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NSU was making a name for itself in motor sport in the earliest years of the twentieth century. In 1905 a Frau Eisemann from Hamburg took part in the 660-kilometre Eisenach-Berlin-Eisenach road race and set a new record for 2-horsepower motorcycles. The first triumph in the world’s most prestigious motor race, the Tourist Trophy, came in 1907.
1908: the company captured its first speed records: one of its motorcycles was ridden at 106 km/h on the racetrack in Hanover. In 1910 William Streiff made the headlines by crossing the US continent from San Francisco to New York, a distance of 6,300 km on unmade roads, in 28 days. Gassert won a gold medal in the 1911 Tourist Trophy.
In 1930 NSU hired an Englishman, Sir William Moore, as its new Chief Designer for racing motorcycles at the Neckarsulm factory. He and the English racing motorcyclist Tom Bullus made a successful team, winning every race for which the company entered in 1930 and 1931.
Further German and Swiss championship titles were gained between 1935 and 1937.
NSU began to enter for international car races in 1908. The 1909 Prince Henry Run was a great success, repeated in many other long-distance races and reliability trials. In 1914 NSU won the “Circuit through Morocco”, and gained a class victory in the 1923 small-car race on the Avus racetrack. In 1925 Momberger drove a new design, the 6/60 PS racing car with supercharged six-cylinder engine, to victory in Germany’s first Sports Car Grand Prix. NSU took the first four places in the 1500 cc class of the 1926 event, and was fifth overall.
Motorcycle racing from 1947 to 1951
Böhm won the German championship titles in the 600 cc and 1000 cc supercharged sidecar categories in 1947. A year later Wilhelm Herz became German champion on a 350 cc supercharged NSU motorcycle. Heiner Fleischmann was German champion in 1950.
Motorcycle racing from 1953 to 1955
In 1953 Werner Haas took two world championship titles, in the 125 cc and 250 cc classes; he also won the German championship titles twice in these classes.
Victory in the 1954 “Tourist Trophy” (TT) on the Isle of Man was a major achievement. After entering this event, the world’s toughest motorcycle race, for more than 40 years without success, Hollaus on NSU took the chequered flag in the 125 cc class, and Haas, Hollaus, Armstrong and Müller crossed the line in places 1 to 4 in the 250 cc class.
In the same year Haas triumphed in the 250 cc world championship, with Rupert Hollaus taking the equivalent title in the 125 cc class. Two German championship titles also went to Haas, in the 125 cc and 250 cc classes, and H.P. Müller on NSU was German champion in the 350 cc class. NSU entered for 24 races and won each of them.
In 1955 H.P. Müller became the first private entrant ever to win a world championship, on an NSU Sportmax in the 250 cc class.
Off-road motorcycle events, 1955 to 1967
Between 1955 and 1967 NSU riders won 23 German off-road championship titles – with a motorcycle that had undergone no further technical development since 1957.
World speed records, 1951 to 1956
On April 12, 1951 NSU motorcycles were used for speed record attempts on the Munich-Ingolstadt motorway for the first time since the Second World War. Riding a streamlined NSU motorcycle, Wilhelm Herz reached 279.5 km/h and broke the record set 14 years previously by Henne on BMW.
In 1956, on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the US State of Utah, Wilhelm Herz broke the absolute world record for motorcycles, reaching 339 km/h. In 1956 NSU held every possible motorcycle world speed record.
Post-war car racing, 1960 to 1967
In 1960 and 1961 the NSU Prinz II (30) model gained class victories in the Tour d’Europe, more than 1,200 km long and therefore the world’s longest rally. In 1961 this was followed by a class win for the third year in succession in the “Gran Premio Argentino”, reaching the finishing line in under 50 hours at an average speed of more than 90 km/h.
The 1962 season was a triumph for Karl-Heinz Panowitz: driving a Prinz II (30) he was German Touring Car Hillclimb Champion in all classes. Just a year later Siegfried Spiess took the German Hillclimb title. He was German GT Hillclimb Champion in 1965 at the wheel of an NSU Prinz 1000, again in all classes. After this, the NSU/Wankel era began.
Panowitz/Strunz were German GT Rally Champions in 1966, driving an NSU/Wankel Spider. In a similar car, Siegfried Spiess became German Hillclimb champion in all classes in the 1967 season. The same year saw Günther Irmscher’s overall victory in the world’s longest rally, the Tour d’Europe.
Siegfried Spiess won the German Hillclimb Championship in all classes once again in 1968, driving an NSU/Wankel Spider. Altogether, six German championship titles went to NSU cars between 1961 and 1968, and on the international scene the company won no fewer than 29 touring car championships between 1962 and 1967.
Audi history: the “Four Rings” as book or e-journal.