Legendary racing driver Hans Herrmann celebrates his 85th birthday on 23 February 2013. Born in Stuttgart, Herrmann gained international recognition during his time as a works driver for Mercedes-Benz in the years 1954 and 1955. The cars he drove for the brand back then were the post-war “Silver Arrows”, the W 196 R Grand Prix racing car and the 300 SLR (W 196 S) racing sports car.
These days Hans Herrmann is regularly to be found behind the wheel of historical Mercedes-Benz competition vehicles, as a guest at any one of a variety of classic events, where he is able to convey to visitors the fascination of an important period in motor racing. “Our congratulations to our brand ambassador Hans Herrmann, who has been a good friend of Mercedes-Benz for almost 60 years now,” commented Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic, expressing his thanks to Herrmann for his contribution to keeping the brand’s heritage alive.
The legendary Alfred Neubauer, Head of the Mercedes-Benz racing department in the 1930s and again in the 1950s, discovered Herrmann as an up-and-coming talent and brought him into the works team, alongside Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling, for Mercedes-Benz’s re-entry to Grand Prix racing after the Second World War. For the 1955 season, the team was then joined by Stirling Moss.
In the very first race of the new Silver Arrows at the French Grand Prix of 1954 in Reims, Herrmann drove the fastest lap time, 2:32.9 minutes – corresponding to an average speed of 195.463 km/h. Over the course of the season he took two Grand Prix podium places, in the 1954 Swiss Grand Prix and the 1954 Avus race, in each case coming 3rd. In 1955, Herrmann was seriously injured in an accident during practice in Monaco and was no longer able to start during that season.
Even after his Grand Prix racing career with Mercedes-Benz had come to an end, “Lucky Hans”, as his friends know him, retained close links with the brand. In 1961, for example, he entered the “Gran Premio Argentina” road race in a Mercedes-Benz 220 SE (W 111), finishing in 2nd place behind Walter Schock, also in a 220 SE, to deliver a double victory.
Versatile motor racing talent
After training originally as a pastry chef, Hans Herrmann began his career in motor racing in the Hessen Winter Rally of 1952 in a private Porsche 356. That same year he took a class win in the “Deutschlandfahrt” (Tour of Germany). In both 1953 and 1954, Herrmann then took class victory for Porsche in the legendary 1000-mile “Mille Miglia” race in Italy.
Through his participation in Formula 1 as well as Formula 2 Grand Prix races, sports car races and rallies, Stuttgart-born Herrmann proved himself to be an exceptionally versatile motor racing driver. Apart from the cars he drove for Mercedes-Benz, he competed above all in Porsche racing and sports cars. He also took the wheel at various times for B.R.M., Cooper, Maserati and Veritas.
Hermann achieved his greatest successes in sports car endurance racing. Among his wins were overall victories in the Targa Florio (1960), the 24 Hours of Daytona (1968), and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1970). In honour of the grand total of eight Targa Florio races in which he had driven, Hans Herrmann was presented with a special award by the Sicilian town of Collesano in October 2012. “Noblesse oblige”: the one-time works driver arrived at the award ceremony in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.
After capping his success in motor racing with the Le Mans victory of 1970, Herrmann withdrew from active motor racing that same year, at the height of his career. From then on he would devote himself above all to his automotive accessories business. But our “birthday boy” has retained close links with the world of motor sport to this day – above all as a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz Classic.