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Tales from the Trip: Schumacher Collection in Cologne

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The Schumacher Collection. Passionate fans of Formula 1, regardless of their personal favorites, will always have respect and affinity for certain legends of the sport.

Michael Schumacher is one of the great legends in this group.“Schumi” was born on January 3, 1969. His hometown is Kerpen, in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It is located less than 20 miles from the industrial city of Cologne – home of Opel and ex-F1 driver Rolf Stommelen.

It is in Cologne where the very impressive – we are talking serious frissons, or chills in plain simple English – the Schumacher Collection is based. It is part of Motorworld Cologne, which I found out upon arrival is a large high end auto dealership, dealing in a massive selection of Aston Martin and Bentley vehicles.

The Karting Kid. Michael’s dad Rolf managed a karting track in their hometown of Kerpen, and his mother Elisabeth managed the track’s cafeteria. This is where MS drove hours and hours honing his skills, while younger brother Ralf was also keen on racing but not interested in taking brotherly advice.

Same color. Different breed. There was a tiny Fiat 500 which I did not pay attention to at all, how can you when there are F1 cars next to it? But I am so glad I made a second round of the museum and read the story about the 500.

Scuderia had found out that Michael Schumacher’s first car was a Fiat 500.

In 2000, he delivered Ferrari’s first Drivers’ title since Jody Scheckter in 1979. At the Christmas party the Scuderia surprised their new world champion by presenting him this “cinquecento.”

Schumacher delighted the team members by doing a couple of laps at the Fiorano test track in his new red car.

Mercedes’ Triple Stars. Three young talented drivers in the 1989 German Formula 3 Championship would become teammates in Mercedes sports car team. The championship winner by a single point was Austrian, Karl Wendlinger. Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Michael Schumacher, both tied on 163 points, were second and third, respectively.

Bubble Up Debut. Mercedes was planning an F1 return in 1992 with a Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite-designed car. The project was canceled due to economic slowdown and massive layoffs at Daimler-Benz owned AEG.

They placed their sports car driver Michael Schumacher, who was “very focused,” in the open seat at Jordan for the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

According to Mercedes motorsports manager at the time, Jochen Neerpasch, plan was always not to drive with EJ’s team as they knew the team will be using Yamaha engines in 1992. This turned out to be a wise move. Engines from Ford, Renault and Ferrari powered Schumacher to seven championships and 91 Grand Prix wins.

Winning is birthright. Like Ayrton Senna before him and Max Verstappen after, Michael Schumacher raced with the mentality that winning was his birthright.

With their burning desire, dedication and pure natural talent why wouldn’t they?

Dress for success. A nice line-up of his driving suits on display, ranging from Benetton and Bitburger sponsorship to the Scuderia and Marlboro partnership, so crucial to ‘smoking’ the competition. Apart from Michael at Ferrari, Marlboro men included Jean Todt, Rory Byrne, Luca di Montezemelo and Ross Brawn, who used to work for the British atomic commission.

No surprise they nuked the competition.

 

#1. The winner takes it all. Schumacher won five championships in-a-row with Ferrari and seventy-two of his ninety-one victories were scored riding a prancing horse.

No one ever imagined Schumacher’s numbers would be matched, let alone beaten. Then came Ron’s Project 44 – LCH.

Badge of honor. Passport to performance from the Benetton and Scuderia Ferrari. His wife Corinna used to be the girlfriend of Heinz-Harald Frentzen when they were teammates at Sauber Mercedes sports car team.

Silver lining. Start to finish. Schumacher was managed throughout his stellar career by Willi Weber. Starting out as a Mercedes junior driver, Schumacher raced with Peter Sauber’s sportscar team with support from Stuttgart.

The company, famous for its star symbol and luxury cars, paid for his dramatic debut in Formula 1. After winning (at the time) more races and championships than anyone in the history of Formula 1, Schumacher retired at the end of the 2006 season.

When old friends and successful partners – Ross Brawn and Mercedes – came knocking on the door again, Weber advised Schumacher against another foray into Formula 1.

Michael went solo. After three winless seasons Mercedes replaced him with another driver who would go on to break his number of wins and pole positions and match his number of championships.

Waiting for the oxygen mask to drop. Trip to the Michael Schumacher Collection in Cologne was breathtaking. Frankly, I was gasping for air when I first saw the green 7-Up Jordan, the blue Benetton, and the red and wild horses. Having watched Adelaide 1994, tango at Spa in the rain with DC, and that epic final drive for Ferrari in the 2006 season finale at odd hours while living in California, you realize in an instant this is real.

For a kid coming from nothing, or a young man telling F3 team owner Herr Weber “I won’t drive for your team because I don’t have the budget”, to sleeping in a youth hostel as Mr. Jordan’s team did not book a room for him on his F1 debut, the Michael Schumacher story is a story of commitment, dedication and uber success.

Very well deserved and thoroughly appreciated by racing fans all over the world. I would highly recommend a trip to this museum if you are in Cologne area. They say the best things in life are free. So is admission to this wonderful collection of motorsports greatness. There is a small charge for parking if you go over one hour.

The Michael Schumacher Collection is a wonderful place to park the achievements and memories of one the greatest legends of Formula 1. More info here>>>