CIRCUITS: AVUS

Name: AVUS

The Automobil Verkehrs und Ubungs-Strasse was first conceived in 1907 by the Automobilklub von Deutschland (AvD) as a test track for the motor industry and for the sport. Money was short and it took six years before work on the amazing circuit began. The money ran out and the First World War caused further delays although Russian prisoners were used to do the building work. Despite this the track was only half-finished when the war ended and the post-war economic problems meant that it was not until 1921 that Hugo Stinnes financed the completion of the circuit. The facility opened in September 1921 and five years later AVUS was the site of the first German Grand Prix -- for sportscars -- which was won by the Mercedes of Ruedi Caracciola.

The following year the new Nurburgring was built and at AVUS it was decided that the banking at the North Curve should be increased to a startling 43 degs. Despite this AVUS was in the shadow of the Ring throughout the 1930s. The division of Berlin after the war cut the track in half and it was not until 1954 that the circuit was revived with a new unbanked south loop being built. This cut the track to 5.15 miles. The non-championship F1 Grand Prix of Berlin resulted in a Mercedes 1-2-3, with Karl Kling leading Juan-Manuel Fangio and Hans Herrmann. In 1959 the Formula 1 World Championship returned to Berlin but the meeting was overshadowed by the death in a supporting sportscar race on Saturday of French racer Jean Behra who spun his Porsche RSK in damp conditions and was thrown from the car into a flag pole. The Formula 1 race ( a curious affair with the result being an aggregate of two heats) was a Ferrari 1-2-3 with Tony Brooks winning. Herrman was fortunate to emerge unhurt after he suffered a brake failure on his BRM and went off at high speed the car somersaulting dramatically and Herrman being thrown out but without serious injury.

Thereafter the track hosted little more than international Formula Junior races, although German national events continued to visit each year. The north bend was dismantled in 1967, but the character of AVUS remained as it always had been with two fast straights. The track was still used for touring cars until a major accident in the 1990s which led to the death of British driver Kieth Odor.

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