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This post is a serialisation of an article that originally appeared over 75 years ago in ‘Das Motorrad’, the popular Motorcycling magazine in the German Language as it covered the proceedings of the 1939 ISDT, an event to finish in controversy and the results eventually annulled by the FIM.

After Day 1Day 2 & Day 3 we get to day 4

ISDT 1939 – Report from ‘Das Motorrad‘: The 4th Day

report by Von Gustav Mueller

The forth day mainly went through the Tyrol region, so it had been named the Tiroler Strecke[1]. During this day, there were some bad off-road difficulties, especially where one would not expect them.  The pass of Grießen and the pass of Thurn were easy, but the Gerlos pass is quite an affair. And then, there were these well known old acquaintances from earlier six days and winter rides, the “Bauer in der Au” and the “Valepp”[2] where they once had to carry emergency supplies by ski to the riders caught on a winter ride, who had been trapped there by snow, and the Sudelfeld[3]. At the “Bauer in der Au” Wiggerl Kraus had been among the spectators, he was quite well again.

The officials had chosen to use this day to sort out the gold medalists. It is quite understandable, that the officials do not like too many gold medalists, but the method they used, simply shortening the time standards, is the wrong way. The very good riders normally will deal with this situation, but with highest dedication, i.e. riding with high risk. If there is opposing traffic in a bend they cut, a crash will happen. Of course, this doesn’t happen so often to the “extra class” riders, as it does happen to the “first class” riders, or even more to the “only good” riders. Reason is, that these “extra class” riders have extremely short reaction times, so that they can get out of these dangerous situations.

But it can’t be the purpose of this event to get the riders into life threatening situations. A different way, means a less dangerous way, must be found to screen out the gold medalists. Without any doubt, the organisers do know this, but they still haven’t found the right way to do it. Also, it is the riders own fault, that the time schedules get always shorter, as they often ride at such high speed, that they have to wait up to half an hour in front of the time checks.

Of course, you need some time in advance, as a reserve for some incidents, but that must be done prudential and within certain limits. As soon as one has some advance, the speed for the rest of the distance should be slowed down. The ambition of some riders to overtake everyone in front of them, is only silly. This senseless chase is the reason for many tyre punctures, and other defects, too.

The best proof that calm riding can be the right way is seen in Pierre van Maldeghem, president of the Belgian motorcycle association, who always rides smooth, and who did stay without marks until the 3rd day, but then he took  3 marks on the 4th day and another 4 on the next day, due to the shortened times. There are some sensible riders who say, that the rider who goes for a silver medal from the beginning, has the best chance to earn a gold medal in the end.

Photo – #110 The NSKK-Obertruppführer [comparable to staff sergeant] Röser, who right at his first appearance at Schönerlinde made people talk of him, did become an excellent off road rider. Here he can be seen with his BMW at a steep climb, on his way to the next to last checkpoint. ISDT 1939 (das Motorrad)

Photo – #110 The NSKK-Obertruppführer [comparable to staff sergeant] Röser, who right at his first appearance at Schönerlinde made people talk of him, did become an excellent off road rider. Here he can be seen with his BMW at a steep climb, on his way to the next to last checkpoint. ISDT 1939 (das Motorrad)

The 4th day was the day of incidents. The riders say, the route hadn’t been marked sufficiently. From our view, the marking had been as good as on the days before, but the speed was much higher, so one can miss a sign more easily.

Where have the stop points been, red dots on white ground, which show the rider he is on the wrong route, after he has missed the correct branch? Obviously, they were used so sparingly, that I didn’t see even one! But, the plentiful use of these signs is very important. A typical case was the Dutchman van Dinter, who was overtaking a lorry with his small 125 cc DKW just at the moment when the marked track turned to the right. Of course, he was not able to see the marking arrow pointing to the right, and so he rode sixteen additional kilometres, which resulted in eleven marks.

This incident results in the suggestion, that a minimum of at least two stop points, one on the left and one on the right side of the blocked road, must be attached and widely staggered.

The 4th day was the day of exciting incidents. At the Sudelfeld we did meet Oberwachtmeister[4] Höser of the Kraftfahrtschule der Luftwaffe[5], whose clutch lever had been rolled up to a nice baroque curlicue. He fell off his bike between Jenbach and Bauer in der Au, and additionally he had hit a tree at this occasion.  Like these men are, he did deny this vigorously, but two holes in his helmet and fresh blades of grass in them did show it clearly. Only later I had the idea, if he might have forgotten his “emergency landing”? The bang had been quite hard, and in front of the time check at Bauer in der Au he had been waiting for some time, still a little bit dazed, and when it was his time, he opened the throttle and full speed ahead he did pass the timekeepers table, without stamping. Fortunately, there had been enough witnesses who had seen him at the time check in time, so he stayed within the ranking and without marks. His comrades had a funny interpretation of his strange behaviour after his accident, and they said: “Höser spurt nicht mehr”[6].

All along the track the men of the national team are under the surveillance of hundreds of eyes, it may be nice to know, how many people care about them, but the responsibility is also a nasty stress for their nerves. This time, “it did outwit” Rudi Seltsam in the test between Jenbach and Bauer in der Au. Some cows had it in for him, and although he did not fall, he had been bent his footrest and the lever of his combined brake severely on a stump. Adjusting didn’t help, so the man from Munich had to ride all the way to the finish without brake, using all his riding skills. There he had enough time to repair the defect. As a cautious man, he of course did carry some spare brake shoes with lining with him. It seemed that, due to overstressing of the brake something bent, so that the brake always did scuff. This lead to overheating of the brake and surrounding parts, so that grease from the transmission got into the brake drum, which lead to the complete loss of brake function. After cleaning, and installing of the new brake shoes, everything did work again.

Photo – This was the daily routine for the six days riders, very loose gravel and narrow roads, Additonally this seesaw, one bend after the other. Second man on this picture is the Swede Larsson on BMW R 51. In front Kurt Zimmermann, SS-Untersturmführer [comparable to 2. Lieutenant], on Zündapp KS 500. ISDT 1939 (das Motorrad)

Photo – This was the daily routine for the six days riders, very loose gravel and narrow roads, Additonally this seesaw, one bend after the other. Second man on this picture is the Swede Larsson on BMW R 51. In front Kurt Zimmermann, SS-Untersturmführer [comparable to 2. Lieutenant], on Zündapp KS 500. ISDT 1939 (das Motorrad)

Day of incidents. Hauptmann[7] Wolf did lose the route, but came to the checkpoint in time, but from the wrong direction. Between him and the checkpoint was a fence, which he could not get over with the motorcycle. So it came to the bizarre case, that someone came into the time check within time, but could not get closer than three metres from the table, and so did earn marks for being too late. So much time did the captain need, due to many parked cars, but he found a gap in the fence. That was really bad luck. NSU rider Eisenmann did fall into a beck, where he nearly drowned, as he could not get free immediately. Our national man Müller had two tyre punctures, but he did manage it curtly in time.

The English national team had been less lucky. The English national outfit did collide with a rock, which the sidecar rim did take amiss. The Englishmen must have worked very hard to get the outfit into running condition again, the sidecar rider was covered in sweat. But all work didn’t help, as it cost them four marks. However, we had been looking at the wheel of the English sidecar before this accident, the hub was very narrow, and the spokes not strong enough, it looked quite soft to us. On the other hand, the extremely narrow track width of these English outfits is absolutely advantageous, as they get around bends easily, and do well offroad. But with our transversal cylinders, this cannot be obtained easily.

Germany had bad luck in the Silver Vase that day. Puch rider von Millenkovich had to retire due to an ignition coil failure. Shortly before, he had been announcing, the only defect he had was a terrible hunger for a sausage sandwich. Also a second man of this team, Gruber, earned some marks due to losing his way. Concerning the riders who are not in a team, the bad luck of NSU rider Walther has to be reported, who had a broken sidecar connection strut. The outfit did a somersault, but rider and sidecar passenger fortunately remained unharmed, and were able to proceed. Of course they did earn penalty marks, namely 23 points. Julius von Krohn lost the status of having no marks that day. The cable of the ignition kill-switch had been damaged somewhere, and before he could find and fix it, he had lost so much time that he earned two marks.

Bad luck for “Fat Schlichting” too. Close to the finish, as he had been thinking, he had a tyre puncture, he asked how far it was to Salzburg, and got the answer “2 kilometres”. In fact, it was 20 kilometres, as the people he had asked had only given the distance to the next village. Of course it was impossible to ride these 20 kilometres on the rim in time, so he had earned two marks. Completely unnecessarily, Ischinger and Keitel from Auto Union earned marks due to fuel shortage. At a checkpoint, they only got 5 litres for each rider, which was not enough to get to the next refuelling place. It cannot be understood, that these points were not cancelled after protest.

Next episode will be day 5


[1] [Tyrolian route]

[2] [Mountain roads in Bavaria, close to the Austrian border]

[3] [Mountain road].

[4] [staff sergeant]

[5] [Air Force motoring school]

[6] [could be translated as “off the track”, but also “he doesn’t do what he should do”]

[7] [Captain]

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