Ronnie’s Motoring Trivia – The Car that took Olympic Gold

Motoring Trivia:


The 1936 Munich Olympics were memorable for many reasons but the first thing people usually think about is Jesse Owens the African American runner taking three gold medals and confounding Hitler’s theories over the superiority of his “Aryan “athletes.

However, these games were unique by including a motor sport event which the mighty German auto industry fully expected to win outright. However, they were defeated by a British car driven by Betty Haig, niece of Douglas Haig and a remarkable woman in her own right. She was a successful racing and rally driver who had already shown great promise and subsequently took many prestigious awards driving for several high profile manufacturers.

Driving a 1.5 litre Singer Le Mans she travelled from Britain through a Germany that was already heavily under Nazi influence using one of Hitler’s autobahns on the way.
She passed through southern Germany into Bavaria, only to be ordered back at the Austrian border. Then it was on to Potsdam and the Avus racing circuit, near Berlin, where they learned they were the first car to finish and that their points tally had secured gold.

In the expectation that Germany would win, the presentation ceremony had been planned for the Olympic Stadium. This was hastily rescheduled to a less prestigious venue when it was learned that a woman driving a British car had beaten the pride of the German Auto industry.
Betty Haig died in 1987 but her car has lived on and has been fully restored to its 1936 condition. It was offered on loan for display during the 2012 London Olympics but this offer was declined, possibly because BMW were one of the principal sponsors.

Happily, visitors were not denied the opportunity of seeing this historic car as the Savoy Hotel agreed to display it in their lobby for the duration of the games.

The ‘Singer’ Le Mans sports which won Gold in the Olympic Motor Rally 1936 in Berlin on show outside the Savoy hotel in London, pictured with Savoy representative Anna Sebastian.


Ronnie Johnston

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