Werner Haas (left) and his new NSU teammate Reginald Armstrong from the race in Northern Ireland, who immediately caused a sensation on the machine from Neckarsulm. Even if the picture may be deceiving, the Irishman was only 24 when this photo was taken, two years younger than the German shooting star, who was only 26 on May 30, 1953.

Season continues with reinvented Ulster Grand Prix

Instead of the dangerous and selective Clady Circuit, the Dundrod Circuit was used. In addition, for the first time after the Tourist Trophy and the Dutch TT, all classes were at the start again. The organizers had spent a lot on the new edition of the Ulster GP, as the equivalent of around 600,000 German marks had been invested in the preparation alone, as impressed journalists from the host country reported afterwards. A very rough and therefore non-slip asphalt was intended to ensure high cornering speeds on the twelve kilometer long route with an altitude difference of 160 meters. Due to the high travel costs to Belfast, the English were often alone, with the exception of the World Cup at the Ulster Grand Prix. The term “Grand Prix” was often misleading at the time because, as was the case in Albi (France) in 1952, the organizers were allowed to call their event that even if it was not part of the World Championships. In any case, the German teams received a very warm welcome and the hosts and fans were genuinely happy to see them in action for the first time (after their absence last year for the reasons mentioned above). But things got off to a hair-raising start in training for Werner Haas, as the Swabian fell in a curve, flew through a hedge and broke his metatarsal bone. But despite the usual push start at the time with the engine switched off, this did not prevent him from achieving brilliant feats on race day.

The sketch of the Dundrod Circuit – refreshed and legibly described by us based on old templates.

The opening race up to 125cc

Of course, the German drivers like Haas and Daiker were happy to finally be able to compete on an English track where they were not at a severe disadvantage compared to the competition due to a lack of track knowledge. NSU had made a huge effort and flown six racing motorcycles to Belfast with a special KLM aircraft. But it should also be worth it. First their drivers were used in the smallest category, although after the first lap things didn’t look very exciting for the NSU factory riders. The Italian Copeta had the best start and gained a considerable respectable distance when he crossed the finish line for the first time. His MV Agusta was significantly lighter and more maneuverable than the NSU. It initially looked as if he and his factory team colleagues Ubbiali and Sandford had a clear advantage, despite only having 5 gears instead of 6 from the NSU. However, Angelo Copeta clearly over-revved his engine several times and it promptly gave up on the third lap. After a record lap, Haas was now clearly in the lead and for a long time it looked as if Sandford would take second place ahead of NSU newcomer Armstrong. However, the Irishman caught up significantly and passed the Englishman and his MV at Lindsay Hairpin, but made a mistake in the finish curve at Dawson’s Bend a little later and Sandford still managed to take second place. So in the end a brave Swabian won despite a broken foot and another, Otto Daiker, came in an excellent fourth behind Armstrong.

Otto Daiker as German champion up to 125ccin 1952 on NSU. At the age of 41, the veteran from Boll in Baden-Württemberg narrowly missed the podium in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, in the end it was enough for him to achieve a brilliant sixth place in the 125cc World Championship.

The 250cc race with a premiere

In the category up to 250cc, as with the 125cc, things didn’t really look rosy for NSU in training, but as is often the case, testing and racing are two completely different things. Haas and Armstrong took the lead immediately after the start and clearly separated themselves from their opponents. Moto-Guzzi factory rider Anderson desperately tried to catch up behind him, but by now the NSU Rennmax was clearly faster than the competition and even exceeded the 350cc factory AJS in top speed. Thanks to improved brakes, the Germans had already made up for their initial disadvantages compared to their best opponents. Haas fell back slightly due to an engine that seemed a bit rough when accelerating, but shortly before the end he was still about 2 minutes ahead of the fastest Guzzi with Anderson. Despite the injury, in the end it was enough for P2 behind the local hero and new teammate, while the other NSU works driver Daiker did an excellent job again with P5 behind Lorenzetti on the second-best works Guzzi and in front of Arthur Wheeler (Moto-Guzzi). Reg Armstrong is more than impressive in honoring his new contract with NSU after he first made it to the podium in the 125cc class and then won his first Grand Prix up to 250cc for NSU and also of his career. Haas had further extended his lead over Anderson in the intermediate rankings and he now led with 28 points, ahead of the Englishman with 18, followed by Armstrong with twelfe and the reigning world champion Lorenzetti with only six.

Otto Daiker on the 125 cm³ NSU Rennfox, whose name suited the experienced Fox from Swabia very well.
The parade with participants from different countries in front of an adventurous structure that only daring contemporaries dared to climb. All in all, the premiere of the Dundrod Circuit was a success thanks to relatively harmless falls and injuries compared to other Grand Prix.

Dramatic 350cc race with numerous retirements

There was a dramatic decision for victory in the 350s. This time the Moto-Guzzi factory machines were not driven by the top Italian drivers (Anderson and Lorenzetti), but Montanari and Francisi were used. Ken Kavanagh took the lead on his Norton after the start and was initially able to clearly distance himself from the rest of the field. The two Italians’ Guzzis were clocked at almost 200 km/h on the straight, but both retired shortly afterwards. Norton pilot Jack Brett couldn’t get past the start-finish line one lap after his refueling stop and the Australian leader Kavanagh had problems with his front fork and, like Farrant on the factory AJS (this one with engine damage), had to retire. The New Zealander Coleman’s glasses were destroyed by a stone, but he still caught up and ended up on the podium with P3. With his short compatriot Ken Mudford, an outsider ultimately won as a reserve driver on a factory Norton ahead of the young private pilot Bob McIntyre (AJS).

DKW was missing in Northern Ireland, but the two teammates Siegfried “Sissi” Wunsch (up to 350 cc) and Karl Hofmann (up to 250 cc) won the then very popular mountain race near Freiburg im Breisgau, on the impressive Schauinsland Hill climb, a week before the Ulster GP -Route (nowadays closed to motorcycles on weekends). The real sensation at the “ADAC mountain record” was old master Bernhard “Petrus” Petruschke from the GDR on IFA (later MZ) up to 125cc, built in the few undestroyed remains of the then (before the Second World War) DKW factory 1930s largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.

Surprise success in the premier class

Norton ace Kavanagh ultimately made up for his bad luck in the 350cc class with victory in the 500cc. However, the Aussie benefited from an involuntary stop to change a defective spark plug for the clear favorite Geoff Duke (factory Gilera). The Englishman was clearly in the lead until, due to a problem that was almost commonplace at that time, he ended up only second with victory in mind. After two retirements (at the Tourist Trophy and in Spa-Francorchamps) and the victories in Assen and Rouen, his six points were still very important for the championship. Because teammate Reg Armstrong only came fourth, his lead as leader in the interim rankings shrank by 3 points, now with 23 points compared to 22 for Duke. After his win, Kavanagh was in P3 with 18 points ahead of Ray Amm (14), Jack Brett (13) and Alfredo Milani (12). With three races still to go, the situation in the premier class was still completely open before the race continued to Bremgarten near Bern in Switzerland just a week later.

Superstar Geoff Duke on Gilera – he was the only one to have won three times so far, but he also had two failures in the first three rounds of the World Championship. At least he managed to finish second on the Dundrod Circuit after a lot of bad luck. By the way, the premier class motorcycles were faster than the best racing cars in Bremgarten for the second time since 1952.

Swiss Grand Prix 1953 – 250 cc

This time the 125cc had a break and so the class up to 250cc had the role of the smallest category on the demanding and quite dangerous course near the Swiss capital Bern. As in his home race at the Ulster GP a week ago, Reginald Armstrong was once again the man of the hour. The Irishman drove ahead of the rest of the field right from the start, while also setting a new lap record when he lapped the track at an incredible average of 144.876 km/h. In the end he won comfortably ahead of Montanari, while behind him Andrson and his Guzzi factory colleague Lorenzetti took the checkered flag in P3 and P4, as in Ulster. The DWK factory drivers Hobl and Wunsch dropped out due to technical problems. For once, the German factory NSU pilots Daiker and Haas, who fell in the fight for P2 (the German was then able to restart the race far behind), were clearly far away in the last points positions. Winner Armstrong made up a full seven points behind his NSU teammate Haas, which meant that he had to react in the next race at Monza in order not to lose the lead in the intermediate classification. After the Swiss GP, NSU was already assured of the brand championship.

Sketch of the course from Bremgarten near Bern, which should soon be deleted from the calendar.

The 350cc race in Bern 1953

In addition to his racing, Anderson also worked as a journalist and the Englishman proved in Bern for Moto-Guzzi that the Italians had done their homework. The factory drivers from Norton and AJS once again had no chance and in the end Norton ace Kavanagh was ahead, just ahead of Colemann (AJS), but over half a minute behind Anderson. Their return after their break in the World Championship for several rounds was a disaster for DKW. None of the factory drivers saw the checkered flag and with Karl Hofmann in sixth place with one more championship point, a private pilot saved their honor. The Frankfurter was already the best private driver in Germany in 1950 and 51 (at that time still on Puch). Apparently the three-cylinder two-stroke engines were simply not stable enough for the course in Bern to survive the 21 laps with a distance of over 150 kilometers. Behind the podium places and in front of Hofmann, Jack Brett on the second-best Norton and the young Derek Farrant (AJS) arrived at the finish. Old master H. P. Müller missed the points on his private Schnell-Horex and came seventh.

Aussie Rod Coleman with his AJS (in Bern third up to 350 cc and fifth up to 500 cc).

The masterpiece of the three-time world champion

Geoffrey Ernest “Geoff” Duke was a master of his craft. Born in Douglas on the Isle of Man and thirty years old since March 29, 1953, he was at the peak of his career. In the past two years he had won the title in the 350cc class on Norton and in 1951 he also won the title in the premier class up to 500cc for the same brand. Because the now outdated 500 single-cylinder Norton could no longer compete with the fast four-cylinders from Gilera and MV Agusta on most courses the previous year, he accepted an offer from Gilera for 1953. This despite the fact that he would no longer be able to defend his title in the category up to 350cc, as the Italians were concentrating exclusively on the 350cc class and an entry in this category on a private Norton or AJS was of course out of the question. For him, after a difficult start to the season, the Swiss Grand Prix was something of a relief. While the 2 Norton factory drivers experienced a black day and were not supposed to see the checkered flag, the best pilot of his time pulled away from his competitors and only teammate Milani was still within a minute of Geof, 13 seconds behind, when the checkered flag fell. Armstrong and Colnago completed the top four, which was a first for Gilera in its history. Coleman and Farrant completed the points ahead of Dale (Gilera), Zeller (BMW), Pagani (Gilera) and the two other BMW Germans Baltisberger and Meier.

Walter Zeller (BMW) ahead of Ken Kavanagh at the Swiss Grand Prix.
Alfredo Milani – Duke’s Gilera teammate almost drove his heart out at the Bremgarten GP, but still couldn’t follow the Brit and ended up second.

Before the last 2 rounds of the World Cup in Southern Europe

For NSU, the question was open from Monza and Barcelona as to whether their flagship Haas would win one or even both titles in the two smaller classes, despite strong new competition from their own company from Armstrong. Like Gilera in the premier class, they could no longer take the manufacturer’s world championship away from them. For the Italians, in contrast to NSU, who had to defend themselves against MV in the 125s and against Guzzi in the 250s, it was a purely internal matter when it came to the drivers’ title. The Italians would probably have preferred to see a fellow countryman as world champion, but Milani only had 18 points going into the final two rounds, compared to Duke’s 30 and Armstrong’s 27. Superstar Geoff Duke had the advantage over the Irishman because he had scored points in every race, which is why he was faced with lost results. It’s actually a bad joke to punish consistency with it, but such were the questionable regulations of the FIM, the highest motorsport authority that was rightly controversial even back then. By the way, Fergus Anderson (Moto-Guzzi) was already confirmed as world champion only in the 350s with only one round left in Monza. Even if second-placed Lorenzetti had won in the home race at Monza, the Italian would not have been able to catch up with the Englishman’s 28 points.

NSU newcomer Reginald “Reg” Armstrong was a stroke of luck for the Germans. The Irishman snatched two important points from World Championship leader Haas in Belfast, but his worldwide popularity, as well as the excellent results he achieved for the factory in Neckarsulm immediately after his signing, helped NSU’s prestige with the British and worldwide.
The German Championship was also very important for the German manufacturers, as this full-page tire advertisement from Metzeler at the end of the 1953 season clearly shows.
A symbol of the early 1950s for the upswing of the German economic miracle was undoubtedly the legendary Mercedes-Benz SL300. Here is a photo of the prototype for the 1954 season, this car had petrol injection and 240 hp with almost 3000cc. For comparison, the Chevrolet Corvette from the USA, which was announced for 1954 with 150 hp. In motorcycle racing, NSU and DKW in particular were also on a high again, but this should be over much earlier than that of Mercedes and other car brands from Germany.

Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© MotoGP).