Horst Fügner in a good mood in the rain before the start of the 125cc race on his MZ in 1957 – the Chemnitz driver was an excellent driver even in the wet.

Fügner’s first World Championship points in the 1957 season

The IFA 125cc machine, now called MZ, had grown stronger and stronger since it was born in February 1953. Despite the most modest means of the small troop from Zschopau, they improvised what they could and always looked for new solutions for improvement. The main part was in the engine, from which the ingenious designer Walter Kaaden was able to tease more and more power. That is why one hoped that this season, at least at the GP of Germany at the Hockenheimring this year, a word about the championship points would be able to have a say. With Horst Fügner and the young boy Ernst Degner, who was only 25 at the beginning of the season, the team from Zschopau had two very hot irons in the fire.

Start of the German GP in Hockenheim – Horst Fügner would never forget for the rest of his live the race of May 19, 1957.

The factory teams for the 1957 season

Compared to 1957, only seven years later the number of factory teams should literally explode, but this season, at only 5, it was vanishingly small. Since 1953, MZ had only contested the run in West Germany, in which Erhard Krumpholz, who came from Wilkau near Zwickau, took 9th place in the first year of participation for the brand that was then still called IFA. A year later, Fügner had already achieved an increase with his eight position at the Solitude. And in 1955 the drivers Krumpholz and Bernhard Petruschke then scored their first World Championship points at the IFA. A total of 3 Italian factory racing teams were registered for the 1957 season, so the competition among the 125cc was almost frightening. But the MZ came closer and closer to the four-stroke engines in terms of performance. To do this, the two drivers had to do anything but hide from the stars from abroad.

Carlo Ubbiali, the strongest driver of the first few years in the smaller classes of the new World Championship introduced in 1949. For more about him, see our detailed story about his career in the History tab on this page.

The new 250 IFA and tough competition from the own team

Horst Fügner was to feel in the 125cc class in 1957 what kind of tough competition he now had with Degner from his own country. In addition, he was chosen for a project that had been half-finished for years by chief engineer Kaaden. For some time he had developed a 250-series two-cylinder engine from two single-cylinder engines. Also rotary valve-controlled, a very promising project for the near future. Because of his experience, Horst Fügner offered himself as the driver of the new machine for the first jobs.

The engine of the MZ RE250 basically consisted of two 125cc single cylinders in a row.

The RE250 was not ready at the start of the season
At the start of the season in 1957, however, it was not yet ready and so on May 1st he drove the Austrian GP with Degner on the 125cc series. The Salzburg-Liefering race was not yet part of the world championship. Behind the Italian Carlo Ubbiali on a works MV Agusta, Fügner took 2nd place ahead of Ernst Degner. An excellent start to the season for the small troup from the GDR.

After finishing third in the 125cc class last year, Horst Fügner took second place at the international GP of the Saarland in Sankt Wendel in 1957.
With Ernst Degner, Horst Fügner had an extremely fast young team-mate at MZ since the 1956 season. Except the German GP in 1957 at the Hockenheimring and the Salzburg-Liefering GP, Horst usually only saw him from behind during the race. Degner won countless races at home and abroad this season.

The World Championship season opener
In 1957, MZ competed in the German GP for the fifth time. In the first few years, of course, under the original name IFA. Horst Fügner should never forget May 19th of this year. As at the beginning of the month in Salzburg, it was raining again this time. But the man from Chemnitz was not impressed by this and with his furious drive caused great cheers in the team and the highest recognition both in the east and in the west.

Degner’s sixth place rounded off the great result for MZ. He had added another World Cup counter to Fügner’s 3 points. As in previous years, the troop did not participate in any further World Championship appearances, but at least they drove the races for the German Championship and, of course, numerous races in their own country. Only next year were the men from Zschopau properly rewarded for their achievements with the approval of a complete World Cup season by the party leadership.

Horst Fügner on his way to fourth place at the Hockenheimring, his first championship points of his career. At the same time the best result ever for MZ in their racing history.

The rest of the season and the impressive series of the new team-mate
Ernst Degner put in an incredible series as the season progressed. He won all 3 runs of the West German 125cc championship. But unfortunately, due to a scandalous decision by the OMK (Supreme German Motorsport Commission), he was cheated for the title of 125cc BRD champion. As the French newspaper MotoRevue reported shortly afterwards, a purely politically motivated act of unsportsmanlike conduct. Once again, the functionaries of motorsport had anything but covered themselves with glory.

Poster for the 10th Leipzig City Park Race in 1957, which Ernst Degner won in the 125cc class. In the GDR championship run, also known as “Rund um das Scheibenholz” (All about the disk wood), Horst Fügner came second last year, this time it was third.

Horst very often standing in the shadow of his young teammate
Fügner was mostly clearly overshadowed by his teammate this year, which was possibly also due to the new 250 project. But this should by no means diminish Degner’s incredible performance in the 1957 season. He even managed to replace Horst as East German champion in the 125cc class. Ernst also interrupted the winning streak of his team-mate Fügner with his victories in Halle-Saale, among others. Before that, Horst had dominated the 125cc class three times in a row in Saxony-Anhalt. As the culmination of the season, Ernst also won the 125cc races at the Sachsenring and in Brno.

The old Sachsenring – today only the Queckenberg curve and start-finish exist. In 1953, Horst Fügner was known throughout the country as the winner in the 125cc class, but this season it was Degner’s turn as the winner.
Ernst Degner in 1957 on his MZ – his series of victories in national and international races this season was simply outstanding.
The Masaryk Ring near Brno. Bernhard Petruschke was the first driver from the GDR to win here on September 28, 1952, and 5 years later MZ pilot Ernst Degner copied the old master.

The first international 250 cm³ victory – in the Netherlands
In Tubbergen, as so often this year, Ernst Degner won the 125s, but Horst Fügner still received a special honor that day. On June 10, 1956 Fügner won his first international race for his team in this category with the 250cc two-cylinder two-stroke MZ. At the 125cc race, Horst finished second behind Degner. Fügner’s only Grand Prix race this season in blue letters.

The engine of the MZ RE250 seen from the side – the first victory in Tubbergen gave the Zschopau troop the courage to try it at GP races.
Ernst Degner in front of Horst Fügner (both MZ) – still with the old, voluminous panels, which were banned by the FIM from 1958.
Platz 2 beim internationalen Rennen auf dem Noris Ring bei Nürnberg war einer der wichtigsten Erfolge Fügners der Saison 1957.

The basis for a full Grand Prix season was laid
In addition to the 250cc win in Tubbergen, Horst took top 3 placings in numerous national and international races. With the consent of the communist party leadership, the start of a full World Cup season was planned for the next year. In addition to Ernst Degner, Horst Fügner had laid the foundation for this with numerous excellent results. Below are some of Horst Fügner’s most important results from 1957.Fügner’s only Grand Prix race this season in blue letters.

Part 6 coming soon..