AS STIRLING MOSS swept his Mercedes-Benz across finish line to win the 1955 Targa Florio, the team's racing manager flung his felt hat in triumph at the front wheels. It was a gesture typical of Alfred Neubauer, eager to be the first to congratulate his winning driver.
That was to be Neubauer's last big race, for immediately afterwards Daimler-Benz withdrew its factory cars from all competition.
Now, after more than two years of schooling his probable successor, Karl Kling, 280-pound Alfred Neubauer has retired at the age of 66 but has not entirely severed his connection with racing.
It was in the Targa Florio, that arduous race run across the Sicilian mountains, that Neubauer began his long and successful racing career. In those days a slim Neubauer was factory driver for Austro-Daimler under Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, the same who later designed the successful Auto Union racing cars. His first Austro-Daimler was one of the fleet little 1100-cc Sascha models; with this car he finished 19th out of 45 starters in the 1922 Targa Florio. The following year Dr. Porsche left the Austrian firm after a disagreement over policy and joined Daimler-Unterturkheim. Neubauer went with him and shortly afterwards won a gold medal in the German Three Days Trial, scoring his first success for Mercedes. In 1924 he again competed in the Targa Florio-this time in one of the 2-liter, 4-cylinder, supercharged Grand Prix Mercedes and finished 15th, the race being won by his team. mate Werner. Later in the year Neubauer did well at the Semmering hill climb and made second fastest time in the Klausen hill climb.
In all probability Alfred Neubauer will never be remembered as a racing driver, but his unequalled skill as Mercedes-Benz team manager since 1925 will insury him an honored place in motor racing history for all time. He is not only a great organizer but, like Fangio, a brilliant tactician, knowing just when it is better to playa waiting game or to press home an advantage. During his 30 years as team,manager, Mercedes-Benz cars have won 150 races of major importance, including practically every big race in the world with the exception of the Indianapolis 500. The record is likely to stand for a very long time. His greatest year was 1955, when he helped Fangio to win yet another World Championship; in that year Mercedes-Benz cars also won the world sports and touring car championships, a feat never before achieved. That year he was made a director of Daimler-Benz.
If you look around the walls of the large, comfortable office that Neubauer used at the Unterturkheim works, you will find a number of superb action photographs of his most famous drivers. There you can ,see Caracciola, prewar champion, always a stand-out in the rain; Hermann Lang, the mechanic who rose to become a great driver; the highly temperamental von Brauchitsch, and Dick Seaman, the first English driver to be invinvited to join a leading Grand Prix team: After the war Neuhauer invited many of the best drivers in the world to drive for Mercedes-Benz, including Fangio, Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, John Fitch, Piero Taruffi and the late Pierre Levegh. Tucked away in the massive filing cabinets in the team controller's room are details of the careers of Mercedes-Benz drivers of the past together with notes about future drivers who may one day be invited to drive for the German firm. There are also files containing regulations of, every important race over the years, together with carefully tabulated results and notes about circuits, tire sizes and treads, axle ratios that' have been used in the past-an invaluable record ready to use by his successor.
Everything that might affect the racing team in any way has had to be noted down and filed. Neubauer never trusts his or anyone else's memory. He has no time for carelessness or inefficiency; absolute accuracy has been something of a creed with him and has played no small part in gaining so many wins for Daimler-Benz. It is expected that Kling - or anyone, for that matter-will have a difficult task trying to follow in Neubauer's footsteps when the German firm returns to racing. (Already there is a firm belief on the Continent that a Mercedes-Benz factory team will be seen in sports car races before long.)
Neubauer was highly esteemed by his drivers, mechanics and all who worked for him for his painstaking thoroughness and his readiness to go out of his way to help any member of the team. He is part disciplinarian and part comedian, with a kindliness that has often surprised his fellow men, but he had the ferocity of a lion at bay towards press photographers who got in his way during a pit stop.
Spectators as well as drivers will miss that huge waist-coat hung with stop watches and the booming voice as he controlled his cars with a flick of his famous red and black flag in front of the Mercedes-Benz pit.
His team was always well disciplined. He insisted on his drivers being in bed by 10 o'clock, a rule that newcomers to the team found hard to take. Once, in the Argentine for the Grand Prix, Stirling Moss and Hans Hermann (the two youngest members of the team) shared a room. To enable them to see some of the night life of Buenos Aires, they had a system. Each would take it in turn to be in the bedroom by 10 and await Neubauer's nightly telephone call. He would be told that both drivers were in bed and about to go to sleep.
Every autumn, as soon as the international race calendar was drawn up, he studied it carefully and decided which races he wished to enter. Having made up a proposed program, he passed it to the board of directors for approval. A huge sum was then allocated to his department for racing. Neubauer has never been influenced by starting money; his first consideration was the value of the race to his company for either prestige or development, or both. Having once made up his mind for the year, he did not like to change it, even to add additional races: nor would he allow a driver to race a factory car without the full backing of the team. The Tourist Trophy race in 1955 was not on his schedule. Both Stirling-Moss and I did our utmost to get a car for Stirling to drive in the race. But, as I expected: Neubauer was adamant: no factory backing, no, car. When the Carrera Pan Americana' was cancelled, the full team was able to go ,to Ireland and I was bombarded with cables from Neubauer for detailed maps and information about the circuit.
As long as most people can remember, "Neubauer has been associated with Daimler-Benz. He was not born in Germany, as many suppose, but in Neutitschein, Moravia, now a part of Czechoslovakia. When he was nine, some local carpenters built him a small wooden car, which he drove in a race for children. Later he trained as an engineer and attended a military academy, becoming an artillery officer in the Austrian Army in WorId War 1. His love of cars led him to become a transport officer.
When Neubauer turns up at a party, you can be sure it will go off well. His powerful voice and energetic personality will sweep aside any language difficulties and the whole party, often of mixed nationalities, will soon be rocking with laughter. He is also good at mimicry. Even before the war, several brandies (among friends he knew well) could persuade him to imitate Hitler.
In the future, he will help to train new drivers at the Swiss School of Motor Racing. He feels that the speed of the modern racing car is quite high enough, but that all countries need to train more drivers to handle the tremendous power of the modern Grand Prix racing car with both confidence and skill.
The retirement of Neubauer severs one of the few links with the great days of Grand Prix racing.