Cham­pion

Old Bike Australasia - - WALTER SCHNEIDER -

Lothar Milde­brath is a world author­ity on the BMW Rennsport and au­thor of the book Munch­ener Meis­ter­ma­cher Maschi­nen: BMW RS 54 and Fam­ily. Here he traces the ca­reer of one of the best-loved pi­lots of the Bavar­ian rac­ers.

Wal­ter Sch­nei­der, from the town called Siegen in south west­ern Ger­many near Cologne, started his rac­ing ca­reer in a side­car chair in 1949. He soon built his own BMW R 66-en­gined side­car out­fit and earned his first lau­rels in 1950. Many Ger­man solo and side­car rid­ers used Nor­tons in the years be­fore the BMW Rennsport was avail­able. In 1953 he took the op­por­tu­nity to buy a 500cc Nor­ton Manx from 1952 Ger­man cham­pion Ru­dolf Knees (1907-1982) and Sch­nei­der started side­car rac­ing with more suc­cess, end­ing up in fourth po­si­tion in the Ger­man side­car cham­pi­onship that year. The re­sult en­cour­aged him to take part in the 1954 world cham­pi­onship. His pas­sen­ger be­ing as­so­ci­ated with the lo­cal BMW dealer, and BMW be­ing about to de­liver the first few of the RS 54 Rennsport mo­tor­cy­cles, Wal­ter Sch­nei­der was able to ob­tain one of those rare rac­ers in April 1954. With this new mo­tor­cy­cle came his new pas­sen­ger; Hans Strauss (1924-2001) from Nurem­burg who had been rac­ing with Ernst Ebers­berger on a BMW side­car out­fit with some suc­cess since 1949. Their first race on the new BMW Rennsport was at Zand­voort in Hol­land in May 1954 where they fin­ished sec­ond. Be­sides rac­ing for the world ti­tle Sch­nei­der also chased world records. He joined the BMW works team with Wil­helm Noll and Friedrich Hille­brand in March 1955 in Montl­h­ery near Paris, France where they achieved 57 new records in 24 hours on their Rennsport pow­ered side­car. He re­peated a sim­i­lar ef­fort when he joined French­man Jean Mu­rit at the Bol d’Or 24 hour race in June 1959. But let’s go back to 1955. That was the sec­ond year of BMW Rennsport pow­ered side­cars at the Isle of Man TT in early June. Wal­ter Zeller had in­tro­duced his fuel-in­jected solo Rennsport to the is­land in 1953. Un­for­tu­nately he did not fin­ish but had been able to show the qual­ity of this new­ly­de­vel­oped en­gine. Six­teen side­car teams started the 1955 Side­car TT race on the shorter 11 mile Clypse course which avoided the Snae­fell Moun­tain sec­tion. Sch­nei­der’s side­car car­ried Noll’s fair­ing from the pre­vi­ous year, cov­er­ing the front wheel, with rac­ing num­ber 5 on it. Dur­ing the race some of the main con­tenders were forced out, one af­ter the other. Th­ese in­cluded the favoured Smith/Dibben and Oliver/Nutt com­bi­na­tions on Nor­tons. Faust/ Rem­mert (who be­came world cham­pi­ons by the end of the 1955 sea­son) and Noll/Cron (world cham­pion of the pre­vi­ous year 1954) also had to give up af­ter crashes and tech­ni­cal trou­ble. Af­ter 83 min­utes, nine laps and 156 kilo­me­tres Wal­ter and Hans crossed the line and saw the che­quered flag first. That was the first victory by a non-Bri­tish side­car – man­u­fac­turer and rid­ers – and the first of a long string un­til the 1970s. Many will re­mem­ber Ewald Kluge’s victory on the 250 cc Light­weight

ABOVE Wal­ter Sch­nei­der with the Isle of Man Side­car TT tro­phy in 1955. LEFT Slid­ing through On­chan vil­lage in the 1954 Isle of Man Side­car TT.

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