The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#128 – Hans Klenk — Veritas ‘Klenk’ – Meteor
Grid: 8th / Race: 11th

(Source: Revs)
Born: 29th October 1919
Kunzelsau, Germany
Died: 24th March 2009
Velberg, Germany
Appearances: 1   (1952 German GP)

Biography

Born in 1919, Klenk was a representative of the younger ‘post-war’ generation of German drivers.

After flying gliders at the age of 11, he started to study airplane and automobile technology in Munich before he became fighter pilot in the war. After the war, he founded his own engineering bureau and was involved in the construction of some BMW-based sportscars – among them Helmut Polensky’s “Monopol”, Germany´s very first Formula 2 car.

In 1951, he made his first race appearances in Formula 2 when he bought the Veritas Meteor Streamliner from Karl Kling (who was too busily involved in the Mercedes works team). However, Klenk was not too happy with the bulky and unreliable car, which was only reasonably competitive on the high speed circuits, so a fourth place on the Grenzlandring was his best result of the year.

To improve his fortunes in 1952, he reappeared in the car with two different bodyworks to choose from. A new conventional, open wheel body would be used for twisty and demanding ‘road’ circuits like the Nürburgring, while the streamliner could be used on the high speed tracks like Avus or the Grenzlandring. Later dubbed the ‘Klenk-Meteor’, it was in its open wheel configuration that he made his one and only championship appearance, finishing 11th overall.

Meanwhile, in German Formula 2, it took until the Grenzlandring and Avus races at the end of the season before he could get top results with two second places. In the meantime, he was now active in the Mercedes work team as co-driver of Kling at Le Mans, the Targa Florio and the Carrera Panamericana. This Mexican race was of course the event in which he ascended into Mercedes-Benz’ ‘Valhalla’ of legends, when a vulture crashed through the windscreen of their car. Despite that incident they proceeded to overall victory, fitting bars in front of the window to protect them from further ‘intruders’. Klenk was also credited in one of Alfred Neubauer’s stories as the inventor of the rally ‘prayer books’ containing detailed notes about the track to be read by a co-driver, but there seems to be at least a predecessor to him in Argentinian Adolfo Schwelm, about whom there are reports that he had done the same already in the 1950 Mille Miglia.

Over the winter of 1952/53, Klenk added two further cars to his stable. One was the double purpose Veritas Großmutter in which Toni Ulmen had won the 1951 German sports car championship, while the other one was the similar, but much older BMW special of Willi Krakau. He gave both cars to newcomer drivers Hans Herrmann and Ernst Lautenschlager, while he himself continued with his Veritas Meteor, which he had also re-worked over the winter and drove it to another fine 2nd place at the Avus. At this event he was also surprisingly appearing in one of the 1.5 l Borgward sports cars (given that he was still contracted to Mercedes-Benz), which he drove to his first “own” victory. But shortly after this his career was suddenly ended by a heavy crash during test drives for Mercedes. Klenk could never fully recover from his injuries, but stayed connected to motorsport as chief of the Continental tyres factory’s racing service.

1952 German Grand Prix, Hans Klenk (Source: Revs)

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