Richard von Frankenberg survives horrible crash at the Avus Ring in Berlin

The Miracle of the Avus Ring

Despite being known as very dangerous, the Avus Ring in Berlin Germany was a popular race track in the first part of last century. The Avus Ring hosted several Grand Prix races and had the honour to welcome many legendary racers participating in one of the races. In 1956 Richard von Frankenberg was one of the racers that would come at the start in the Avus GP. Even more, Richard von Frankenberg competed both in his personal Porsche 356, nicknamed “Karl V” in the 1.3 race and as a Porsche factory driver in the 1.5 race. 

A Porsche prototype in the race

In the first race, Richard von Frankenberg was not very succesful. He had to cope with much stronger cars like the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce. The best result Richard von Frankenberg could achieve was an 8th place. Later that day, Richard von Frankenberg started in the 1.5 race in a Porsche Typ 645, a prototype that was based on the Porsche 550 Spyder and would later evolve into the new Porsche 718 RSK. The car had a shorter wheel base and unique suspension, very small frontal area, aa surface oil cooler and the welded magnesium body ‘skin’. The Porsche typ 645 was very aerodynamic, but unhandable and unpredicatble at the same time.

Richard von Frankenberg raced the Typ 645 earlier on the Solitude Ring so he was used to the top speed of 260 km/h, which was somewhat higher than the 2 other cars of the Porsche team in the race : both Porsche 550 Spyders with respectively Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips and Hans Herrmann at the wheel. That higher top speed made the car more suitable for the long straights and the steeply banked turns on the Avus track in Berlin, so Richard von Frankenberg decided to drive the Mickey Mouse. despite the less roadholding.

The Porsche Typ 645, nicknamed Mickey Mouse, at the start of the 1956 Avus GP in Berlin
The Porsche Typ 645, nicknamed Mickey Mouse, at the start of the 1956 Avus GP in Berlin

The Race

Soon after the start of the race, Richard von Frankenberg took the lead from Roy Salvadori in a Cooper Climax and he started to move ahead of the rest of the starters field. Just Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips managed to follow fairly close in the Porsche 550 Spyder. Both silver painted Porsche Spyder’s drove down the back straight and banked onto the bricks of the North.

The eyes of tens of thouands spectactors were directed to Richard von Frankenberg and Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips when the Porsche number 9 suddenly steered to the right, hit the lip of the curve and jumped over it at a very high speed. The Porsche Typ 645 flipped over in the air (see featured image) and landed in the paddocks, where it immediately caught fire. In the flight, Richard von Frankenberg was thrown out of the car.

Hiss fall however was broken by the branches of a tree, definitely saving his life. However it took 5 minutes before Richard von Frankenberg was found unconscious in the greenery of the wall by Porsche engineer Lörcher. 

The Miracle of the Avus : Richard von Frankenberg survices a terrifying crash in his Porsche Typ 645
The Miracle of the Avus : Richard von Frankenberg survices a terrifying crash in his Porsche Typ 645

The magnesium bodywork of the car  was completely eaten by the flames. Richard von Frankenberg was hospitalized in Berlin. In contrary to many stories, he did not leave the accident unharmed. Richard von Frankenberg remained 5 weeks in the hospital. He was unable to give an explanation for the accident, as he seemed not to remember anything after the “Miracle of the Avus”.