1955 NSU Sportmax: world’s first in many ways
NSU’s ‘Sportmax’ was a nimble singe cylinder four stroke racer derived from the 1953 NSU Max street bike. The Max’s chassis, forks and swing arm were made entirely out of sheet metal, while the engine was just as special with the overhead cam shaft not being operated by axle, chain or sprocket, but by engineer’s Albert Roder custom designed ‘Ultramax’ system.
In 1953 and 1954 the German car and motorcycle manufacturer NSU Motorenwerke had stormed the World motorcycling stage winning back to back championship titles in the 125 and 250cc class. German factory rider Werner Haas won three of those titles, becoming the first ever German World champion, while the fourth title, the 1954 125cc World championship was won by Rupert Hollaus, the first and to this date, only Austrian Grand Prix World champion. Sadly, the NSU factory rider also became the first rider in history to posthumously win the World championship, after losing his life following an accident in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix in Monza that year.
Following Hollaus’ death the NSU factory team withdrew from the World championship. However, a year later, on the new 7.705 meters long lay out of Assen, an NSU Sportmax would once again re write the history books. During the 1955 Dutch TT British racer Bill Lomas had failed to shut off his engine while making a pit stop during the 250cc race, which lead to the MV Agusta man being declassified. Two time German champion Hermann Paul Müller riding a privateer NSU Sportmax got promoted to the Dutch TT podium earning sufficient points to win the World championship and becoming the first ever ‘privateer’ to win the world title.
At 4.995 Deutsche Mark the NSU Sportmax was the 250cc production racer of choice. In total 37 Sportmaxes were made and 4 of them were purchased by Mike Hailwood. It took Englishman Phil Read and a special privateer production Yamaha developed under the direction of the Dutchman Ferry Brouwer to win the second ever World championship on a privateer bike in 1971, 16 years after Müller’s 1955 privateer win. To this day Müller also remains the oldest person to win a Grand Prix Motorcycle world championship, at the age of 46.
After winning the world title Müller and NSU went on to set several world speed records on the Bonneville salt flats in 1956. The NSU factory never returned to the motorcycle roadracing World championship and stopped its motorbike production in 1969, following a take over by Volkswagen AG.
During the Classic GP Assen 3 250cc NSU Sportmax racers will be ridden by German Hartmut Schubert, Belgian Franky Baeten and Swede Roland Fröjd.