Ahead of CREVENTIC’s second endurance event at the Hockenheimring, Joe is reminded of the story of Bertha Benz and the journey she took aboard husband Karl’s pioneering automobile in 1888. A drive that truly honours #ThisIsEndurance.
It is a little-known fact that the Hockenheimring is situated in a part of Germany where the very gestation of the automobile took place. The Hockenheimring circuit is situated on The Bertha Benz Memorial Route, a tourist attraction that forms part of the European Route of Industrial Heritage. It also follows in the wheel tracks of the world’s very first long-distance road trip by an internal combustion engined vehicle in 1888.
Bertha Benz was the wife of Karl Benz, the man responsible for patenting the very first practicle automobile in 1886. In August 1888, Bertha packed their two sons – 14 and 15 years old – into the newly constructed 'Patent Motorwagon' created by her husband, and headed off to visit her mother on Pforzheim, a distance of about 104km from their home in Mannheim. In doing so, she became the first person to drive a combustion-engined vehicle over more than a very short distance. Prior to this, automobiles were only ever used for very short test drives.
Bertha certainly embraced #ThisIsEndurance!
Over the course of the journey, she overcame many problems and must have been quite a mechanic herself, applying as she did innovative repairs to continue her journey. With help from a village blacksmith, she mended a drive chain, replaced brake linings just north of Pforzheim, and used a garter to insulate a broken wire. She then had to source a supply of a solvent called Ligroin, available from dispensing chemists, and effectively created the world’s first filling station! The 'Stadt-Apotheke' (town pharmacy) in Wiesloch still exists today.
Bertha had left Mannheim at dawn and arrived at her destination a little after dusk. Even though she had terrified a lot of the villagers along the route, Bertha saw the marketing value such a journey would create. She had proved after all that her husband’s invention could be invaluable to the general public once it had been shown to be. It also enabled her husband to develop and improve on his invention, including the introduction of an additional gear for climbing hills.
I wonder what Bertha and Karl would make of what their invention became today on our roads across the whole world, let alone our race this weekend.
So take a moment to remember Bertha Benz as you drive around the Hockenheim area. Not only did she complete the first long distance drive, she was also the first proponent of #ThisIsEndurance, doing everything she possibly could to get her car to the finish. It’s a mental attitude I’m sure we will see repeated at this year’s 12H HOCKENHEIMRING. There’s 133 years of heritage behind it in Hockenheim, after all.
- Images courtesy of Media Daimler
You can also check out Joe’s column in our magazine for the 2021 Hankook 12H HOCKENHEIMRING, available for download below.