After paying our respects, Goddard and I motored south on some of the newest and least-traveled autobahns in Germany, those linking Berlin with Munich. We gave the R8 5.2 the whip on a few open stretches to enjoy Rosemeyer-esque velocities. With its speedometer needle a tick or two past 190 mph, Audi's modern silver arrow shot straight and filled its wake with the lusty bellow of ten unthrottled cylinders. In contrast to the Ferrari-like howl of the regular R8's V-8, the V-10's voice is appropriately richer and deeper.
During an overnight stop in Chemnitz, we visited the former location of Auto Union's corporate headquarters. The sprawling, four-story complex that housed the Audi, DKW, Horch, and Wanderer sales offices and a portion of the racing team's brain trust beginning in 1936 was reconfigured as a Krankenhaus (hospital) by the Russians after the war. Vacant for two decades and now decrepit, the building is protected because of its historical significance to a once-thriving manufacturing metropolis. Trabant two-stroke engines were made next door to the former Auto Union headquarters, and a sparkling new Volkswagen plant across the street currently builds four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines.
To close the loop on the Rosemeyer legacy, we met with Bernd Rosemeyer II and III near Munich. Bernd II was born in 1937, less than three weeks after his father became the first man to exceed 250 mph on a public road. Following a close friendship with Ferrari Formula 1 driver Wolfgang von Trips, a stint as an advanced driving instructor at the Nürburgring, and some time writing car reviews for Germany's largest newspaper, Bernd II settled into a long (and ongoing) career in orthopedic surgery. His handsome son, Bernd III (nicknamed Berndi), drives a John Cooper Works Mini and is a sales executive at a Munich gas company.
After a brief but rapid run in the R8 with his father, Bernd III bubbled with enthusiasm. "It's a fantastic car," he said. "Thanks to all the power, it's genuinely fun to drive. I'd love to own one!"
Bernd II's impressions were more circumspect. "On these uneven roads with grip frustrated by patches of moisture and gravel, this Audi R8 never missed a beat. But, with all the power provided by the V-10, it really belongs on a racetrack. I'd definitely enjoy a few laps at the Nürburgring with the stability system disabled."
More than seventy years on, the father speaks through his son.