Like rings in the water…
Tom Kristensen, Auto Union Typ D, 14th Hamburg Stadtpark Revival

Like rings in the water…

Exactly how much, one of the few existing Auto Union racing cars from the 1930s might fetch on the open market, is difficult to assess. Audi will under no circumstances sell the Type D from 1939, which guests Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix this year, but somewhere between 200 and 300 million should it be able to bring in.

Auto Union racing cars from the 1930s is the ancestor of the modern Audi. Tom Kristensen says that there is no problem in forcing the old gentleman up to 250 km / h. The problem occurs only when you would like to break…

“How running?” “It is surprisingly easy to drive. One might think that it was complicated in such an old car with pedals, sitting in the wrong order and levers that needs to be operated correctly, but here’s clutch, brake and accelerator just as in an ordinary car. The gear shift sits just to the right of the steering wheel, so it’s just about driving “says Tom Kristensen.

Tom Kristensen has been driving in all sorts of vehicles on four wheels, but Auto Union is the most costly. The silvery Auto Union is the pearl of Audi’s heritage. It was the contemporary counterpart to today’s Formula 1 racers and ahead of its time. Center Motor was new in racing in the 1930s, but it was also new with both chassis and bodywork in aluminum. It was polished instead of painted, because already back then there was focus on that there was relatively cheap seconds to be gained on the racetrack by optimizing weight. Auto Union Type D has a dry weight of 850 kg.

The background is tragic. Auto Union had been trying for years to match Mercedes-Benz’ silver arrows on the racetrack, and worked hard to make the 16-cylinder Type C fast enough. Only the race driver Bernd Rosemeyer could handle the many forces that a primitive rear suspension and outdated tires meant, as the car could not even manage the more than 400 hp from the V16 engine.

Porsche withdrew from racing in 1937 to focus on the development of Der Führers ¬Folks wagon, and Bernd Rosemeyer was killed during a top speed attempt in a Type C on the freeway on January 28th 1938. There were not great prospects for the small team.

To complicate matters further, they introduced new regulations into sports car racing in 1938 with a maximum engine capacity of three liters.

Against all odds, Auto Union hired designer Prof. Eberan von Eberhorst and later in the season racing legend Tazio Nuvolari. They sat out in the first three races of the season and made their debut with the newly developed Type D in the French Grand Prix.

At first glance the car looked like its predecessor, but apart from the general outer design everything had changed. Suspensions and rear suspension was of a more modern DeDion-type, and the engine was new. It had 12 cylinders, much less displacement, supercharged and a unique valve system. The intake valves are activated by a single camshaft located in the V between the cylinder rows, while each row of the exhaust valves has its own cam shaft. Von Eberhorst’s V12’er therefore has three cams.

Using a double-compressor of the Roots-type, the engine provided at first 420 hp at 7,000 r / min. The fuel tank was divided into two, so there is a tank on each side of the driver. This means that he sits slightly further back in the chassis. Behind the driver there are six tailpipes on each side pointing almost straight up. One is never in doubt whether the V12’eren running, says Tom K. Unlike modern V12’er there are many vibrations in the engine, and it only gets worse, the more turns, it gets.

“In turn, the view from the driver’s seat is excellent. That is not what’s the problem, “says Tom, who several times has been running Type C and Type D. Especially a high speed ride in the Type D, that can be seen in Copenhagen, is clearly at the top of the list of fun driving experiences.

“The problem arises when you really would like to slow down again. Here are large, narrow wheels with wire spokes and a giant steering wheel that flexes, the faster you drive. And absolutely no aerodynamics that benefits the attempt to brake. When you come from about 250 km / h and want to slow down, you first ease off the accelerator. Then you step caaaarefully on the brakes very gently. Then one wheel at a time will block, so you have to ease up on the brake. But only so much that you are still braking. ”

“The fun of driving it, are the medium fast corners. Here you float from corner to corner operation on all four wheels. There is a good element from the engine, which allows to run wide, but drum brakes and leaf springs, puts its limitations to a test. Everything about pushing the gas is incredibly fun in a Type D. But to slow it down … it’s a challenge. It is actually difficult, “says Tom.

Type D is very highly leveraged, so it is necessary to use first gear on slow tracks.

“The shift must be in towards your thigh and down, and it’s hard to get from first to second gear. The spring is very tight and you have to go up, right, and up, so it’s easy to get to hit fourth gear instead. And then try to think that they have run long distance races on tracks like the one in Monaco, where it’s almost all tight corners.

“It has taken courage to race in this car. During braking you must be sensible, because there is no road grip. Smooth driving style is a must, otherwise you have no speed with you out of the turn. And the entire curve should be taken drifting on four wheels! Today we drive many times stronger through the corners. It had worked out back then. ”

We are developing Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix for a cultural event, more than just a race. It’s great to be involved. The passion for historic cars is there and we drive to the border, while we take care of the cars and each other. Just take the white-haired enthusiasts behind the race: You can’t keep them away. You meet them all sorts of places where there are races, and that’s how it should be. The heart has to be in it. It was in 1930 and it is today. ”