Saturday, August 02, 2008


Record Breaking with BMW supercharged motorcycles (from Allan Schafer's literature collection)
By Dennis Quinlan

Allan Schafer of Grafton, NSW, Australia, was a prolific letter writer as a young man, corresponding with overseas motorcycling "greats". Allan wrote to Ernst Henne in Germany in 1936, and received a reply with an autographed photo (note the swastika franking mark on the envelope that brought the reply).

Ernst Jakob Henne was born on 22.02.1904 as the fourth child of a master saddler in Weiler near Wangen im Allgäu. In 1919 he started his apprenticeship to become a motor vehicle mechanic, before becoming an independent motor cycle mechanic. In July 1923, he was amongst the starters in a motorcycle race in Mühldorf, almost by accident, and immediately achieved third place in his class on his first time out. In autumn 1925, he made his first major international appearance in the Monza Grand Prix, coming sixth in the 350 cc class.
After this success, he signed a contract with BMW as a works rider. In 1926, he became the official representative of BMW Motorcycles, and also one of the original BMW automobile representatives. Henne achieved his first victory for BMW in May 1926 in the "Karlsruher Wildparkrennen". He came first in the Eiffel Race in the same year, thus also winning the German Championship, which was decided in a single race in those days.
At the end of the 1920s, he was regarded as one of the best, most versatile motorcyclists in Germany.
He took part in the International Six Day Trial at the beginning of the 1930s, and won the event in 1933, 1934 and 1935 with the German national team, which was in actual fact a 100% BMW team.
Once the BMW Board of Management had given the go-ahead to attempt land speed record attempts, a super-charged engine, which had already been started, was fully developed. The frame was made in Henne's own workshop.
On 19 September 1929, Henne chased the record for the first time with a 750 cc super-charged BMW, based on their R63 750cc ohv model, breaking eight world records that day. Not all of them were officially recognized, but the most spectacular stayed: at a speed of over 216 km/h, Ernst Henne was the fastest motorcycle rider in the world.

National pride was a big thing in those days…guess it still is today… riders from Great Britain also challenged for the World’s Fastest on two wheels; Joe Wright on OEC and Zenith motorcycles,and Eric Fernihough on Brough Superior made attempts and held records for periods of time.
In 1932, Henne reached 246 km/h at Gyon in Hungary. In 1935, on the new motorway in Frankfurt, he reached 256 km/h in 1935, and just one year later he achieved 272 km/h on a fully enclosed motorcycle. Because of its characteristic shape, the driver and his motorcycle soon became popularly known as "Henne and his egg".
In 1936, he drove the first BMW 328 prototype in the Eiffel Race and not only won the normally aspirated 2 litre class , but also achieved the best time of all the sports cars in the race, with an average speed of 101.5 km/h .
With the BMW 328, he then went on to win the Belgian Grand Prix des Frontières in Chimay and the Bucharest Grand Prix.
On the morning of 28 November 1937, Henne finally reached the high point of his career achieving an officially certified speed of 279 km with the "Egg", reaching 280 km/h on his return.
Ernst Henne then retired from record breaking, but this record remained unbroken until 1951.
After the Second World War, Henne developed a contract workshop for Mercedes-Benz vehicles and became one of the largest dealerships in Germany. His company became part of DaimlerChrysler AG in 1997. In 1991, he also founded, with a considerable proportion of his assets, the Ernst-Jakob-Henne Foundation. The aim of the foundation is to support people who are innocent victims of suffering.
Ernst Henne, who withdrew increasingly from public life in latter years, lived with his second wife in the Canary Islands from 1996 on until his death on Sunday May 24, 2005, at the age of 101.
Thanks to the BMW motorcycle Owners of America for information on Henne’s life.

No comments: