Road Racing, World Records and ISDT: Ernst Henne
In the early days of motorcycling, some riders were using their motorcycle for different types of sporting disciplines, such as road racing, reliability trial, obstacle crossing, off road racing, etc.. This variety also led to different degrees of development along history. A particular rider was involved during this period. Ernst Jakob Henne was born on 22 February 1904 in Southern Germany. He learned the profession of motor vehicle mechanic, and started racing in Mühldorf in 1923. In 1925 he took part in the 350cc race of the Monza Grand Prix, and finished sixth. He then joined the BMW factory team, and became German Champion in the 500cc class in 1926, and 750cc Champion in 1927. In those same years he was chosen as member of the German World Trophy team taking part in the ISDT as of 1929 (pictured, on far left, with n° 50 on the 734cc BMW - on the Victoria sidecar is driver Robert Trapp, and on n° 51 BMW is Hans Soenius). Henne was member of the German team winner in 1933, 1934 and 1935. He went racing also on four wheels, with some success such as winning the 2000cc class with the brand-new BMW 328 at the Nürburgring.
The main activity, for which he would be reminded, though, was Landspeed records. As from September 1929 on a supercharged 750cc BMW Henne achieved no less of 76 Landspeed world records, increasing his speed annually from 1929 to 1937. His last record was set on 28 November 1937 with a speed of 279,5 km/h (173,7 mph) on a fully faired supercharged BMW. This record would only be beaten in 1951.
Ernst Henne earned his aircraft pilot license in 1932, being conscripted by the Luftwaffe when World War II erupted, but was then declared unfit due to the skull fractures and concussions he had suffered during his racing career. After having been workshop manager for Mercedes Benz after the war, he later settled in the Canary Islands where he died on 23 May 2005 at the age of 101.
Text Marc Pétrier – Photo FIM/Christopher Lavery Collection