The German Grand Prix 1976 – 45 Years Ago

It was the first weekend in August 1976, the traditional time for the German Formula One Grand Prix. It took place at the famous but very dangerous Nürburgring Nordschleife. 

The German Grand Prix 1976 - 45 Years Ago

The heroes of this time were Niki Lauda, the world champion of 1975, and his rival James Hunt.

Niki Lauda was leading the Championship. He drove a Ferrari 321 T2. James Hunt was driving a McLaren M23. His teammate was the German Jochen Mass.

mass hocheichen

The German Grand Prix took place at the famous but very dangerous Nürburgring Nordschleife

My friend from school and I were visiting this event, sleeping in a very small tent, but enjoying every day at mixed weather conditions. For me it was the first time at the Nürburgring and when we arrive there it was heavy rain coming down, of course, the typical Eifel summer.

I was fascinated about the whole scenery. The first action on track we saw was a Vauxhall Cup Race. There was so much water on the track, that the cars spun off even on the start and finish straight.

hunt pits

But than the Friday came and we went to the Hatzenbach section to watch our favorite drivers flying down to Hocheichen. I was fifteen years old, films were very expansive, so we had to be careful with taking pictures. No digital photography was available at this time. We were using color slide films. And at this time there was only one company who was able to process color slides, so I sent the films away by post and hoping that they come back after six weeks. Unbelievable for today.

lauda hocheichen

But back to the track. The cars were running. At the lefthand corner Hocheichen ,which is a bit banked ,we were able to hear the difference between the competitors. Some of them liked Niki Lauda, James Hunt and Carlos Pace took it flat, some of them liked Harald Ertls lifting.

Then the Sunday came. Racing time. Before the start it was raining heavily, so the start was delayed. But after a few minutes the drivers were taking place in their cockpits and driving to the starting line. Everybody would start on rain tires expect Jochen Mass. He decided to start with slick tires.

hunt straight

As the race was starting it was so loud, unbelievable loud, but after maybe 40 seconds the cars disappear in the forest and it was almost quiet like in a church. Then after 7 minutes everyone came back, driving to the pits to change to slick tires, because the track was nearly dry.

regazzoni carJochen Mass was in front with a huge gap to the second placed car. After the second lap 13 of 26 cars came back and the race speaker was telling about an accident at the „Bergwerk“ with the cars of Brett Lunger and Harald Ertl. A bit later we were told that also Niki Lauda was involved.

After the third lap nobody came back to the starting straight. I was very worried. The informations we got was that Niki Lauda is on the way to hospital in Adenau and is well.

So, the Grand Prix would be started for the second time, James Hunt took the win in front of Jody Scheckter. The third place went to Jochen Mass who would have probably won the race without the terrifying crash of Niki Lauda.

On Monday when my friends father pick us up, he told us about the serious injury of Niki Lauda and that he was fighting with the death. Thank god he survived the „Green Hell“.


But this was the last Formula One race that took place at the Nordschleife and this was the right decision, I think. So, when I went home there were mixed emotions, the fascinating about motor racing but also the aspect of danger. But to be honest, I love motor racing until today.



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