Hans Baltisberger (on the right) – the unforgettable hero of German motorcycle racing in the 50s.

Hans Baltisberger – fast Swabian of the 50ies

The son of a doctor was born on September 10, 1922 in Betzingen near Reutlingen. After the trained typesetter and book printer attended his first motorcycle race as a spectator in 1947, the virus caught him. He made his first attempts at the age of 25 on a 250 cm³ Victoria. The following year, the Swabian started his first season as a so-called ID driver, in which he won five races on a 1937 500 cm³ Norton. Baltisberger competed in his first run as a licensed driver at the great mountain prize at the Freiburg Schauinsland, which was held every two years from 1949.

Motorcycle races were held in Germany before World War II, here a photograph from the Solitude race near Stuttgart in 1937. The flag on the right in the picture also waved ahead at racing events in Austria in this years.
Hans Baltisberger on August 4th, 1951 at the Schauinsland race in the so-called “Holzschlägermatte” (wooden racket mat) close to Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany) on his AJS.

Baltisbergers steep rise in the 50ies

After winning the Feldberg race in May 1951 in the 350 cm³ class with his AJS “Boy Racer”, Hans’ career was off to a good start. The race to catch up shown at Oberreifenberg in the Taunus Mountains after his machine did not start at first and he first chased after the whole field was extremely impressive. When he even won the race in the end, Hans should have convinced even the last skeptics of his driving skills. This year he only missed the title of German champion in the 350cc class due to a collision on the Solitude with his opponent Rudi Knees, shortly before the finish line.

Hans Baltisberger (NSU) – one of the most popular and for sure one of the most beloved german motorbike racers in the golden 1950ies.

Baltisbergers BMW Works driver contract
He received a works contract with BMW for the 1952 season in order to compete in the world championship alongside Schorsch Meier and Walter Zeller. Baltisberger secured his first World Championship point with a 6th place at the Solitude near Stuttgart. There were also two third places in Munich-Riem and at the Hamburg Stadtparkrennen for the German championship. In 1952, Hans won the Saarland Prize in Sankt Wendel and the Eifel race on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. He finished the championship in the half-liter (500 cc) class in 6th place and in 1953 he was fourth.

Hermann Paul (usually called “H. P.” or the Racetiger) Müller in front of Baltisberger – two of the German heroes in the golden times of German Motorcycle Racing. Müller drove already before World War II and was even a works racing driver for Auto Union in their 10-cylinder monster with over 500 horsepower, shortly before the war.

Appointment to the NSU works team for the 1954 season
Hans then received a works contract with NSU, where he formed the works team with the Austrians Rupert Hollaus, Werner Haas and Hermann Paul Müller. The four of them won almost everything there was to be won in 1954. Hans Baltisberger finished fifth in the World Championship up to 250 cm³, Haas World Champion and Hollaus Vice World Champion, but unfortunately had a fatal accident in training for the last World Championship run in Monza. In the 125cc class, the Austrian became the first posthumous world champion in the motorcycle world championship. Baltisberger finished the World Cup in sixth place. The fatal accident in Hollaus contributed to the fact that NSU withdrew from the World Cup at the end of the 1954 season.

Start of the 2nd motorcycle road race on the Salzburg-Liefering autobahn (in Austria, close to the German Border) in 1955 in the class up to 250 cm³ front left: Hans Baltisberger (No. 19), next to Helmut Hallmeier (44) and Kurt Knopf (101), all on NSU Sportmax.

Podium in Monza in 1955 and on the Isle of Man in 1956
Without factory support, Hans also competed in the World Cup the following year with the Sportmax 250 cm³ and finished the season in tenth place. With second place at the GP of the Nations in Monza, he got his best result in 1955. In the same year he became German champion with his private NSU ahead of H. P. Müller. He won the Eifel race, on the Solitude and the Eilenriede race in the city Park of Hanover. In the following year he also took third place in the lightweight TT race of the 250cc class, a world championship podium and was fourth in the world championship run at the German GP on the Solitude.

Start zum 4. Motorradstraßenrennen auf der Autobahn Salzburg-Liefering 1955 in der Klasse bis 350 cm³ von Links: Leonhard Fassl (Nr. 88, AJS), Leopold Zöchling (39, Norton), Kurt Knopf (38, AJS), Herbert Roch (78, AJS), Siegfried Wünsche (69, DKW) und Hans Baltisberger (56, NSU).

The tragedy in Brno

At the Grand Prix of Czechoslovakia on the Masaryk Ring near Brno in 1956, which was not part of the World Cup, adverse conditions prevailed on the dangerous street circuit at the time. Hans Baltisberger was in the lead on the penultimate lap when he fell in slippery conditions in a forest and was fatally injured.

Hans Baltisberger – † August 26, 1956 – he died less than two years after his former NSU teammate Rupert Hollaus.

Posthumously he was awarded the title of German Champion up to 250 cm³ for the second time. On September 1st, the sympathetic Swabian was buried in the Betzingen cemetery with the participation of thousands of people. His former team members Hermann Paul Müller and Werner Haas also accompanied the funeral procession. Less than two months later, Haas himself was killed as a private pilot in a plane crash, see the report “German GP Pilots Part 1” on this page.

The poster for the exhibition, which the city of Reutlingen initiated in 2016 in honor of the Betzinger.
Hans Baltisberger (on the right) – the unforgettable hero of German motorcycle racing in the 50s