V ADAC EIFELRENNEN
Nürburgring - Südschleife (D), 7 June 1931.
40 laps x 7.747 km (4.814 mi) = 309.9 km (192.6 mi).
Caracciola wins the Eifelrennen ahead of von Morgen
by Hans Etzrodt
For the ninth Eifelrennen a mix of 16 race cars started at the Nürburgring. Three large converted Mercedes-Benz sports cars, a variety of 11 Bugattis,
one Amilcar and a DKW were racing around 40 laps of the demanding South Loop. The German press quoted this event as the most impressive and interesting
race ever held on the Nürburgring. Caracciola in the Mercedes had a fantastic battle with von Morgen in an older single cam Bugatti. Once the Bugatti
pitted at mid-race for tires and fuel, the Mercedes had gained much time and did not have to stop. Von Morgen could only recover part of Caracciola's
advantage and finished well over a minute behind the Mercedes-Benz. The young newcomer von Brauchitsch in another Mercedes-Benz ended up third, followed
by Seibel's small Bugatti, Winter's Mercedes-Benz, Zigrand, Risse, Kortylewski and Städtgen all in Bugattis with Theisen's small DKW last in tenth place.
Six drivers retired, amongst them Burggaller and zu Leiningen who in the early part of the race were near the front.
The event was held on the 7.747 km South Loop -Südschleife- of the Nürburgring. Initially the race was to go over 50 laps. But this was later changed to 40 laps
and 312 km total length. This distance was obtained when the organizer simply changed the numbers to 7.8 km. The 1931 ADAC Eifelrennen also departed from the old
practice of using class winners. Instead only the ten fastest drivers were classified and entitled to win prizes. Therefore time was the deciding factor for the
ten fastest drivers entitled to monetary prizes. The winner would also be presented with the "Golden Nürburgring", a golden ring to wear on the finger, and would
receive the title "Victor of the ADAC-Eifelrennen for racecars 1931." Monetary prizes for the ten fastest cars were 4000 mark for first, 3000 mark second, then
2000 mark, 1500 mark, 1250 mark, 1000 mark, 750 mark, 500 mark, 300 mark and 200 mark for tenth place.
From the 22 entries, 14 were Bugattis, four Mercedes, two Amilcars, and a single Salmson and DKW. Early entries came from the well known champion driver Rudolf Caracciola
and a 25-year-old newcomer Manfred von Brauchitsch with two of the latest Mercedes-Benz SSKL types. The young German had raced before at several hill climbs but this was his
first time at such a long circuit race. Two other drivers entered their heavy Mercedes-Benz SSK converted sports cars, the 26-year old newspaper publisher, Otto Spandel, and
Dr. Eugen Winter who drove with an artificial limb. As a result of an accident, his right arm was crippled, likewise his hand, just barely sufficient to shift gears. If in
difficulties, there was always his wife who accompanied her husband in every race.
This great Mercedes troupe was opposed by the Deutsches Bugatti Team, comprising the previous year's winner Heinrich-Joachim von Morgen, Ernst-Günther Burggaller and Prinz
Hermann zu Leiningen in those nimble and agile racecars from Molsheim. Additional Bugattis were entered by Albert Broschek, Willi Seibel, Hans Simons, Dr. Heinz Risse, Miss
Mathilde Schulz, Friedrich Dilthey, from Luxembourg last year's participants Josef Zigrand and Constant Knepper, the two Frenchmen Pierre Vogt and Roger Boucly, Rudolf Städtgen
and Fritz Kortylewski. The small car class was represented by the Amilcar drivers August Frings and Carl Raetz. For the second time a front-wheel-drive DKW was raced at the
Nürburgring, this year by Hans Teisen with a 500 cc 2-cylinder 2-stroke engine.
The first official day of practice for cars was Thursday, June 4, from 2 to 6 PM. Friday and Saturday practice took place at the same times. Amongst the many cars and drivers
practicing, the newcomer von Brauchitsch with a large Mercedes-Benz at his first circuit race was most impressive. He had prepared himself tirelessly for the whole week to learn
the narrow South Loop roads with its various up-and-down bends and had developed a liking for the Eifel Mountains. His practice times were surprisingly good and regular. The last
day of practice brought unwanted rain showers. The scrutiny of the racecars by the technical commissioners took place Saturday from 10 to 12 noon in the Nürburgring paddock.
Caracciola and von Morgen were both favorites for Sunday's race, the one for the Mercedes followers, the other for the Bugatti enthusiasts.
On Sunday under a heavily clouded sky the motorcycle races were started at 10 in the morning. Long thereafter a continuous stream of spectators arrived at the race track. A crowd of
about 50,000 had come to see the races. After the motorcycle races there was a one hour break before the greatest spectacle of the day, the 40-laps battle between Mercedes-Benz and Bugatti.
In the paddock area with their many garages the racecar engines were started for warm-up and the thunder of the superchargers could be heard from the grandstands. The western wind blew dark
clouds across a gray sky.
The cars lined up at the start area in order of their race numbers which had been assigned by the organizers. The Deutsches Bugatti Team occupied the front row, followed by the Mercedes-Benz
drivers. Six of the 22 entries did not appear for the start and their places on the grid remained vacant. Most drivers drove solo except Dr. Winter who had his wife as co-driver and Städtgen
in his Bugatti T30 sports car with fenders who also carried a passenger on board. Theisen's front-wheel-drive DKW, the only other car equipped with fenders, was placed on the last row. It
was muggy. There had been a slight drizzle just before the cars were started.
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The engines were brought to life and during their loud rumble Max Schleh, the starter, lowered the white flag at 2:30. Amongst the deafening din of the cars, von Morgen lunged away from the first row
to take an immediate lead, only to be passed moments later by Caracciola's huge Mercedes. They were followed by the rest with the smallest cars trailing at the end. After entering the Südkehre the cars
disappeared to the left into the forest when whipping rain showers started in the turns towards Müllenbach. Knepper's Bugatti crashed at the right-hand turn just one kilometer after the start. His car
skidded off the track slid in the ditch to the left from where it flew over the road to the right, flipped over twice with two wheels ripped off the front, also airborne. Von Brauchitsch, who followed
immediately behind, saw a hunched Knepper fall out of the car and immediately took avoiding action towards the right, just missing a flying wheel. The lucky driver was brought back to the start and finish
area with a minor forehead wound. A doctor diagnosed a slight concussion. After four minutes the high metallic song of the Mercedes supercharger could be heard in the grandstands as Caracciola exited the
forest area from Müllenbach with von Morgen close behind, then Burggaller, zu Leiningen and von Brauchitsch. That is how they next exited the Tribünenkurve to pass the grandstands completing the first lap.
On the second lap von Morgen took the lead with Caracciola second. The following lap Caracciola was once more in front with von Morgen close behind, followed by Burggaller, von Brauchitsch and zu Leiningen.
Caracciola held the lead for the next laps and by lap 10 he had a two seconds advantage over von Morgen at an average speed of 108.5 km/h. Burggaller in third place battled with von Brauchitsch and after
some distance there followed Prinz zu Leiningen.
On lap 15 it was once more von Morgen in the lead at an average speed of 109.8 km/h, Caracciola second with 109.7 km/h. Brauchitsch had worked himself into third place and left Burggaller and Leiningen
behind. Seibel with a 1500 Bugatti held sixth place. In the meantime the weather had changed into a brief rainstorm. Racing continued with some drivers having removed their goggles and instead drove lap
after lap with eyes blinking or squeezed shut momentarily.
At half distance, lap 20, the speed had increased; von Morgen leading at 110.4 km/h, Caracciola 110.2 km/h behind, then von Brauchitsch, Burggaller and zu Leiningen.
Lap 22 was to bring the decisive turn of events when von Morgen stopped to refuel. He had deliberately started the race with a low fuel load to have a lighter and faster car. But now he also changed rear
tires, thereby losing two minutes 47 seconds altogether. In addition he took a swig of water and a cigarette. With a glowing butt between his lips he carried on, possibly in the belief that his adversary
would also have to make a stop. But if that's what he thought, it was a mistake because Caracciola carried on without re-fuelling or changing tires. The Continental tires of the Mercedes with the new profile
were in good shape even after the race, so von Morgen's tire change was probably carried out just as a preventive measure. He soon realized his miscalculation. There were still 18 laps ahead and many things
could happen. It started to rain again. Caracciola was now more than half a lap ahead.
By lap 25 von Morgen had made up nine seconds of lost time. In the meantime Prinz zu Leiningen had retired with clutch damage, and left his car at the Scharfer Kopf turn. Miss Schulz, in her 1.5-liter Bugatti,
carried on until lap 30 when she gave up with a defective engine. Caracciola increased his advantage but the average speed had gone down a bit.
On lap 30 Caracciola was leading at 109.3 km/h, with von Morgen in second place at 107.2 km/h, although he continued driving as if it was a matter of life and death. In the meantime Burggaller had ended his race
with a broken engine bearing. Within the next five laps von Morgen was able to make up 40 seconds from Caracciola's 150 seconds advantage.
But the die had already been cast. Caracciola won after a wonderful drive. Rain was his weather. Von Morgen finished second over one minute behind and was presented with an extra ovation by the spectators, the
newcomer von Brauchitsch was third, albeit twice lapped by Caracciola, Seibel's Bugatti fourth and Dr. Winter with a heavily mutilated arm finished fifth. Considering Dr. Winters little racing experience besides
his bodily impediment, his was quite an impressive performance. Only the retirement of some faster cars had made it possible for the smaller cars to be classified. If those larger cars had raced at a pace just
to hang on to finish, the results would have looked different. Unfortunately, the day closed with a drizzle, causing spectators to hurry home.
|1.||5||Rudolf Caracciola||R. Caracciola||Mercedes-Benz||SSKL||7.1||S-6||40||2h50m47.2s||108.9 km/h|
|2.||1||Heinrich-Joachim von Morgen||Deutsches Bugatti Team ||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||40||2h53m06.4s||107.6 km/h|
|3. ||6||Manfred von Brauchitsch||M. v. Brauchitsch||Mercedes-Benz||SSKL||7.1||S-6||40||3h00m22.3s||103.2 km/h|
|4.||17||Willi Seibel||W. Seibel||Bugatti||T37A||1.5||S-4||40||3h16m56.3s||94.5 km/h|
|5.||7||Eugen Winter||E. Winter||Mercedes-Benz||SSK||7.1||S-6||40||3h21m12.2s||92.3 km/h|
|6.||9||Josef Zigrand||J. Zigrand||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||40||3h29m27.1s|
|7.||18||Heinz Risse||H. Risse||Bugatti||T37A||1.5||S-4||40||3h37m05.5s|
|8.||19||Fritz Kortylewski||F. Kortylewski||Bugatti||T37A||1.5||S-4||40||3h43m24.2s|
|9.||14||Rudolf Städtgen||R. Städtgen||Bugatti||T30||2.0||S-8||40||4h05m40.2s|
|10.||23||Hans Theisen||H. Theisen||DKW||0.5||S-2||40||4h24m44.2s|
|DNF||2||Ernst-Günther Burggaller||Deutsches Bugatti Team||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||33||engine bearing|
|DNF||16||Mathilde Schulz||Miss M. Schulz||Bugatti||T37||1.5||S-4||29||engine|
|DNF||3||Hermann zu Leiningen||Deutsches Bugatti Team||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||25||clutch|
|DNF||20||Friederich Dilthey||F. Dilthey||Rabag Bugatti||T22||1.5||S-4|
|DNF||22||August Frings||A. Frings||Amilcar||1.1||?|
|DNF||10||Constant Knepper||J. Zigrand||Bugatti||T43A||2.3||S-8||0||crash|
Fastest lap: Heinrich-Joachim von Morgen (Bugatti) in 110.4 km/h (68.6 mph) => 4m12.6s (Time calculated from speed.)|
Winner's medium speed: 108.9 km/h (67.6 mph)
Weather: Dry at the start, thereafter on-and-off rain showers during the race.
On the same Sunday as the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring, three other major races took place, the Rome Grand Prix in Italy, the Lwow Grand Prix in Poland and the Geneva Grand Prix in Switzerland.
These events contributed to the noticeable absence of French and Italian drivers at the Nürburgring and also of Hans Stuck who raced his Mercedes in Poland.
Von Morgen's 1930 Eifelrennen record of 108.196 km/h average speed was slightly beaten by Caracciola, despite the fact that the 1931 race was longer and the roads were made slippery by the rain.
The organizer applied a circuit length of 7.8 km and total race length of 312 km to simplify numbers for public and media. Their calculations were based on the true circuit length of 7.747 km and
309.880 km race distance.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
ADAC Motorwelt, München
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
Der Mittag, Düsseldorf
Der Nürburgring, Adenau
Motor Sport, London
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
Wuppertaler General Anzeiger, Wuppertal
Special thanks to:
Mercedes-Benz Archiv, Stuttgart