Today would have been Alfred Neubauer’s 120th birthday. The impact of ‘the Big Man’ on motor sport history and modern motor sport can not be underestimated.
From 1926 to 1955, Alfred Neubauer managed Mercedes-Benz’s motor sport efforts with an innovative flair coupled with an eye for detail and intense discipline. As a former race driver, Neubauer recognized that drivers could easily get lost in driving the car and lose track of where they were in the race. So, Neubauer devised a system using color coded flags, sign language and pit boards to get valuable information to his drivers. It was Neubauer who came up with the idea of have a dedicated pit crew for each driver and car entered in a race. It was also Neubauer who conceived the practice of drilling pit crews to ensure maximum efficiency. Neubauer thought that any contingency, however remote, should be prepared for. In one race, a rock smashed the small glass wind screen on Stirling Moss’s car. This forced him to slow down, as the air buffeting Moss caused him to literally hold on to his hat. Moss pitted and gesturing to the smashed wind screen. In a mere 39 seconds, a new windscreen had been fitted and he was back in the race. The next time Moss sat in his W196, a new button appeared on his car’s dashboard. When pushed, it ejected the windscreen and put a new one in it’s place.
During his career at Mercedes Benz, Neubauer managed his team to 6 European Grand Prix and Formula One titles, 2 Mille Miglia victories and one victory each in the 24 Hours of LeMans, Targa Florio and La Carrera Panamericana. After the shock of Le Mans disaster in 1955, Mercedes withdrew from racing altogether, and Alfred Neubauer retired. As he and Juan Manuel Fangio spread dustcloths over the racing cars, now destined to be museum exhibits, there were tears in his eyes.
If you’d like to see more of Neubauer’s Silver Arrows, you check out the Motorhome Tumblr blog.