1921 Avus-Rennen – The Complete Story

The Third Race

While the second competition had failed to capture the audience’s interest, the final big race of over 160 kilometres brought fierce battles and glorious entertainment. From start to finish, the spectators observed battle after battle and as the field slowly spread out, a duel emerged between Saturday’s winner Fritz von Opel and the splendidly-driving Riecken in the N.A.G.

The two N.A.G. cars drag race away from the start

At 2:30 sharp, the starter sent away the impressive field of 11 cars, after Apollo and Ehrhardt had withdrawn their entries. Fritz von Opel takes over the lead from the start and immediately sets a hell of a pace. He completes the first lap in 9:23, improving on his fastest lap in practice seven days before. Breckheimer overtakes the Horch of Seidel on the first straight and gives only slightly less weight to the other car. The two Dürkoppwagen cannot maintain the hot pace from the start and are considerably slower. The two Horch cars fall back but drive very safely and smoothly. In contrast, the Stoewer driven by company director Max Schneider pushes its way into the leading group and overtakes both the Adler of Kellner, as well as the two Dürkopps. The N.A.G. cars shine brilliantly. Riecken keeps close behind Fritz von Opel, passing the machines in front of him and is only three seconds slower at the end of the first lap than the Opel driver. The Stoewer car laps at 9:28 only five seconds behind von Opel. Breckheimer in his Opel moves smoothly ahead of the second Horch and tries to get in touch with the leading group.

Schneider’s mechanic hangs over the side, while Riecken’s remains buried in the cockpit

On the second lap Fritz von Opel goes even faster and gains an advantage of 8 seconds ahead of Riecken in the N.A.G. Zerbst in the other N.A.G. overtakes the Dürkopp of Tatenhorst in superb style at the Südkurve, but is not able to push further forward. The Stoewer of Schneider continues to impress. At the Südkurve, Breckheimer’s Opel is already able to overtake the Adler of Kellner, which, being two rows ahead, had started 1.5 minutes before him.

Fritz von Opel, who drives the Südkurve at an especially frightening pace, can once again undercut his lap time and drives the third lap in 9:08. Riecken clearly cannot follow this pace and sits 14 seconds behind his opponent by the end of the lap. Tatenhorst abandons his car shortly before the Südkurve as his crankshaft bearings give up. Breckheimer moves his Opel forward again, passing Kellner’s Adler and Husemann’s Dürkopp. Seidel, who was poking out the top of his Horch, was able to dispatch his factory colleague Hirrlinger safely. An exciting moment came when Fritz von Opel attacked Hirrlinger’s Horch before the Nordkurve and pulled away at such a fast pace, he appeared unbeatable.

Breckheimer making his way past Zerbst’s N.A.G on the fourth lap

On the fourth time around, Max Schneider, who had been brilliant until now, unfortunately had bad luck with the Stoewer, as the engine suddenly began to lose power and a fight to the end was no longer in question. Zerbst in the N.A.G resisted a strong attack from Breckheimer’s Opel in the Nordkurve, but then had to admit defeat at the end of the straight. Kellner’s Adler fell back sharply and gave up on the following lap.

By the end of Lap 5, Fritz von Opel is far ahead after completing the first 100km twenty-one seconds faster than the N.A.G. of Riecken. Breckheimer has moved his Opel into the leading group, after he was finally able to clear the other N.A.G. of Fritz Zerbst.

On the sixth lap, Fritz von Opel passes by the now slow-moving Stoewer in front of the stands, over whom he has now gained a full lap. Von Opel’s pace is also starting to drop off now, though the driver makes every effort to wring every last bit out of the car. As a result, Riecken has moved up a lot and at the end of the lap gains 4 seconds on F. v. Opel, who has covered 120 kilometres in 55m29s.

Hirrlinger’s Horch, now repaired after its accident two weeks earlier, is lapped by Zerbst

Over the last two laps, interest in this developing battle between von Opel and Riecken has increased minute by minute. While Breckheimer has constantly improved his pace, his Opel is considerably slower, though he continues to run in third place overall.

Evidently, the lead car is starting to falter, for the seventh lap has been driven in a time of 10 minutes and 10 seconds. A spark plug has failed and Von Opel has dropped back severely. Riecken, who is now lapping at an admirable speed, is looking increasingly stronger. Despite mounting a desperate defence, von Opel is passed entering the Südkurve on the eighth lap.

So, Riecken went by the finish with a considerable margin ahead of surprise second place man Breckheimer, who had overhauled the ailing Von Opel in the final round. The start of this race was extremely exciting and across both days of racing, it was probably took the greatest interest of the large audience who were gathered to watch. It did not contain a moment of boredom and the race distance of eight laps worked well.

The first part of the race was a duel between the young Fritz von Opel and the older, more experienced Christian Riecken. Both vehicles were able to reach the same top speed, however, it was Von Opel who lapped in 9 minutes 08 seconds on no less than four occasions, while Riecken was able to achieve this time only once. Victory was looking strong in the Opel’s favour until it befell a technical problem and so Riecken was able to move ahead first in laptime and then physically on the track.

XA Class Winners

25th September – 2:30pm – Class XA – 8 laps x 160km

 1  6  Christian Riecken	N.A.G 10/30	 1:13'51 (127.6kph)
 2  12 Franz Breckheimer	Opel 10/30	 1:15'50
 3  1  Fritz von Opel	        Opel 10/28	 1:16'08
 4  7  Fritz Zerbst	        N.A.G. 10/30	 1:19'29
 5  4  Karl Irion	        Adler 10/28      1:22'25
 6  13 Seidel	                Horch 10/30	 1:23'36
 7  10 Albert Hirrlinger	Horch 10/30	 1:26'21
 8  11 Max Schneider	        Stoewer 10/28	 1:27'08
 9  5  Emil Husemann	        Dürkopp 10/30    1:29'07

    8  Willi Kellner            Adler 10/28      5 laps
    3  H. Tatenhorst            Dürkopp 10/30    2 laps (Engine Bearings)
    9  Karl Slevogt             Apollo 10/30     Entry Withdrawn
    2  Hans Friedrich           Ehrhardt 10/40   Entry Withdrawn

Record Runs

4:30pm – 3km

In the record attempts, there was once again a lack of information provided, making the event hard to follow for the spectators. The most powerful impression was made by the 200-hp record Benz, which, despite its high speed was very smooth on the track and reached an estimated 190kph.

Epilogue  [NEXT]