The AVUS (Automobil-Verkehrs-und-Übungs-Straße) was a temporary circuit, set up using a section of the Autobahn in southwestern Berlin. It only hosted modern Formula One once, the 1959 German Grand Prix, won by Tony Brooks in a Ferrari.
Circuit History[edit | edit source]
Early History[edit | edit source]
In 1907, the local auto club proposed a new track near Berlin, that could be used as both a test and race track. The track was to be financed by user fees. A committee was formed in 1909, but lack of funding delayed the start of construction until 1913. After just one year, the project shut down because of World War I, but Russian prisoners of war were employed to construct a temporary road along the route for military use. In 1920 a local politician and businessman came forward and financed the remainder of the project. Upon completion, the course was 19.5 km (12 miles) long, consisting of a packed dirt surface with two parallel straightaways and flat wide-radius corners at each end, driven counter-clockwise. A shorter, 8.3km track with a 'bus stop' sudkurve was set up for motorcycles. At the northeast end, there was a gate building, offices and grandstands. The first events were all for motorcycles, and after each day's racing, the public could drive on the track for 10 Marks.
Grand Prix racing finally arrived in Germany and the AVUS with the first German Grand Prix. But the heavier and more powerful cars pointed out shortcomings in the track design and surface. One driver hit a rut during practice and flipped the car. He survived but his mechanic was killed. The race was held in rainy weather, sometimes quite heavy, and both aquaplaning and mud were problems. Another driver hit the timekeeper's box, and killed three marshals. The race was won by an unknown Mercedes-Benz salesman from Dresden named Rudolf Caracciola.
After that event, the organizers resurfaced the circuit with asphalt. But the Grand Prix had flown the coop, to reside for the next 33 years in the foggy Eifel Mountains 400km west, at a new track known as the Nürburgring. AVUS continued to host non-championship races, along with motorcycle races and speed record attempts. In 1928, Fritz von Opel reached a speed of 238 km/h (148 mph) in an Opel RAK2. But soon even having more than nine km of straightaway wasn't good enough, and in 1936 work began on a new banked corner at the northeast end of the track. No motor racing was held that year, but during construction the track was used for the bicycle road race, 50km walk and marathon events of the 1936 summer Olympics. (A second banked curve was planned for a little bit beyond the southwest end, near the Großer Wannsee, but the accelerating war effort precluded that.)
The Wall[edit | edit source]
When track events resumed in 1937, drivers and fans alike were shocked at what they saw. The Nordkurve was a brick surfaced, 43° banked corner that turned the cars more than 180°. And, because the banking had no retaining wall at the top, it soon gained the nickname of "the Wall of Death". Because the Nazi government had decided to incorporate the AVUS into the growing Reichsautobahn network, the old Sudkurve was demolished to become an interchange, and the track used the 8.3km motorcycle configuration. In the 1937 event, which was run as Formula Libre, Luigi Fagioli took the pole at an average speed of more than 280km/h (174mph), a record that would stand until the opening of Talladega Speedway in 1969.
In early 1938, Bernd Rosemeyer was killed during a speed record attempt on a similar straight section of the Autobahn between Frankfurt and Darmstadt, and suddenly highway tracks were deemed too dangerous for racing. No more major events were held until after the war.
Later Years[edit | edit source]
After the war, non-championship races were held at AVUS from 1952-54, but the series was cancelled after the 1955 Le Mans Disaster. Due to political factors, the 1959 German Grand Prix was held at AVUS. Due to tire wear concerns, the race was run in two heats, the only modern Formula One race to do so. The race itself was dominated by Ferrari, with Tony Brooks leading home teammates Dan Gurney and Richie Ginther in a Scuderia 1-2-3. The fourth Ferrari, driven by Cliff Allison, suffered a broken clutch on lap 2. But the weekend was marred by the death of popular French driver Jean Behra, who lost control of his Porsche in a Formula Two race, and went over the banking.
In later years, AVUS was known for having a wildly popular doubleheader event, featuring the German Formula 3 series and the DTM sedan series. But a pair of fatal accidents in the 1990s resulted in all events being shifted to the new Lausitzring, about an hour south.
Circuit Layouts[edit | edit source]
1921-36[edit | edit source]
19.565km (12.157mi) circuit with two straightaways and wide flat 180°+ corners with gentle doglegs at each end, run counter-clockwise. The southwest end was located at what is now the Motel und Rasthof Grunewald, just short of Spanische Allee in Nikolassee.
1937-67[edit | edit source]
8.300km (5.157mi) circuit with two straightaways, a tight hairpin at the southwest end, and a right hand dog-leg leading on to a huge, 43° banked high speed brick corner at the northeast end. The southwest end was located just before the modern exit for Hüttenweg, and can still be seen in aerial photos. Note: the urban legend that the apportionment of Berlin forced the track to shorten the length is false. The border with the Soviet Sector was more than 2km beyond the south end of the original circuit. And East German spectators were admitted to the 1959 Grand Prix.
1968-83[edit | edit source]
The huge banked Nordkurve was demolished, and replaced by a sweeping flat bend that was previously the access road at the base of the banking. The track was shortened slightly to 8.1 km, due to the shorter radius of the new Nordkurve.
1984-91[edit | edit source]
The track was shortened again, to 4.8km, and the Sudkurve was just a gap in the guard rail, making it a true hairpin.
1992-96[edit | edit source]
For the final years, the circuit was just 2.6km, a mere shadow of its old self, with a chicane just before the Nordkurve.
Current[edit | edit source]
Currently the track is a segment of Bundesautobahn 115, a major link in the transport network of the area. Berlin's growing population, and the demands of the public for the Autobahn, preclude any use as a race circuit. The race control building is now a motel, and the grandstands have been designated historical structures, staring down at rush-hour traffic.
Event history[edit | edit source]
The following is a list of Formula One World Championship events held at the AVUS circuit:
|Year||Event||Winning Driver||Winning Constructor|
|1926||1926 German Grand Prix||Rudolf Caracciola||Mercedes|
|1959||German Grand Prix||Tony Brooks||Ferrari|
Notes[edit | edit source]
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