Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
– 1901: Caracciola – The original Regenmeister
When Mercedes bought the Tyrrell-BAR-Honda-Brawn team and renamed it for 2010, the general consensus was that any new achievements were to be included with it’s 1950’s forebears accomplishments. Personally I take issue with this as there is absolutely no connection between the two factions at all.
“Formula One” has become so well engrained in our minds, that when we create any lists of greatest drivers, circuits or cars, we automatically accept statistics from 1950 onwards.
The pre-war era is considered prehistoric and it is generally the cars – not the drivers – that command the attention of motor-sport aficionados. After all, it took until the mid-80’s before F1 engine power over-took the Nazi sponsored Silver Arrows.
Unfortunately – besides the legendary Tazio Nuvolari – few drivers are afforded the respect their achievements deserve and yet today marks the birth-date of Rudolf Caracciola, one of the greatest of the pre-war drivers.
His first success in motor-sport came whilst apprenticed at the Fafnir company – a German vehicle manufacturer. He moved to Dresden in 1923 and continued as a Fafnir representative but was enticed by Daimler to work for them. Rudolf continued to race – driving a Mercedes – and won half or the races he entered in 1923.
Caracciola’s career came to international prominence in the inaugural German Grand Prix held at the Automobil-Verkehrs- und Übungs-Straße (AVUS) track in 1926.
Mercedes-Benz was a newly formed company and Caracciola was loaned a M218 on the understanding he entered as an independent. He overcame stalling on the grid and a misfire – which required lengthy repairs – to overtake the 44 car field twice.
Caracciola was forced to drive for the Alfa Romeo team in 1932 but on the understanding that if Mercedes returned, he would join them once more. He was partnered with Nuvolari – who was practically unbeatable – but won the German Grand Prix when the Italian was forced – by management – into a lengthy pit-stop to ensure a popular local victory.
In practice for the 1933 Monaco race, he crashed and sustained multiple fractures to his right thigh – an injury that would leave him with a permanent limp as his leg healed two inches shorter after his lengthy recovery.
By 1935, he returned – with Mercedes – to mount a serious challenge for the European Championship and with three wins out of five races, was crowned champion. Following a poor 1936, he regained his title in 1937 and 1938. With the outbreak of war in 1939, this great era of titans came to a close.
From 1935, the record books show Caracciola as a three time championship winner who won nine races from twenty one starts. Over the same period, Nuvolari secured two race wins from eighteen starts.
There is no doubt that the German factories produced cars that were technically superior to anything fielded by their rivals, but equally, there is no doubt that they required drivers of outstanding skill to temper them.
Caracciola was unquestionably the greatest of the Mercedes drivers. A man who possessed an artisans sensitivity when it came to driving; he never over-strained the car and rarely shredded its tyres.
These qualities were never more apparent than when the skies decided to saturate the circuits and the Regenmeister’s fingertips conducted the violence of the Silver Arrow.