Hermann Lang

Hermann Lang was one of the Titans of the 1930s who survived the dangers of racing and the war to emerge as a Grand Prix driver in the 1950s. By then, Lang was past his best and one can only wonder what might have been if the war had not robbed him of his best years.

Born into a working class family in Stuttgart in 1909, Lang was apprenticed as a mechanic at a local motorcycle shop and was soon trying his hand on some of the machines which passed through the garage. Eventually he started to race motorcycles and between 1929 and 1931 built up a formidable reputation as a motorcycle racer, surviving a near-fatal crash on the way.

The recession meant that his racing career petered out and he had to find work as a stone mason and later as engine driver but in 1933 he found a job with Mercedes-Benz as an engine-fitter. During the 1934 season Lang drove the transporters which took the racing cars to the events and worked on Luigi Fagioli's cars. He even cooked for the team. Having watched the regular drivers closely he convinced team manager Alfred Neubauer to give him a test in 1935 and did enough to become a junior member of the driving team. In his first race, the Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring, he finished fifth and a year later he led the same event. But 1936 was dominated by the rival Auto Union team and in the end Mercedes-Benz pulled out to prepare for 1937.

The first race of the year was in Tripoli and was won by Lang. A few weeks later he scored a second win in the Avusrennen in Berlin. These successes sparked tension between Lang and his more famous team mates, Rudolf Caracciola and Manfred von Brauchitsch. Lang may have been the butt of their jokes but he let his driving speak for himself and in 1938 won again in Tripoli. His education now completed Lang was the dominant force in the 1939 season, winning five of the eight races before war broke out.

Lang reappeared in 1951 when Neubauer put together a new team and went off to Argentina where he finished second in the Peron Cup to team-mate Juan-Manuel Fangio. The following year he won the Le Mans 24 Hours for Mercedes and then returned to Grand Prix racing for the 1953 Swiss GP, driving a Maserati. The following year he raced the new Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix car at the German GP. After that he retired from the sport. He died in February 2003.