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.
As Bob Hope used to sing: ‘Thanks’s for the memories…’
“we automatically accept statistics from 1950 onwards” – is a modern blinkered approach as there are several drivers pre-1950 worthy of mention in any list of top drivers along with Fangio, Senna, Clark, etc. Caracciola must be prime amongst these along with Nuvolari and Rosenmeyer. Particularly when you consider the skill needed to control the Silver Arrows era of 600+ bhp on bicycle tyres.
Absolutely, Herman Lang, Von Brautischm Dick Seaman – all worthy of being remembered. Last but no means least Nuvolaris greatest rival Achille Varzi
You mean these guys would make, say, a top 20 best drivers never to win a championship list…?
Many believe that Nuvolari was the greatest of all time but he is never featured in the Top 10, 20 or 50 Formula One driver lists because he never raced in F1, the World Championship was only introduced in 1950
But they did win championships – just not the F1 World Championship. Caracciola win the European Championship 3 times, Nuvolari and Rosenmeyer once each.
I think all of the above names might have got onto my list…
Lets just say I have been doing a lot of reading up on the pre-war superstars.. simply awesome
“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”
But what a win it was;)
Caracchiola still was King of the Ring, which is why the Karussell is named after him and not Nuvolari.
Completely agree DS, although Nuvolari winning against the German teams in 1935 was almost like a GP3 car driven by Senna beating the RB9 last year.
The fact that Nuvolari embarrassed them that day and the fact that he is Italian may have something to do with it being named after the greatest German driver.
Please correct me, but I cannot think of any circuit that is named after or has a corner in Nuvolari’s honour.
He has his own museum 😉 and I believe there was a circuit near Livorno (can’t remember the name or if it still exists) that had a corner named after him.
Didn’t know about the circuit enzo, but will go to the museum one day when in Italy.
There’s a TV channel called Nuvolari and they still show him on specials on RAI don’t they.
Even Audi a few years back named a concept car after him.
Donne e motori, gioie e dolori, life sessons by Tazio 😉
Nuvolari and Achille Varzi are two drivers that the world would have forgotten about if it wasn’t for hardcore nerds like us. I can’t think of any way they are remembered by having stuff named after them.
God bless the nerds!
It’s a tough call with Nuvolari – because Enzo Ferrari searched his whole life for somebody like him and believed he found in Villeneuve the same qualities, so people would search out this mans legend. Varzi is remembered because of the Nuvolari link otherwise I agree.
In regards to naming circuits etc, it seems you have to be killed to receive that honour in Italy. I doubt any circuit will be renamed the Rossi Circuito, whereas Misano has been rechristened the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
We’ll make sure they (the young ones) keep remembering the old heroes, my sons are called Alberto and Enzo, and believe me,he may be only 12 years old, but he knows who Ascari is 😉
and the youngest always reminds people, when he’s introduced, that he’s named after the grand old man 😉
Cannot fault your choice enzo, and as I wrote, when they were together, it was Nuvolari that was unbeatable.
I was gifted a book when I was 12 years old that included Nuvolari, Carraciola, Varzi and Rosemeyer. All absolute legends and worthy of their stories being remembered