The Avus

For the neophyte international race fan, today we bring you a bit of historical background in the world of motorsports origins. The Automobil-Verkehrs-und Übungsstraße, or AVUS, was first proposed as a motor sport track on the western part of Berlin in 1907, to double as a test track and racing course. The unique aspect of the AVUS was that it was the antithesis of safety and sanity for racers. At the height of its popularity, it had two 9 kilometer straightaways with two tight return curves, with the north turn featuring a 43º bank built exclusively of red bricks...dubbed the "Wall of Death". The track would prove to be the epitome of Herbert Spencer's "Survival of the Fittest" in the world of early-20th-century motorsports.

Intended for construction in 1907, a lack of finances delayed the start of construction for six years, and construction was halted in 1913 for the same reason. During the Great War, Russian prisoners were employed in AVUS' construction, but the track was still unfinished by 1918. The remaining work was completed and the circuit opened in September 1921.

On 11 July 1926, the track hosted the first ever German Grand Prix, won by Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz, in front of 230,000 spectators and in appalling weather conditions. Three competitors were killed in a crash on the North Curve.

The track very quickly faced stiff competition from the newly-built Nürburgring in 1927 and efforts were made to make the AVUS the world's fastest track. The already-dangerous North Curve was was turned into a steeply-banked turn made of brick. It became dubbed the “Wall of Death ” as it had no retaining barriers and drivers that mis-judged the turn could easily come off the track. No major races were staged after 1937 as the track was now deemed too dangerous for the new, very fast, Grand Prix cars. After the Second World War, the circuit was shortened with the introduction of a new South Curve at Hüttenweg, making it now just 8 kilometers in length, cutting it in half.

A non-championship Formula 1 race was hosted in 1954 and then in 1959, the first Formula 1 German Grand Prix which was won by Tony Brooks. By the early 1960′s Grand Prix were no longer raced on banked circuits and by 1967 the banking on the AVUS had been dismantled. Racing continued, but with only National Touring Car and Formula 3 events, and the track was shortened yet again. Despite some safety measures being introduced, the North Curve continued to claim lives and cause serious injury.

Racing was discontinued in 1998, and the track officially closed in 1999. Today, the race control tower is still in existence, now used as a restaurant and motel, and the old wooden grandstand is protected as an historic monument.