Even before the Second World War, the Solitude was a popular and widely known race track, as this photo from the 1930s shows. The symbol on the flag at the top right of the picture as a reference to the impending catastrophe, which in the end would reduce Germany itself to rubble (at least the majority of its largest settlements and cities).

Before returning to Solitude in the second half of the season

After the debacle at the Schottenring last year, the freshly paved route west of Stuttgart was back in action. Over 400,000 spectators were present at Solitude in 1952, when local teams were able to cheer on local teams in a motorcycle world championship race in their own country for the first time. The countless German visitors were not disappointed at the time and the pilots and their bikes, who were considered blatant outsiders, outgrew themselves and scored points in all categories, including victories up to 125 and 250cc. Just two years later they were already the favorites, at least in the smaller two classes. NSU had reached the peak of success and reported new record figures for its motorcycle production shortly before the German Grand Prix, with 86,985 machines in the first half of the year and the prospect of 170,000 by the end of 1954. Against this background, it would hardly be someone came up with the idea that NSU would soon withdraw from factory racing.

Route sketch of the Solitude from earlier times and thus its use for racing events, when hundreds of thousands of spectators still flocked to the race track; in 1952 and 1954 there were almost half a million. The length of the course shown on the inside of the graphic was approx. 11.4 kilometers.

Early title decision in the 125cc class

After Werner Haas defended his 250cc world championship title, the big moment had come for his successor in the smallest category. Many of his compatriots probably traveled from Austria to cheer their new national hero on the Solitude west of Stuttgart. Rupert Hollaus didn’t disappoint and took the lead right from the start. As is often the case, local hero Werner Haas was his toughest competitor, but this time it was unlikely that the Swabian from Augsburg would attack his NSU teammate. In return, he kept the Italian Ubbiali on MV in check, who, however, was already 14 points behind the NSU ace and leader Hollaus in the interim rankings before the German Grand Prix.

The poster for the Solitude race from 1929, in which 25 years later NSU from nearby Neckarsulm made history. As in the previous year, the German brand won both titles in the smaller two classes just a few years after they were allowed to take part in Grand Prix races again. The established factories from Italy suffered a serious defeat for the second time in a row.

A fast NSU man was missing at the start
Unfortunately, NSU had to forego Baltisberger’s support because he had a bad fall in training and suffered a concussion and a broken ankle and shoulder blade. MV works driver Copeta crashed in the Glemseck corner and the favorite pulled away from his pursuers lap after lap and won comfortably ahead of Haas and Ubbiali. Old master H.P. Müller after a bad start, had worked his way forward and was able to intercept MV pilot Sandford, behind whom Karl Lottes achieved an excellent sixth place on his private MV. Incidentally, Horst Fügner from the GDR was ranked 8th on an IFA (later MZ, based on the DKW of the 1930s). As the winner of the Feldberg race that took place in the same year, we should soon see a lot more of him in the world championship.

Start of the 125cc Grand Prix of Germany on July 25, 1954 with Rupert Hollaus on the far left with NSU teammate Haas next to him, as well as Sandford and Copeta (both MV Agusta). With a dominant victory on the NSU Rennfox, the Austrian secured his world championship title early after, like his teammate Haas, he was able to win all of the previous Grand Prix races of the year in the 250cc.

The 250cc German Grand Prix

According to the organizer, there were at least 435,000 spectators along the route, if not more, some of whom may have made it through secret routes. Werner Haas, who is now celebrated as a national hero, had to achieve a hat trick here. After 1951, surprisingly up to 125cc (he was brought into the factory team as a replacement driver for the factory pilots who were injured in training) and in the 250cc the year after, he was able to win the triple here. Of course, the man from Augsburg, who had already returned to his homeland after the Dutch GP as a two-time world champion up to 250cc, did not want to disappoint the impressive fan base at the track. After the start, Hallmeier briefly led on the factory Adler, but Haas took the lead after a few kilometers, followed by his NSU teammates Hollaus and Müller, who, however, lost his casing a little later. The fact that Moto-Guzzi had decided not to take part only gave rise to the suspicion that they were sore losers. However, according to eyewitness reports, this didn’t bother anyone. In the end, Haas won as most had hoped, just ahead of Hollaus and Hallmeier took third place with a clear respectable gap. This was of course a historic moment for his manufacturer Adler, which was made clear by Walter Vogel’s P6 behind Wheeler (Guzzi) and Reichert ( NSU) was also rounded off.

Werner Haas – here on the NSU 125 Rennfox in front of Carlo Ubbiali (MV Agusta) was of course wildly celebrated by his numerous fans at the home race. Especially when he took his third Grand Prix victory in three years on the Solitude in the 250s. Especially from today’s perspective, it was certainly not a mistake that the German decided to retire at the end of the season as a three-time world champion. In addition to the many fatal accidents during his time, an announcement from the NSU that completely surprised him and many others also played an important role, which we will discuss in Part 4.

The 350cc race with British dominance

After Moto-Guzzi with Anderson and Lorenzetti had dominated almost at will in the previous year, the English from AJS with a modified parallel twin and Norton were much more competitive this season thanks to the driving skills of Ray Amm than in 1953. They were in the lead in the intermediate rankings Race Anderson with 14 points ahead of AJS flagship Coleman (12), Lorenzetti (9) and, along with Amm, a number of other drivers with 8 points each. It was also the reigning world champion Fergus Anderson who came out of the first lap as the leader after the start of the 350 cc class ahead of Amm, Mc Intyre, Brett and Kavanagh. In a varied race, Lorenzetti worked his way forward and Kavanagh even took the lead before he suddenly stopped on lap 7 and looked skeptically at the engine of his Guzzi. The Australian then continued driving until he was back in P2 behind Anderson. Ray Amm lost contact with the leaders due to a crash with his Norton and Lorenzetti had to park his Guzzi with engine failure. On the tenth lap, the same thing happened to his two factory teammates, who had been in the lead until then, and both Anderson and Kavanagh were eliminated. Amm won despite the previous fall and thanks to his consistency, Georg Braun on the Horex got the last point in 6th place.

August Hobl on the new 3-cylinder factory DKW, with which his factory team colleague Siegfried “Sissi” Wünsche achieved a sensational third place on the fast track at Spa-Francorchamps. Unfortunately, the DKW factory team lacked the solitude. The reason they cited was technical problems because a part supposedly did not meet the required values, which even today still sounds quite adventurous.

Tragic finale in the premier class on the Solitude

In the first two laps, Norton ace Ray Amm was ahead before Geoff Duke got serious on his faster 4-cylinder Gilera. The Rhodesian briefly passed him again seven rounds later, but Geoffrey answered immediately and immediately showed who was the boss in the ring. The Irishman Armstrong had now settled into third position on the other factory Gilera, having already passed Anderson (Guzzi) on lap 4. His fast factory team colleague Kavanagh from Australia also caught up with the Englishman. The German Zeller on a BMW competed despite a foot injury, but was eliminated in lap 1. In the end, Duke triumphed with its third win in a row ahead of Amm, Armstrong, Kavanagh, Anderson and Brett. But the results ultimately became a bit of a minor matter shortly after the fastest people crossed the finish line. The tragic conclusion to what was actually a great racing weekend at Solitude was overshadowed by Dennis Lashmar’s fatal accident. Below is the summary of the man who didn’t survive the last corner on the last lap just a few meters from the finish.

One of the last photos of the tragic victim at the German GP in 1954.

In memory of Dennis Lashmar:
According to the source we found, he drove his first race in October 1948 in Dunholme for the BMCRC Hutchinson 100. Dennis probably tried a little too energetically to chase Harrold Daniell on his Lancefield Norton, whereupon he ended up in a field at 80 km/h. Lashmar was able to continue the race and finished 15th. He was living in Stanmore at the time, near Rex Judd’s motorcycle shop, where he became a good friend of Stan Pike, who ran the service department. Stan drove Rudge machines back then. Another employee at Judd’s store helped Stan Pike prepare a Vincent for Dennis. Dennis Lashmar was then the first driver sponsored by Gus Kuhn Motors. The company had received a Manx Norton, which brought Dennis to 30th place in the 1952 Senior TT. In 1951 he took part in three TT competitions. His best result was 13th place in the senior category with Harold Daniells Norton. In 1954 he was used by Geoff Duke in both junior and senior racing on Pike BSAs. He then made it into the top 10 on a BSA at the Belgian GP with P10. Unfortunately, on July 25, 1954, the Englishman did not reach the checkered flag at the 500cc German Grand Prix on the Solitude near Stuttgart. He died at the young age of only 27.

Ken Kavanagh here on the Moto-Guzzi 500 missed the podium in the 350cc due to a retirement and in the category up to 500cc three Brits snatched the podium place from him. The victory in the Belgian Grand Prix in the second highest class ultimately remained his greatest success of the 1954 season.

Rainy 250cc race in Bremgarten

After 5 wins in a row, Werner Haas’s wet race at the Swiss Grand Prix came to an early end when he overdid it on the first lap and went flying. Luckily the German was uninjured, but his NSU was too damaged to continue driving afterwards. Now the big hour came for factory team colleague Hollaus, who drove irresistibly away from the rest of the field. It was impressive for the spectators and experts to see how precisely the Austrian drove, approaching and finishing each corner very precisely without having to start several times like many others. Only the German Braun on a factory NSU Rennfox from last year was able to partially follow Hollaus. He lapped all other pilots at the peak of his career. Nobody could have guessed back then that it would be Rupert’s last Grand Prix victory. Behind veteran H. P. Müller, the young Luigi Taveri scored his first 250cc points after he had already finished fourth in the 500s at the season opener in Reims. His Guzzi brand colleague Colombo came fifth ahead of Walter Vogel with another World Championship point for Adler.

Rupert Hollaus literally flew away from his opponents on the NSU Rennfox once again after the Haas, which was initially in the lead, took off shortly after the start.

The middle class in Bremgarten

After his failure on the Solitude, reigning world champion Anderson hoped that his Moto-Guzzi wouldn’t let him down this time. After the start, however, he was only third behind Moto-Guzzi works rider Ken Kavanagh and Ray Amm on the fastest Norton. The MV guys Dale, Lomas and Bandirola were completely missing, while Andreson went on the attack in the tenth of 21 laps. He grabbed Amm as his first victim and then harassed his teammate Kavanagh. On lap 18 Fergus showed him his rear wheel for the first time, but Ken fought back and passed him again a lap later. But the Australian couldn’t prevail and with two rounds to go Anderson took the lead again and didn’t relinquish it until the finish. Behind Kavanagh and Amm, Brett, Coleman and Mc Intyre finished in the points and things remained exciting in the intermediate rankings. Anderson was now leading again with 22 points, ahead of Amm and Coleman (20 each), Kavanagh (14), Brett (13), followed by Simpson and Mc Intyre with 9 points. The German Horex pilot Braun had little luck after finishing second on NSU in the 250s. He was fifth fastest in training on his Horex, but was forced to retire after just a few kilometers with valve damage on the cylinder head.

The Rhodesian (later Zimbabwean) Ray Amm on the Norton with his adventurous front fairing.
Fergus Kinloch Anderson – the reigning 350cc World Champion was undoubtedly at the peak of his career when he fought to defend his title in 1954. The son of a shipbuilding engineer, the Scot began his career at the age of 18 in 1927 and, for example, the German H.P. Müller, as a result of the war years, experienced his most successful period when he was well over 40 years old. However, two years later, fate was not to be kind to Amm.
The German Georg Braun on the two-cylinder Horex had bad luck in the race after good training performances and unfortunately dropped out early.

Swiss Grand Prix up to 500 cc

In principle, in the eyes of many reporters at the time, it bordered on madness at the horrendous speeds of well over 200 km/h that the factory drivers usually drove on road courses. In contrast to the next millennium, there were almost no crash zones on the racetracks and the tires, like the chassis, were completely overwhelmed on the fastest motorcycles. In addition, the so-called safety equipment such as crash helmets and leather suits only earned their name to a limited extent at that time. Against this background, the pilots of that time always had death in mind in the event of a crash. As with the 350s, Ken Kavanagh shot into the lead on the Guzzi at the start. Duke followed Anderson and Amm in 4th position, clearly behind, followed by his Gilera factory team colleague Armstrong. Anderson had to give up on lap two; the Moto-Guzzi was not considered a model of consistency in any class. Meanwhile, Kavanagh continued to extend his lead over the pursuers, followed by Amm and Duke. Undeterred, the latter completed his laps some way behind until the Australian, who was in the lead, also retired a little later on lap 10 with his increasingly restless Guzzi. Supposedly a carburettor failure put him out of the race, at least that’s the official version. Ray Amm, who was then leading, was now increasingly under pressure from Geoff Duke. Four laps before the end, the Gilera ace passed the Rhodesian and from then on he only saw his rear wheel.

Ray Amm (left) with Geoff Duke – two rivals who respected each other very much. Unfortunately, the Norton works driver from Rhodesia was no longer at the start due to a tragic accident the following year. More about this in our first part of the 1955 Grand Prix season.
It’s hard to imagine today that, as can be seen in this picture, Geoff Duke, followed by Ray Amm, flew in the premier class at speeds usually over 200 km/h and at most a few bales of straw, as can be seen in the front right of the picture, “protected” the pilots in a fall.

The balance after 7 of 9 rounds in the World Championship

While the titles in the two smaller categories had already been decided early on, the decision had now also been made in the 500cc class. Geoff Duke had been outstanding in the premier class after his failure in Reims and second place at the TT, he had now won 4 races in a row. The Englishman was already 38 points ahead of Amm (20), his last opponent. The cheese was therefore bitten and theoretically the best pilot of his time could no longer take his fifth world championship title with two laps to go. Only in the 350cc class had only a preliminary decision been made. Fergus Anderson was not yet certain of defending his title. With 22 points, the Scot was leading before the last two rounds, only two points ahead of Ray Amm and Rod Coleman, who had the same number of points, followed by Ken Kavanagh (14), Jack Brett (13) and, with only 9, Enrico Lorenzetti, the best Italian, already far behind. It was therefore clear that after Umberto Masetti in 1950 and 1952, no pilot from the country with the shape of a boot would win back the title in the premier class. In Bern after the Tourist Trophy, all drivers in the two largest classes once again spoke English.

Geoff Duke in the four-cylinder Gilera – initially on Norton, the Englishman was the man to beat from 1951 onwards. What is striking in this photo from 1954 is the fact that the casing on his bike was the only one that resembled that of the following decade. For most other manufacturers, the shape was absolutely hair-raising, at least from today’s perspective, and at best had limited effectiveness in terms of aerodynamics.

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