Monday 23rd May 2005
Ernst Henne, one of the most successful German motorcycle racers, died at the age of 101. After joining the BMW works team, he became the 1926 German champion in the 500cc class, 1927 German champion in the 750cc class and the 1928 winner of the Targa Florio. Starting on 9 September 1929 at 216.6 km/h (134.6 mph) on a supercharged 750 cc BMW, Henne achieved a total of 76 land speed world records, increasing his speed annually from 1929 to 1937. His last motorcycle land speed record was set on 28 November 1937 with a speed of 279.5 km/h (173.7 mph) on a fully faired 500cc supercharged BMW. This record stood for 14 years.
Henne competed in the International Six Days Trial, and was a member of the winning German teams of 1933, 1934, and 1935. He also raced sports cars, winning the two-litre class of the 1936 Eifelrennen in the first appearance of the BMW 328.
Having earned his pilot’s licence in 1932, Henne was conscripted by the Luftwaffe during World War II, but was declared unfit due to the skull fractures and concussions he had suffered during his racing career. After the war, he developed a contract workshop with Mercedes-Benz. In 1991 he founded the Ernst-Jakob-Henne Foundation to help innocent victims of misfortune.
From 1996 until his death, Henne lived in retirement with his wife on the Canary Islands.