Friday, May 22, 2009

Fastest In The Fatherland

" It is still dark when I arrive, a sliver of moon hangs over the little fir copse by the starting area. Hoar frost covers everything and the road is quite white. The firs are twinkling in the moonlight."
So begins Rudolf Caracciola's description of the morning of January 27th, 1938 and his attempt to break the world speed record held by arch rivals Auto Union. Caracciola driving his Mercedes W125 Rekordwagen was to break the record held by Bernd Rosemeyer and his Auto Union V16 Type C Stromlinienwagen. These cars were the pride of Nazi Germany. Displaying technological superiority and brutal horsepower they were virtually unbeatable in international competition up until the outbreak of World War 2.

Caracciola went first with his attempt on the Reichs-Autobahn A5 between the cities of Frankfurt and Darmstadt. " Again the road shrinks to a narrow band, bridges and tunnels appear like dark gorges. At this speed one must aim accurately to get through. But even before the brain has registered the whole proceedings, the car has thundered through. I cannot get it into my mind that my brain should be slower than the speed of my car. Always there is the strange impression of having to aim to get through. " At the end of his final run Caracciola had set a new world record of 432 km/h [268 mph] still the fastest ever officially timed speed on a public road.

Caracciola's rival Rosemeyer was up next in his Auto Union, however by the time of his attempt the wind had intensified. On his 3rd and final attempt the car veered off the Autobahn throwing Rosemeyer out at high speed, killing him instantly. Bernd Rosemeyer's coffin was carried by SS troopers at his funeral. Even in death The Third Reich spared no opportunity for naked propaganda. An untimely end for Rosemeyer and his quest to be
Fastest In The Fatherland.

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