Friday, February 9, 2018

Hans Stuck Dies In Grainau, Germany - February 9, 1978

December 27, 1900 – February 9, 1978
Hans Stuck
Born in Warsaw, Poland.
Although his parents were of Swiss ancestry, they had moved to Germany by the time Stuck was born, and he grew up there. Besides his son Hans-Joachim, his grandsons Johannes and Ferdinand Stuck became race drivers. Despite many successes in Grand Prix motor racing, he is now mostly known for his domination of hillclimbing, which earned him the nickname "Bergkönig" or "King of the Mountains".

Stuck's experience with car racing started in 1922 with early morning runs bringing milk from his farm to Munich. This eventually led to his taking up hill-climbing; he won his first race, at Baden-Baden, in 1923. A few years later, after a year as a privateer for Austro-Daimler, he became a works driver for them in 1927, doing well in hill climbs, and making his first appearance in a circuit race, the German Grand Prix. In 1931, Austro-Daimler left racing, and Stuck eventually wound up driving a Mercedes-Benz SSKL in sports car racing, where he continued to excel.

In 1933, his acquaintance with Adolf Hitler, whom he had met by chance on a hunting trip in 1925, led to his involvement with Ferdinand Porsche and Auto Union in Hitler's plans for German auto racing. With his experience from racing up mountain passes in the Alps in the 1920s, he was virtually unbeatable when he got the new Auto Union car, which was designed by Porsche. Its rear mounted engine provided superior traction compared to conventional front engine designs, so that its horse power could be transformed into speed even on non-paved roads.
(photo credit: kitchener.lord via photopin cc)
His career with Auto Union was quite successful. In 1934, he won the German, Swiss and Czechoslovakian Grand Prix races. There was no European Championship for the circuit races that year, or he would have won it. Wins in a number of hill-climb races brought him European Mountain Champion, the first of three he would eventually collect.

Hans Stuck - 1935 Auto Union Rekordwagen Typ Lucca.
(photo credit: kitchener.lord via photopin cc)
In 1935, he won the Italian Grand Prix along with his usual collection of hill-climb wins, again taking the European Mountain Championship.

Hans Stuck - 1936 Auto Union Typ C
(photo credit: kitchener.lord via photopin cc)
1936 was leaner; he placed second in the Tripoli and German Grands Prix, finishing second in the competition for the European Championship. After Stuck missed a number of hill-climbs because of injuries suffered in accidents, that year the European Mountain Championship fell to his famous team-mate, Bernd Rosemeyer. 1937 was equally lean, bringing only second places in the Rio de Janeiro and Belgian Grands Prix.

1938 opened poorly; Stuck was either fired from, or quit, the Auto Union team. After a series of injuries to other team drivers, as well as pressure from the German government, he was re-hired and proved himself by winning a third European Mountain Championship.

After the war, although Germans were banned from racing until 1950, Stuck obtained Austrian citizenship and immediately continued racing. A link with Alex von Falkenhausen led to Stuck driving for his team in Formula Two racing, although with little success.

He drove a Porsche Spyder in 1953, also with no success. A liaison with BMW, starting in 1957, was more fruitful. A switch to their tiny BMW 700 RS did the trick, and at age 60, he became German Hillclimb Champion for the last time. He decided to retire on a high note, and thereupon closed his professional driving career. As an instructor on the Nürburgring, he taught his son Hans-Joachim the secrets of this challenging circuit.

Hans Stuck died on February 9, 1978 in Grainau, Germany, at 77 years of age.

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