Paul Greifzu

7/4/1902 - 10/5/1952

Record updated 07-Apr-20

East German racer Paul Greifzu ws one of the best BMW Special builders for the East German Formula 2 Championship in the post-war era. He became the most successful driver in the series and also competed in a variety of races in the west. He was killed when the engine seized in practice for a race at Dessau, causing his car to roll.

Paul Greifzu
East German racer Paul Greifzu ws one of the best BMW Special builders for the East German Formula 2 Championship in the post-war era.

He also became the most successful driver in the series and competed in a variety of races in the west.

He spent his whole life at Suhl, a small provincial town in the heart of Germany, where studied to be a mechanic before goin to work in his father's workshops before. He raised a family there (wife and two daughters) and eventually took over his father's workshop.

Cars and engines played an inportnat role in his life so it was only natural for him to go racing. He started racing motorcycles in the twenties before moving to sports cars, specialising in hillclimbs.

In 1937 Greifzu was one of the first customers for the new BMW 328 model. There followed a hectic but successful season. If 1937 was good, 1938 was even better. Greifzu became the ma to beat when he drove to a convincing win in the German Grand Prix for sports cars.

He always worked with his failthful mechanic Otto John. Otto was already working for Paul's father and together they did nearly all the development work by themselves. His success at the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring was not only proof of his driving ability, but also of his talent as a mechanic. The victory was won against a strong field of works-maintained sister cars.

The war interrupted his promising career, but Greifzu succeeded in hiding the BMW. So when in the summer of 1949 the Russian government allowed races to be held again at Dessau and at the Sachsenring (near Hohenstein-Ernstthal) Paul was was able to dust of the BMW. In both races he had to face the newest cars from the Eisenach factory as well as strong opposition from West Germany. the BMW was too heavy and uncompetetive and Greifzu realized he would have to build a new car.

His brother Fritz had by now joined him in running the workshops at Suhl, and Otto John was still there, a key member of the team. For the new car Greifzu chose a BMW 315 chassis which was lowered and lightened and fitted with "Intertyp" bodywork by Georg Hufnagel. He used a standard 326 block with a light-alloy 328 cylinder head that had been developed by EMW engineer Erich Koch.

After some brief test runs on the Autobahn in 1950, Greifzu took it to the first East German race of the season, the Sternberg hillclimb. This took place on the road from Zella-Mehlis to Oberhof, not far from Suhl. Greifzu was therefor able to return to his garage overnight to make modifications. Most of the cars of his main opponents had appeared with dual rear wheels and Paul returned the next day with the Greifzu equipped the same way. His efforts paid off when neither Niedermayr nor Baum in their Eigenbaus could post faster times. Greifzu thus recorded the first win for his car in its debut race. This success gave him huge confidence and at his first circuit race at the Halle-Saale-Schleife circuit, he led from start to finish.

After another win at Leipzig, Greifzu was ready to face more serious opposition. He went on tour to West Germany to compete at the Schauinsland hillclimb, the Solitude race and to top it off, the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring.

He struggled at Freiburg, but he was able to qualify in third position at Stuttgart against a strong field of Veritas and AFM Formula 2 cars. He was running in third in the race until he had to retire with engine failure.

He then had only one week to make repairs before the German Grand Prix. However this wasn't long enough and he was plagued by engine problems throughout the practice sessions.

With time running out in qualifying, he pushed too hard and crashed into the forest, sustaining severe injuries, putting him in an Adenau hospital for five weeks. To make matters worse, the car was reduced to scrap.

When he got out of hospital he imediately started work on the car for the 1951 season. And though he used what he could form the old car it was effectively completly new. the new car was far more of a single seater though the driving position was offset.

The car was not ready for the first race of the new season and at the second race around the Stadtpark ("city park") of Leipzig the engine was only running on five cylinders. He still manged to finish secod and was pleased with the handling. The next race was the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring, the scene of his accident the previous season. He led briefly before finishing a strong fourth, best of the East German participants and in front of Toni Ulmen, the West German Champion of 1950.

Back in East Germany again at Dresden he was involved in the pile-up on the first lap. He was rammed from behind by the Rosenhammer in the DAMW. Ortschitt in the second DAMW was too fast to avoid the accident and took himself and Krause out of the race.

Only Greifzu was able to continue the race. And, after a brief examination of the damage, he jumped back in and continued at the back of the field. Slowly he made his way through the field until, when Klenk's Veritas Meteor dropped out, he found himself back in the lead. He stayed there to the finish, a lap in front of second-placed Ernst Klodwig!

The famous high-speed Avus circuit was revived in 1951. But, as its former southern part reached well into East Germany, the track had to be shortened to 8.4km.

Greifzu carefully built up an engine, which could rev just a little bit higher, and chose a special "Avus" transmission. He sensationally set the fastest time during the first practice session.

He spent the second day making further improvements to the car, but still started from the second row of the grid.

At the start Greifzu shot into the lead, closely followed by Ulmen. This developed into a battle that lasted the whole race. Ulmen thought that he would have an advantage by slipstreaming Greifzu and preserving his motor. Unfortunately this was his undoing as the efects of his streamlined bodywork and the slipstreaming combined to put additional wear on his tyres.

With only a few laps to go Ulmen had to pits to change tyres. The battle was over and Greifzu took the chequered flag 44 seconds ahead of him with Fischer in the Ferrari a minute behind.

Greifzu became a hero overnight. An East German amatuer had beaten the might of the West.

He followed this with an easy win at Halle-Saale-Schleife against weak opposition before he returned for the final race of the West German season at the Grenzlandring. much was expected but in the race he was overshadowed by Stuck in the AFM-Küchen before dropping out with an engine problems.

The 1951 season ended with a race at the Sachsenring. This was billed as another East vs West duel. The front row consisted of Hans Stuck, Toni Ulmen and Paul Greifzu. They were running in that order as well until Ulmen had to retire on the fifth lap. Hans Stuck was firmly in the lead when he had a tyre fail. Greifzu went on to win the race.

In 1952, now aged 50, Greifzu continued the success of the previous season. He won at Rostock in the wet. Only to retire at Bernau after leading the early part of the race.

He was not going to race at Dessau, a track made up of a section of the autobahn between Berlin and Leipzig, choosing to use the time to prepare for the Eifelrennen in two weeks. Never the less he changed his mind, whether he was pressured by the East German Government or not, and so he took to the track for the practice session. On the third lap he set the fastest time of the day. Then on the fourth lap it happened. The crankshaft in his engine broke causing the motor to seize instantly. The car almost hidden by smoke crashed into a grandstand, rolled and Paul was killed.

After his death his widow Dora entered one of the cars in the 1952 and 1953 German Grand Prix for Rudolf Krause.