Origins of racing
The motorsport origins of all the companies symbolized by the “Four Rings”, as well as NSU, go back to before the First World War. The one figure who stands out above the rest is August Horch. The engineer and founder of the Horch and Audi companies initially concentrated on long-distance rallies too promote his company. For prospective customers, these grueling events boosted the image of the brand enormously.
August Horch himself competed in the early days
As company owner, Horch had no reservations about entering the fray of competition himself, though he handed over the car with the better prospects of success to one of his best customers; the company’s victory in the 1906 Herkomer Run was the reward for far-sighted courtesy. The beaten brands were mostly Benz and Mercedes.
When the company failed to repeat its initial successes in subsequent years, motorsport became a topic of some controversy among the company's management, and contributed to August Horch’s eventual departure from the company he had founded. August Horch enjoyed even more success with his next company, Audi, which he established in 1909. At around the same time that Ferdinand Porsche rose to fame as both designer and racing driver, August Horch and his team won the Austrian Alpine Run three times in a row between 1912 and 1914. His Audi cars became well-known virtually overnight.
DKW: A thousand victories in two years
Of the four companies based in Saxony, DKW with its two-stroke motorcycles had the greatest involvement in motorsport in the 1920s. In its motorcycle advertisements, DKW boasted: “One thousand race wins in two years!”
Wanderer and NSU
In 1914, Wanderer made its mark in the Austrian Alpine Run with the legendary “Puppchen” model, and from 1928 onwards Wanderer cars were regular winners of such events. These motorsport successes led to contacts with Ferdinand Porsche, which later resulted in a contract to develop racing cars for Auto Union. While NSU triumphs with its two-wheelers continued for decades, the successes of the NSU cars were fewer by comparison. However, achievement of the white cars with their six-cylinder supercharged engines in the 1500cc class at the first German Grand Prix on Berlin’s Avus circuit in 1926 proved outstanding.
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