22 Sept 2012

1939 Grand Prix season on film - Silver Arrows on track

Following the recent appearance by the Silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union at the Goodwood Revival we thought it appropriate to delve into history and look at the last season these great machines ran side by side on track.

The 1939 Grand Prix season was dominated by the rise of the Nazis and impending war in Europe. Indeed war was declared the weekend of the (unofficial) Belgrade Grand Prix.  The Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz entries were funded by the Nazis and so won every race.  But the technology used on their cars was decades ahead of it's time.  The official Grand Prix calendar only consisted of four races, which were:

  • 25 June - Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps - won by Hermann Lang in a Mercedes-Benz W154
  • 9 July - French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux - won by Hermann Paul Müller in a Auto Union Type D
  • 23 July - German Grand Prix at Nürburgring - won by Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz W154
  • 20 August - Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten - won by Hermann Lang in a Mercedes-Benz W154

But never mind the politics, grotesque as they were.  Today the Silver Arrows are celebrated as they should be - fantastic and beautiful racing cars driven by skilled and brave men.

The following footage covers the races that took place that season.  It is one thing to see the Silver Arrows cars today but quite another to see them in their natural habitat - the racetrack.

Belgian Grand Prix

French Grand Prix

German Grand Prix

Sadly footage of the pre-war Swiss Grand Prix' at Bremgarten doesn't exist.  However we did find this lovely piece of footage from the 1938 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, which should make up for it.  Tazio Nuvolari won in an Auto Union Type D.  The Italian Grand Prix did not take pace in 1939.