Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Brief History of the Solitude Ring in Stuttgart, Germany

Solitude Hill Climb, 18 May 1924. Spectators in the Mercedes stand.
Mercedes-Benz and the Solitude Ring
The Solitude racing track in Stuttgart not only has strong associations with Mercedes-Benz racing history: this shared past dates back even further than the brand, which came into being in 1926. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) competed on the triangular circuit with its Mercedes racing cars from as early as 1922. The hill climb, which was inaugurated in 1903 for motorcycles, was opened to automobiles in 1922. In the years that followed, the racing cars of Benz as well as the Mercedes vehicles of DMG played a dominant role in many classes.
Already in 1923, a young Mercedes driver won his class in the Solitude hill climb as part of the ADAC Reichs Rally. The world of motorsport was to hear a lot more of this young man, who, in only his second race for the brand with the star, was victorious in three individual categories in his Mercedes 1.5-litre racing car while winning the overall classification for touring cars up to 6 tax hp: his name was Rudolf Caracciola. Benz and DMG vehicles also celebrated other victories. In the following year, for example, Mercedes factory driver Adolf Rosenberger was triumphant in the hill climb.

"Around Solitude", 18 September 1927. Georg Kimpel (starting number 27) at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz Model S. Kimpel finished second in the class for sports cars over five litres displacement.

The first "Around Solitude" race was held in 1925. Otto Merz won the inaugural competition in the class for racing cars up to two litres in a Mercedes two-litre four-cylinder supercharged racing car. This time, Adolf Rosenberger won the class up to 8 tax hp in a Benz two-litre "teardrop" car – the world's first mid-engined racing car, which was unveiled by the Mannheim-based company in 1923.
One class victory each for Mercedes and Benz in the first "Around Solitude" race over the challenging 22.3-kilometre circuit: from a present-day perspective, this seemed like a taste of things to come. For the merger between DMG and Benz & Cie. in 1926 was to give rise to the Mercedes-Benz brand,
Whose first success at Solitude was not long in coming: on 12 September 1926, Willy Walb was victorious in the class for sports cars over five litres in a Mercedes-Benz Model K. The same race marked Alfred Neubauer's debut as racing director. In the decades that followed up until 1955, he was to play a leading part in this role in the racing triumphs of Mercedes-Benz.
The Solitude races of that era were true festivals of motorsport. Yet it was not just public interest that was growing steadily, but also the power of the racing cars. For safety reasons, therefore, 1927 – the success year of the Model S – was the last year in which automobiles were allowed onto the 1925 circuit. Mercedes-Benz said goodbye in style, the Model S winning the classes for sports cars over five litres (Willy Walb) and over three litres (Otto Merz).
From 1928, Solitude was to be reserved for motorcycle racing. Even so, at the Solitude Race of 1937 Mercedes-Benz racing driver Hermann Lang was able to demonstrate the Silver Arrow W 125 at full speed to the enthusiastic spectators. A press release from the company at the time stated: "Tripoli winner Hermann Lang, at the wheel of the victorious Mercedes-Benz racing car, will start the International Solitude Race of 1937 by completing several laps of the familiar Solitude track at racing speed. The citizens of Stuttgart will have their first opportunity to admire the thrilling skill of their local driver following his first victory in a major international race as he negotiates this difficult circuit."
After the Second World War, the Solitude Ring experienced a new heyday. Now, it was not just racing cars that competed over the 11.7-kilometre triangular circuit, which, still in existence today, features numerous curves and differences in height. The Solitude Rally was added in the mid-1950s. It, too, is associated with the names of Mercedes-Benz racing drivers such as Eugen Böhringer and Eberhard Mahle. The Solitude Ring was additionally used by Mercedes-Benz in the 1950s for testing its racing cars as well as for selecting and training its racing drivers. Car racing was reinstated on the circuit in 1949. In the 1960s, even Formula 1 and Formula 2 races were held on the Stuttgart track, adding international sparkle with a star-studded field of competitors. The last race on the Solitude Ring was in 1965. Since 2008, the history of the circuit has been brought back to life by the Solitude Revival.

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