 500 and would drive his way to the pole. He would be joined on the front row by a couple of men from the British Isles. Alan Brown would occupy the 2nd spot on the grid driving a Cooper-Bristol T23. Rodney Nuckey would complete the front row also driving a Cooper-Bristol T23. Barth would also have a different teammate for the Avusrennen. The team would hand the EMW 52/53 over Arthur Rosenhammer. In all, twenty-six would start the race.
The large field of cars would power its way on its first trip down the long straight toward the tight hairpin turn at the south end. The power of the Ferrari 500 engine would have Swaters up at the front. Right there with him would be Adolff in another Ferrari 500 and Alan Brown. Prince Bira would also be on the move in the Maserati A6GCM. Barth would also be fighting for position in a streamlined version of the EMW.
Swaters held onto the lead while trouble started to make its way through the field. Kurt Adolff and Alan Brown would suffer accidents and would be out of the race after just one lap. More trouble was to follow. Prince Bira, and four others, would all make early exits.
With average speeds pushing 120 mph around the 5.15 mile circuit, cars would be thoroughly stretched to, and at times, beyond their limits. Barth would push his streamlined car to the edge, but it would prove to be too far. After just five laps, the clutch would go out on Barth's car and he would be out of the race .
There were still 20 laps remaining and Swaters still had the lead, and in fact, was building on his already sizable margin. The only other consistency in the race would be the presence of attrition, but at least it would not sweep through the remainder of the field with the same kind of ruthlessness with which it had through the first few laps. Such was the rate of attrition that before the end of the race there would only be nine of the twenty-six that had started the race still actually running. Among the others that would fall out of the race before the end would be Rosenhammer in the second Rennkollektiv entry. His race would come to an end with a failed differential.
Swaters was absolutely dominant at the head of the field, but he would not be the fastest. During the earlier stages of the race, Theo Helfrich would become embroiled in a battle with Hans Stuck. This fight would cause the pace of the two to increase, but not enough to haul in Swaters who was running some consistently fast laps. The battle would, however, afford for some fast individual laps. And as Helfrich fought hard to move up the order he would go on to set the fastest lap of the race with an average speed of nearly 122 mph.
Swaters would be truly unbothered by the pace of the cars behind him. This would be because in the last couple of laps of the race, he would actually have the 2nd and 3rd place cars just up the road ahead of him. Swaters knew he had the race in hand and would actually back off over the remaining couple of laps. This would be a good thing or else Theo Helfrich and Hans Stuck would have come under threat of going a lap down.
Just about the time Helfrich crossed the line to head around on his final lap of the race, Swaters was coming around and off the dangerous steep banking of the Nordkurve to come across the line and take the victory. Had he pushed during the last couple of laps, it would have been likely that Swaters would have lapped the field. Instead, Swaters would have to wait more than two minutes and forty seconds before Hans Stuck would come around and cross the line to finish in 2nd. It would be another thirteen seconds before Helfrich would come around and complete the race in 3rd.
The race had been truly disappointing for the team. Both cars had been running 4th and 5th before troubles visited them. In Barth's case, besides his retirement in the first round of the East German Formula 2 Championship, Barth's East German rounds had proven to be quite fruitful. The West German races were truly something else all-together. The sad fact had been the East German attack at Avus had come to naught. Barth had scored a much better result with his 5th place in the rain at the Eifelrennen. Still, it was obvious the East German cars were of little match to either the western European or the West German teams as well. This did not bode well with perhaps the biggest West German race still to come on the calendar.
Before that last round of the Formula 2 races in West Germany, the Rennkollektiv-EMW team would head out of the western section of Berlin and back into East German territory. Two weeks after the Avusrennen, the team would be in Dresden for the fourth round of the East German Formula 2 Championship. The race would be the 2nd Autobahnspinne Dresden. And where Barth had become a favorite to retire early in West German races, he would find himself a favorite to win in the next round of the East German Championship.
On the 26th of July, teams were making final preparations to their cars for the Autobahnspinne Dresden, a 15 lap race of the 3.99 mile autobahn circuit situated well north of the war-torn and battered city.
Once a capital and royal residence for the Kings of Saxony, Dresden would be laid waste after Allied aerial bombardment during World War II. The site of a number of wars and battles including the Seven Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars and the famous May Uprising during the German Revolution, Dresden's history would also include such technical and cultural innovations as being a center for automobile production, classical music and for modern art until the start of World War II. After the war, East German and Soviet authorities would make a large effort to save many of the historic buildings, but many of the other ruins of churches and other royal buildings would be totally raised to the ground.
By 1953, East Germany was very much interested in using motor racing as a means to demonstrate the greatness of the socialist state. Dresden would be a perfect site in which to combine the traditional classical styles with the modern technology of the future. Taking place along 3.99 miles of autobahn north of the city near the airport, the race would attract a large crowd assembled to watch its new champion Edgar Barth.
While it is unknown as to who all of the entrants for the 15 had been, there would be nine starters for the race. Rennkollektiv EMW is listed as having three entries for the race. Edgar Barth would be at the wheel of the EMW 52/53. Paul Thiel and Werner Jager were both listed as drivers of the team's other entries, but it is unclear as to whether or not they actually took part in the race.
It would be clear that Barth had as he would take his car and would go on to score the pole for the 15 lap race. This race would certainly be important for Barth and the team. Coming into the race, the team had enjoyed two-straight victories. However, Rudolf Krause had earned the victory in the first round and had followed it up with two-straight 2nd place finishes. Therefore, Krause was still very much a threat in the championship. Barth would need to take advantage of the opportunity and earn yet another great result. In addition, the team would hope that trouble would befall Krause. Their prayers would be answered.
Barth would go on to take the pole for the race but he would have his biggest threat starting right next to him on the grid. Sitting behind the wheel of Paul Greifzu's powerful Eigenbau, Rudolf Krause would line up n 2nd place on the starting grid. Kurt Straubel would complete the front row with his own Eigenbau.
With Barth out front of the field, trouble would begin to take its toll on the rest of the field. Just a couple of laps into the race, Heinz Melkus would drop out of the race in his ARO-Veritas. On that very same lap, the complexion of the championship would change dramatically. Driving the Greifzu-BMW, Krause would run into trouble with the car and would be forced to retire very early on.
Whether Barth knew of the news or not is not well known, but it wouldn't matter, not one bit. Barth would be at the front of the field. He would be chased by Theo Helfrich, Ernst Klodwig, Kurt Straubel and others, but they wouldn't stand a chance against the sheer pace Barth exhibited. He had already broken Greifzu's lap record during practice and continued to press on hard during the race. Not only would the pace help him, but as the race wore on, so too would attrition. Helfrich and Klodwig would fall out of the running later on in the event and would leave just Kurt Straubel and Barth still running in the race.
Anchored by a fastest lap time of three minutes and seven seconds, Barth would cruise to his third-straight victory. Straubel would end up holding it all together to make it to the end in 2nd place.
The victory, and the subsequent retirement by Krause, would change the championship just like that. Barth now had a clear advantage in the points with just one round remaining in the championship. Unfortunately for Barth, the final round would not be the next race on the team's calendar. Instead, it would be another race on West German soil. Most unfortunate would be the fact that this race would be one of the more important races on the calendar.
Just one week separated races for Barth and Rennkollektiv. Almost immediately after the victory in Dresden the team would pack everything up and would head about five and a half hours directly west to Nurburg in West Germany. They were on their way to take part in the German Grand Prix, the seventh round of the World Championship, and it would take place on the 2nd of August.
Actually, the race would be the 16th German Grand Prix and it would take place around one of the most demanding and notorious circuits in all the world. Aptly named, the Nurburgring created perhaps the most hellish ring of road circuit around any village known to man. Rising and falling with the Eifel mountains, the Nurburgring's Nordschleife boasted of nearly a thousand feet of elevation changes. Measuring over 14 miles in length, the circuit would be comprised of more than 170 corners, many of which would be blind, and some very courageous sections of circuit that would be either left with no run-off or just hedges through which drivers and cars would plow. Though purpose-built, the Nurburgring was certainly a pure road course that was both a pleasure and a beast of which to partake.
Since its admission into the World Championship as the German Grand Prix, the event had come to be dominated by one man, Alberto Ascari. After taking victory in 1951 for Ferrari, Ascari would follow the victory up with a come-from-behind victory over Giuseppe Farina. The victory would prove to be special in more than one way. Not only had it been one of the most impressive performances of the season but it would also net Ascari his, and Ferrari's, first World Championship.
Not much had changed coming into the seventh round of the World Championship for 1953. After dominating in the British Grand Prix a couple of weeks prior, Ascari arrived at the Nurburgring on the verge of clinching his, and the series', first back-to-back World Championship. This battle for the World Championship, however, would not be the major concern for either the East or West Germans entered in the race.
The gap in technology between the western grand prix cars and the self-built Eigenbaus had grown to such an extent that hardly any of the Germans in the field would be considered threats for a top five result. Therefore, the battle Barth and other Germans concerned themselves with would be the battle between the two German nations.
The performance gap would become almost embarrassing obvious during practice for the 18 lap, 255 mile, race. Alberto Ascari would take the pole for the race with an incredible time of nine minutes, fifty-nine and eight-tenths seconds. Though just two-tenths faster, Ascari still managed to break the ten minute mark with a Formula 2 car, a time thought nearly impossible to beat. The rest of the front row would include Juan Manuel Fangio starting 2nd in a Maserati A6SSG. Giuseppe Farina and Mike Hawthorn would start 3rd and 4th respectively. This meant Scuderia Ferrari occupied three out of four positions on the front row.
The existence of Rennkollektive-EMW at the race meant it would be the first time a socialist 'factory' team would make an appearance in the World Championship. However, that would be the only bright spot for the team as the difference in performance was staggering. While Ascari managed to clock a time under ten minutes, Edgar Barth would be closer to twelve minutes with his best time around the circuit. Barth would turn a best lap time of eleven minutes and forty seconds and would start the race from the 24th position, which was the seventh row of the grid.
Unlike the Eifelrennen, the weather for the German Grand Prix would be very beautiful, ideal for 255 miles of racing. With throngs of thousands of spectators looking on, the field would roar away on the first lap of the race. Thirty-four cars would rev their engines and do their best to enter the fray. Two cars wouldn't make it too far. Ernst Loof wouldn't get very far as his fuel pump drive would fail. Hans Stuck would get stuck and would not be able to complete a single lap before he would be forced to retire.
Fangio would lead the field through the first few corners and miles of the race. However, Ascari would take over the lead and would begin to stretch out an advantage almost immediately. Fangio would also get swallowed up by Farina and Hawthorn and the three would do their best to try and stay with Ascari.
In the best of the rest category, Barth would lead that portion of the field for a little while. He would have Prince Bira, Kurt Adolff, Hans Stuck and others trapped behind him throughout the first portion of the first lap. Back at the end of May, Barth had managed to put up a fight to finish the race 5th. However, in the German Grand Prix, Barth would be trying to hold back an avalanche. Barth would cross the line 20th after the first lap but would start to slip down the order.
While the talent of the competition certainly posed a great threat to Barth's, and the team's, intentions for a good result, it would be the race distance that would be perhaps the greatest competition. At over two and a half times the distance of the Eifelrennen, the German entries in the race would certainly be worked over hard, and it would be of little surprise that attrition would be rather heavy.
Eight cars would be out before reaching lap five Thirteen cars would be out by the tenth. Surprisingly, a good number of those that would be out of the race before 10 laps would be foreign entries in the field. Barth, however, would not be one of those. He would continue on circulating the track, but obviously off the pace of the front-runners.
Even the front-runners would have to be mindful of the race distance and the circuit upon which the race was being held. Ascari had the lead of the race and was enjoying a margin of around forty-five seconds over the 2nd place group that included Hawthorn, Farina and Fangio. All of a sudden, a wheel would break off of the Ferrari slowing Ascari to a crawl almost immediately. Though he would save the car and make it back to the pits, Ascari would lose a lot of time and the lead of the race.
As Hawthorn and Farina battled it out for the lead of the race, Ascari would be busy waiting for repairs to be made. Ferrari's fourth team member, Luigi Villoresi would come into the pits and would hand his car over to Ascari for the rest of the race. Armed with new life, Ascari would power his way back onto the circuit and up to speed.
Ascari would get back up to speed and would put together one of the most impressive performances ever seen. Soon Ascari was lapping the circuit at or near his qualifying pace. Then, on the 12th lap he would set an incredible time of nine minutes and fifty-six seconds! This would be nearly four seconds faster than his own qualifying effort and would easily blow the ten minute barrier away.
At the same time Ascari was putting together one of the most awe-inspiring displays behind the wheel of a racing car around the Nurburgring, Barth's race was coming apart. The EMW's engine was well-worn by this point in the race and piston problems would finally force him to retire after what had been a strong effort, but nonetheless came up short.
Ascari would even end up coming up short in the long run. In spite of his incredible performance, the engine on the Ferrari would prove to be incapable of lasting as long as Ascari and would retire just three laps away from the end.
About the time Ascari was preparing to reenter the race, Farina had been in the lead and continued to do so throughout the last half of the race. Unlike the season before when Ascari surprised him to take the victory, Farina would keep his head down and Fangio behind him. In three hours, two minutes and twenty-five seconds, Farina would cross the line to take his first victory of the season. His victory would also help to keep Ferrari's incredible string of victories intact. Juan Manuel Fangio would some across the line a minute and four seconds behind in 2nd place. Another thirty seconds would pass before Mike Hawthorn would come across the line to make it a Ferrari 1st and 3rd.
The German Grand Prix was certainly going to be a tall order for just about any German car in the field, let alone any from East Germany. After the disappointing performance in the race, the team would again head back to East Germany toward a championship awaiting them.
It was obvious the East German cars could not compete with the latest from Western Europe. However, that did not mean there still wasn't good racing at the East German rounds of their Formula 2 championship. And although there was just one round remaining in the championship, and it was quite clear Barth would go on to repeat as champion, there was still the promise of good racing at the final round of the championship, the Sachsenringrennen.
The final round of the East German Formula 2 Championship would take place on the 6th of September at the Sachsenring. This would be a 12 lap race of the 5.41 mile circuit situated near the Hohenstein-Ernstthal, which was only about one trip around the Nurburgring away from the Karl-Marx-Stadt Circuit.
One of the few pure road courses in East Germany, the Sachsenring boasted many similarities to the Nurburgring, just in miniature form. The circuit featured some beautiful elevation changes which made for some truly brave corners and segments of circuit. The circuit started with a gradual climb, and then, featured a last half full of sweeping bends on a steep downhill run toward the start/finish line.
Rennkollektiv-EMW would bring two cars to the race. Besides Barth at the wheel of an EMW 52/53, another EMW 52/53 would be prepared for Werner Jager. Jager had driven for the team Dessau but had failed to finish the race. Therefore, he would look to end one of the last races of the season on a very good note.
Coming into the final round of the championship just four points separated Barth and Krause. There was still certainly a chance for Krause to leap over Barth and take the championship. Nerves would be on edge and mistakes would be easy to make. This would almost come true as the field lined up preparing to start the 12 lap race.
Barth would actually jump the start of the race and would be forced to back off unless he wanted to be handed a penalty by the officials. As a result of backing off the gas, Rudolf Krause and Hans Stuck would both get by and to the head of the field. Although he had lost out because of his error, Barth was still very close to the two drivers and it would make for a very competitive race around the undulating Sachsenring circuit.
The racing at the front of the field remained very tight through the first couple of laps of the race. Then, on the 3rd lap of the race, Barth would manage to get by both Stuck and Krause to take over the lead of the race. Once in the lead, Barth would pull out a little bit of a lead over the two racers and would work hard over the remaining laps to maintain the advantage. In an effort to keep Krause behind him and the championship firmly within his reach, Barth would set the fastest lap of the race and would put tremendous pressure on the rest of the nine car field to do their best to keep up.
Werner Jager would succumb to the pressure with just a couple of laps left in the race. Troubles would cause him to retire from the race on the 9th lap. This left just Barth to uphold team honor. Barth would do more than that.
Once in the lead of the race, Barth would not really look back except to make sure he was matching the pace of rivals. After forty-six minutes and seventeen seconds, Barth would come across the line to take what was his fourth-straight victory in the championship. Rudolf Krause would finish in 2nd place about twenty-one seconds behind. As a result, Krause would come in 2nd place in the championship results. The difference would be just six points between the two. Hans Stuck would complete the top three by finishing the race just five seconds behind Krause.
While Barth and Rennkollektive-EMW was certainly no match for Scuderia Ferrari and Maserati, the pairing would prove to be almost unbeatable in its own environment. The four-straight victories meant Rennkollektiv-EMW was certainly a strong factory effort in East Germany. It also meant that Barth, like Ascari, would be back-to-back East German Formula 2 Champion. The victory also meant one other thing. It also meant there was just one more Formula 2 race remaining on the calendar for 1953.
The final Formula 2 race of the season in East Germany would take place three weeks after the final round of the East German Championship. On the 21st of September, the Rennkollektiv-EMW team would be in Bernau for what would be the 2nd Bernau Autobahnschleife, which was a 14 lap race around another East German circuit that utilized the autobahn for a portion of its layout.
This particular race would take place in the eastern sector of Berlin. Bernau bei Berlin had become the residence of many of the political and influential leaders of East Germany in the years after World War II and the rise of the socialist state. Known for its once excellent beer that had been brewed using the Panke River, the small establishment would grow during the years prior to the Thirty Years' War. The small village would survive many attacks as a result of the moats and the gate that had been built around the settlement and that are still visible to this very day. The town would become nearly to ruin as a result of the plague and war. But when the East German state came into existence, the small, isolated area would become a refuge for the nation's leaders.
The rather long 3.59 mile circuit would be situated about halfway between Berlin and Bernau bei Berlin, a perfect location for the influential and the masses to come and witness the best East Germany had to offer at the time. Utilizing the Berliner Ring road and the numerous on and off ramps, the circuit would twist back and forth, even over itself, over the course of a single lap. This meant a good portion of the circuit would be visible from one spot. However, it would also mean the overall average speeds would be lower as a result of many tight hairpin turns and short straights.
Coming into the final race of the season, Rennkollektiv and EMW would still be at work designing and building a new car. Actually, Rennkollektiv had promised its first true single-seater grand prix car all throughout the year, but here, at the very last race of the season, the car would finally make its appearance. The new car featured a number of changes over other 'self-built' and other small factory efforts.
Taking cues from other designs throughout Europe, the new car would be quite smooth and clean around its nose and sides. In addition, the driver positioning would be moved to the middle of the car instead of off to the side like so many were. Finally, the suspension would receive the largest updates. Instead of a live rear axle, a de Dion arrangement would be utilized to provide better stability and handling.
While the new car was certainly exciting, it was also untested. Therefore, the team would come to the race with three cars. One of the cars would be the EMW Versuchswagen. The other two would be the team's EMW 52/53 chassis.
During practice, the new suspension on the rear axle would show just how untried it was when Edgar Barth had his right rear suspension break on him. He would be captured in a photograph looking back at the rear suspension as it failed. This meant the team was down to its old two chassis. This would not have been a problem except the team had four drivers present for the race. Besides Barth, Arthur Rosenhammer, Paul Thiel and Werner Jager were all on the entry list. It is believed Rosenhammer raised his voice declaring the team needed to put their best East German drivers against the best from West Germany. To him this meant Edgar Barth and himself. Thus, Jager and Thiel would see Edgar Barth go on to take the old car and earn the pole while Rosenhammer started 3rd. The middle position on the front row would end up going to Hans Stuck in his Bristol-powered AFM.
At the start of the race, Rosenhammer would make a poor start and would lose a number of positions. However, by the end of the first lap, Arthur had managed to make his way back up to the 2nd place spot behind Barth. Barth had made a great getaway and was enjoying a lead of a number of seconds just after the first lap of the race.
Behind Barth and Rosenhammer, things were not going so well for some of the rest of the field. Before the 14 lap race would be over, six drivers would be out of the race including Theo Helfrich, Oswald Karch and Kurt Ahrens. Hans Stuck and Rudolf Krause still continued on but the race would really come down to the two Rennkollektiv teammates.
Barth's lead would evaporate and Rosenhammer would be all over him after just a few laps into the race. The two drivers would complete lap after lap with Barth in the lead and Rosenhammer tucked in formation right behind. The sight of the two teammates completing lap after lap so close enthralled the crowd and set the stage for what possibly would be a wild finish.
With a lead of over a minute over Hans Stuck in 3rd place, Barth and Rosenhammer headed into the final lap of the race still flying in formation nose-to-tail. Coming down the long straight, Rosenhammer would finally make his move. He would slipstream by Barth into the lead of the race. Barth would not let the lead go so easy and would try and slipstream back by. The move would work, but it put Barth into a compromised position. Barth would go into the next corner too hot and would end up throwing away the race by spinning his EMW. Rosenhammer would go on to take the victory completing the race distance in forty-three minutes and forty-eight seconds. Just one second later, Barth would cross the line to take 2nd place. A minute and five seconds later, Stuck would come across to finish 3rd.
The East German factor effort had dominated its West German rivals. The duel between Barth and Rosenhammer would be truly electric and would end what had been a great season for Rennkollektiv and Barth. Yet, despite the providence that had been with the team throughout the East German Formula 2 Championship, the loss to Rosenhammer would not sit well with Barth. As a result, what had been a rather good season, one worthy of some celebration, would end up rather sour.
Rennkollektiv found itself in a difficult position at the end of the season. While not paying strict attention to what was coming, the factory would introduce its new 2.0-liter single-seater at the last race in which the car would be able to compete. The 1954 season would see the return of Formula One to the World Championship, and therefore, new 2.5-liter engines.
At an obvious disadvantage because of a lack of preparation and planning, and because the resources for a 2.5-liter car didn't really exist at the time, the factory, FIA and governments would spend precious time talking about a solution instead of focusing on making a new car compliant with the new regulations. The simple fact of the matter was East Germany wasn't in a position to really make a new car with a new engine. And given that the new regulations had been known for some time, the FIA would not relent in its new Formula One regulations for 1954.
The decision would leave Rennkollektive, and East Germany, with a dilemma on its hands. The question simply was, 'What to do?' Despite being unveiled at the very last race of the season, the new EMW single-seater would have second life in 1954. The East German officials would decide to host national races that would allow the car to run. This decision, while meant to save them and Rennkollektiv from the cost, and embarrassment quite frankly, of building a whole new car, it would set the stage for the withdrawal of East Germany from racing outside of its borders. Ultimately, this decision would end up leading to the socialist state losing one of its great champions as Edgar Barth would defect to West Germany in 1957 because he could not take part in racing anymore. And as a result of the decision, Rennkollektiv-EMW would not take part in another World Championship race ever again. Rennkollektiv EMW