There can be no more versatile a HERO-ERA competitor than German Klaus Mueller. From racing bikes to racing cars and rallying, Klaus has a life long love of both two and four wheel sport with a record of success to match.
He was third overall in the 2013 FIM European Classic Endurance Motorcycle series on a British bike that he fell in love with, sharing his racing passion with a partner rider over the gruelling four to six hour events that started in the evening and went through the night.
Following his circuit racing in cars and on bikes, Klaus found HERO-ERA and LeJog in 2014 but has since gone on to compete in multi rallies including the Classic Marathon, the RAC Rally of the Tests, London to Lisbon, the Three Legs of Mann and the 1000 Mile Trial. He was a bronze medal winner on LeJog and was second this year on the very exacting Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo over the snow and ice in the French Alps.
Klaus followed that up with a second in class on Three Legs of Mann together with Horst Pokroppa (as replacement for Eric Schwab who was injured due to an ski accident) finishing a superb sixth overall. Then there was a class win on the Scottish Malts 2023 in his Triumph TR4, this time navigated by his wife Ilona who rarely rallies, but put in a great performance in the highlands.
His versatility extends to his choral exploits as a member of a rhythm and blues ensemble in his village of Laubach, situated in a lovely mountain region in the middle of Germany named “Vogelsberg” or some call it ‘Bird Mountain,’ which has a population of just 10,000 people. There he sings with the love of his life and wife Ilona Seewald, along with 25 to 30 other enthusiastic choristers as they rock the blues chords.
Despite retiring from his job as a Director for finance and controller of a concrete components company a year ago, life for Klaus is never dull and he is always on the go. When he is at home, which isn’t that often, he is on standby to go to war! Fortunately when Klaus is summoned by Graf Karl-Georg zu Solms-Laubach, the Count of Laubach, to his castle with the rest of the Count’s soldiers, it is to the ‘Laubacher Ausschussfest’ annual celebration – not to go to war! However, it remains the Count’s ancient right for many centuries to call any of his male inhabitants in the village to arms, should the need to fight off invaders emerge.
Time has to be managed therefore, as Klaus says for a good ‘work-life -balance’ on ‘Bird Mountain’ in the midst of nature. Klaus divides his time between work in his recently finished garage on restorations, hiking, walking or choosing between his mountain or road bike for the next ride out. Then there is the rallying and the singing, plus he has to stay fit for next sword fight for the count!
The motor sport infection came from his father who was motorcycling in endurance events, “maybe a little bit as we do now” said Klaus. “My father competed over one or two days when you had to navigate and be on time, this was a very popular sport in Germany in the early fifties because cars were not easily available but smaller motorcycles were. Dad had a Steyr-Puch 250 which was pretty competitive and my Mum went with him. When I was around 13 years old that motorcycle was still there at home and I started to restore it, but in the end I destroyed it!
“Later on when I was 18 I bought my first motorcycle for street use but started my motorsport life on four wheels.
“I didn’t have the money at first, but saved up and got an Audi 50, a very early VW Polo really. I entered it into small local events around Giessen where we lived then, about 60 kms north of Frankfurt/Main. The sport was called ‘Orientierungsfahrt’, and a small championship called ‘Lahnpokal’, we drove mostlyat night usually around 120 kms through forests and farmland (nowadays impossible here). I did this for around three years, it was the start although it wasn’t stage rallying, it was like regularity rallying. It was quite similar to what we do now at HERO-ERA!”
“Then my sponsors stopped, ‘that’s enough they said, find your own money for that’. So then I had to stop this sport but other things became more interesting, like getting together with girls for example, but I was also busy with my studies.
“Giessen is a student town of about 90,000 people in Hessen where I have been all my life, until the recent move to ‘Bird Mountain’. The town is “Justus Liebig” Universität and technical academy where I ultimately qualified with a degree as a Master of Business and Administration. My first job was as a Financial Controller, but in my ambition to move up the financial scales in my next role, the company then got into trouble.
“Fortunately my third and final job was as Financial Director of a sizeable family owned concrete components company of around 560 employees, but the best part of it was that the boss was a motor sport nut like me, and he helped me where he could! We are still in touch and we have a little club when we meet once a month to talk racing and rallying!
“During my early employment I started to save and discovered my love of old cars. When my grandmother passed away and left me some additional money I bought an Alfa Romeo Giulia Super, a red one with a yellow nose. I contacted Alfa Romeo, and eventually became a circuit racer going to tracks like the Nurburgring or Hochenheimring in sprint races of 50-60 kms from 1991 to 1996.
“It was getting more and more expensive and the car was improving from year to year but the results were getting worse! There were many guys around me with bigger pockets so I was getting frustrated, and in the end I said this doesn’t make sense anymore so I stopped.
“So now I focused more on motorcycles. They had always been a big part of my life, my first love! As I was not a mechanic, I decided to build up my workshop and tools and to work more on the bike myself and improve my own skills.
“I always travelled around a lot with motorcycles with my girlfriend or later my wife, heading to the next stage of my motor sport career as I thought ‘why not try circuit racing with two wheels?’
“Triumph has always been my favourite motorcycle, I had a lot of them. Old ones, new ones, destroyed ones, rebuilt after accidents. I was at the Oschersleben track for a motorcycle track day and there I fell in love with a British bike, a very special one, a Rob North Triumph Trident with the old pushrod engine. This was originally a works bike built for endurance racing, especially the longer races in the USA and one of the engineers on that project then was Richard Peckett. He is still alive and has a workshop in London, where I have often visited.
“I decided quickly this bike was perfect to go classic racing. I was in touch with a Dutch friend who had all the contacts and I bought a bike from London, this started my love affair with classic endurance bike racing. The races go for four to six hours and you share the race with a second rider, they started racing in the evening and went into the night.
“The last three years of my bike racing career from 2000 to 2013, were in the FIM European Championship for Classic Endurance Racing. The last year, 2013, we were third in the championship. It was really the best motor sport time I had until my rallying with HERO-ERA. It was very competitive, the fastest still wins, but there were some fantastic motorcycles and the riders weren’t just young guys, they were of all ages, but they were safe on the track, you know the people around you and it was just a fantastic time.
“Of course motorcycle racing is dangerous, and I’m really happy to be able to talk to you now! The really dangerous time for me was when I was aged between 20 and 35. I was going with friends on our street everywhere on motor bikes, way too fast to be honest. We survived this somehow, and I recognise now that it was dangerous and quite stupid what we were doing, going so fast on the roads, not knowing what was coming from the other side, maybe with dirt on the road or trucks coming.
“Then I went onto the race track for track days and to racing properly with the bike, it was really in my blood and my favourite.
“I felt really safe on the race track as I was racing against people who knew what they were doing, all going in the same direction, and if you did go down there was plenty of space. We did fall several times of course, it happens when you are going fast or when there is rain or a situation, but I was never injured. Yes there was damage to the bike, but I was OK. So I always felt very safe.
“We were at the Nurburgring, Spa Francochamps, Aragon in Spain, Magny Cours in France, Imola in Italy, but then in 2013 my riding partner said it was time to do something different and he stopped. I tried to find someone else but couldn’t, so I thought maybe I’ll do something else, I’ve been on two wheels for a long time – maybe I’ll go back to four!
“I had seen these HERO events starting in 2011 and 2012 and then an article in a German classic car magazine about LeJog, and it featured the car from Horst Pokroppa who was my navigator on the Three Legs of Mann this year!
“At that time I was working full time and already owned my beloved Lancia Fulvia. This was a car I had seen in Italy when I was young and asked my father what it was, it was a dark blue Fulvia. I was about ten and it was around 1967. I told my Dad this was the car I wanted and I was going to start saving up to buy one – I had wanted one since a small child, but over forty years later I finally got one!
“So to start rallying, I needed a navigator. I already knew Rolf Pellini as he was living in Frankfurt and we had met on those earlier small events, Old Timer and classic events, but he wasn’t available. However, he pointed me in the direction of Eric Schwab. Fortunately Eric was willing to join me so we did two small events in Germany to prepare, then we put our entry in for our first HERO event, the 2014 LeJog!
“And so the rally story started and is still going strong in 2023 which began well with our second place on the Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo in my Lancia Fulvia with Rolf.”
“On HERO-ERA events I very much enjoy the tests on race tracks, on the Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo I won all of them, maybe because the 911 wasn’t there, but I also won some tests on the Three Legs of Mann together with three or four other crews, but it is my world. For that reason I also enjoy the closed road tests on the Isle of Man, they are brilliant. It was a fantastic event.
“My two most favourite events are the Rally of the Tests and LeJog. The RoTT is the nearest thing to special stage rallying whilst LeJog is about adventure going through the night and the endurance aspect.
“I think LeJog is successful, especially in Germany, because it is promoted better. It all started with these articles that I saw with Horst Pokroppa, we see it, they see it, and the promotion has built. However, there are some guys here in Germany who believe there is too much stress on the car for RoTT but for LeJog there is less. They also say that LeJog is a very special event that we couldn’t possibly have here on the continent, and I agree, it is unique.
“ I know for example on RoTT there are a lot of Dutch people as there are some quite similar events in Holland and Belgium, whereas in Germany we don’t have anything like RoTT or LeJog, it is not possible here in our country.
“The events in Germany run differently too with timing maybe on a GPS basis with light beams at controls. You have to go the right way but it’s quite easy to reach. Then you are literally point zero away, timings so close they are measured in hundredths and thousandths of a second. We prefer the HERO-ERA traditional standard way, although it is harder, especially if you are from the continent and are not so used to it.
“The old traditional way without the computer is the way we enjoy it. As Rolf Pellini said to me in France on WC2MC, ‘it is more difficult for us due to the traditional navigation methods, but the more you do, the more you learn, the better the results’ – then we finished second so we were very happy.”
In fact Klaus and Rolf are just back from the 30th Classic Marathon in Slovenia, Austria and Croatia where they achieved another excellent result in the Lancia Fulvia. They were fourth overall just 30 seconds off the podium and first in class on an exhilarating event, proving yet again that they are getting closer to their first win.
Klaus “Now I have to say, since March this year when I retired, I have more time to enjoy things like rallying and my cycling which I really got into since June last year.
“It was always important for me when I come home, to go to my hobby and my hobby was in my garage repairing and doing things, fixing bicycles or cars. We like to go hiking as well. Okay, holidays as well with our old VW T4 with or without the bicycles or a motorcycle. We changed our bicycles last year from normal bicycles to E-bikes, mountain bikes and road bikes, because we now live in a much more mountainous region. It’s great fun, my wife Ilona and I enjoy this. We really didn´t think it was going to be this much fun to be honest!
“In a way I am back to two wheels but perhaps not quite as fast as my motorcycles!
“We also enjoy singing together with about 25 other people in a Rhythm and Blues choir in Laubach, it is a very vibrant place. You have to look on the website about Laubach. We have concerts and we have a castle and a live count! Yes!
“He owns most of the woods around here and the plantations belong to him. There was in, let’s say the fifteen hundreds, small wars with the French guys who came over and there were private armies for the count, but he was quite a poor count so he couldn’t have a professional army, it had to be the inhabitants of Laubach who would fight for him.
“Once a year there was a meeting when he checked how good they were at fighting and shooting. And this tradition is still alive to today, so when you get new inhabitants of Laubach the men are asked by the count to join his army. So of course, I’m now a soldier of the count as well!
“There’s is still a big meeting each year with the count. Although it’s not for fighting or shooting, there’s a big party when folks all come together and have lots of beers of course and some dancing. All the inhabitants of this small town come together. We go to the castle where the count speaks to all of us!”
Klaus is clearly enjoying every aspect of his life away from the pressure of being a Financial Director. In fact he is almost as busy, but instead he is now enjoying every hour of his day, yet he still leaves enough time to plan his next HERO-ERA rally and the vital time to prepare his precious Lancia Fulvia or his Triumph TR4.
Klaus is a regular and much respected member of the HERO-ERA Rally community, his enthusiasm and smiling face are always a welcome sight on event. He is also very competitive and now he is knocking on the door, it won’t be long before we see him on the top step of the podium, Klaus is coming so watch out – this time on four wheels!