NSU in racing
NSU was already making a name for itself in motorsport in the early twentieth century. By 1967, the brand had scored notable race victories at motorcycle and automobile races.
The early days
In 1908, NSU began contesting motor races on an international stage. The 1909 Prince Henry Run proved to be a great success, as did many other long-distance races and reliability rallies. In 1925, August Momberger scored a remarkable victory with a newly designed 6/60 hp racing car with supercharged six-cylinder engine at Germany’s first Sports Car Grand Prix. At the 1926 event, NSU locked out the first four places in the 1500cc class, and was fifth overall.
Post-war car racing
In 1960 and 1961, the NSU Prinz II model achieved class victories in the Tour d’Europe. The company scored a third successive class win in the “Gran Premio Argentino” in 1961. But NSU was also at home in hillclimb racing. The 1962 season was a triumph for Karl-Heinz Panowitz as he became the German Touring Car Hillclimb champion in all of the classes. Just a year later, Siegfried Spiess took the German Hillclimb title, followed by him becoming the German GT Hillclimb champion in 1965, at the wheel of an NSU Prinz 1000, again in all of the classes. After this, the NSU/Wankel era began. Spiess became the German Hillclimb champion in all of the classes in the 1967 and 1968 seasons, driving an NSU/Wankel Spider. In addition, Panowitz/Strunz were the German GT Rally champions in 1966, as well as Günther Irmscher taking the overall victory in the Tour d’Europe. Altogether, six German championship titles went to NSU cars between 1961 and 1968, and on the international scene the company won no fewer than 29 touring car championships between 1962 and 1967.
NSU IN MOTORCYCLE RACING
NSU also celebrated successes in motorcycle racing in the early 20th century: In 1905, for instance, at the maiden “Eisenach–Berlin–Eisenach” race over 660 kilometres, where they set a road record for two-horsepower bikes. 1907 yielded the first triumph in the world’s most important motorbike race, the Tourist Trophy, and 1908 yielded a speed record on the Hanover racetrack with 106 km/h. In 1910, William Streiff attracted attention by traversing the USA from San Francisco to New York – 6,300 km of unsealed roads in 28 days. A gold medal at the Tourist Trophy followed a year later.
In 1930, NSU lured the Englishman Sir William Moore to Neckarsulm as the new head designer of racing machines. Moore and the British racing driver Tom Bullus formed a formidable team, with wins from every race entered. From 1935 to 1937, the marque won more championships in Germany and Switzerland.
In 1947, NSU claimed the German championship titles in the 600cc and 1000cc supercharged sidecar categories. A year later Wilhelm Herz became German champion on a 350cc supercharged NSU motorcycle. Heiner Fleischmann was German champion in 1950. In 1953 Werner Haas took two world championship titles, in the 125cc and 250cc classes; he also won the German championship titles twice in these classes.
NSU celebrated its greatest victory in the 1954 “Tourist Trophy” (TT) on the Isle of Man. The brand won the 125cc class, and crossed the line in places 1 to 4 in the 250cc class.
That same year Haas triumphed in the 250cc world championship, with Rupert Hollaus taking the equivalent title in the 125cc class. Two German championship titles also went to Haas, in the 125cc and 250cc classes. Top honours in the 350cc class handed Hermann Paul Müller the German championship title. NSU contested 24 races and won them all. In 1955 Müller became the world’s first privateer to win a world championship, on an NSU Sportmax in the 250cc class. But the brand did not only celebrate success in circuit racing: from 1955 to 1967, NSU secured 23 German off-road championship titles.
World speed records, 1951 to 1956
On April 12, 1951, NSU motorcycles made speed record attempts on the Munich-Ingolstadt motorway for the first time since the Second World War. Riding a streamlined NSU motorcycle, Wilhelm Herz reached 279.5 km/h and broke the record set 14 years previously by Ernst Jakob Henne on BMW. In 1956, on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the US State of Utah, Wilhelm Herz broke the absolute world record for motorcycles with a speed of 339 km/h. In 1956, NSU held every possible motorcycle world speed record.
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