All translations for this page: Other translations for this page:

Memories of Gerhard Mitter

Exactly 50 years ago, on 1 August 1969, Gerhard Mitter died in an accident on the Nürburgring. The steering on his BMW Formula 2 racing car is defective. The three-time European mountain champion celebrates his greatest victories in a Porsche.

Text: Michael Petersen Photo: Porsche 01.08.2019 5 min

50 years ago Gerhard Mitter was the best German racing driver. With the support of Ford Cologne, the Porsche and BMW works driver has concrete plans to advance to Formula 1 in 1970. After him, drivers such as Stefan Bellof, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have made it. Did their successes fade the memory of Gerhard Mitter from Böblingen? »I'm always happy when someone still mentions my brother after 50 years,« says Eva Kühnel. The auctioneer is the racing driver's sister. His son is also called Gerhard Mitter. The resemblance to his father is amazing, but the young one has grown bigger. He's just starting with his father's Formula Junior racing car with a DKW engine at the Solitude Revival just outside Stuttgart.

That this is possible also has something to do with Rainer Klink. The head of the Tübingen Museum »Boxenstop« (Pit Stop) states: »The English celebrate every third-class racer as a hero even after decades. We forget even a champion like Gerhard Mitter.« Klink gets to know Gerhard’s son some time ago and knows what to do. When a Mitter-Formula-Junior is offered in a trade magazine, he goes for it. Gerhard Mitter Junior and two mechanics take care of the restoration. The work on this racing car brings him closer to his father. He begins to intensively engage with his father's career.

The Porsche Museum brings one of Mitters racing car into the public eye in 2019. The 910/8 Bergspyder is shown at Retro Classics in March. This 910 with chassis number 031 is the favorite company car of Gerhard Mitter, who wins the European Mountain Championship in 1967. This championship was very popular at that time, Mitter won 1966, 1967 and 1968 three times in a row. The 910 031 crosses the finish line for the last time in 1967. Brake fluid, petrol and oil were drained, the battery removed and finally the racing sports car was transferred to the museum collection. This is where the Porsche slumbers. This year it is carefully preserved, not restored. And this 910 contributes to the fact that the name Mitter becomes consciously known again to a broader public.

Gerhard Mitter, born 1935, comes from the Sudetenland. He comes from the bottom. And he asserts himself. »My father always said what he thought. No matter who stood before him,« the son says today. That didn't just made him friends. »He always wanted to win, becoming second was not enough. Determined as he is, he recognizes the importance of sport for a racing driver earlier than others. 200 push-ups at a time are part of the daily program, Mitter walks on his hands through the apartment to train his sense of balance. While others celebrate, Mitter is not present.

In the mid-1960s Mitter was a racing car designer and engine tuner. At first he took care of DKW engines, later drivers with Porsche 911s, which he had significantly improved in terms of performance, won numerous races. That's not all: Mitter ran three car dealerships in Tübingen, Leonberg and Böblingen. He brings Porsche, Audi/NSU and Simca among the drivers.

One of the first major successes with a Porsche was achieved by Mitter in 1963 at the Nürburgring Grand Prix of Germany. With a two-year-old Formula 2 Porsche 718 of the Dutchman Graf Carel Godin de Beaufort, he finished fourth behind three Formula 1 racing cars of John Surtees, Jim Clark and Richie Ginther. The result: Mitter has been a member of the Porsche factory team since 1964 and begins his triumphal march on the mountain. In addition, he drives for Porsche in many World Sportscar Championship races around the world. His greatest success was first place at the Targa Florio in Sicily in May 1969. Mitter wins together with Udo Schütz.

The Böblinger plays an increasingly important role in the factory team. It was he who unveiled the new, revolutionary Porsche 917 at the Auto Salon in Geneva in March 1969 alongside Ferdinand Piëch, Chief Technology Officer. Not Jo Siffert, the fastest driver in the team, but the technically experienced Mitter earned himself so much respect that he became the first point of contact for the drivers for Porsche's race control. »Gerhard was the boss of the team and spokesman for the drivers,« says Peter Falk, who has been in charge of the race for many years. Mitter drives many tests for Porsche. He was a proud, ambitious racing driver with a very good idea of the technology. »That wasn't always an advantage,« Falk hints at many a dispute with the engineers of the always determined mountain king.

»I never really got to know my father,« says Gerhard Mitter Junior, who lost him at the age of seven. He rarely accompanies his father to the races. »My mother didn't want that. She was afraid that the racing bacillus would jump over to me,« says the junior. It didn't help too much. The son is particularly successful at motorcycle races. Surely he won't become a professional racer. Since 1990, he has been running a motorcycle workshop on his father's estate in Böblingen to earn his living. In the large room in the basement he has set up a small museum above the former swimming pool covered with wooden panels. An early motorcycle, some trophies, a racing suit, a helmet remind of the great racing driver. Gerhard Mitter only got 33 years old.