Hans Werner Aufrecht: 75 years flat out
28 December 2013
“I am the 'A' in AMG.” That is how Hans Werner Aufrecht introduces himself when his name doesn't appear to ring a bell for whoever he happens to be talking to. But he is more than that…
AMG is just one of several acronyms that made their mark on Hans Werner Aufrecht's life. One could just as well pick DTM or ITR, to which the visionary from Großaspach is inextricably linked. Or simply 'HWA', as friends and business partners usually call the chairman of the DTM rights holder and promoter ITR e.V. It is this 'HWA' who turns 75 today [Saturday 28 December].
Motorsport is Aufrecht's big passion, and he was determined to get a job at Mercedes-Benz once he had completed his education as an engine fitter, although “I had hardly joined them as they pulled out of motor racing altogether,” he recalls.
He still pursued his goal, albeit initially in secrecy, and, together with Erhard Melcher - who was to become his future partner, the 'M' in AMG - he prepared a Mercedes 300 SE for competition in the German circuit racing championship in the mid-1960s.
Once the car was ready, they confessed their 'special stint' to Rudolf Uhlenhaut, who was the Mercedes-Benz board member for development at the time. The latter quickly made a decision: if the car turned out to be good, Aufrecht and Melcher would be allowed to run it in competition but, if not, they would be asked to leave the company.
Fortunately, the car was good. Driven by Manfred Schiek, the 300 SE won six out of eight rounds and Schiek posthumously won the 1965 German circuit racing championship title after a fatal accident with a rally car. Two years on, Aufrecht and Melcher founded AMG.
“We only founded AMG because of our passion for motorsport,” 'HWA' confirms, “Then, however, we quickly learned that one couldn't make a living just with that.”
However, Aufrecht and Melcher were able to make a living and to extract a competition budget by means of their tuning company for Mercedes-Benz cars, a market niche at the time that AMG filled in such a perfect way that the company firstly became an official co-operation partner for Daimler AG in 1990 and then became a fully-owned subsidiary of the concern in two steps in 1999 and 2005.
Simultaneously, AMG enjoyed success in motorsport. What started off in a spectacular way with the legendary 300 SEL 6.8 litre in the early 1970s eventually led to AMG becoming an official Mercedes works team in 1988 following many further achievements. The team's DTM record includes ten drivers' titles with Bernd Schneider, Klaus Ludwig, Gary Paffett and Paul Di Resta. In 1998, the team was outsourced into the newly-founded company HWA AG that successfully went public later on. Further accomplishments include twelve teams' titles and the 1997 and 1998 world championship titles with Mercedes-Benz in the FIA GT Championship.
Nowadays, Aufrecht, who was awarded with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for special social commitments in 2000, is only keeping an eye on the everyday business in his role as a member of the supervisory board.
“I am no longer involved in the operation of HWA AG, just as I had it planned for the future,” he said, “Nowadays, the DTM determines my life.”
Since 1986, he has been at the helm of the series' organisation ITR e.V., which was founded because of the dissatisfaction of various team principals, and, ever since, 'HWA' has been working relentlessly on improving the series.
In 2000, he succeeded in reviving the DTM after the series' temporary demise at the end of the 1996 season. He was the driving force behind the new technical regulations that came into force in 2012 and convinced BMW to make its return to the DTM. He also turned these regulations into an export product, signing co-operation contracts with SUPER GT in Japan, where the regulations will already be used in 2014, and GRAND-AM in the United States. The ultimate goal is totally unified regulations from 2017 and the possibility to have some kind of world finale.
“Documenting this process and convincing different cultures to give up something, but to get a lot of new and good things in return, that is my main duty,” Aufrecht said after having been awarded with an accolade to honour his lifetime achievements by German specialist magazine, Auto Bild, in November.
When Aufrecht has time off from the DTM, this belongs to his family, his wife Roswitha and the two daughters, Pia-Luise and Eva-Maria, for whom he wasn't around that often in the past. Back then, Hans Werner Aufrecht was living his dream. Now, he is supporting his daughters, one of them a successful show jumper, the other one a horse breeder, in their passion as well as he can. After all, “HWA” can't completely do without horsepower.