Within the Nineteen Twenties, earlier than iconic motorsport venues just like the Nürburgring and Hockenheimring existed in Germany, a banked oval observe situated 30km (18mi) south-west of Frankfurt am Principal was one of many quickest racing circuits in Europe.
The Opel-Rennbahn (Opel Racetrack) was a check observe initially, however when Opel wasn’t placing its autos by way of their paces they opened it as much as motorsport occasions. Round 50,000 spectators would go to the observe on the perfect of days, an astonishing crowd dimension contemplating this was the post-war period.
100 years later, I’m right here, standing alone on the remnants of a 32° banked curve. And utterly by probability; I used to be staying in a lodge 2km away, and noticed it whereas checking a map for any attention-grabbing spots close by.
The oval is located in a forest, and it’s a stunning space to stroll round and revel in nature. The remained banked part of the observe is roofed in moss, and the whole lot from small shrubs to massive bushes have pressured their approach by way of the dilapidated concrete floor under. In spring or summer season, there’s an excellent probability that almost all of this historic website could be completely camouflaged by the greenery.
It could be a stretch to name it an open-air museum, however in 2013, a cantilevered platform that extends out over a piece of the observe was constructed. You possibly can stroll up onto it and be taught the historical past of the place by way of detailed data plaques.
On the time development employees broke floor in 1917, 5,000 individuals had been employed by Opel, engaged on, amongst different issues, a two-seater automotive nick-named Puppchen (Doll) with a 1.5L engine that outputted 14.5hp.
The oval racetrack was 1.5-kilometers (0.93-miles) lengthy and 12-meters huge, its concrete slabs held along with tar.
The oval was accomplished in 1919, and the primary race was held on October 24, 1920, in entrance of 10,000 spectators. The circuit skilled a growth till the early Nineteen Thirties, with many automotive, motorbike and sidecar races held through the weekends. On weekdays, the racetrack resumed check observe duties.
In 1928, Opel began testing a rocket automotive on the observe. This was the world’s very first large-scale rocket program, considerably advancing propulsion programs and aviation know-how, and even leaving a mark on the long run NASA Apollo missions.
After the spectacular trial runs of Opel-RAK’s rocket-powered RAK 1 in April 1928, check drivers Fritz von Opel, Friedrich Sander, Max Valier and Kurt C. Volkhart turned internationally recognized.
From 1934, racing ceased because of the recognition of recent, bigger circuits just like the AVUS observe, Nürburgring, and the outdated Hockenheimring. The Opel-Rennbahn remained a check observe and later, after World Conflict II, the US army used the world as a restore facility.
Since 1987, the race observe has been designated a ‘Technisches Kulturdenkmal’ (technical cultural heritage monument). The ‘Opel Racecourse Cultural Monument’ initiative is campaigning for the preservation of the racetrack, so there’s nonetheless hope that it may be maintained as an open-air museum, or maybe one thing even grander.
For a short time, I sat on the banked curve – the one remaining a part of the circuit – and imagined what it might have been like right here 100 years in the past…