1977 MELKUS SRG MT77: EASTERN EUROPE’S ALTERNATIVE TO FORMULA ONE
Over fourty years ago, when communist eastern Europe lay isolated behind the ‘Iron curtain’, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik had its own thriving car racing scene. In the 70s and 80s the most prominent class in the east, the Formel C9/B8/E, was known as the ‘Formel 1 des Ostens’, DDR’s F1, in which the Melkus SRG MT177 was the dominant race car.
SRG stood for ‘Sozialistische Renngemeinschaft’ and MT for its constructors Ulli Melkus and Hartmut Thaßler, both successful racing drivers as well. The Dresden-built single-seater made its debut in 1977, powered by a 1300 cc Lada-engine using a Wartburg 311 gearbox. It made around 120 horsepower and was capable of top speeds of over 250 kilometers per hour. All this while the driver was surrounded by the car’s gas tank.
With its revolutionary aerodynamics, developed in the University of Dresden’s wind tunnel, which was actually built to test aeroplanes, the MT77 was thé car to beat for the next ten years, winning almost all ‘DDR-Meistertitel’ as well as taking home the ‘Pokal für Frieden und Freundschaft’ of the communist countries. During those years the MT77 was developed ever more. Next to its rather dangerous positioning of the gas tank, the car was sensitive to frontal winds getting underneath. This weakness led to East-German driver Erhard Tatarczyk’s death after crashing into another competitor with his MT77 getting caught by the wind and being overthrown during the 1985 ‘DDR-Meisterschaftsrennen’ at the Sachsenring.
The Melkus company was founded in 1959 in Dresden and existed until 1986. During that period the company also produced a road car, the Melkus RS 1000, powered by a Wartburg 3-cylinder 2-stroke engine. Its revival in 2009 with the Melkus RS 2000, was short-lived. In 2012 Melkus filed for bankruptcy.
This Melkus MT77 is one of the few ‘early survivors’ of the ‘Formel 1 des Ostens’. During the TABAC Classic GP Assen it is demonstrated in the Formula Legends category by its owner Randall Lawson from Holland.