Vintage BMW Motorcycles
50 YEARS AGO: MIRACLE AT MONZA
Photos Courtesy BMW AG
Photos © BMW AG
Monza, 12th September 1954: In the Italian Grand Prix,
Wilhelm Noll with Fritz Cron in the sidecar were the first to see the
checkered flag from their fully faired BMW sidecar combination. The
upshot: it was the first the World Sidecar Championship title for Germany
and the first for BMW.
For the two riders from Kirchhain near Marburg, it was the third win of
the season. Car mechanic Noll and telephone engineer Cron had
previously claimed two impressive World Championship rounds when they won
the German Grand Prix and the Swiss Grand Prix.
Their season of
success was complemented by two second places - in the Ulster GP at Belfast
and the Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps - and a third-placed finish in the
Isle of Man TT.
It meant the BMW sidecar team not only took to the
podium in all six World Championship
races of that year, but Noll / Cron also managed to break the longstanding
dominance of Norton in this discipline.
"What was decisive among other factors," Noll emphasizes today, "was the
significantly improved injection system of our BMW." The reward: they
took the World Championship title home to Germany for the first time.
"If you drop out, you're out of time". At the outset of the season,
however, that was certainly not on the cards. Englishman Eric Oliver,
four-times World Champion and defending title-holder, managed to claim the
first three races on his faired works Norton with sidecar man Les Nutt.
But in the Feldbergrennen, which did not count towards the World
Championship, Oliver had a serious accident, as a result of which he was
unable to compete in the German GP on the Solitude track outside Stuttgart.
That gave Noll and Cron their chance. With their fuel-injected RS,
they claimed BMW's first ever victory in a World Championship race.
It was a GP win which, as Noll was at pains to emphasize, they would have
managed on their own strength because, "at the point when Oliver dropped out
of the Feldbergrennen, we already had a five-second lead. Besides, if
you drop out, you're out of time."
In the Swiss Grand Prix, the fifth round of the season, Noll / Cron were
the first to cross the finishing line again. Their rival Oliver
managed to gain just two points, and ahead of the final race at Monza both
riders had drawn level first with 26 points each. But Oliver couldn't race
at Monza either, and his arm had to be put back in plaster. It meant
all Noll / Cron had to do was score.
But the duo, lining up at Monza for the first time with a similarly
fully-faired sidecar combination, would not have been content with that.
From the off they tackled the race in commanding style, carving out a lead
of more than four seconds a lap over the Norton duo of Smith / Dibben.
The press was disappointed that the big showdown did not materialize, but
with their superior ride Noll and Cron proved that they were worthy
World Champions. After the Football World Championship, there were
World Champions to be celebrated again - this time in motorcycle racing.
"Our title win hit the national headlines," Noll recalls. Even Oliver
would arguably have had little chance against the new full fairing, the
unique hydraulic drum brakes and BMW's supreme team strategy in which "it is
the brand that wins first, and only then the rider".
The first World Championship title of 1954 marked the start of a unique
run of successes in motorcycle racing. By 1974, BMW sidecar
combinations had claimed 19 Drivers' and 20 Constructors' World Championship
titles. Noll / Cron managed to repeat their title win in 1956 after
having to settle as runners-up in 1955.
And so a second World
Championship title went to a sidecar combination whose rider expressed his
enthusiasm for the sport in the following words: "Normal is too dangerous
for me - a sidecar combination always stands on three wheels."
After this final World Championship event, the twosome retired from their
racing career in autumn of 1956.