50th Anniversary of the Death of Rupert Hollaus

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September 7, 2004

Source: AUDI AG, Audi Tradition

  • The NSU motorcyclist from Austria suffered a fatal accident on September 11th 1954 at the final meeting of the season in Monza, having already become world champion.

    September 11th, 2004 is the 50th anniversary of the death of Rupert Hollaus. The 23-year-old Austrian had just become world champion in the 125cc class on his NSU when he was involved in a fatal accident during training for the final race in Monza. As the decision to withdraw from motor sport-related production came soon after this event, the 1954 Monza race meeting is not only associated with the tragic death of Rupert Hollaus, but was also the final appearance of the highly successful factory team run by NSU, the company that later became part of the Audi Group.

    Hollaus, the only Austrian world motorcycle champion, was born in Traisen. As the son of a workshop owner, he had contact with motorcycles from his earliest years. The young Hollaus first came to everybody’s attention in Germany in 1951, when he came fifth in the Schauinsland Bergrennen on a Guzzi Albatross. In 1952 he won several 250cc class races on a Moto Guzzi and in the 350cc class on a Norton. In addition, he had also acquired a 125cc Mondial so that he could enter races in all three classes. He did well in all the races he entered in Germany during 1953, often taking first place among the private entrants, for example at the Feldberg, in Schotten and on the Solitude circuit.

    The non-sponsored Hollaus started to ride NSU motorcycles toward the end of the 1953 season. During the races on the Avus, in Monza and in Barcelona he was able to demonstrate his talent most effectively on winding, rain-soaked stretches of track, riding both the Rennfox and Rennmax, and was offered a permanent contract for 1954. It was obvious that Hollaus enjoyed riding the NSU bikes with their streamlined fairings. He was entered for twelve races on the Rennmax in the 250cc class, won three of them and came second in five. He entered nine races in the 125cc class and was second once, but won seven times, including the legendary TT race on the Isle of Man. Even before the end of the season he had gained the title of the first Austrian-born world motorcycle champion. However, fate intervened only a few days later. On September 11th 1954, during a practice session for the international Grand Prix in Monza, Hollaus’ footrest caught the ground as he took a bend. He crashed into the straw bales at the side of the track and was killed instantly. This fatal accident prompted NSU to withdraw all its entries for the forthcoming race and, a few weeks later, to withdraw completely from motor sport.

    The four rings of the Audi badge symbolise the brands Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer, which were later combined under the umbrella of Auto Union. Auto Union and NSU, which merged in 1969, made many significant contributions towards the development of the car. AUDI AG was formed from Audi NSU Auto Union AG in 1985. Together with the two traditional companies Auto Union GmbH and NSU GmbH, Audi Tradition nurtures and presents the deep and diverse history of Audi. The Audi museum mobile at the Audi Forum Ingolstadt is open from Monday to Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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