Mercedes-Benz Classic Motorsport recently delved into the archives and called to mind a number of notable anniversaries from their nearly 130-year history in racing. April/May of this year marks 120 years since the victory in the Nice–La Turbie hill climb, 25 years since the season-opening triple victory for the CLK-GTR at Oschersleben, and 60 years since Eugen Böhringer won the Acropolis Rally for the second time with the 300 SE.
April 1, 1903: Victory in the Nice–La Turbie hill climb with the Mercedes Simplex 60 hp
Following wins in 1901 and 1902, 1903 also saw a Mercedes win the prestigious hill climb from Nice to La Turbie as part of the “Nice Week” motorsport event.
The commune of La Turbie is situated in the mountains above the Principality of Monaco. On April 1, 1903, Otto Hieronimus and Wilhelm Werner (in the Mercedes-Simplex 60 hp) set a new record, with an average speed of 64.4 km/h over the 15.5-kilometer course.
In 1901, at the first start of the Mercedes 35 hp, Werner had driven at an average speed of 54.1 km/h. He won other competitions during Nice Week at the time, too. With its long wheelbase, low center of gravity and high-performance engine complete with honeycomb radiator, the Mercedes 35 PS designed by Wilhelm Maybach of the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) is considered the first modern automobile ever: it was systematically designed for performance, weight savings and safety.
In 1902, after a series of improvements to various details, the Mercedes-Simplex family of models was born. The suffix was a reference to how easy the car was to operate, by the standards of the time. For the 1903 model year, Maybach designed three new Mercedes-Simplex models. The top engine variant was the Mercedes-Simplex 60 hp. Its four-cylinder engine, with a displacement of 9,235 cubic centimetres, produced 44 kW (60 hp) at 1,600 rpm.
April 12, 1998: Triple victory for the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR at Oschersleben
AMG-Mercedes began the 1998 FIA GT Championship with a triple victory for the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR: in the inaugural race on the circuit in the Oschersleben Motor Park, which had only been opened the previous year.
On December 21, 1996, the 631 hp V12 engine ran on the test bench for the first time. It proved to be extremely stable; in not one race did a CLK-GTR fail with engine damage. At the beginning of the 1998 season, the racing sports car once again proved impressive with its speed and outstanding reliability. After the one-two-three at Oschersleben, Schneider/Webber also finished first in a CLK-GTR at Silverstone (Great Britain) on May 17, 1998. The CLK-LM with V8 engine then replaced the CLK-GTR. On October 25, 1998, Ludwig/Zonta secured the drivers’ championship at Laguna Seca and the team championship went to AMG-Mercedes once again. It was an extremely successful year for Mercedes-Benz: just one week later, on November 1, 1998, Mika Häkkinen won the Formula One World Championship in Suzuka (Japan) with the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-13.
May 16-19, 1963: Eugen Böhringer wins the Acropolis Rally for the second time with the 300 SE
The Acropolis Rally in Greece is one of the toughest rallies on the motorsport calendar. Unpaved, scree-strewn and dusty tracks, tight bends, steep stretches and often intense heat demand everything from drivers and cars.
In the early 1960s, Mercedes-Benz rally driver Eugen Böhringer won this competition twice in a row. He achieved his second victory on May 19, 1963 with his co-driver Rolf Knoll in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SE (W 112) “Fintail” rally car. The previous year, the duo had won with the similarly successful 220 SE (W 111), and Böhringer became European Rally Champion 1962.
Walter Schock/Rolf Moll were the first non-Greek team to triumph at the Acropolis Rally for the Stuttgart brand in 1956 with a 300 SL “Gullwing” (W 198). In 1960, they repeated the success with the 220 SE. The Acropolis Rally enjoys a high status in Greece and also has international appeal.