18/10/1919 - 24/3/2009
Raced an ex-Karl Kling Veritas in the 1952 German Grand Prix. Driving with Kling in a Mercedes they took second in the Mille Miglia, then won the Carrera Panamericana. Hans Klenk died 13 years ago, he was 90
Hans Klenk was born in Künzelsau. During WWII he flew Messerschmitt ME 109s in the German Luftwaffe.
In 1950 German drivers were admitted to international racing again and Klenk started building his own Eigenbau (German specials) in Stuttgart. However he then acquired the streamlined Veritas previously used by his friend Karl Kling. This car was fitted with an all enveloping body.
Klenk made his debut during the 1951 Eifelrennen where he finished fifth and soon established himself among the local opposition. He finished second on two occasions in 1952, at AVUS and the Grenzlandring. Klenk also entered the car in the German GP, fitted with new open-wheeled bodywork. Altogether 15 German drivers appeared for the race. Klenk qualified on the third row and had a lucky escape early on when he just managed to avoid Felice Bonetto's accident at the entry of the Südkehre. In the end he finished in 11th place, four laps of the 22.81 km Nordschleife behind Ascari's Ferrari, and was not classified.
Early in 1952 Klenk was invited to take part in the Mille Miglia as co-driver of Karl Kling in a works Mercedes 300 SL. Klenk decided that, since it was almost impossible to learn the whole course, he would make notes. Thus armed with his "Gebetbuch" (prayer book) Klenk and Kling almost took the win. They led by eight minutes at Rome, but were delayed by a jammed wheel during a tyre-change in Siena, and then struggled against failing brakes to finish second behind the Ferrari of Giovanni Bracco and Alfonso Rolfo. Klenk's notes were the first example of what have become the modern rally pace notes.
At Le Mans, Mercedes were favorites, however Pierre Levegh's amazing solo drive, which saw him lead the race until the 23rd hour when his Talbot broke, almost took the win away. In the end Lang and Rieß in the No.21 car took the win ahead of Theo Helfrich and Helmut Niedermayr in the No.20 car. Klenk and Karl Kling had to retired during the night.
Kling and Klenk then joined up again for the Carrera Panamericana. Mercedes had sent four 300SLs to Mexico and, after 19 hours of racing, Kling and Klenk took the win, with Lang and Grupp coming second. Along the way, a vulture demolished the windshield and Klenk was hit full in the face by the dead bird. Klenk continued with his head injuries while overnight the car's windshield was replaced by some welded iron bars. The car can still to be seen in this configuration at the Daimler-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. It was the fifth and last racing appearance for the Gullwing Mercedes and its fourth win.
For 1953 Klenk completely rebuilt his Meteor and replaced the marque's name by his own: "Klenk Meteor". He finished 2nd at Avus, this time behind Jacques Swater's Ferrari, and intended to enter the German Grand Prix again. However he had a bad crash while testing a 300SL for Mercedes suffering severe injuries which effectively ended his career.
However he continued to developing his Klenk Meteor. Hans Herrmann drove it in the German Grand Prix that year finishing 9th and in 1954 Theo Helfrich drove it, but retired with engine problems.
Lives in Vellberg, Germany. Until the late 1970's, Hans was still involved in building cars.