Hockenheim: The First Bike/MotoGP Race in 90 Years

When I researched the Moto Trophy in racing history with the May Cup race in Hockenheim last Sunday, the racing engines were here for the first time exactly 90 years ago.

90 years ago, on May 29, 1932, about 60,000 spectators witnessed the first motorcycle race on the Triangular Circuit outside Hockenheim. Since then, the small town of Baden located about 20 kilometers south of Mannheim and motorsports belong together as well.

The Motorfahrer Club Hockenheim was founded on December 1, 1931. On Christmas Day of the same year, the Hockenheim Municipal Council approved the construction and use of the racetrack. After Berlin also gave its approval, the brief construction phase began on March 23, 1932.

At that time, as well as in the years that followed, Ernst Christ played an important role in the renaissance of the race city of Hockenheim. Christian, who received several awards for his services, died on May 31, 2001 at the age of 91.

In 1934, Hockenheim was included in the National MotoGP Championship for the first time. Four years later, Kurpfalzring, as it was then called, was rebuilt. The new eastern curve gave the track its distinctive shape, which lasted until 2001 and became world famous. As a high-speed track, Hockenheim has been mentioned at the same time as Monza and Spa for many years.

After the war, Badische Motorsport Club was founded in the DMV and Hockenheimring GmbH, again led by Ernst Christ. When the scent of racing spread over the city again on May 11, 1947, Hockenheimring, as it has since been called, was one of the first places in post-war Germany.

In 1948 the first anniversary was celebrated. In the 10th race at Hockenheim, Wilhelm Herz, later president of Baden Motorsport and managing director of Hockenheimring GmbH, won the race in the 350 cc class by about two minutes in an NSU pre-war compressor. George Mayer celebrated an unusual double win for the time. On the one hand, he won the race car class at Veritas, and on the other hand he won the 500 cc motorcycle class over the BMW.

After the MotoGP World Championships, introduced in 1949, also stopping annually in Germany since 1952, the emergence of Solitude in Stuttgart, Schottenring in the Vogelsberg district and the Nürburgring as venues, the entire world elite was in Hockenheim for the first time from 17 to 19 May with the start of 1957 season for the guests. Actually everything was fine. 100,000 spectators, well-prepared and well-organised track. Peter just had one of his worst days. On May 19, 1957, Italian Carlo Ubbiali won the first race of the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim, in the 125 cc class, in heavy rain in front of his compatriots Tarquinio Provini and Roberto Colombo. Similarly, Ubbilai won the 250cc race. In the half-liter class race, driver Gilera Libero Liberati achieved an average winning speed of 200,012 km/h, breaking the magical 200 km/h mark for the first time. As the 350cc race winner, he was also a double winner that day.

The construction of the A6 Mannheim-Heilbronn motorway made it necessary to transform the Hockenheimring. Then Motodrom was built in 1964/65. A virtue out of necessity has been made here. Anyone who’s experienced racing and the unique stadium atmosphere with a full house knows what we’re talking about. For the opening of the Motodrom on May 22, 1966, the German MotoGP Grand Prix was in the program again. Among other things, Hans-Georg Anscheidt won the first race in the up to 50 cc class.

With the Motodrom and the necessary depreciation of the investment, motor racing now also gained importance at Hockenheimring. The racetrack in Baden initially became the mecca of the European Formula 2 Championship, which was of great importance at the time and where the best in Formula 1 competed over and over again. On April 7, 1968, the Formula 2 race at Hockenheim was fatal to two-time Formula 1 World Champion Jim Clark. In the pouring rain, the Briton left the track in his Lotus and crashed into a tree. Jim Clark died instantly.

After that, a lot was invested in safety. The Long Forest Strait was softened by chicanes, the first of which was named Jim Clark chicane.

In 1970, these efforts were rewarded by hosting the Grand Prix of Germany, the Formula 1 World Championship round. Due to enormous safety concerns at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the race was moved to Hockenheim four weeks ahead of schedule. The organizers of the Baden racetrack reacted in a very short time. What happened next was one of the best and most exciting Formula 1 races in history. After 50 laps, Austrian Jochen Rindt won the Lotus 72 by just 0.10 seconds over Ferrari’s Jackie Eckx of Belgium.

After another six-year era at the Nürburgring, Formula 1 returned to Hockenheim in 1977. Then, with one interruption (1985), the German Grand Prix was held at Hockenheim for many years.

Formula 1 is now available, well and well. But what was lacking in ultimate bliss was a German driver who, if at all possible, has more chances. After Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips (who died in an accident in 1961), Germany finally got its champion in the early ’90s in Michael Schumacher. With his home win at Benetton Reno in 1995, he turned Hockenheim into an absolute crazy house.

The black, red and gold distinction was made in the motorcycles in 1991, because with Ralf Waldmann (125 cc), Helmut Bradl (250 cc) and Ralph Bonhorst / Bruno Heller (side wagon) there were three German victories in one day.

An integral part of the annual calendar of Hockenheim events was and remains the DTM and vice versa. Hockenheim is practically the home of the DTM. After they ended at the end of 1996, on May 28, 2000, 78,000 resurrection scenes lived.

A year later the famous Baden Motodrome was told: “Adieu Waldstragen”. In order to remain one of the world’s most modern and attractive racetracks in the future, excavators and bulldozers rolled over the Hockenheimring after the end of the 2001 season. DTM was awarded the honor of holding the last race on the 6,825 km circuit.

With the “Future Hockenheimring” project, the traditional circuit has been shortened and modernized, with the unique Motodrom difficulty changing. Only the long forest paths, on which countless dramatic battles were fought, were deleted and replaced with a section more suitable for spectators.

Meanwhile, calm reigned around the major international races at Hockenheim. The MotoGP World Championships were last held here in 1994 and the Millennium Superbike World Championships in 2000.

For several long years people treated themselves to expensive Formula 1 racing, sometimes alternating with the Nürburgring, but after 2019 that was over (for now?).

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