- Willingness to compete dominates the diverse racing history of Mercedes-Benz
- 65 years ago: 1955 motorsport season becomes one of the most successful in the brand’s history
- 85 years ago: Silver Arrows’ first European Championship in 1935
Stuttgart. From the very first car race in the United States of America 125 years ago to claiming the top spot at rallies 40 years ago: the willingness to compete dominates the very diverse and successful motorsport history of Mercedes-Benz. After the impressive anniversary celebrating “125 Years of Motorsport at Mercedes-Benz” last year, the brand continues to look back at fantastic moments from its unique racing history in autumn 2020. This Mercedes-Benz Classic newsletter is dedicated to events including Rudolf Caracciola’s first European Championship 85 years ago, a motorsport season 65 years ago that stands out from the brand’s history, the European Rally Championship 60 years ago and Mercedes-Benz racing driver Hans Stuck’s 120th birthday.
American premiere in 1895: 125 years ago, on 2 November 1895, Oscar Mueller won the “Chicago Times Herald Expo Run” at the wheel of a Benz Vis-à-Vis. This very first automotive race in the history of the United States of America took contestants from Chicago to Waukegan and back, covering a distance of 92 miles (approximately 148 kilometres). Publisher Herman Henry Kohlsaat organised the event with a mere two starters. Only Mueller, the son of an industrialist, reached the finish line after more than eight hours. A few weeks later, on 28 November 1895, he raced to second place at the “Chicago Times Herald Contest”, an event dominated by gales and frost. These events also marked the start of motorsport history in America – just eighteen months after the first ever automotive race in history from Paris to Rouen on 22 July 1894.
Silver Arrows’ first golden year in 1935: 85 years ago Rudolf Caracciola drove the evolved Mercedes-Benz W 25 formula racing car, which weighed only 750 kilograms, to victory at the 1935 European Grand Prix Championship, thus definitively heralding the golden age of the Silver Arrows. After he and the Mercedes-Benz racing team had been forced to retire early at the season opener – the Monaco Grand Prix – on 22 April 1935 as a result of engine failure, Caracciola won the Tripoli Grand Prix (12 May 1935), the French Grand Prix (23 June 1935) as well as the races in Belgium (14 July 1935), Switzerland (25 August 1935) and Spain (22 September 1935). On 15 October 1935, Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (A.I.A.C.R.) declared Caracciola the “Champion Européen des Conducteurs pour 1935”. This marked the first of many great championships for the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows and the first of a total of three European Championship titles for Caracciola. Caracciola’s winning streak also included the international “Eifelrennen” race at Nürburgring (16 June 1935), although that didn’t form part of the European Championship series.
1955 – A year of fantastic success: Formula One World Championship for Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz W 196 R, the Sports Car World Championship for the Stuttgart-based brand with the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (W 196 S) as well as further titles, such as the European Touring Car Championship (Werner Engel) and the Class D US Sports Car Championship (Paul O’Shea) – each in a W 198 model series Mercedes-Benz 300 SL: these results characterised a season in which Mercedes-Benz competition vehicles were very hard to beat. The wide range of success 65 years ago with racing cars and series-production sports cars made the 1955 motorsport season a year of fantastic triumph. However, the season ended with the brand pulling out of motorsport at the height of its success, as, from then on, Mercedes-Benz would concentrate on developing new passenger cars and commercial vehicles even more intensively than it had before.
Golden age of the rally in 1960: 60 years ago, Walter Schock and Rolf Moll won the European Rally Championship for the second time after 1956 at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 220 SE Tail Fin Saloon. The title marked the climax of this era from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, in which the Stuttgart-based brand’s close-to-series-production touring cars claimed numerous victories at international rallies and road races. Amongst other victories, Schock and Moll took the first ever German overall victory at the legendary Monte Carlo Rally in 1960. Prior to their success with the “Tail Fin”, Schock and Moll were also successful at the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing”, e.g. at the 1956 Sestriere Rally in Italy. Following their second European Championship, Schock and Moll also claimed the title at the gruelling 1961 Gran Premio Argentina road race.
Coupé triumph in Africa in 1980: 40 years ago, in December 1980, Björn Waldegård and Hans Thorszelius finished in first and second place in their Mercedes-Benz vehicles at the 12th Bandama Rally, now officially known as the Rallye Côte d’Ivoire. The duo took the 500 SLC rally vehicle to first place at the challenging rally in Ivory Coast, ahead of their team mates Jorge Recalde and Nestor Straimel. In 1980, the 500 SLC represented the last evolution stage of the C 107 model series V8 Coupés that brought Mercedes-Benz rally sport success. This particular era started in 1978 with the 450 SLC rally vehicle at the Vuelta a la América del Sur long-distance rally and led to the 450 SLC 5.0 starting at the 1979 Bandama Rally in Africa as well as the 500 SLC in 1980. An R 107 model series 500 SL Roadster had been prepared for the 1981 season. However, the vehicle was never used.
Birthday 120 years ago: Hans Stuck, who went on to become a racing driver, was born in Warsaw on 27 December 1900. Between 1927 and 1930 he thrilled spectators at the wheel of an Austro Daimler vehicle as the star of hill-climbing races and was given the honorific title of “King of the Mountain”. Stuck later celebrated success as a grand prix racing driver in an Auto Union vehicle. In 1931 and 1932, Stuck and Mercedes-Benz’s motorsport history became intertwined with victories at the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz SSKL. However, Stuck was also the driving force behind the development of the Mercedes-Benz T 80 record-breaking vehicle, which was intended to be driven by an aircraft engine generating around 2,574 kW (3,500 hp). In this vehicle Stuck wanted to break the absolute world land speed record. The project was launched in 1936 and came to a close in 1940 without the T 80 ever being used. Visitors to the Mercedes-Benz Museum can marvel at the original body of the record-breaking vehicle in the “Fascination of Technology” section. In 2018, Mercedes-Benz Classic used the original chassis, built an authentically reconstructed tubular frame and a DB 603 engine to create a unique specimen of technology.