The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#28 – Theo Fitzau — AFM – BMW
Grid: 21st / Race: Retired (3 laps)

(Source: Private Collection)
Born: 10th February 1923
Köthen, Germany
Died: 18th March 1982
Groß Gerau, Germany
Appearances: 1   (1953 German GP)

Biography

Theo Fitzau was running a soap fabrication company at Köthen (near Dessau) in the Soviet Zone. He also had a close association with Arthur Rosenhammer, one of the central persons of East German motorsport.

In 1949, Fitzau started his career in the ‘midget’ class (the German counterpart to the international 500 cc movement for ‘home-built’ race cars up to 750 cc) in Rosenhammer’s self-built ARO Special. Parallel to this he also appeared in a quite production-like BMW 328 during 1950, interestingly in the Formula 2 class!

Fitzau took over Rosenhammer’s Alfa Romeo-powered Veritas when Rosenhammer became too busily involved as team director and leading driver of the East German national “Rennkollektiv” team in 1951, which he promptly renamed into “DRS”-Veritas, standing for his sobriquet ‘Der rasende Seifensieder’ (the speeding soap boiler), and in which his results were getting noteworthy.

Perhaps because of his connections with Rosenhammer he was invited by the Rennkollektiv to make the journey to the Eifelrennen together with the team leader, where the so-called “DAMW” cars (after the East German ‘Board for Examination of Goods and Materials’) made their first appearance in West Germany. Later in the season he won the sports car race at Halle, but then, being an unloved ‘capitalist’ he probably fell into disfavour with the East German institutions and finally became one of the first publicly known cases of East German drivers not returning home from a journey to the West. The East German press printed some gleeful reports about his illusions to become a Mercedes works driver and how he would have to face the capitalist reality of being homeless and close to starvation.

It seems that his driving career was quite over, with a single and final farewell start at the German Grand Prix in 1953 in Niedermayr’s AFM, after which he became an employee at Opel in the West.

1953 German Grand Prix, Theo Fitzau (Source: Archive Footage)

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