When moving automobilia to our house in the French Midi, we (re)discovered a large frame with a table napkin in it filled with signatures. My father had kept it carefully, and had commented it. What a unique memory it proved to be. It now has a very special place in our French maison de pierre, where it is displayed on an old stone wall. Indeed, it was a table napkin, which my father carefully lifted from the table at the celebration dinner of the (re)opening of the renovated Nürburgring on May 12, 1984.
“This napkin, my dear son, will make history”, he said with a solemn expression. “Look at the people here. They embody the history of motor sport, and soon, some of them will not be here anymore. So we now pass this napkin around and let them all sign it”. A brilliant idea. Here it is, and dear readers, I want to share it on my site with you.
Hans Knol ten Bensel
One has to read the napkin clockwise from the right side above. It starts with Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the legendary Mercedes development engineer, responsible for designing the revolutionary pre-war W 25 Mercedes Grand Prix Car,which he further developed into the W 125. He designed and engineered all the post war Mercedes Grand Prix cars of the fifties, and then the 300 SL and SLR, amongst others. Below it, one finds Juan Manuel Fangio, then Alain Prost and Carlos Reutteman.
Then follows Hermann Lang, the legendary pre-war Grand Prix driver, and Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg and former Mercedes Benz Museum Director Von Pein. Then the former President Director of Mercedes Benz, Dr. Werner Breitschwert, and Eugen Böhringer, the man who won the Monte Carlo Rallye in the Mercedes 220 SE “Heckflossen” limousines, and the 1963 edition of the grueling Luik-Sofia-Luik rallye in the then just launched Mercedes “Pagode” 230 SL.
Then comes Karl Kling, member of the famous pre-war Mercedes GP team, followed by Alan Jones, Formula 1 World Champion in 1980, and the second Australian to do so following triple World Champion Sir Jack Brabham. Alan competed in a total of 117 Grand Prix, winning 12 and achieving 24 podium finishes. In 1978 Jones won the Can-Am championship driving a Lola. Then follows John Watson, third in the F1 championship in 1982, now a commentator in the Blancpain GT series. Last but not least James Hunt, F1 World Champion in 1976, who then became a famous F 1 commentator at the BBC and unfortunately died from a heart attack aged 45. He was inducted into the Motor Sport Hall of Fame on 29 January 2014.
Then there is Ewy Rosqvist-von Korff, the legendary female driver who won the East African Safari in a Mercedes 220 SE, Jack Brabham, twice F1 World Champion, John Surtees, F1 Word Champion in 1964 and Jodi Scheckter, F1 World Champion with Ferrari in 1964.
Needless to say, I cherish this napkin, and hope it will last generations…
Hans Knol ten Bensel