Walter Bäumer won the Mille Miglia in 1940 with Huschke von Hanstein. He died when his car door opened in a corner as he was being kissed by a girl. He fell out into a field, receiving a fatal wound in his neck from a sharp wooden object.
Walter Bäumer died 80 years ago, he was 33
Born in Bünde, Westphalia, Bäumer took up motorcycle racing in 1928. He showed great promise as driver winning 12 races but after an accident he turned to racing cars instead, racing 750cc Dixi and BMW against his main rival Kohlrausch.
Bäumer was also called "Walter von der Wartburg" because he used to drive the BMW Wartburg. From 1932 to 1935, Bäumer dominated that class in mountain races with an Austin 747 cc racing car and sports car 750cc class in German sports and mountainclimbs. In 1935, he raced also a MG K3 Magnette. In 1937, he took the class victory at Shelsley Walsh and Freiburg. A test drive for Mercedes-Benz made him a reserve driver for the team between 1937 and 1939. He tested a Mercedes-Benz W125 during practice for the German GP 1937.
The following year,1938, he raced the car but retired on lap 15 with engine trouble. In the Swiss GP he finished 10th and in the non-Championship Donnington GP he took over Caracciola's car, but when came in to refuel after 43 laps, the car was damaged when it caught fire.
In the 1939 Belgrade GP he crashed on lap 17. However during this period with the prospect of impending was, there was little racing activity and thus his true potential was never revealed.
Despite the war, his greatest moment came at the 1940 Mille Miglia when he won the race together with von Hanstein. Baumer's involvement was a late decision; von Hanstein was originally to have been partnered by Count Giovanni Lurani, but after a flat-out test session Lurani declared that von Hanstein was mad and refused to sit beside him. Baumer, clearly made of sterner stuff, lasted almost the whole distance until von Hanstein stopped the car and sportingly insisted that they should swap seats so that Baumer should have the honour of driving across the finish line.
Bäumer died 1941 in a freak accident on the road between Herford and his hometown Bünde at an age of 32. Bäumer was being kissed by a female passenger when the car door opened in a corner and Bäumer fell out on a field, receiving fatal wounds in his neck from a sharp wooden object.
However according to Hermann Lang it seems that Baumer was driving a Tatra V8 which left the road at high speed as a result of sabotage during the war.