Due to the lead time it takes to print and distribute any given magazine, I sit here today, writing this column on February 23. Not an insignificant date in that it happens also to be the day, 85 years ago, that a man by the name of Hans Herrmann was born in Stuttgart, Germany.
Trained as a pastry chef, Herrmann entered his first motor race, the 1952 Hessen Winter Rally, driving a Porsche 356. Later that same year he notched his first victory in the unfortunately named Deutschlandfahrt, otherwise known as the Tour of Germany. Herrmann’s success in privately owned 356s caught the attention of Porsche, which added him to their sports car team in 1953 and 1954. At the wheel of a 550 Spyder, Herrmann put in numerous stirring performances, but perhaps none more so than the 1954 Mille Miglia. Approaching a railroad level crossing at high speed, Herrmann was caught off guard when the barrier was lowered for the oncoming Rome Express. Judging that he wouldn’t be able to stop in time—or perhaps merely unwilling to suffer the time lost waiting for the train!—Herrmann gave a slap to the back of co-driver Herbert Linge’s helmet and the duo ducked as the Spyder hurtled under the barrier at breakneck pace and across the tracks, narrowly beating the train. Herrmann and Linge would go to win the 1.5-liter class (6th overall), at the same time earning Herrmann the apt nickname Hans im Glück “Lucky John.”
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