Edgar Barth

Born in the village of Herold, just to the south of Chemnitz, in Saxony, in 1917, Edgar Barth grew up in comfortable circumstances, being the son of a well-to-do stocking manufacturer. This was a few miles from Zschopau where Dane Jorgen Skafte Rasmussen started building motorcycles in 1918 under the Dampfkraftwagen (DKW) banner. By 1928 it was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.

Barth started racing bikes in 1933, at the age of just 16, initially in trial events but then in road races as well. In 1937 he was signed up as a factory rider by DKW and then tried his hand at car racing with one of the new BMW 328s. Sadly, his career was badly affected by the war and by the fact that in 1945 he found himself in the eastern zone of Germany, which was under Russian control.

He started racing again in the post-war period with a Norton at races in East Germany and in 1951 was hired by its official racing team, which was known as Rennkollektiv Johannisthal (Johannisthal Racing Collective) as it was based in workshops at the Johannisthal airfield in Berlin. This used cars which had been built by EMW, the company that had taken over the old BMW factory in Eisenach after the war and was manufacturing copies of the BMW 328.

Barth performed so well that he quickly became EMW's leading driver and as a result was allowed to race internationally, representing Rennkollektiv at the Czechoslovakian Grand Prix at Brno where he finished second to the Tatra of Jaroslav Pawelka. EMW was allowed to send cars to the West on occasion and Barth made his Grand Prix debut in an EMW at the Nurburgring in the German GP of 1953. International relations, however, were a serious disruption and his appearances in the West were very limited.

In the spring of 1956, however, he was allowed to race an EMW sports car at Montlhery in France and made such a good impression that he was offered a factory drive by Porsche. The East German authorities were not sure that this was a good idea but Barth then decided to take the matter into his own hands and, having gained permission to race a motorcycle at Hockenheim, he took advantage of the situation to race a Porsche in the Nurburgring 1000km, partnering Umberto Maglioli. The East German authorities were furious and announced that he was banned for life from taking part in any motorsport event within the GDR.

Barth knew that if he returned to East Germany he would never again be allowed to travel to the West and so he defected, forfeiting his possessions in the East and moving to the town of Kornwestheim, close to the Porsche factory in Stuttgart. He thus began a career in the free world.

F2 cars sometimes appeared in F1 races at this time, but did not qualify for World Championship points. In 1957 Barth raced a Formula 2 Porsche in the German GP, finishing 12th, and in 1958 he followed up with sixth place in a similar car. In this period he raced in F2 from time to time but enjoyed much success with Porsche in hillclimb events, winning the European Hillclimb Championship in 1959, 1963 and 1964. In 1959 he and Wolfgang Seidel took a factory Porsche to a sensational overall victory in the Targa Florio. He also raced at Le Mans on several occasions.

He continued to appear in F1 events, racing an F2 Porsche at the Italian GP in 1960 when all the British teams boycotted Monza and made a final appearance with Rob Walker in the 1964 German GP. By then he had been diagnosed with cancer and died nine months later in hospital in Ludwigsburg, at the age of only 48.

His son Jurgen later became a Porsche factory sports car driver and won the Le Mans 24 Hours with Jacky Ickx and Hurley Haywood in 1977.