AVUS - The Strangest Track in the History of Racing

November 11, 2015
Alexander S

  • AVUS

AVUS or  Automobil-Verkehrs-und Übungsstrasse, is a public road in the city of Berlin that was opened in 1921 and it was used as a racing circuit until 1998.

Track with a length of 19 km

It was probably the most unusual racing track in the world and it was so simple, with only two long straights and two hairpin corners at each end. The original length of the track was 19 km, but over the years, it was shortened several times after moving the southern turn – from 8.3 km to the length of 2.6 km.

Avus layout speed world road high germany

Map: AVUS track layout

The building of the AVUS started in 1907 after Kaiserlicher Automobilclub devised the construction of a circuit which could be used as a racing track and also as a testing track for the expanding motor industry. It was finished 14 years later and hosted the first post-war International Automobile Exhibition with a motor race.

‘Green Hell’ was safer than AVUS

Five years later, AVUS for the first time was the host of the International German Grand Prix for sports cars. That was a good idea with a bad outcome as the safety measures weren’t good enough for racing and four people lost their lives during training and race. From 1927 onwards, the German Grand Prix was moved to the safer Nurburgring circuit.

banked curve on avus, Mercedes-Benz W25, black and white, 1937

Streamlined Mercedes-Benz W25 Silver Arrow on the banked curve1937

AVUS was suitable for Olympic events

The last race was held in 1935 as AVUS became too dangerous for cars averaging at a speed of 200 km/h, but the circuit was used during the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936 for the cycling and athletic events. The north curve of the circuit was then turned into a steeply banked curve of 43 degrees, made of bricks, so cars that missed the turn easily flew off it. In 1967, the banked curve was removed due to safety reasons and was replaced with the flat version.

Video – 1937 AVUS Grand Prix

After WW2, AVUS hosted the first race in 1951, for Formula 2 and Formula 3 championships. The track was shortened and was very close to the well-known Berlin Wall. In 1954, Formula 1 race was also held at AVUS, but it was a non-championship event. Despite that, legendary Juan Manuel Fangio participated in the race. Five years later, AVUS hosted the only Formula 1 German Grand Prix  and the winner was Tony Brooks.

BRM crash on Avus in 1959

Hans Herrman was lucky to be thrown out of his BRM at 1959 German Grand Prix at AVUS

As time went on, and security criteria became more stringent, AVUS became less interesting for the racing championships. Racing on the straight circuits became less popular in the 1980s and 1990s. The track length was cut roughly due to safety reasons, but that wasn’t enough for the revival, even after a couple of Formula 3 and DTM races were held there.

The track was closed in 1998

Despite safety measures, still a lot of accidents and incidents took place at AVUS, some of them with fatal outcomes, spelling the end for this unusual venue. The last competitive race was held in 1998 and in the following year, the racing veterans event was the farewell of this historic venue.

AVUS Motel Berlin

AVUS Motel in Berlin

The famous round race control tower at the north end is still there, used as a motel and a restaurant while the large wooden grandstand is protected as a historic monument.

Photo: themotorsportarchive.com