The sloping oval, 30 kilometers (18 miles) southwest of Frankfurt am Main, was one of the fastest circuits in Europe in the 1920s, before Germany’s iconic racing circuits such as the Nürburgring and Hockenheimring .

The Opel-Rennbahn (Opel Racetrack) was first and foremost a test track, but when Opel didn’t let their cars through their paces, they opened it up for motorsport activity. On the best days around 50,000 spectators visit the track, a staggering number considering this is the post-war era.

Here I am, a hundred years later, standing alone on the remnants of the 32° slope. And it was totally by accident; I was staying in a hotel 2 km away and was looking at a map and saw what interesting sights were nearby.


Nestled in the forest, the oval is a great place to walk around and enjoy nature. The rest of the track was covered in moss, and everything from small shrubs to large trees forced their way across the worn concrete surface below. In spring or summer, much of this historic site will likely be completely hidden by greenery.


Calling it an open-air museum is a bit of a stretch, but in 2013 a cantilevered platform was built that extends over a section of track. You can walk up and learn about the history of the place through the detailed information boards.


When construction workers broke ground in 1917, Opel employed 5,000 people who were, among other things, building a car dubbed the puppy (Doll) is equipped with a 1.5-liter engine with an output of 14.5 horsepower.

The oval track is 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles) long and 12 meters wide, with concrete slabs glued together with asphalt.


The oval track was completed in 1919 and the first race was held on October 24, 1920 in front of 10,000 spectators. The track flourished until the early 1930s, with many car, motorcycle and sidecar races held on weekends. On weekdays, the track resumes its testing track duties.


In 1928, Opel began testing rocket cars on race tracks. It was the world’s first major rocket program, significantly advancing propulsion systems and aeronautical technology, and even leaving its mark on future NASA Apollo missions.

After the spectacular test run of Opel-RAK’s rocket-powered RAK 1 in April 1928, the test drivers Fritz von Opel, Friedrich Sander, Max Valier and Kurt C. Volkhart became internationally famous.


From 1934 onwards, motorsport ceased due to the popularity of new, larger circuits such as the AVUS circuit, the Nürburgring and the old Hockenheimring. The Opel-Rennbahn is still a test track and later, after World War II, the US military used the area as a repair facility.


Since 1987, the track has been designated as ‘Technisches Kulturdenkmal’ (Scientific and Cultural Heritage Monument). The Opel Racetrack Cultural Monument initiative aims to preserve the racetrack, so there is still hope that it will be maintained as an open-air museum or something grander.


For a brief moment, I sat on the banked curve – the only remaining part of the track – imagining what it would have been like 100 years ago…

Vladimir Lyadov
Instagram: wheelsbywovka

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *