The former IFA (later MZ) – nightmare became a works driver
After the IFA team had lost all too often to Petruschke and his ZPH, developed by engineer, designer and friend Daniel Zimmermann, in 1952, it became too much of a good thing for the GDR party officials. At the end of the season, “Petrus” and his designer Zimmermann were transferred to the IFA, the “state-owned company” (Volkseigener Betrieb), in Zschopau. Bernhard as driver and Daniel first as his crew chief. But in January 1953, engineer Walter Kaaden was assigned the task of setting up a so-called IFA “racing collective” and developing a new racing machine. Kaaden’s order was to develop a new IFA 125 cm³ racing machine for the 1953 season and at the same time produce 10 copies. These production racers were to be distributed to various motorsport collectives in the GDR. The company sports groups were then responsible for their use themselves with the help of technical support from the IFA.
The preparation for the 1953 season and the problems with the IFA redesign
Engineer Walter Kaaden was a brilliant inventor and turned out to be a real stroke of luck for IFA. During the war he worked in the team to develop the so-called V2 retaliatory weapon. This was developed under the direction of Wernher von Braun and was used in large numbers in the Second World War from 1944 onwards. However, due to the lack of accuracy, the effect of this missile was of modest strategic effect. The IFA works team with Erhart Krumpholz and Horst Fügner was strengthened with “Petrus” and the young Siegfried Haase. The short time until the start of the season was only enough to produce 3 new machines, which is why Petruschke was allowed to continue using his ZPH. This turned out to be an advantage for him, also because he now had access to machines, tools and parts from the IFA based in Zschopau.
A high level of consistency was required
In particular, due to the far too short development time, the IFA’s own design should suffer from numerous teething problems at the beginning. Bernhard was still very competitive on his ZPH and, above all, his self-construction, developed by Daniel Zimmermann, was much more mature and therefore more stable. So it happened that he was generally much more consistent with the original motorcycle, officially known as IFA, than his teammates starting on the new bike.
GDR championship 1953
After “Petrus” reached the goal much more often than the new comrades, things soon looked very good for him in the GDR championship as well. This is said to have caused tensions in the “IFA Rennkollektiv” (racing collective) one or the other time. Petruschke couldn’t care less, he had such a constant season as never before. Horst Fügner won at the Sachsenring, but he took second place behind the 30-year-old from Chemnitz. He had already achieved this classification at the baths race in Stralsund. With rank 2 behind IFA teammate Siegfried Haas, Bernhard secured the long-awaited title of GDR champion in the 125 cc class on the Schleizer Dreieck at the proud age of 43.
The 1954 season – with an early win on IFA
With the GDR championship title in his backpack, Bernhard Petruschke was concerned the following year with defending this title as much as possible. His strongest opponents were on the same team, with Krumpholz and Fügner at their head. But Siggi Haas was also not to be underestimated as the winner of the Schleizer Dreieck race in 1953. His team colleague Erhart Krumpholz got off to a very bad start at the Leipzig Stadtpark race. His IFA did not want to start, while “Petrus” got away well, followed by Fügner then also took the lead. Erhart started a fantastic race to catch up, but he couldn’t get any further than fifth. In the end, Bernhard won the “around the disk wood” race of the 125cc for the second time, just ahead of Horst Fügner. In the meantime, 15 IFA race bikes had been completed and Petruschke had also received one of them for the 1954 season.
Respectable success in the “green hell” jn West Germany
The Eifel race took place on May 23rd at the Nürburgring, often called the “green hell”. In the race on the Nordschleife, the NSU works drivers were unbeatable and the young Austrian Rupert Hollaus won superiorly. But with Fügner and Petruschke’s 4th and 5th place, IFA amazed the international competition with a surprisingly strong performance. Even Western German Herbert Luttenberger on his private MV Agusta had no chance against the two GDR drivers on the IFA rotary valve two-stroke engine. In April, the West German won the Dieburger Dreiecks-race in Hessen with his 125 MV.
First IFA victory outside GDR
On July 18, it was Horst Fügner who achieved the first victory in West Germany for IFA. At the Feldberg race in the Taunus, the man from Chemnitz won ahead of Karl Lottes (BRD, MV) and Krumpholz. “Petrus” had a less fortunate day on the Oberreifenberg and didn’t get past 11th place.
Highlight of the outstanding season in the GDR championship
After his 125cc title in the previous year, the GDR championship was of course one of his main concerns for Petruschke. On June 13th, he took second place on the Dresden Autobahn spider. Last year he was second on the podium after the most popular race in the GDR. The 1954 season brought the crowning glory at the Sachsenring, perhaps the climax of his entire career.
In front of hundetthousands
Petruschke is unlikely to have forgotten August 23 of this year in his life. In the home race with a strong international crowd in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators, “Petrus” entered the history books with the victory on the track in Hohenstein-Ernstthal. This was followed by fifth place in Hanover and victory just a week later on the Schleizer Dreieck on September 12th. It was done, Bernhard had defended his 125th title as GDR champion against strong competition from his own team!
For more see part 5 of the story about Bernhard Petruschke, coming soon..