Rolf Steinhausen and Werner Schwärzel

Steinhausen on Schwärzel: We did not speak for 15 years

Jan & Hetty Burgers / Frank BischoffFormer sidecar world champions Rolf Steinhausen and Werner Schwärzel were compatriots, but they avoided contact when they were big rivals on track.

“Because we both had the same goals: we wanted to win and become world champion”, says Steinhausen. At the Bikers’ Classics at Francorchamps he will once again meet his former rival Schwärzel as both Germans will take part in the Sidecar Parade.

“We did not speak for almost fifteen years, but we never touched on track”, says 1975 and 1976 world champion Steinhausen. “Our mechanics were always in touch with each other. Once Werner was not allowed to start in Germany, because the race director did not approve of his boxing shoes. My mechanics then gave him my spare racing boots. And then he won that race! I did not want those boots back. I mean, those boots had been worn by Werner Schwärzel…”

Both former world champions cherish the Francorchamps circuit. Schwärzel beat his rival Steinhausen in the 1977 Belgian Grand Prix, but Steinhausen won no less than four times at Francorchamps. “I won on the old, longer track as well as on the shorter circuit”, remembers Steinhausen well. “I won my first Grand Prix in 1974 on a König when Sepp Huber and I beat world champions Klaus Enders and Ralf Engelhardt at Francorchamps. It was a fantastic track. I loved the high speed corners and Eau Rouge. My fanclub was always celebrating at the same spot and one year Sepp and I stopped there during practice, had a beer and resumed practice. Just for fun. I also remember a police officer standing next to the barrier somewhere in a very fast corner. One lap I deliberately took a different line and passed him a little closer at 260 km/h. The lap after that he stood behind the barriers!”

Steinhausen, who started sidecar racing in 1967 after a race crash with a solo motorbike and a horrific skiing accident, went into the history books as the first two-stroke world champion in 1975. Schwärzel is the first winner of a sidecar Grand Prix on a two-stroke König in 1974. Schwärzel had already been a runner-up in the championship twice to six-time world champion Klaus Enders when he finally won the crown in 1982, partnered by Andreas Huber. In 1985 he finished equal on points with Egbert Streuer and Bernhard Schnieders, but the Dutch outfit was awarded the title as they had won more races. Schwärzel, a multi-German champion, decided to retire, whereas Steinhausen continued another four seasons before finally retiring after more than three decades of sidecar racing at the highest level.

Schwärzel will ride his beautifully restored 1969 König at Francorchamps and Steinhausen will bring his unique 1976 championship winning Busch-König along. “Nowadays Werner and I are good friends and we speak on a regular basis”, says almost 70-year-old Steinhausen. “That’s the way it should be, I think. I’m already looking forward to seeing him again at the Bikers’ Classics.”