Motorsport history by Mercedes-Benz – Newsletter 5/2020

Oct 20, 2020
Stuttgart
  • 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.

 

1935 European Grand Prix Championship award certificate, awarded to Rudolf Caracciola, issued on 15 October 1935 by Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR).
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The 1955 season is one of the most successful motorsport seasons for Mercedes-Benz. Juan Manuel Fangio won his second Formula One world title in a Mercedes-Benz W 196 R. On 19 June 1955 Fangio claimed the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort.
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The Benz Vis-à-Vis in which Oscar Mueller won the “Chicago Times Herald Expo Run” on 2 November 1895. There were a mere two starters at this very first automotive race in the history of the USA. Mueller was the only one to cross the finish line.
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Hans Stuck, who went on to become a racing driver, was born on 27 December 1900. He subsequently became the driving force behind the development of the Mercedes-Benz T 80 record-breaking vehicle. 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 model DB 603 engine to create a unique specimen of technology.
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In 1980, Björn Waldegård and Hans Thorszelius as well as Jorge Recalde and Nestor Straimel finished in positions one and two at the 12th Bandama Rally in Ivory Coast (between 9 and 14 December 1980) with the 500 SLC rally vehicle. The victory marked the last works-team rally deployment by what was known as Daimler-Benz AG at the time. The winning vehicle is now part of the Mercedes-Benz Museum’s permanent exhibition.
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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).
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On 28 November 1895, Oscar Mueller raced to second place at the “Chicago Times Herald Contest”, an event dominated by gales and frost. A few weeks earlier, on 2 November 1895, Mueller had won the “Chicago Times Herald Expo Run”.
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The 1955 season is one of the most successful motorsport seasons for Mercedes-Benz. The brand from Stuttgart won the World Championship with the 300 SLR racing car (W 196 S). The racing team claimed the title with the one-two finish at Targa Florio in Sicily on 16 October 1955. The image shows Stirling Moss (starting number 104) pitting during a tyre change.
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Rudolf Caracciola is crowned the 1935 European Grand Prix Champion at the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz W 25 formula racing car, which weighed a mere 750 kilograms. On 23 June 1935, at the French Grand Prix in Montlhéry, Caracciola (starting number 2) crossed the finishing line first, directly ahead of his team mate Manfred von Brauchitsch (starting number 6).
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Rudolf Caracciola is crowned the 1935 European Grand Prix Champion at the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz W 25 formula racing car, which weighed a mere 750 kilograms. At the Spanish Grand Prix on 22 September 1935, subsequent winner Caracciola at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz W 25 stood on the far left of the rear row on the grid with starting number 26.
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The 1955 season is one of the most successful motorsport seasons for Mercedes-Benz. The brand from Stuttgart won the World Championship with the 300 SLR racing car (W 196 S). Between 30 April and 1 May 1955, Stirling Moss and his co-driver Denis Jenkinson won the Mille Miglia in Italy in the 300 SLR with the best ever recorded time.
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In 1960, Walter Schock and Rudolf Moll won the European Rally Championship at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz. With their Mercedes-Benz 220 SE touring car they were the first German team to claim the victory at the XXIX Monte Carlo Rally between 18 and 24 January 1960.
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Argentinean Grand Prix in Buenos Aires, 16 January 1955. Winning driver Juan Manuel Fangio in the Mercedes-Benz W 196 R racing car. Fangio was the only top driver to go the duration of the race without being relieved and won easily.
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In 1960, Walter Schock and Rudolf Moll won the European Rally Championship at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz. With their Mercedes-Benz 220 SE touring car they were the first German team to claim the victory at the XXIX Monte Carlo Rally between 18 and 24 January 1960.
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In 1980, Björn Waldegård and Hans Thorszelius as well as Jorge Recalde and Nestor Straimel finished in positions one and two at the 12th Bandama Rally in Ivory Coast (between 9 and 14 December 1980) with the 500 SLC rally vehicle. The victory marked the last works-team rally deployment by what was known as Daimler-Benz AG at the time.
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Hans Stuck, who went on to become a racing driver, was born on 27 December 1900. The image shows Stuck during the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring on 19 July 1931 during the pit stop of his Mercedes-Benz SSKL racing car. Stuck took 6th place in the class above 1.1 litres. The racing driver subsequently became the driving force behind the development of the Mercedes-Benz T 80 record-breaking vehicle.
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The 1955 season is one of the most successful motorsport seasons for Mercedes-Benz. In the USA, Paul O’Shea claimed the 1955 SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) Class D Sports Car Championship in the Mercedes-Benz model 300 SL (W 198).
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The 1955 season is one of the most successful motorsport seasons for Mercedes-Benz. The “Blue Wonder” rapid racing car transporter was also amongst the year’s automotive stars. The image shows this unique vehicle at the Kristianstad Grand Prix on 1 August 1955 with the winning vehicle, a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (W 196 S), on its platform.
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Rudolf Caracciola is crowned the 1935 European Grand Prix Champion at the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz W 25 formula racing car, which weighed a mere 750 kilograms. He claimed victories at races including the French Grand Prix in Montlhéry, on 23 June 1935, ahead of his team mate Manfred von Brauchitsch.
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Rudolf Caracciola is crowned the 1935 European Grand Prix Champion at the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz W 25 formula racing car, which weighed a mere 750 kilograms. The photograph shows the subsequent winner Caracciola at the international “Eifelrennen” race at Nürburgring on 16 June 1935.
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Rudolf Caracciola is crowned the 1935 European Grand Prix Champion at the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz W 25 formula racing car, which weighed a mere 750 kilograms. He won the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps on 14 July 1935.
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The 1955 season is one of the most successful motorsport seasons for Mercedes-Benz. Juan Manuel Fangio won his second Formula One world title in a Mercedes-Benz W 196 R. On 11 September 1955, Fangio (in this image leading ahead of Stirling Moss and Karl Kling) won the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
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The 1955 season is one of the most successful motorsport seasons for Mercedes-Benz. Juan Manuel Fangio won his second Formula One world title in a Mercedes-Benz W 196 R. On 5 June 1955 subsequent winner Fangio was leading the race at the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps.
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The 1955 season is one of the most successful motorsport seasons for Mercedes-Benz. Juan Manuel Fangio won his second Formula One world title in a Mercedes-Benz W 196 R. On 11 September 1955 he beat his team mate Piero Taruffi to win the Italian Grand Prix in Monza..
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