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ADAC Sachsenring Classic: upswing east on legendary racetrack

Arturo Rivas
ADAC Sachsenring Classic
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Helga - the most successful female racing driver in the GDR

M it surnames do not linger long at the Sachsenring: The cheerful and resolute lady is simply called Helga by everyone. Apparently everyone here in the paddock and on the grandstands of the natural race track in the south-east of Germany knows her, and not just since her biography was published. Helga's family name is Heinrich: The 75-year-old Voigtlander is the most successful female racing driver in the former GDR.

At the Sachsenring, Helga is enjoying her birthday present: a ride in an MT-77 formula racing car, with which she was successful in the 1970s was on circuits. 'It's not exactly my car from back then, but it looks exactly the same,' she says with a lot of anticipation and sends afterwards: 'Actually, I basically don't drive in someone else's car, but today I have to make an exception.'

Today, many racing drivers from the former GDR returned to the Sachsenring with their racing cars. Once a treacherous street circuit, the demanding mountain-and-valley railway has been a permanent race track since 1996. In addition to the German Motorcycle Grand Prix and the appearance of the ADAC GT Masters, the ADAC would like to hold a permanent historical event with motorcycles and cars there, a classic car Grand Prix of the East.

750 premier participants and 15,000 spectators

The Saxons obviously hit a nerve: a total of 750 participants literally ran into them. Despite the lousy weather, especially on Sunday, around 15,000 spectators came to the premiere. That is far more than most modern racing weekends on the 3.67-kilometer circuit. At the ADAC Sachsenring Classic you can experience cars and motorcycles that were used on the track in the past.

Cars like the MT-77 with Lada engines, a huge array of different Melkus sports and racing cars, are also included Trabant RS, Wartburg, Zastava, Skoda 130 RS, some Lada and even a Saporoshez. Even track spokesman Lutz Weidlich looks quite surprised from his cabin on the third floor of the race director's tower. 'My car is driving there,' calls the 74-year-old from Leipzig, following a blue and yellow Trabant with his left index finger. Even the start number 17 is correct.

Racing car with Lada, Trabant and Wartburg engines

'But that's notMy original car from back then, it's just been prepared, 'Weidlich restricts. Perhaps he is thinking of the race here at the Sachsenring in 1978: after an engine failure in a hill climb, he got rid of Trabant Pope Udo Gaida from Frohburg borrowed an engine.

In this race it is pouring rain and Weidlich comes in ninth in Gaida's spray. Rain plays an important role in some of the old stories told in the paddock this weekend Heiner Lindner, the two-time GDR Formula Champion. Almost more important than the two titles are his four successes at the Sachsenring for the former Leipzig who emigrated to the West in 1986.

Two-time GDR Formula Champion in MT-77

In 1973 Lindner celebrated his first victory in a Melkus-Lada at the Grand Prix of the GDR on the 8.618 kilometer circuit. Like today it is a mixed event for cars and motorcycles. It is the last Race on the S amstag, and Leipzig's Lindner wins in front of around 50,000 spectators with 43 seconds ahead of Wolfgang Küther from Dresden.

'I think that was my best win here, not least because it was raining,' emphasizes the racing driver with the figure of a jockey. 'Success in the rain is always something special.' The starting number 82 still adorns his racing car, one of those MT-77s that Lindner drove from 1977. Many memories go with me when Lindner, Heinrich and Co. run their Monoposti again at the Sachsenring. Helga is also ready to redeem her birthday present. 'I'm still an active racing driver and regularly compete in a Formula Renault,' she reports.

You should know that when you see the grande dame of GDR motorsport in the red and white Malimo racer on the track sees. Helga Heinrich rolls slowly over the piste so that nothing gets broken on someone else's car. Your colleagues, on the other hand, really let it fly. The HAIGO (Historic Automobile Racing Interest Group East Germany) this weekend is not about the fastest lap times, but about a regularity test. But the pace has to be right.

Formula race East

In addition to Heiner Lindner and Helga Heinrich, the last GDR is also starting -Master Heinz Siegert from Leipzig in his MT77 at the ADAC Sachsenring Classic. Dennis Thassler is also there, whose father played a key role in developing the formula car together with Ulli Melkus and Frieder Kramer. After work, Kramer used the mainframe computer from VEB Sachsenring in Zwickau, where the Trabant was built, to calculate the frame and chassis.

Thassler developed and improved the body shape in the wind tunnel of the Technical University of Dresden. He thus played a major role in the successes of the GDR national team, which up until 1986 had won the team title at the Cup for Peace and Friendship five times,in a sense the Formula 3 European Championship of Eastern Europe. Ulli Melkus won five drivers' titles.

Almost 60 of the progressive formula racers are built and also sold in Eastern European countries. At the ADAC Sachsenring Classic, the most successful Melkus-Thassler 77s can be seen together again on a racetrack for the first time: the former cars of the unforgettable champions Ulli Melkus with Narva sponsor lettering and Bernd Kasper with advertising for ORWO-Film, but also the racing cars of Berlin's Manfred Kuhn, on whose body the rock band Puhdys was advertised. A total of 16 MT77s awakened many memories of the Sachsenring races at the Ost-OGP.

Melkus MB90 with BMW engine

One of the fastest on the track was Nils-Holger Willms with his MB90 , a monoposto from the Melkus forge from 1990. It was already equipped with a BMW engine and is the last Melkus formula construction.

From 1990 to 1996, racing at the Sachsenring was suspended. The route was reopened in 1996 with a run for the ADAC Super Touring Car Cup. From 2000 to 2002, the DTM even held one run each in Saxony. As a reminder of this more recent motoring tradition, some DTM and STW cars rolled over the track at the 'touring car revival'.

DTM-Mercedes C-Class has to stop because of foam

Ellen Lohr should also drive her factory Mercedes from 1994, which is owned by a private collector and driver. 'I'm really sad because I can't drive,' she says. The class 1 Mercedes C-Class was extensively restored. But the old safety foam stayed in the tank and is slowly dissolving. Small bits settled in the gasoline line. In order not to risk expensive engine damage, the silver DTM car had to stand still.

'A six-cylinder with 12,000 revs, I would have loved to move it again,' says Ellen Lohr while she is busy signing autographs, 'but the team has promised me that I will be able to drive the car on another occasion. '

So there are still a few wishes open for the next edition of the ADAC Sachsenring Classic. Maybe besides Ellen Lohr, other former DTM and STW stars will be infected by the Sachsenring fever and come to the second event in 2015. The rain, which has played a role here over and over again in racing history, can then take a break in the 2015 edition.

The roots of the Sachsenring go back to 1927

The Nürburgring was not yet opened, the engines were already roaring in Hohenstein-Ernstthal: On May 26, 1927, racing motorcycles started for the 1st Badberg-Vierecks-Rennen. The Sachsenring race developed from this. Racing cars were also allowed after the Second World War. The runs in front of up to 480,000 spectators were the highlight of the GDR motorsport season. 1966 took place the lastFormula 3 races with Western participation take place.

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