Hans Klenk (1919 – 2009) was a German racing driver who had a short but eventful career during the 1950s. He started in one Formula 1 Grand Prix race and appeared once at Le Mans 24 Hours but he was most known as a co-driver to Karl Kling in a historic victory with Mercedes at 1952 Carrera Panamericana. He is also considered as an inventor of pace notes for co-drivers in open road and rally races.
Late start of a career for a former fighter pilot
Born in October 1919 in Künzelsau in south central Germany, Klenk started his racing career late, after the World War II, in which he served as a fighter pilot.
He entered racing in 1951, participating in Formula 2 races with a Veritas Meteor which he bought from Karl Kling. Klenk finished fifth at Nürburgring and fourth at Grenzlandring, getting an attention of Mercedes team.
Hans Klenk (left) and Karl Kling at 1952 Mille Miglia
Mille Miglia and 24h Le Mans with Mercedes
Klenk joined Mercedes in 1952, being a co-driver to Karl Kling at Mille Miglia. They finished in the second place in the #623 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, behind Giovanni Braco and Alfonso Rolfo in a Ferrari.
A month later, in June 1952, Karl Kling and Hans Klenk were driving the #22 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W194) at 24 hours of Le Mans. They retired after nine hours of racing due to a problem with electrics.
Hans Klenk was driving the #128 Veritas Meteor in his only F1 Grand Prix start
F1 Grand Prix start at Nürburgring Nordschleife
In August 1952, Klenk made a debut in the Formula 1 World Championship, which adopted F2 rules for that season. He was driving his own Veritas Meteor S6 in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. He was the 8th-fastest qualifier and finished 11th in the race, four laps behind race winner Alberto Ascari (Ferrari).
He continued to use Veritas in Formula 2 races, scoring podiums at the Grenzlandring and AVUS circuit.
Hans Klenk was injured but managed to win the 1952 Carrera Panamericana together with Karl Kling
Bizarre accident and a victory at Carrera Panamericana
In November 1952, Karl Kling and Hans Klenk traveled to Mexico to participate in the famous Carrera Panamericana race. They won a race in the #4 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL but the event was most remembered by a bizarre accident in which vulture hit a car, broke a windshield and injured Klenk.
Despite such an unusual problem on the opening day of the race, the #4 Mercedes crew managed to finish the race, taking a victory ahead of Hermann Lang and Erwin Grupp in another Mercedes.
Victory at AVUS before the premature end of a career
In April 1953, Kling and Klenk returned to Mille Miglia, not in a Mercedes but in an Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 Berlinetta. They failed to finish the race because of an accident.
In July, Klenk claimed a victory in the German Sportscar Championship race at AVUS circuit, driving a Borgward 1500 RS. It was his last race in a career because he suffered serious injuries in a test crash in August while he was driving a Mercedes 300 SL at Nürburgring. A crash prevented him to start in the German Grand Prix but also ended his career.