German racer Rudolph Caracciola never made a name for himself on these shores; his one attempt to race the Indianapolis 500 after World War II ended in a practice crash that put him into a coma. But before the war, Caracciola ranked among the world's best, thanks in no small part to the Nazi-era Mercedes machinery powering his wins. On this date in 1938, the rivalry between Mercedes and Auto Union led to a land-speed record test on the autobahn, using modified Formula 1-level cars. Caracciola set a record of 268.9 mph for a flying kilometer — still recognized by many as the fastest any car has ever traveled on public roads. That demonstration would claim the life of friend and rival Bernd Rosemeyer, who died when his Auto Union flew off the road. Caracciola sat out the war in Switzerland, and died in 1959; here's rare footage of one of his best races, winning in the rain at the 1939 German Grand Prix on the Nurburgring:
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