By Score More
The legacy of Mercedes-Benz is steeped in history and excellence. While the brand is synonymous with luxury and prestige, it boasts a remarkable motorsport heritage that spans over a century. Mercedes-Benz, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, has consistently been at the forefront of motorsport, whether it’s rallying, Formula 1, speed records, or endurance racing. These motorsport endeavors have often translated into impressive road cars, and even when they haven’t, they are accomplishments that deserve recognition.
As Mercedes-Benz marks 130 years of motorsport excellence this year, let’s take a journey through some notable highlights. Keep in mind that these are just a few standout moments from different eras, and there are many more worth celebrating.
1903: Triumph at Semmering with the Mercedes-Simplex 60 hp A century ago, in 1903, Hermann Braun clinched victory at Semmering, an Austrian hill climb race, driving the Mercedes-Simplex 60 hp Gordon Bennett. Braun conquered the challenging 6.2-mile course in an astonishing 8 minutes and 47.6 seconds, achieving an average speed of 42.4 mph. The Mercedes 60 hp, in production for just two years, was an engineering marvel with its powerful 9.3-liter engine and a top speed of 68 mph. It could be likened to the Mercedes-AMG SL 63 of its time. Braun later returned to Semmering with a Mercedes 120 hp, further improving his record by completing the course in 7 minutes and 47.0 seconds at an average speed of 50 mph.
1913: Benz 200 hp Sets World Speed Records In a bid to showcase their advanced technology, Mercedes achieved two new speed records in late 1913 with the Benz 200 hp, famously known as the Blitzen Benz. British racing driver Lydston Granville Hornsted set a record for the half-mile, averaging 70.7 mph, and another for the kilometer, averaging 73.3 mph. While these speeds may seem modest by today’s standards, the Blitzen Benz was a pioneer of its era. Its 21.5-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 200 horsepower, coupled with its aerodynamic design, made it truly ahead of its time. The following year, Hornsted shattered more records with the Benz 200 hp, reportedly averaging 124.7 mph over a one-mile course. Only six of these extraordinary vehicles were ever manufactured, adding to their rarity.
1998: Dominance of the Mercedes CLK-LM at Laguna Seca The Mercedes-Benz CLK-LM, a post-war masterpiece from Stuttgart, took center stage in the 1998 FIA GT Championship. Drivers Klaus Ludwig and Ricardo Zonta, competing against their teammates Bernd Schneider and Marc Webber, led the Silver Arrows to victory in every race they entered, securing the world championship. Mercedes-Benz’s domination was evident as they won all ten races, relegating Porsche to second place. Only 26 road-going versions of the CLK GTR Strassenversion were produced, and today, it stands as one of the most coveted homologation models, boasting a 7.3-liter V12 engine with 622 horsepower and a 0-62 mph time of 3.8 seconds.
1998: Mika Hakkinen’s Formula One World Championship Win In Formula 1, when McLaren joined forces with Mercedes, their success exceeded all expectations. In 1997, the McLaren-Mercedes F1 cars, known as the Silver Arrows, made a stunning debut, with David Coulthard winning the first race of the season. In 1998, Mika Hakkinen battled Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher. Despite Schumacher’s initial challenges, Hakkinen secured the Drivers’ Championship title by winning the Japanese Grand Prix. This partnership marked another historic achievement for Mercedes-Benz in the world of motorsport.
Apart from these significant milestones, Mercedes-Benz has a host of other iconic moments, including a 31,000-mile endurance record that underscores the brand’s commitment to both performance and durability. As we look ahead, we can only anticipate what more this esteemed German brand will accomplish. For many enthusiasts, a return to Le Mans would be a dream come true.