The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#136 – Rudolf Krause — Reif – BMW
Grid: 23rd / Race: Retired (3 laps / Ignition Distributor)

(Source: Private Collection)
Born: 30th March 1907
Oberreichenbach, Germany
Died: 11th April 1987
Reichenbach, Germany
Appearances: 2   (1952 & 1953 German GP)


Having taken part in virtually all East German events between 1949 and 1954, the most experienced DDR driver of this era may also be regarded as one of the most rigorous. His driving style could probably be characterised as straightforward or uncompromising and, together with his colleague Arthur Rosenhammer, he was perhaps responsible for forming the reputation of the East Germans as rigorous drivers in general.

Krause, who had set up a garage business in his hometown of Reichenbach in 1929, had already been racing as a privateer with some minor success before the war. When automobile racing returned to East Germany at Dessau in 1949, he was among the pioneers with his antiquated BMW sports car. It was clear that he would need some more modern equipment to become competitive, so, with a lot of personal contribution, he ordered the construction of a BMW special by the Reif workshop. It was run by a former BMW distributor at Chemnitz, who had salvaged a respectable stock of spare parts over the war. The Reif-BMW, as the car was called, was very much a product in the fashion of its time: A tuned BMW 328 engine in a lowered BMW chassis with a lightweight open wheel two-seater body of so-called “Intertyp” style, to be suitable for Formula 2 as well as sports car races. The car was ready in time to take part in the Sachsenring race in 1950, but still suffered from some teething problems. Krause had been able to sort these out and made a perfect start into the 1951 season with an early win at Halle. Nevertheless, it would soon turn out that neither he, nor his car, were a real match for top East German driver Paul Greifzu with his likewise home-built special. During the season, the cars of the much more professional state-owned “Rennkollektiv” team would also get more and more in his way. It seems that, perhaps to compensate for his deficiencies, Krause started to drive somewhat over-ambitiously, resulting in a couple of heavy shunts at Leipzig and Dresden. At the latter event, he was involved in one of the most famous and spectacular incidents from East Germany, when the top four drivers headed into a hairpin which left space for only one… Shortly afterwards Krause would again meet disappointment at his first participation on the West Berlin Avus track, where he dropped out very early while Greifzu was driving to the most triumphant moment of his career. For the next races, Krause would remain in Greifzu’s shadow, with the exception of Bernau in 1952, when his opponent dropped out with clutch failure. The rest of his season then was marked by frequent mechanical failures, in particular at the German Grand Prix, with the Reif seemingly lacking some maintenance.

In the meantime, Greifzu had lost his life at Dessau and his widow was looking for a competent driver to continue to her husband’s heritage in the orphaned cockpit. Veteran driver Bobby Kohlrausch had achieved only disappointing results, so from the race at Halle in 1953, Krause finally put the old Reif-BMW aside (after a last swansong-victory at Chemnitz early in the season) to take his place in the cockpit of the ex-Greifzu car. His success hardly became any better, as East Germany’s new star driver Edgar Barth in the Rennkollektiv works car was absolutely dominant in this last official season of international Formula 2.

Yet, Krause could hope for one final chance for 1954. After considering what machinery was available for their drivers, the East German officials decided to extend Formula 2 for another year. Furthermore, because of permanent complaints of the privateer drivers, notwithstanding Krause himself, it was decided that the best non-works driver would always score full championship points. After several wins, Krause should have been champion, especially as Barth had now moved to the sports car class. However, another bad surprise was in the bag – or better, in the rules – as, when the race at Dessau had to be cancelled because of the flooding of a river and a number of other events did not meet the required number of starters to count for the championship, Krause had to be content with the title of ‘Meister des Sports’ (master of the sport) rather than proper ‘champion’, as there had not been a sufficient number of events to award the title.

1952 German Grand Prix, Rudolf Krause (Source: Revs)

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