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Classic Velocity Blog

The Faith of Fath

Classic Velocity

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History is littered with smart people who thought they could do it better than the large manufacturers, who would not compromise on their ideas when presented to an organization, who went their own way. If truth be told, most of them did not succeed and blended back into some organizational fabric, or they tinkered away forever never really achieving any success or notoriety. A few, and only a few, have the determination and the ingenuity and the persistence to prevail. Helmut Fath is one of them. 

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Born in Ursenbach, Germany, Fath became a successful sidecar motorcycle racer in the 1950s. He entered the Grand Prix sidecar circuit in 1956, using BMW R50 engines in his own chassis. He immediately had top-five finishes and podiums beginning in 1956 and continuing through 1959. He was third overall in the world championship in 1958. In 1960 he became World Sidecar Champion by winning the GP of France, British Grand Prix,  Grand Prix of Germany, and the Grand Prix of Belgium. In doing so, he beat the BMW factory teams.

Then the story takes an interesting twist. In 1961, Fath is off to another great start, but he has a terrible crash at Hockenheim. Fath is injured, and his co-rider, Alfred Wohlgemuth is killed.  He is out the rest of the year. Once he regains his health, he has some ideas for improving the motor, and approaches BMW. They are not interested, so Fath decides to build his own engine. He decides on a 4 cylinder which he names the URS after his hometown. After a few years of development, Fath dominates and wins the 1968 world sidecar championship again, and beats all of the factory efforts again!

While that concluded his own racing, Helmut Fath went on to combine forces briefly with Friedel Munch. The Munch-URS combination won the worlds sidecar championship in 1971 with Horst Owesle at the controls. In a string of sidecar championships for BMW from 1954 to 1974, Fath and the URS are the only exception.

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