Bernd Rosemeyer was born on October 14, 1909 in Lingen, a town in the Emsland region of northwest Germany. He trained as a motor-vehicle mechanic, and rode in his first motorcycle race at the age of 21. After several highly successful years he joined the NSU factory team in March 1933, but moved at the end of the year to the DKW racing department in Zschopau. One of his notable triumphs was helping to win the Golden Team Prize in the International Six Day Trial.
After tests on the Nürburgring in an Auto Union racing car, Rosemeyer was offered a contract in October 1934 to drive for the company. His first race was on the Avus circuit in Berlin on May 26, 1934. He set the fourth-fastest practice time, which gained him a place on the front row of the starting grid. He was runner-up or third across the line several times during the season, but on September 29, 1935 was able to record his first outright victory in the Auto Union racing car. This was the occasion on which he met his future wife, the well-known pilot Elly Beinhorn.
A year of triumphs
In 1936 Rosemeyer won the legendary “fog race” on the Nürburgring, the German Grand Prix and, between August 15 and September 27, the following five events in quick succession: the Coppa Acerba in Pescara, the Swiss Grand Prix in Berne, the Schauinsland hillclimb, the Italian Grand prix in Monza and the Feldberg hillclimb. He was the first driver to lap the Nürburgring in less than ten minutes, and in 1936 took the German Hillclimb and Road Racing Championship and European Championship titles (the latter awarded for the first time in 1935).
For record-breaking attempts in October 1937, Rosemeyer drove a streamlined Auto Union car and was the first person to exceed 400 km/h (actual speed 406 km/h) on a road normally open to the public. His acceleration record set on the same occasion (188.7 km/h at the end of a standing-start kilometre) remained unbeaten for many years. But on January 28, 1938 Bernd Rosemeyer’s car left the road at more than 430 km/h during a renewed record attempt. To this day, he is remembered as one of the greatest German racing drivers of all time.