What do we have here?
A cool old photo of Stuck on an Auto Union in the pits.
What do we actually have here?
Ferdinand Porsche and Hans Stuck look concerned as the front of a rather unique Auto Union A is checked over.
It’s September 1934 and we are at Circuito Lasarte – the 11 mile road course in the Basque Country, close to San Sebastián – for the IX Gran Premio de España. At the wheel is Hans Stuck – racing driver, ‘Bergkönig’, and motivation / influencer behind the Auto Union Grand Prix project. Behind the car, in the striped tie, is Ferdinand Porsche – engineering legend and father of this ground-breaking racing car. Next to Porsche is Stuck’s wife, as Richard Williams clarified for us:
“I think that’s Paula von Reznicek… Former German tennis champion and world No 8. She was part-Jewish, which caused a few problems.”
So what makes this Auto Union “odd” and “rather unique”? It’s the bonnet – or rather, the curved front panel over the top of the oil & front fuel tanks. For this race – and apparently only for this race(?) – the two entered Auto Unions featured a mesh bonnet. Rather than the usual solid aluminium with side vent.
What was the thinking behind this? I can’t be certain, but my hunch would be it’s an experiment in heat extraction. I haven’t seen it used at another event, so we must conclude it wasn’t successful.
Overall it wasn’t a hugely sucessful race for Auto Union. Stuck – in this number 6 car – started 3rd, on the front row of the grid. By lap 3 it was parked-up with an oil pipe problem, and Hans took over the number 22 Auto Union.
After 325 miles of racing, the unchallenged Mercedes-Benz W25 of Fagioli & Caracciola took the flag in first and second places. Tazio Nuvolari brought the Bugatti T59 home in third, with Stuck just 15 seconds behind him.
There was one ‘silver lining’ for Auto Union that weekend. In practice, the man Porsche considered “the greatest driver of the past, present and future” had tested the number 22 car. Tazio Nuvolari would eventually achieve great things at the wheel of an Auto Union, but not yet. There was still much drama to play out.