Bernd Rosemeyer was one of the most exceptional racing drivers in German motor racing history. He was killed durning a world record attempt when his Auto Union crashed at 440 km/h on the Frankfurt to Darmstadt autobahn.
His father owned a garage and repair shop where Rosemeyer worked on motorcycles and cars. Having started by racing motorbikes, Rosemeyer became a member of the Auto Union racing team with hardly any experience in normal race cars. The rear engined Silver Arrows of Auto Union were hard to drive, and only he and Italian Legend Tazio Nuvolari truly mastered these 500hp beasts.
In only his second ever Grand Prix which was at the daunting Nürburgring Rosemeyer took the lead from the great Rudolf Caracciola and was almost in sight of the finish lie when he missed a gear and was repassed. However in subsequent years he made up for this mistake by winning three consecutive races at the Nürburgring one famously in thick fog. Later in 1935 he won his first Grand Prix at the Brno Masaryk Circuit in Czechoslovakia. Whilst on the podium he was introduced to the famous aviatrix Elly Beinhorn.
Their celebrity relationship was too good an opportunity to miss for the Nazi Party and Heinrich Himmler chose to make him a member of the SS, an 'honour' he would have been unwise to refuse.
Several sensational Grand Prix motor racing victories in 1936 and 1937 (also in the Vanderbilt Cup in the USA) made him popular not only in Germany. He won the European Driving Championship in 1936. His marriage to young flying ace Elly Beinhorn added even more celebrity hype.
A son, Bernd Jr, was born in November 1937 but just ten weeks later Bernd Snr was killed during a world speed record attempt on the Autobahn between Frankfurt and Darmstadt, on January 28th 1938.
Competing for the record on the same day against Rudolf Caracciola, the Mercedes driver went first and set a new record of 268mph. Rosemeyer went out next in his Auto Union Streamliner but the wind was picking up. After two preliminary runs he was on his third and final attempt at 11:47am when the car was probably caught by a gust of wind or an unforeseen aerodynamic effect and skidded to the left and then to the right and off the road, somersaulting through the air Rosemeyer was thrown out of the car and died at the roadside.
Today, there is a monument near a rest area, roughly where his car left the road due to wind gusts.
Rosemeyer considered 13 to be his lucky number. He was married on July 13th 1936. 13 days later he won the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. His last Nürburgring victory came on the 13th June 1937. His last race victory came at his 13th start of the 1937 season, the Donnington Grand Prix.
Major career victories