German aristocrat and race car driver, Karl Heinrich “Betting” Goering (1885 – 1931) was born in Germany. He studied law at Göttingen University before enlisting in the German army at the start of World War I. At the time, he was 27 years old. As part of the army, Goering served in various capacities in the trenches of Europe. He rose to the rank of colonel in the cavalry. After the war, Goering lived a quiet life in Zell am Zee, taking up motor racing and breeding horses. He was also active in a number of business ventures, including a shipping company and a film production company. In 1931, he suffered a stroke, which prevented him from speaking or walking. He died a year later at the age of 54. This year is now known as the “Year of Goering” in his honor.
Goering’s Early Life
Goering was born Karl Heinrich Goering, the son of Max and Marie Goering. He had a younger sister, Gertrud. His father was a member of the Prussian upper house, the House of Lords. He was also a distant relative of the World War I German field marshal and war criminal, Friedrich Wilhelm “Friedrich” Wilhelmovich von Leeb. In 1870, Leeb was appointed Minister of War and commander of the German army. He was responsible for the war crimes committed during the course of the conflict. His efforts during World War I helped the German army become one of the most formidable fighting forces in history. They employed innovative tactics, which the Allies would later adopt.
Karl Heinrich Goering was named after his uncle, who had died suddenly of a heart attack while attending the International Auto Show in Germany. The young Goering was only two years old at the time of his uncle’s death, and would grow up with his name. Goering’s godfather was Crown Prince Wilhelm. The prince regent (head of state at the time) was also his first sponsor. The prince saw to it that Goering received a good education. He was also awarded the Military Merit Cross for his service in World War I. Before the end of the year, Goering turned 27 years old. The following year, he graduated from the University of Leipzig with a law degree. He then passed the bar exam and established a law practice in Leipzig. In 1919, at the age of 29, Goering married Lilly Becker, the daughter of a brewery owner. The couple had met at a dinner party in Leipzig three years earlier. Goering and his wife had two sons, Hans-Jürgen and Edmund, and a daughter, Elisabeth. They lived a comfortable life in a large house in Leipzig, which his wife’s family owned. In 1921, he was appointed secretary to the German Motor Sport Club (DKMS) in Berlin. He continued to work for the club for the rest of his life, eventually ascending to the role of honorary president. This gave him the title, “Conseiller des sports motorycles (sports motorcyclist advisor)”. While working for the club, Goering became involved in motor racing. He entered a number of rallies and track meets, in addition to participating in club events. In 1927, Goering founded his own car company, Goerke. He wanted to make a name for himself as a driver, in addition to establishing a racing team. The company also produced trucks and buses. At the time of its founding, Goering was 33 years old. He had already participated in several major automobile races, including the French Grand Prix and the Circuit de la Plaine Morte in the Netherlands. One of the races that he entered was the legendary German Grand Prix, which was won by his friend, Tietfeld. The success of this race propelled him into the public eye. He was also named an honorary member of the Royal Prussian Society for Motor Vehicle Building.
From Lawyer to Race Car Driver
Goering left his job as a lawyer in 1926 to pursue a full-time career in motorsport. In order to do this, he established the Karl-Heinrich-Goering-Stiftung (Goering Foundation), which was responsible for the upkeep of his car collection. The collection consisted of a number of classic and vintage cars. In order to make a living, he also took part in a number of major races. He entered the 1926 German Grand Prix, now known as the “Der Deutsche Ölschlag,” driving a pre-war Alfa Romeo, a marque that he had previously raced. He finished the race in 3rd place. Three weeks later, he participated in the French Grand Prix using the same car. He came away with a second-place finish. In 1928, he entered another German Grand Prix, this time with a Benz. He again finished in second place. That same year, he also participated in the Vanderbilt Cup, an important pre-war international automobile race that was later deemed the “second Grand Prix” of its kind. That same year, he made another appearance at the French Grand Prix. However, this time he returned with a truck, which he drove all the way to Paris and back. The truck was also painted in his monogram, which he had used for his own racing entries up until this point. In 1929, he participated in Austria’s Salzburgring race. The next year, he returned to the ring, this time with a new team. The event was a success, and he won the “Sally Six” in the process. In 1930, he entered the Paris-Berlin race. This time, he drove a Henschel. He participated in several other major automobile races that year. That same year, he also established a second car company, Goerke-Velox. The company was responsible for the construction of new race cars for Goering. As he had established a foundation to support his hobby, Goering now had two sources of income. He also bought his first airplane, which he kept as a hobby. He flew it occasionally for sport. In 1931, Goering suffered a stroke. He never fully recovered from the effects of the attack, and was left partially paralyzed. He died a year later at the age of 54. That year is now known as the “Year of Goering” in his honor. In 1932, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association decided to rename the French Grand Prix to the “Soleil-Glance-Grand Prix.” The race became famous for its spectacular lighting displays, which take place each year during the race. The “Soleil-Glance-Grand Prix” was originally named for the luminous effects created by the headlights of the competing cars. However, the display of headlights and taillights during the race was limited. The lighting displays were greatly expanded upon the addition of spotlights along the racetrack. The event was eventually named for the spotlights that illuminate the cars as they make their way around the track. Since Goering had died in August of that year, he did not live to see the grand opening of the new facility in January 1933. It was built in his honor. After his death, the French Automobile Federation decided to rename the Salzburgring to the “Ring National,” or “Ring Kröning,” in his honor. This was done in order to distinguish it from the smaller “Ring Kurhaus,” which is near the town of Salzburg. Today, the Leipzig Rüsselsheimer Motorsport Park is the home of the “Karl-Heinrich-Goering-Stiftung,” and also serves as the museum district for the towns of Leipzig and Rüsselsheim. A number of Goering’s race cars are now part of the permanent collection at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. His Alfa Romeo was the first car to go on display. However, it was not the first to be raced by Goering. That honor belongs to the Mercedes Benz he drove in the 1926 French Grand Prix, which is still on public display at the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart. Also, the French government officially designated June 11, 1926 as “Soleil-Glance-Grand Prix Day.” During the day, a special ceremony is held at the track, where several of Goering’s historic cars are driven around the circuit. Several streets in Leipzig also bear his name. There is also a street named after him in Rüsselsheim. The Karl-Heinrich-Goering-Stiftung is a non-profit foundation responsible for the upkeep of his car collection. The group also organizes special gatherings, lectures, and other events related to Goering and his life’s work.