The race on the Solitude near Stuttgart, here a photo from 1955, when Fügner came second in the 125 cm³ class. In the 1956 season, the German GP took place here for the third time as a World Championship run.

1956 with the new team mate and the 125cc IFA-MZ

After countless successes in the previous year, it was clear to everyone involved that it would be difficult to top the successes of 1955. For the end of 1955 from active racing Bernhard “Petrus” Petruschke Ernst Degner was added to the team. The only 24-year-old young driver from Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia (today Gliwice in Poland) should cause some excitement in the team in the coming years. Petruschke continued to work at IFA after his career, the company was renamed MZ in 1956, which stands for Motorradwerke Zschopau. Based on his experience, Bernhard later acted as race director for the state-owned company near Chemnitz.

Ernst Degner – Fügner’s new team-mate at IFA for the 1956 season. We have dedicated a very detailed chapter to his story in our history.
Presentation of the IFA 125cc in a French motorcycle magazine from 1955, after the successes of the small troop from the GDR had been noted with amazement abroad.

The technical base last year under the name IFA
The 125cc IFA had remained technically almost unchanged in the first two years. After the first 3 machines produced, the remaining 7 of the 10 originally commissioned bikes were manufactured and delivered by 1954, plus an additional 5 copies. At that time the delivery was made to the so-called company sports groups, which coordinated the deployment of the drivers. The machines had meanwhile received various further developments, the outdated 3-speed transmission from 1953 was now history. For the 1956 season, the 4-speed gearbox was replaced by one with six stages, which, however, caused problems at the beginning and was therefore not used for the time being. With a so-called full swing arm, the chassis had also received urgently needed updates in order to remain competitive. The engine was meanwhile with an output of around 16 HP at 9000 rpm. Compared to 3 years ago, this was an increase of at least 20 percent.

An IFA RE 125 from the mid-1950s, as can be seen today in the museum.

The perfect start to the 1956 season
At the race in Sankt Wendel for the Saarland Prize on April 29, 1956, Fügner had a perfect start to the international season. Behind MV Agusta works driver Luigi Taveri from Switzerland and John Grace from Gibraltar on Montesa, Fügner immediately made it onto the podium with third place. The team performed under the name IFA-MZ and, in addition to Horst, the young Degner and Erhard Krumpholz were also at the start. After the start, Fügner was initially only in 8th place, but as the track dried out he had fought his way forward more and more. The Swiss Florian Camathias finished fifth as the best private driver on an MV, while Krumpholz and Degner missed the top 5.

John Grace on Montesa – second in the 125cc race in Sankt Wendel at the Saarland Prize behind Luigi Taveri. Fügner took an excellent 3rd place behind the two.

Rhine pokal in Hockenheim
On May 13th it was Erhard Krumpholz again at the Hockenheimring who got the coals out of the fire for IFA-MZ. Behind the two West German August Hobl (DKW) and Karl Hofmann, the oldie from the GDR troop achieved an excellent 3rd place in the 6th Rhine Cup race. The other IFA-MZ pilots did not make it into the top 6, including Horst. For the drivers from East Germany it was always an adventure in the west to be in the neighboring “brother country”. What vehicles they saw there and how rapidly the Federal Republic was developing in contrast to the GDR was certainly not easy for the IFA people to digest.What the “Westerners” from England had in the paddock in terms of material and tools, the poor people from the GDR could only dream of.

Erhard Krumpholz, after Bernhard Petruschke’s resignation in 1955, the last oldie in the IFA-MZ team.
The May Cup race in Baden-Württemberg at the Hockenheimring was very popular with spectators and drivers in the early post-war years Until the 1980s, Grand Prix races were held here regularly..
The economic miracle began in West Germany and Horst Fügner from the completely bombed Chemnitz in the GDR was on the wrong side in order to benefit from it. A vehicle like the one Horst saw in the west is almost unaffordable today. In good condition, hardly anything goes below 30 million euros.

Season highlight in June
After Fügner celebrated his season highlight last year with 3 victories in July, this was already in June the year after. In Saxony-Anhalt on the Halle-Saale loop for Horst it was a question of defending his two victories from the two years before. The man from Chemnitz managed indeed the hat trick in the 125cc class. With the third victory in a row, he was now the most successful driver of this race, which has been held since 1950. Until then, he had to share this honor with his former comrade Bernhard Petruschke and Erhart Krumpholz with 2 wins each. In general, it was a very good season for Fügner, especially in national races. The starting position for defending the title in the GDR championship of the 125cc series was of course excellent after the victory on the Halle-Saale loop.

Walter Kaaden, a technical genius and a tirelessly hardworking inventor and worker. He was the brain behind the amazing successes and the speed of the IFA-MZ bikes built with the simplest means.
Map of the Halle-Saale loop in Saxony-Anhalt – races were held here from 1950 to 1964. The most successful rider on this route was IFA-MZ driver Heinz Fügner in the 125cc class.

Successful second half of the season
Even if he didn’t quite match the number of victories from the previous year in the 1956 season, Horst Fügner’s track record was definitely impressive. At the GP of Czechoslovakia, which was not yet part of the World Championship, there was traditionally a lot of competition from abroad. Degner and Fügner had set the best practice time and in the race it was the second named who crossed the finish line behind the Czech František Bartoš (CZ). The Swede Svensson (Ducati) came third ahead of IFA-MZ veteran Erhart Krumpholz, while Ernst Degner fell. Team oldie Krumpholz had already proven with second place at the Norisring near Nuremberg that he was not yet too old to be fast.

The old Masaryk ring near Brno was not a permanent racetrack before the new circuit was completed in 1987.
The start-finish straight of the old route towards the village of Bosonohy.

The Brno tragedy in 1956
Unfortunately, the weekend in Brno was overshadowed by the fatal accidents of Hans Baltisberger (see his story in our history tab) and Michel Mouty from France. During the race on the Avus in Berlin, the competition with MV works driver Taveri and the DWK works machines was overwhelming, but Fügner still managed fourth place, while Krumpholz was eliminated with a technical problem at the IFA-MZ.

Hans Baltisberger was one of the most popular racing drivers in Germany and beyond its borders. On a wet route he flew off in a wooded area and was dead on the spot.
Ernst Degner (pictured in front of Karl Lottes on DKW) in 1956. This year the full aluminum cladding was used more often on the 125 series from Zschopau.

Title defense as GDR champion
At the end of the season Horst Fügner managed to defend his 125cc title in the GDR championship from the previous year. With very consistent performances, including at the Stadtparkrennen in Leipzig, with a 2nd place behind Degner, Horst was the hardest-working points collector this season. IFA-MZ later became MZ and with Ernst Degner he had found a new challenge from his own team for the future. However, it was almost more important for Fügner that his machine became more and more competitive. Engineer Walter Kaaden was supposed to find some horsepower again in winter and for 1957, at least at the German GP, they hoped to have a say about the first 6 places.

Typical poster design of the time for the GDR, with a pathetic background to the city park race in Leipzig in 1956. Degner had won that year, but Fügner scored valuable points with second place in defense of his championship title from the previous year.
When it was raining, Horst Fügner was particularly hard to beat. The sympathetic man from Chemnitz, who had survived the war before returning home and then 3 years in Russian captivity. He was a very humble man and glad he was allowed to practice his beloved racing sport and even travel to the west for it.

Far too many victims of motorcycle racing in 1956

Without claiming to be exhaustive, here are the known victims of motorcycle racing in 1956. The number of at least 18 fatalities on the world’s racetracks is simply horrific. In 1956, three drivers alone lost their lives on the dangerous road circuit on the Isle of Man. We have dedicated a separate chapter in our history to the German Hans Baltisberger, who sacrificed his life to racing in Brno.

Hans Baltisberger in 1955 on his NSU Sportmax. The Betzinger tragically died in the 250cc race in Brno in 1956. In the same year he won the German 250cc championship on NSU for the second time in a row.

Part 5 with the Story about Horst Fügner coming soon..