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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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..