Former European Rally Champion Walter Schock dies aged 85

Dec 21, 2005
  • His career in motor racing started fairly late – but was extremely successful
  • The list of victories, championships and awards is long
Walter Schock was never much given to the public glare of motor racing victory celebrations. Although he took enormous pride and pleasure in all his many victories and championship wins, what meant more to him was the sporting contest against the clock or the physical challenges posed by individual race circuits. When asked, Walter Schock would happily recount tales of his adventurous life as one of the most successful racing and rally drivers of the 1950s and 1960s.
Born in Wangen near Stuttgart on April 3, 1920, the young Schock showed an early interest in technology and it came as no great surprise when he entered an apprenticeship as automotive mechanic with Daimler-Benz on leaving school. The initiative he showed qualified him for transfer to the test department. Although just 17 years old, he acquired his driving license and worked as run-in and test driver. The racing department was just across the fence, and that was how he had his first brush with motor sport – the spark that was to ignite a passion.
Any development of this penchant for motor racing, however, was suddenly retarded by the outbreak of the Second World War. Far from taking to the race circuit, he was forced to trade steering wheel for joystick and found himself in the cockpit of a night squadron fighter. Twice he was shot down, twice he escaped uninjured. Once the war was over he returned to Daimler-Benz for the time being, before he entered the business of his wife’s family, importing tropical fruits.
But in sporting terms, he remained loyal to Daimler-Benz. In 1954, he lined up for the first time at the start of the Solitude Rally in a Mercedes-Benz 220a (W 180 I) and brought home – much to his own surprise – a gold medal at the first attempt. Further victories followed the same year.
Right in 1955 he teamed with Rolf Moll for the Monte Carlo Rally – and they became third. The series of victories continued – and the successful racing private was runner-up in the European rally championship.
In the 1956 season he “schocked” his opponents by taking both the International and European rally championship titles. As if that were not enough, he was also determined to provide impressive evidence of his skills on the racing as well as rallying circuits. That same year he claimed the German sports car championship in the 1300 cc GT class.
Although the year 1957 brought him no championship titles, he was at least able to take pride in having the Silver Laurel award pinned to his lapel by Federal President of the day, Theodor Heuss, for his out-standing accomplishments in motor sports.
His next title came in 1960 – on this occasion it was the European touring car championship, which he contested with his longstanding navigator Rolf Moll. And it was with a certain pride that he was able to boast at the start of the season of being the first German team to win the Monte Carlo Rally. Daimler-Benz supported teams (Böhringer/Socher, Ott/Mahle) also came on second and third. Schock rounded of his tally of victories for the year with wins at the Polish, Sestrière and Acropolis rallies. At the end of the season, Schock was awarded the Golden Mercedes Star with ruby. The Fédération Internationale de l’A utomobile (FIA) presented him with the Great Gold Medal, the Automobilclub von Deutschland (AvD) with the Golden Sports Badge.
But it was the race circuit which increasingly cast its spell over Walter Schock. Victories in a fistful of races on the Nürburgring, but also at the Argentine Grand Prix were significant milestones in his motor sports career.
Even at the ripe old age of 52 he finished runner-up in the seniors’ race of the 1972 Monte Carlo Rally. Indeed, his racing career was so full that there simply is not room here to list all his victories.
In 1988 the city of Stuttgart honored him with the title “Pioneer of Sport” and in 1992 the Federal Government awarded him the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic. The list of his further awards is long.In the company of friends he once accorded his life the following succinct appraisal: “I would not have missed my time in racing for anything. Not only did it bring me a great deal of success, it also afforded me the opportunity to see the world.”
Until an advanced age Walter Schock maintained his close ties with motor sport – both on and off the racing and rallying circuits. Early on he offered his services for help with the organization and administration of “his” sport and for many years held various positions including that of appeal judge for Germany’s supreme national sports commission, the ONS.
Walter Schock died on December 21st, 2005 in Stuttgart at the age of 85.
Mercedes-Benz rally driver Walter Schock, born on April 3, 1920, died on December 21, 2005.
Mercedes-Benz rally driver Walter Schock, born on April 3, 1920, died on December 21, 2005.