Theo Fitzau: In His Own Words

Fitzau: Racing tests a man’s bravery

On the grid at Dessau, 1950

“The most exciting time for any driver is probably the time between the call from the paddock and the actual start. In most cases the start will be a little delayed for some technical reason. Either the track has to be cleaned or a driver from the previous race lost oil, or the timing must be set up again.

Sometimes a lot of time elapses, in which the drivers become visibly nervous, because their engines are cold again. Then there is the possibility that the engine will not start, or that there’s no spark on one of the cylinders and the engine runs “uneven” and uncleanly. Start changing spark plugs if the machine won’t start. When everything is ready, wait for the three-light starting signals, only then do we all go.

Quick reactions to any situation, careful calculation and knowledge of each curve – the same kind of knowledge for the track following the curve, ongoing visual and auditory observation of the engine and the instruments, properly timed and clean shifting, the observing of a strategic plan which was drawn up following observations of other drivers during practice, etc. are the minimum which one must master for the race.

The so-called “male bravado” is tested hard during the race. One says that inner weakness must be overcome. At the Nürburgring a few weeks ago, despite good knowledge of the race track, at two corners, again and again, I braked automatically. I was driving one of the fastest 2-litre cars in Germany under the direction of Arthur Rosenhammer and the first-class test driver Erich Koch of BMW “Awtowelo” in Eisenach, who built the DDR Rennkollektivs in Johannisthal. These cars go about 240kph. At the Ring is the so-called “Fuchsröhre” (Fox hole), a steeply sloping section, which leads uphill to some very sharp curves. Although I had already driven quite decent times in practice, I still wanted to iron out this section. After a few attempts, where I had previously slowed down, I went full-throttle. Also on the Sunday, in heavy rain. Lo and behold, it stuck. Thus the times became considerably better.”

Page 4…The hardest race thus far