Motor racing celebrates many a hero, but it also mourns its many victims. The 1930s saw their share of both records and danger, drivers and their mechanics risking anything to make their cars faster. High Velocity – a film about speed.
Thrills and spills have been part of racing since the car was invented. But in German racing history one day stands out above all – 28 January 1938. Carmakers Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union met early that day to break the world speed record on a stretch of the Frankfurt-Darmstadt Autobahn. The drivers were Rudolf Caracciola for Mercedes-Benz and Bernd Rosemeyer for Auto Union, intense rivals and both at the peak of their sport.
First out in his aerodynamic Mercedes-Benz W125, Caracciola clocked 432 km/h setting a new world record for public roads. Just hours later Bernd Rosemeyer took to his Auto Union Streamliner in an attempt to top that. But just around the 9 kilometer mark disaster struck. Rosemeyer lost control of his vehicle which careered off the road. Thrown clear when his car somersaulted into an embankment, Rosemeyer was killed on the spot.
For the Nazis and the German media of the day Rosemeyer had died a hero’s death for the fatherland. But why had the accident actually happened? A technical problem? Was it the weather? Consensus was hard to find. Caracciola’s record was to remain unbroken until 2017.
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