Anton “Toni” Ulmen, born on January 25, 1906, in Düsseldorf, Germany, was a prominent German motorcycle and racing driver whose legacy in motorsports is marked by his early successes on two wheels and later achievements on four. Ulmen’s journey into the world of racing commenced in 1925 when he entered the Großen Deutschland-Rundfahrt riding a 250cc Velocette.
Who won the first race at the Nürburgring?
One of the defining moments in Ulmen’s racing career came in 1927 when he won the first Eifelrennen race on the Nürburgring, the first race ever held at the circuit. This historic circuit, conceived in the early 1920s and completed in 1927, was designed to showcase German automotive engineering and racing talent. The Nürburgring, with its challenging layout in the Eifel Mountains, quickly became a renowned venue for motorsports. Those first races, held on June 18, 1927, featured motorcycles and sidecars, and it was Toni Ulmen who emerged victorious on an English 350cc Velocette.
In 1929, Ulmen further solidified his position in German motorsports by winning the 350cc class at the Eilenriede, a non-permanent race course near Hannover. His prowess on the track continued to grow, and by 1930, he became a works rider for NSU. His early career was marked by success on motorcycles, showcasing his ability to navigate challenging courses with speed and precision.
Toni Ulmen’s car racing career
After World War II, Ulmen shifted his focus to car racing, demonstrating his versatility on the track. In his first major sportscar race, the Karlsruhe-Durlach, he secured a notable second place driving a BMW 328. In 1947, just a year later, he was honored with the title of the best German sports car driver of the year, a testament to his skill behind the wheel.
Despite challenges, including a crash at Sachsenring, Ulmen led in Formula 2 and 2-litre sport cars. A dramatic slipstream battle at Avusrennen ended in a close loss, but he was awarded the Formula 2 title. Ulmen’s sporadic post-1952 racing included a third-place finish at the 1953 24 Heures de Spa Francorchamps.
Off the track, Ulmen became president of the Deutscher Motorsport Verband (DMV) and received the Silbernes Lorbeerblatt award from President Theodor Heuss, Germany’s highest athletic honor, recognizing his lasting impact on motorsport.