Hans Stuck (1900 - 1978) - King of the Mountains
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Jo Siffert

Hans Stuck
Hans Stuck was known as the 'King of the Mountains'. His forte was hill-climbing-or mountain races - but he was also an accomplished Grand Prix driver and record breaker. He competed until the early 1960s, collecting trophies and championships before finally retiring from motor sport to coach his son Hans-Joachim, who by the 1970s was one of Germany's leading racing drivers.

Born in Warsaw (his parents were in business in Poland) on 7 December 1900, Hans Stuck enlisted in the artillery during World War 1. Afterwards he studied agriculture and engineering before settling down to help manage his parents' estates. His first car was a Diirkopp, little known outside Germany it was both fast and well-constructed. Hans soon set his engineering knowledge to good use modifying it for competition.

The Baden-Baden Hill-Climb

A quick road driver, his friends suggested he should compete in the Baden-Baden hill-climb in 1925, and bet him a crate of champagne he could not survive the distance! He did, and won his class. The following winter, Stuck tried his hand at ice racing while on holiday at Garmisch and won again. Then he decided to try some more famous events in 1926, entering his 2-liter Diirkopp P8B in the Salzberg and Latisbon hill-climbs and the Solitude races for fun. Again, he won his class each time.

Swiss Mountain Champion and European Mountain Champion

In 1927, Stuck was approached by Austro-Daimler to race one of their sports cars. Later, he graduated to a special, short-wheelbase 3-liter racing version. He won seven events in 1927, fourteen in 1928, nine in 1929 and twelve in 1930. In 1928, he was Swiss Mountain Champion, in 1929 and 1930 he was acclaimed as Austrian Mountain Champion and in 1930 he was European Mountain Champion. He was known as the 'King of the Mountains'. The crowds loved the spectacular driving style of the 6 ft 2 in blond extrovert.

The Auto Union Grand Prix Team

In 1930, he visited Britain, and set a new course record at Shelsley Walsh. In 1931, Stuck was approached by Mercedes- Benz to drive their 7-liter SSK cars, and he won the Lemberg Grand Prix. The following year, when Mercedes withdrew, he bought his own SSK and took it to South America where he won the Brazilian Mountain Grand Prix. Upon his return to Europe, he repeated his win in the European Mountain Championship once more. In 1934, Stuck was chosen to lead the new Auto Union Grand Prix team, and soon learned how to handle the difficult, sixteen cylinder, rear-engined machines.

After establishing new records for one-hour, 100 miles and 200 km on the banked Avus track in Berlin, Stuck won the German, Swiss and Czechoslovakian Grands Prix, was second in Italy and fourth in Spain. With four hill-climb victories to add to this list of achievements, he was undisputed German Champion (had there been a World Championship in pre-war times, Stuck would almost certainly have won this, too). He concluded his most successful season by taking a streamlined Auto Union to a 201 mph flying-mile record.

The Bucharest Grand Prix

The remaining pre-World War 2 years were less successful. In 1935, Stuck won the Italian Grand Prix, while his best achievements on the race tracks the following season were seconds in the Tripoli and German Grands Prix. In 1939 he won-the Bucharest Grand Prix, however, he was still the 'King of the Mountains' and snatched many hill-climb victories. In 1939, he also broke the one-hour water-speed record with a 5.6-liter Auto Union-engined boat and he was chosen by Mercedes-Benz to pilot their six-wheeled, aero-engined car designed by Dr Ferdinand Porsche to attack the hind-speed record, but war intervened.

Alex von Falkenhausen

Following the war, the now ageing Stuck remained in the sport. Having gained Austrian citizenship, he was able to obtain an international licence (Germans were not allowed to compete internationally until 1950). At first, he campaigned an 1100cc Cisitalia in small-capacity single-seater races and later he was a strong contender in the 2-liter Formula Two with an AFM designed and built by Alex von Falkenhausen. He enjoyed a heat win in the 1950 Monza Grand Prix, heading the Ferraris, while in 1951 he won at the extremely fast Grenzlandring circuit. For the 1951 Italian Grand Prix, he attended as a spectator, but the night before the race was asked to drive a works BRM P15, one of the infamous V16 machines. But after Stuck had tried the car on race morning, it had to be withdrawn due to gearbox lubrication problems.

BMW Demonstration and Racing Driver

In 1957, Stuck joined BMW as a demonstration and racing driver. Driving a 3-liter BMW 507, he won the GT class in many hill-climbs. Later, he switched to the 700CC BMW saloon; in 1960, he won a twelve-hour race at Hockenheim with the little BMW, co-driving with Sepp Greger. In 1963, Stuck finally retired at the age of 62. He had participated behind the wheel in over 700 events during the 38 years, and won 427 times. Hans Stuck died in February 1978 from natural causes at the age of 78, a much liked and respected figure. Hans' son and protege, Hans-Joachim, was left to carry on the family tradition, driving karts at the age of nine at the Nurburgring, graduating to saloon cars for Ford Germany and BMW works, and then to a notable career in single-seater becoming a successful number-two to John Watson in the Brabham-Alfa in Formula One before joining the Shadow team in 1978.
Hans Stuck
Hans Stuck.
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