East Germany is not planning the type of all-out assault on motor racing that it is mounting on the Olympic Games. An unsuccessful competitor against other Iron Curtain nations in auto the motorcycle racing, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) officially is not too concerned about its nonwinning record.
"We would like to do better in international competition," said Rudolf Teuber, acting secretary-general of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Motorsport Verband (ADMV), the national federation. "We cannot be first in every kind of sport. We must recognize they compete very well in other countries, too."
Teuber said the federation's major concern is that as many people as possible compete. "So, my answer is 'Yein,' yes and no, as to doing better. Yes, we want to, but our task is to develop a broad movement in motor sports relying on our own equipment."
That is the basic East German problem in auto races for the Peace and Friendship Cup. Using their own cars, the GDR entrants are left behind by Czechs, Poles and Russians using more powerful autos of better design.
The Wartburgs and Trabants they use in road races and rallys are considered underpowered. because East Germany's motorcyclists rarely compete abroad, their ability is untested.
This lack of success has not affected fan interest. Teuber estimates more than 1 million people a year attend motor sports meets in East Germany. Only soccer draws more fans.
The ADMV, supported by government subsidy and a share of the gate receipts, governs 18 motor sport disciplines ranging from races to old-time car meets, motor-crosses, various solo events, and water skiing. "The skiiers are towed by motorboats and we govern motorboating," Teuber explained.
In East Germany, there is no drag racing, the starting event for many young American competitors. Paved or dirt oval tracks for cars do not exist so there is no stock or car racing, the U.S. staple.
Five hundred clubs throughout the GDR with about 60,000 members are affiliated with the ADMV. Teuber estimated there are 5,000 auto racing members, about 1,500 who race motorcycles and about 500 racing boat drivers.
"All are amateurs. We have no professionals," he said. "Almost all the organizing work is done by volunteers. The ADMV staff is only a dozen people," he said.
Teuber, a lawyer by training, who has been an ADMV official the past five years, feels an increase in the number of local clubs will help the sport. "As the number increases, so will the number of competitors," he believes. "There should be 50 to 60 clubs in East Berlin alone. There are only 35 now. Every city should have one or two clubs. But, there are other things people can do," he observed.
"The trend now is for clubs to be sponsored by some enterprise such as a factory or the military. In the past, they were independent. Any person interested in motor sports can join a club. Not all forms of sport are represented by every club, but the opportunity is everywhere," he commented.
There are 2 million autos used by the Gdr/'s 16 million people. Driver education is an important function of the ADMV, Teuber said. Evidently speeding is a problem. The police regularly set speed traps on East Berlin's broad boulevards.
Admission fees to events are low, from $1 to $2.50. "You can see we cannot finance motor sports through those fees alone," Teuber pointed out. "Most of the money goes to the clubs. They also set up budgets to go to the government for approval. With the money they receive, they get their machines.
"Some machines are still privately owned," Teuber said. "The trend here is also to club-owned vehicles and boats. A young person begins by getting on a team to prepare a machine. If he is talented he will get a chance to drive."
Teuber said, "Girls 14 to 16 race in karts. Older women race in small-engined cars, compete in rallies or old-time car meets. Of course, they are very active in water skiing," he he adds.
Competition in the GDR is for national titles. Qualifying begins at the church level with competitors advancing to county, district and national meets. The best of motor sportsmen are ranked as "masters" with others rated as "middle" competitiors or "beginners."
GDR drivers also are handicapped by the lack of a large, permanent racing circuit in the country. Only speedway motorcycle racers have their own tracks, tiny one-fifth of a mile or smaller flat ovals.
"For racing, we use normal roads or open fields. Usually meets are two days with one day for cars and one for motorcycles," Teuber said. "We would like a permanent circuit, but there are no plans for one at present."
Crowds of 100,000 for a meet at the Saxonring, a rough oval of public highways, are not uncommon, Teuber said. Auto-cross meets held on grass courses draw about 15,000, and the speedway motorcycle races draw 5,000 he estimated.
These attendance figures encourage Teuber, who never was a competitor but now attends a meet every weekend. "I see the enthusiasm of the spectators, and I see the Nthusiasm of the young people for the sport," he said.
The government is very enthusiastic, too, he said. "We receive every type of support from the government. We are included in all sports activity planning and in receiving financial aid, but always in the direction of developing the sport in our country first."
Motor sports in East Germany will not soon become the propaganda tool Hitler made them in the 1930s when swastika-marked Auto Union and Mercedes cars won many Grand Prix races.