Mercedes model
A beautiful 1:12 Model of the Mercedes-Benz T80. Click for more pictures

The pursuit of speed
The 1930s was an age of speed records. Constructors like Macchi, Supermarine and Messerschmitt were fighting for the superiority in the air, a peaceful fight that a few years later would turn into a fight for life and death. Across the Atlantic Ocean four nations were fighting for the "Blue Riband" with ships subsidized by the states, the German "Bremen" and "Europa", the Italian "Conte di Savoia" and "Rex", the French "Normandie" and the British "Queen Mary". And on the Hallwiter Lake Sir Malcolm Campbell took his motorboat "Blue Bird" up to a speed of 124 knots. The British were also dominating the challenge for the absolute land speed record while the Germans found their niche in record breaking with Grand Prix cars on ordinary highways, taking advantage of the recently built "Reichautobahnen".

Car speed records
The first speed record attempts had been held in 1898 between the French Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat and the Belgian Camille Jenatzy. Soon A.I.A.C.R. took over the organisation of such events and created a set of rules for record breaking. From 1911 onwards speed records over short distances had to be made in two runs in opposite directions with the average of the two runs counted as the record. Both runs had to be done inside a certain time limit (usually 1 hour).

The classes
The record cars were divided in classes according to engine volume:

A       > 8000 cc
B  5000 - 8000 cc
C  3000 - 5000 cc
D  2000 - 3000 cc
E  1500 - 2000 cc
F  1100 - 1500 cc
G   750 - 1200 cc
H   500 -  750 cc
I   350 -  500 cc
J < 350 cc

The tables
This page is concentrating on record breaking as a developement of Grand Prix racing. I have therefore restricted the information to include only classes A to F and the record lenghts of One hour / 200 Miles or less. At the moment only records from 1930 onwards are included. As a headline the type of record is shown. On the next line the record holder at 1st January 1930 in listed followed by each record improvement on a new line.



The chronological account
At the moment only record attempts from 1934 onwards are included. The list is still under developement so much text and car pictures are still missing.


World and Class records
One could imagine that a new world record would automatically also be a class record. However, things were more complex than that. It seems that the record beater had to apply separately for A.I.A.C.R. to confirm the world record and the class record and that the record beater sometimes failed to do the latter. Also, for the class record A.I.A.C.R. demanded specific information about the engine. As, for example, the Auto Union team were not willing to make their engine size public in 1934 Hans Stuck was able to make world records but not class records.

The published speeds
Giving the speeds with 3 decimals claiming it to be the exact value is mathematically objectionable, as the following example will show you:

If a car runs 1 km in 12 seconds it means it has a speed of 300 km/h. But measuring with 1/100 s accuracy those 12 seconds can be anything between 11.995 seconds and 12.005 seconds so the time is in fact indicating any speed between 299.875 km/h and 300.125 km/h. Giving that speed as 300.000 km/h with 3 decimals is therefore wrong. One decimal should be enough as in 300.0 km/h.

However, A.I.A.C.R. started off using 3 decimals in their official record lists. Then about 1936 someone obviously finally understood better and from then on the record lists were given with one or two decimals. I have decided to include all published decimals, leaving the rounding off to one decimal to the reader.

As far as possible A.I.A.C.R. official records have been used for the tables. Additionally the following books have come to use for the chronological accounts:
Beinhorn Elly - Bernd Rosenmeyer - Mein Mann der Rennfahrer
Blight Anthony - The French Sports Car revolution
Fletcher Rivers - Mostly Motor Racing
Holthusen Peter - The Fastest men on Earth
Kirchberg Peter - Grand-Prix-Report Auto Union 1934 - 1939
Ludwigsen Karl - Mercedes-Benz Quicksilver Century
Nixon Chris - Racing the Silver Arrows
Noble Richard - Thrust


© 2020 Leif Snellman - Last updated: 21.02.2020