1955: The year after the first international successes

After the first years at IFA from 1951 onwards, Horst Fügner can speak of a clear breakthrough in terms of the 1954 season. This year, for the first time, the man from Chemnitz had really competitive equipment available. The first in-house construction of the “VEB Motorradwerk Zschopau” (VEB = Volkseigener Betrieb, IFA = Industrie-Verband Fahrzeugbau), which was created within just a few months under the greatest time pressure for the 1953 season, had become much more reliable in the second year. Fügner had clearly also developed his driving skills.

The 50s were characterized by numerous street races on improvised courses, whether in the GDR or in western countries. Most of the countless routes disappeared from the scene after a short time. The old Sachsenring did not survive in the GDR either, only the Schleizer Dreieck had a tradition until after the fall of the Wall.

Unthinkable today – at over 30 years old, still one of the younger members of the team
Horst, born in March 1923, was just over 30 years old, together with Siggi Haas, one of the two youngsters. The other two teammates, Krumpholz and Petruschke, were already “old hands” and had already raced before the war, and now, born in 1912 and 1910, were already over 40 years old. Horst Fügner, on the other hand, was only at the beginning of a hopeful career and looked forward to the 1955 season with great hope after his first international successes the year before.

Horst Fügner (in the front) and his IFA teammate Siegfried “Siggi” Haas before the start – they were the two youngsters of the Zschopau team at the side of Krumpholz and Petruschke.
West German Championship 1954 – Fügner (IFA) in the 125cc class with 11 points in 4th place. In addition, victories at the Feldberg race, Halle-Saale and a top ten result at the German GP. The yield in the first international year was more than impressive for Horst Fügner and IFA. If you consider that NSU even dominated the world championship that year in 1954 with the two leaders Hass and Müller, an outstanding achievement. The French magazine MotoRevue carefully observed what was going on the racetracks in Germany and reported regularly about it. In the left column the final ranking of the German championship 1954.

Beginning of the season 1955 – the year of confirmation
On May 29th, Horst Fügner’s good results from the previous year were confirmed early in the Saarland GP, an international race in Sankt Wendel.

Racing events such as the Saarland Grand Prix, which was not part of the World Cup, had the character of a folk festival in those years, as this entertainment offer, including a reference to a festival tent, proves.
Shortly after the start on the Saarland Grand Prix track, on a closed public road.

The masterpiece on the Nürburgring.
He won the 125cc race for the West German motorcycle championship and thus laid the foundation for his most successful season to date. The GP of Germany took place at the same location on June 26, 1955. According to contemporary witnesses, all hell broke loose on the Nürburgring that day. It is said that between 400 and 500 thousand spectators were present in the Eifel to admire the two-wheeled heroes on site.

Start of the rain race on the Eifel – the Nürburgring-Nordschleife cost many lives and of course it was even more dangerous on a wet track. But Horst was a gifted rain driver and won confidently.
The winner from the east of Germany achieved the second triumph in the west for himself and the team, after his victory in the Feldberg race in 1954. A victory in the Eifel in front of one of the biggest spectator scenes that has ever been in racing was also for his country of origin, the GDR is very important.

Extremly important for self confidence of himself and his country
Even if it was not only his bike’s credit this time, but specially his strong ride, for IFA this race was historic. The two oldies Bernhard Petruschke with 5th place and Erhard Krumpholz with 6th place ensured the first World Cup points for the small team from the GDR. A sensational performance against the strong competition from MV Agusta and FB-Mondial.

Start of the sidecar race in 1955 on the Eifel, which took place in dry conditions.
The machine of the winner of the Eifel race in the rain, Horst Fügner’s 125cc IFA from the modest and indeed poor Zschopau racing collective.
The entry list of the Eifel race on May 28, 1955 with the 3 drivers of the “Rennkollektiv Zschopau” below, who were at the Nürburgring for the second time after the previous year.

Special challenges for IFA
The greatest challenge for IFA during this time was the search for performance in the single-cylinder two-stroke engines used and, above all, the material quality of various components and the aerodynamics. In East Germany, good quality was in short supply in many areas, as well as many raw materials that were easily available in the West.

The performance data of the motorcycles that won the title in the 1955 world championship, from a German magazine in the mid-1950s.

The tireless inventor Kaaden was a technical genius
Due to the increasing spread of the aids for better aerodynamics, which have been used more and more frequently since 1953, the GDR was also confronted with very special obstacles in this regard. Aluminum was hard to come by in the workers ‘and peasants’ state, and sheet steel problems quickly arose with vehicle weight. However, the ingenious engineer Walter Kaaden was constantly finding new ways to get more power out of the 125cc IFA engine. He was supposed to find methods that would impress all foreign competitors for years to come and face almost insoluble problems in copying. In the event of problems with the procurement of materials, the small group often used the opportunity to make international contacts in racing. During this time, people were still helping each other, which would be absolutely unimaginable today.

Walter Kaaden at an FIM award in 1965 – the ingenious designer at IFA (later MZ) was the brain behind the otherwise unthinkable successes of his drivers such as Fügner, Degner and Co.
In the mid-1950s, most racing motorcycles had a certain visual resemblance to blue whales. However, the very voluminous full casings brought a speed advantage, even if the aerodynamics at that time still took some getting used to for the eye.

Horst Fügner’s strong motorsport summer
The man from Chemnitz would have remembered the summer of 1955 for the rest of his life. The series, which he put on from July 3rd, is still impressive today. Horst started with his victory at the Halle-Saale race, which confirmed his success from the previous year. Only a week later he triumphed on the Schottenring with the 125cc IFA. The street course between Fulda and Gießen was one of the oldest courses in Germany and was 16.08 kilometers (9.99 miles) long. Two years before that, the German GP had even taken place here.

In an East German newspaper in large letters – Horst Fügner’s victory on the Schottenring.

The next one
Fügner’s series of victories did not end there. The third success followed on July 17th on the Schleizer Dreieck within 3 weeks. Horst rounded off the successful summer with three second places at the Solitude, the Norisring and the Sachsenring.

Schleizer Dreieck racetrack – sketch from the 1950s. For many decades one of the most popular racetracks in East Germany, together with the old Sachsenring.
Sachsenring sketch from the 1950s.
Sachsenring Start 1955.
Solitude race 1955 – after an 8th place in the World Championship run in the previous year, Horst Fügner secured an excellent second place this time. The GP of Germany took place on the Nürburgring-Norschleife this season.
Fügners second place at the Norisring in Nürnberg (West Germany).

First title to the national champion and place of honor in West Germany
At the Eilenried race near Hanover, Fügner took second place on his 125cc IFA behind the two new DKWs from August Hobl and Karl Hofmann. It was the final race of the West German motorcycle championship. As a result, it was enough for Fügner to win the runner-up title behind Karl Lottes (MV Agusta). In addition, in 1955 he won his first title as GDR master in the 125cc class.

Doubtful honor from one of the greatest liars in history
As a result strong performance, he was awarded the title of “Master of Sports” and received a handshake from the GDR head of state Walter Ulbricht at the ceremony. A rather questionable honor from today’s point of view, but at that time it was one of the highest awards that Horst Fügner received in the workers ‘and peasants’ state. Undoubtedly one of the most important things from his team’s point of view was the runner-up title in the West German championship. Considering the much stronger competition than in our own country, a more than respectable performance from the driver and the team behind him.

The portrait of the 30 year old Horst Fügner on his autograph card.

Part 4 of the Story about Horst Fügner coming soon..