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AVUS racing circuit in Germany, or the legend of the fastest circuit in the world

To make the fastest circuit in the world the recipe is simple, make two straight lines connected by two loops and that's it! Do you have to do it and let it roll!.

The first to try the experiment were the Germans, and it was not without consequences.

Thus, the "Automobil-Verkehrs- und Übungs-Straße GmbH or AVUS (acronym translatable as "Automotive traffic and test road") thought in 1909, its purpose was to stimulate the development of automobile construction, undertaken in 1913 work on a race and test track in West Berlin. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 interrupted the work. After WW1, work resumed and ended in 1921.

The track is then a road open to public traffic considered the first toll motorway in the world. It is used for many races which we will explain to you in the rest of our article.

During the hyperinflation and the Great Depression from 1929, the limited company AVUS found itself facing serious economic problems. The story of the private road ends with the connection to the ring road that surrounds the capital in 1940.

It will follow other races that we will see later in the article.

It was in 1995 that this former Formula 1 circuit became a simple section of the Bundesautobahn 115 motorway.

100 years after the beginning of its realization, we return to the history of what was one of the fastest and most dangerous circuits in the world. A mythical and murderous circuit.

A simple route for kamikaze pilots

Designed for speed, the AVUS track is a prelude to the Nazi doctrine that later made highways and speed a primary issue.

the track included two long straight lines of 10 kilometers connected to the north by a vertiginous bend where the drivers who have become legendary today, the Caracciola, Rosemeyer, Hans Stuck, von Trips, Fangio, competed until their death. modern day gladiators.

The trail led from Westend next to the Berlin Radio Tower (built 1924-1926), crossed the Grunewald in a straight line and ended at the Nikolassee, a small lake surrounded by forests, returning to the northeast.

Race history

As soon as it was inaugurated on the weekend of September 24 and 25, 1921, a race was organized and the average speed record was set by Fritz von Opel. Another great race took place on June 10 and 11, 1922, accompanied by the first motorcycle race.

In 1926, the AVUS was transformed into a circuit to host the German Grand Prix won by local Rudolf Caracciola at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz.

Automobile competitions resumed in the 1930s, and the AVUS also hosted a race of its own, the AVUS-Rennen, organized from 1931 to 1935, then in 1937 and finally from 1952 to 1954. Caracciola won the race in 1931 , followed by his rival Manfred von Brauchitsch, also driving a Mercedes. In 1932 von Brauchitsch won the championship in a Mercedes-Benz SSKL, ahead of Caracciola in an Alfa Romeo. Another pilot lost his life in an accident driving a Bugatti Type 54. After the victories of Achille Varzi (Bugatti) and Guy Moll (Alfa Romeo) in 1933 and 1934, the Nazi regime encouraged the development of "arrows of 'Silver' (Silberpfeile), cars built by Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union. In 1935, driver Luigi Fagioli took victory in a Mercedes. The construction of a banked bend at the north end two years later allowed even higher speeds.

The "wall of death"

Chilling images of Goebbels coming to congratulate themselves, in 1937, on the triumph of the "silver arrows" (the Mercedes) at the Grand Prix of Germany, under the eyes of 380,000 spectators, to those of the East Germans authorized to cross the Berlin wall to celebrate the champions who only knew the speed wall. And feigned contempt for the "wall of death," as the banked bend soon became known.

The Avus is too fast: it's impossible to turn it into an endurance track (the tires don't resist) or to run Formula 1 cars on it. at the Nürburgring

In 1939, the Avus was connected to the motorway network and the "southern bend" therefore had its day.

Contrary to what is frequently said, the Berlin Wall did not cut the Avus (which is entirely in the "western zone") in half. But post-war, Berlin has other fish to fry. It was therefore only in 1954 that the Avus Grand Prix returned, with a new “southern bend”. Karl Kling (Mercedes) wins ahead of his teammates Fangio and Hermann, in a starving race on the plateau.

"We came to watch the races to see the drivers play their lives," recalls Bettina Gundler, director of the Deutsches Museum in Munich. The AVUS was "a mirror of German society in all its diversity", says automotive journalist Ulf Schultz, 42, born nearby, who does not hesitate to speak of "freedom road". Some Berliners will take pieces of the bend when it was demolished in 1967, "like when the Berlin Wall came down", recounts a former spectator who attended the last Grand Prix held there in 1959. He adds with regret: "Today , I tell myself that I should have saved a few bricks…”

The route of the AVUS, in the aftermath of the Great War, led to a breakthrough in the heart of the Grünewald forest, to the chagrin of Berliners. “The first nature protection movements immediately went into action to protest,” says Frank Steinbeck, curator of the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin. Sixty years before their entry into the Bundestag in 1983, the future Greens are already on the horizon...

French enthusiasts will remember this August 1, 1959 which saw Jean Behra, holder of the speed record on the AVUS, take off without return from the famous banked corner at the wheel of his Porsche. “At that time, we were constantly close to death,” recalls, moved, Hans Hermann, 93, his German pilot friend. He miraculously escaped, that same weekend, a spectacular series of rolls that he preferred to risk rather than see his car without brakes go into the crowd.

In 1967, the banked bend on the north side was demolished. The development of the circuit was then reduced several times, until its use was stopped in 1999 after a final race of old cars.

So, if you pass near Berlin, take a ride on the A115, between kilometers 17 and 2, and since nothing is lost, the paddock has become a hotel-restaurant (a compulsory place of pilgrimage.) They even have kept the huge Mercedes star.


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