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Born 100 years ago: Eugen B÷hringer, Mercedes-Benz works driver of the “tail fin” era

01/21/2022 | 08:23am EDT
Jan 21, 2022
Stuttgart
Birthday on 22 January 1922 in Stuttgart
Numerous international triumphs in long-distance rallies within just five years in the 1960s
Successful chef and hotelier in his main profession
The Swabian died in 2013 at the age of 91
Stuttgart. Long-distance rallies over several thousand kilometres were his speciality: for example, Eugen Böhringer won the toughest of all rallies, Liège-Sofia-Liège in 1962 and 1963. The Mercedes-Benz works driver also won one of the fastest rallies in the world, the "Argentinian Touring Grand Prix", in 1963 and 1964. The 1962 European Rally Champion also finished second in the legendary Rally Monte Carlo three times. Böhringer, in actual fact a chef and hotelier, was one of the very fast touring car drivers. 100 years ago, on 22 January 1922, Eugen Böhringer was born on the Rotenberg near Stuttgart.

Eugen Böhringer's motorsport career was short, but all the more successful. It was not until he was well over 30 years old that he competed in a few national rallies in the late 1950s, driving his private Mercedes-Benz 219 (W 105). The fact that he got started with motorsport so late has family reasons. To be sure, his parents instilled in him an early enthusiasm for the automobile. For example, the family bought a Mercedes 16/45 hp in 1925. Emma Böhringer, his mother, also drove it: she was one of the first women in the Stuttgart area to have a driving licence. Her son Eugen had his sights set on an apprenticeship as an automobile mechanic; taking apart and assembling toy cars made of sheet metal was one of his favourite pastimes. Things were to turn out differently, an apprenticeship as a chef put him in a position to take over the family-owned restaurant with hotel in Stuttgart-Rotenberg. As far as his schedule would allow, he still attended racing events.

The personal step into motor racing goes back to a bet: The innkeeper won a few bottles of wine from friends of the group of regulars in his own restaurant because, as he had announced, he became the class winner in a skills tournament organised by the Untertürkheim Automobile Club. The talented driver then competed in smaller, local races before making his mark at the Solitude Rally in 1958 and 1959 with a second and a first place.

These achievements did not go unnoticed by the Mercedes-Benz rally department. They signed him as a works driver for the 1960 season. As early as January, Eugen Böhringer/Hermann Socher finished second in the Mercedes-Benz 220 SE (W 111) at the Rally Monte Carlo behind their teammates Walter Schock/Rolf Moll. In 1961, Böhringer achieved second place in the European Rally Championship together with Rauno Aaltonen, who later won the Rally Monte Carlo. Because the Finn was faster on gravel, and vice versa the German on asphalt, the two sometimes changed places behind the wheel in the moving car during a special stage. In 1962, Böhringer became European Rally Champion with co-drivers Peter Lang and Hermann Eger in the 220 SE. Successes for the year include victories in the Acropolis Rally and second place in the Rally Monte Carlo.

Exertions over many thousands of kilometres

In 1962 and 1963, Eugen Böhringer won what was probably the toughest of all rallies, the Liège-Sofia-Liège marathon drive, with the Mercedes-Benz 220 SE and 230 SL (W 113). By today's standards, the hardships are hardly imaginable. The route covered more than 5,000 kilometres on often unpaved roads through Germany, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia, Romania and Bulgaria, including the crossing of numerous challenging Alpine passes. There are no breaks, only at the Sofia turnaround did the engines stop for 60 minutes. Drivers and co-drivers took turns, only on the few unspectacular stretches of road, where the logbook laid out in the weeks before the rally was not important, did the man in the right-hand seat get some sleep for 15 or even 20 minutes. After the two victories, Eugen Böhringer/Klaus Kaiser finished third in the last edition of this classic in 1964 with the 230 SL (W 113). To win for the third time in a row, they lacked exactly the time they lost due to a defective alternator and two punctured tyres. On top of that, a sheep ran in front of their car, so they had to fend for two nights with only one headlamp. In Issue 22/1964 about this rally, the magazine "Kristall" called their story "The agony of 90 hours", because "for 90 eternal hours on this rally, any mistake can mean the end". At best, one fifth of the starting field reached the finish. Böhringer himself remarked dryly: "You just have to step on the gas and brake little."

The "Argentinian Touring Grand Prix" also covered around 5,000 kilometres, but was divided into several stages. Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser each won in 1963 and 1964 with the Mercedes-Benz 300 SE (W 112) ahead of their teammates Dieter Glemser and Martin Braungart. Eugen Böhringer invented a special principle of pacenotes for these teams. Curves are not divided into numbers from 1 to 10, but are characterised, for example, from "right bend left" to a "fast left". Böhringer insists on perfect preparation. While his teammates retired to their hotel rooms after long days of training, he sometimes said to his co-driver: "Come on, Klaus, we're going out on the route again to check our write-up." The performance-enhanced "tail fin" reached top speeds of around 220 km/h. Long and straight asphalt sections allowed for very high speeds. In 1964, for example, Böhringer/Kaiser won the first stage over 781.5 kilometres from Pilar to Carlos Paz in 4:19.25 hours. The average speed was 181 km/h. After this stage, race director Karl Kling gave the order to take it easy on the material in order not to endanger the triple victory of Mercedes-Benz in the order Böhringer, Glemser and Ewy von Korff-Rosqvist.

Böhringer ended his motorsport career in 1965

Eugen Böhringer was also fast in circuit races. In 1964, for example, he won the Grand Prix for touring cars at the Nürburgring with Dieter Glemser. Victories at Brands Hatch, Zolder, Karlskoga and even Macau were added to the list. Böhringer/Glemser lost the "24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps" classic due to a broken wheel hub after holding a clear lead shortly before the end of the race. Mercedes-Benz shut down the rally department at the end of 1964. Eugen Böhringer started only once more: in one of the snowiest editions of the Rally Monte Carlo, he finished second in 1965 with co-driver Rolf Wütherich and a Porsche 904 Carrera GTS Coupé entered by the factory.

After only a little more than five years in international rallying, Eugen Böhringer ended his career and concentrated fully on the local restaurant and hotel business again. He remained committed to his sport. For example, at the 1971 Stuttgart-Charbonnières Rally, Böhringer noted the road conditions as the "ice spy" driving ahead for his former teammates Dieter Glemser and Klaus Kaiser, contributing to their third place overall. Decades later, the two Swabian racing drivers discussed rallying and the speed of modern rally cars. Böhringer said to Glemser: "Dieter, we drove our cars as fast as we could back then. And that is what the current rally drivers are doing as well."

Eugen Böhringer died in Stuttgart in the early hours of 19 June 2013. He lived to be 91 years old.

Disclaimer

Daimler AG published this content on 21 January 2022 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 21 January 2022 13:22:03 UTC.


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