Tag Archives: Mercedes Benz

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85 and Rising

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It is rare that a racing driver is the subject of a press release from a major manufacturer, to have two of the giants writing about you is almost unprecedented. However perhaps in Hans Herrmann’s case it is less surprising. He hits 85 today, so Happy Birthday, Hans.

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I had the pleasure of meeting Hans back in 2010 at Sebring where he triumphed in the 12 Hours some 50 years before. Somewhere in the confusion that is my office is an interview with the great man, most of the recording was drowned out by a crappy Trans-Am race that was unfolding outside so my masterpiece makes little sense, lesson one learned.

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His career was an extensive one with spells at Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Arbarth, Maserati and Borgward. His crowning achievement was winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1970 with Richard Attwood in a Porsche 917. He could also point to having competed at long gone events like the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio and Carrera Panamericana. It is said that you are judged by the company you keep, so you could think yourself just slightly special if among your team mates you could list Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss. I could go on and on, there were many others.

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But I will have to make do with the releases from Porsche and Mercedes-Benz and some evocative photos. Once again Happy Birthday Hans.

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Porsche congratulates Hans Herrmann

Stuttgart. Hans Herrmann, one of the most successful and best known works racing drivers at Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, will celebrate his 85th birthday on 23 February 2013. Born in Stuttgart in 1928, this long-distance specialist was considered one of the most successful and dependable racing drivers of his era. His motorsports career lasted from 1952 to 1970, during which Hans Herrmann won over 80 overall and class victories.

Hans Herrmann started his racing career in early 1952, piloting a privately-owned Porsche 356 1500 in mountain races, rallies, and endurance races. A year later he and Richard von Frankenberg took overall fifth place in the Lyon-Charbonnieres rally. Porsche racing chief Huschke von Hanstein thereupon hired him for the Porsche Works team. Herrmann drove the 550 Spyder at the 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans, and together with Helmut Glöckler came in first in the 1.5 litre displacement category right off the bat.

In 1953, at the age of 26 Herrmann won the title of German Sportscar Champion and got the attention of legendary Mercedes-Benz racing chief Alfred Neubauer, who hired him for his works team. Hans Herrmann piloted the Mercedes W 196 Silver Arrow in the premier category of motorsports, teaming with top drivers like Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling. Parallel to that, in 1954 he continued to drive for Porsche in the smaller displacement categories. In the 550 Spyder he won widely noted class victories in the Mille Miglia and Carrera Panamericana.

When Daimler-Benz pulled out of racing in 1955, Herrmann went on to drive Formula 1 races for Maserati and BRM, as well as other races as a Borgward works driver. In 1957 he became European Vice “Bergmeister” – Mountan Champion – before returning to the Porsche works team in 1959. Together with Joakim Bonnier, in 1960 Herrmann took the overall victory at the Targa Florio in a Porsche 718 RS60 Spyder, and the Formula 2 championship in a Porsche 718/2. He also won the 12 Hours of Sebring with Olivier Gendebien. In 1963 he left Porsche KG and joined Carlo Abarth’s racing team.

In 1966 Herrmann returned to the Porsche works team, not only driving in all the major long-distance races and European Mountain Championship races, but also doing countless test drives in Weissach. With pilots Hans Herrmann, Jo Siffert, Vic Elford and Rolf Stommelen, in 1969 the team took the World Sports Prototype Championship for the first time. In 1970, at his eleventh Le Mans race Herrmann capped off his career with a bang, winning the first overall victory for Zuffenhausen in a Porsche 917 KH. He took this motorsports achievement as a suitable time to retire from active racing, after 42 years on the track. Since then Hans Herrmann has lived with his wife Magdalena near Stuttgart, successfully operating his company “Hans Herrmann Autotechnik.” As a pilot of historic racecars, he also takes part in many vintage car events for the Porsche Museum.

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Hans Herrmann celebrates 85th birthday

Legendary racing driver Hans Herrmann celebrates his 85th birthday on 23 February 2013. Born in Stuttgart, Herrmann gained international recognition during his time as a works driver for Mercedes-Benz in the years 1954 and 1955. The cars he drove for the brand back then were the post-war “Silver Arrows”, the W 196 R Grand Prix racing car and the 300 SLR (W 196 S) racing sports car.

 

These days Hans Herrmann is regularly to be found behind the wheel of historical Mercedes-Benz competition vehicles, as a guest at any one of a variety of classic events, where he is able to convey to visitors the fascination of an important period in motor racing. “Our congratulations to our brand ambassador Hans Herrmann, who has been a good friend of Mercedes-Benz for almost 60 years now,” commented Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic, expressing his thanks to Herrmann for his contribution to keeping the brand’s heritage alive.
The legendary Alfred Neubauer, Head of the Mercedes-Benz racing department in the 1930s and again in the 1950s, discovered Herrmann as an up-and-coming talent and brought him into the works team, alongside Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling, for Mercedes-Benz’s re-entry to Grand Prix racing after the Second World War. For the 1955 season, the team was then joined by Stirling Moss.
In the very first race of the new Silver Arrows at the French Grand Prix of 1954 in Reims, Herrmann drove the fastest lap time, 2:32.9 minutes – corresponding to an average speed of 195.463 km/h. Over the course of the season he took two Grand Prix podium places, in the 1954 Swiss Grand Prix and the 1954 Avus race, in each case coming 3rd. In 1955, Herrmann was seriously injured in an accident during practice in Monaco and was no longer able to start during that season.
Even after his Grand Prix racing career with Mercedes-Benz had come to an end, “Lucky Hans”, as his friends know him, retained close links with the brand. In 1961, for example, he entered the “Gran Premio Argentina” road race in a Mercedes-Benz 220 SE (W 111), finishing in 2nd place behind Walter Schock, also in a 220 SE, to deliver a double victory.

After training originally as a pastry chef, Hans Herrmann began his career in motor racing in the Hessen Winter Rally of 1952 in a private Porsche 356. That same year he took a class win in the “Deutschlandfahrt” (Tour of Germany). In both 1953 and 1954, Herrmann then took class victory for Porsche in the legendary 1000-mile “Mille Miglia” race in Italy.
Through his participation in Formula 1 as well as Formula 2 Grand Prix races, sports car races and rallies, Stuttgart-born Herrmann proved himself to be an exceptionally versatile motor racing driver. Apart from the cars he drove for Mercedes-Benz, he competed above all in Porsche racing and sports cars. He also took the wheel at various times for B.R.M., Cooper, Maserati and Veritas.
Hermann achieved his greatest successes in sports car endurance racing. Among his wins were overall victories in the Targa Florio (1960), the 24 Hours of Daytona (1968), and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1970). In honour of the grand total of eight Targa Florio races in which he had driven, Hans Herrmann was presented with a special award by the Sicilian town of Collesano in October 2012. “Noblesse oblige”: the one-time works driver arrived at the award ceremony in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.
After capping his success in motor racing with the Le Mans victory of 1970, Herrmann withdrew from active motor racing that same year, at the height of his career. From then on he would devote himself above all to his automotive accessories business. But our “birthday boy” has retained close links with the world of motor sport to this day – above all as a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz Classic.

A Case of the Benz

2013 Dubai 24

The eighth edition of the Dubai 24 Hours took place last weekend. The event has matured nicely and even in these financially perilous times could boast 81 starters, someone must be doing something right.

At dawn we have a brace of SLS coupés, with the Jones’ example on its way to a fine fifth place overall. More from the race during this week.

John Brooks, January 2013

The Edge of the Precipice

1955 Le Mans 24 Hours

16.00 on June 11 1955 and the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours. The leaders, Castellotti and Maglioli in their Ferraris and the Jaguars of Hawthorn and Beauman are already streaking away up towards the Dunlop Bridge. The Mercedes Benz trio, strangely mired in the mid-field battle, struggle to get up to speed. Fangio has not yet got into motion, jumping into his car after the traditional Le Mans Start he managed to get the gear lever stuck up his trouser leg. He got away last.

Two and half hours later after some intense competition between the Jaguar and Mercedes factory teams, disaster struck as Pierre Levegh’s 300SLR collided with the Austin-Healey of Lance Macklin. The car was pitched onto the safety bank and then flew into the crowded terraces. Levegh and 83 spectators were killed and many more were injured, it was the worst accident in motorsport’s history.

The photo, taken from the excellent Mercedes Benz press site, shows just how narrow the track was at that point and how exposed both the spectators and the pits were.

John Brooks, November 2011

 

Room in the Back, Sir.

Daimler AG has plenty of treasure stored in their press archives. The Formula One stuff, both pre and post war, is familiar, less so some of the tin top material from the 50s and 60s. So this release attracted my attention or rather the images did. This is what we raced and rallied half a century ago. jb


Following the Mercedes-Benz works team’s retirement from Formula 1 and the sports car world championship at the end of the 1955 season, the rallies claimed fans’ full attention as of 1956. The Mercedes vehicles competing on race courses all over the world were fielded for the most part by private teams. While the racing and racing sports cars of previous years had performed superlatively as elite fine-tuned high-end vehicles, the near-series passenger cars now demonstrated their solid credentials in the nitty-gritty of rally racing. Karl Kling was responsible for rally activities as sports director at Mercedes-Benz. In the wake of Alfred Neubauer’s retirement, the ex-racing driver thus assumed a degree of responsibility for upholding the race manager’s legend.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s it was first and foremost the 300 SL sports car and the six-cylinder 220 SE and 300 SE saloons that caught people’s imagination on the roads and gravel tracks all over the world. The team comprising Walter Schock and Rolf Moll was among the contenders who made their mark in these years. The duo, who raced for the Motorsportclub Stuttgart, received comprehensive support from Mercedes-Benz in the form of vehicles and service. Walter Schock competed in the Monte Carlo Rally in the Mercedes-Benz 220 “Pontoon” on 15 January 1956, crossing the finishing line on 23 January just 1.1 seconds behind the winner.

7th Sestrière Rally, 24 to 28 February 1956. The Walter Schock / Rolf Moll rally driver team (starting number 12) won the class of Gran Turismo cars over 2 litres in a Mercedes-Benz model 300 SL touring car.

A month later, the Stuttgart duo took part in the Rally del Sestrière in Italy at the wheel of the “gull-winged” 300 SL. In the mountains, the high-performance sports car left the other vehicles in its wake. Schock recalled the Coupé’s outstanding capabilities in the winter rally conditions: “Really fine snow chains on all four wheels allowed us to reach uphill speeds of up to 180 km/h.” The team finished the race as winners on 28 February. Further triumphs ensued in the shape of an overall win in the Acropolis Rally (26 to 29 April 1956) and class victories in the Wiesbaden Rally (21 to 24 June 1956) and the Rally Adriatique (26 to 30 September). Schock also won his class in the Eifel Race and took 2nd place in the fringe race at the Nurburgring Grand Prix meeting. On the back of this performance he became the European touring car champion in 1956 and German champion in the GT class above 2000 cc.

The sports director was also wont to take to the wheel once in a while, putting in sporadic stints as a Mercedes-Benz works driver. Karl Kling achieved an unusual victory in 1959 with Rainer Günzler in the 14,000 kilometre Rally Mediterranée-Le Cap running from the Mediterranean to South Africa: the Stuttgart team embarked on this rally in a Mercedes-Benz 190D, cruising to victory on its diesel power. 1961 saw Kling speeding through Africa at the wheel of a saloon once again. This time he opted for a “fin-tail” Mercedes-Benz 220 SE, winning the Algiers-Lagos-Algiers Rally with Rainer Günzler as co-driver once again. Kling was also on the scene as race manager when works teams competed in selected major races at the wheels of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

8th International Acropolis Rally from 19 to 22 May 1960. The eventual overall winner, Walter Schock, (starting number 34) in the Mercedes-Benz model 220 SE touring car.

Schock and Moll claimed the European rally championship once again in 1960, in their 220 SE. Their winning ways got off to a bright start at the legendary Monte Carlo Rally.

29th Monte Carlo Rally, 18 to 24 January 1960. The team Eugen Böhringer / Hermann Socher took 2nd place in a Mercedes-Benz model 220 SE touring car.

The first final win by a German team in this competition was part of a triple success for Mercedes-Benz, with driver teams Eugen Böhringer/Hermann Socher and Eberhard Mahle/Roland Ott taking 2nd and 3rd places. Following this triumph in 1960, the sports press called on Mercedes-Benz to return to the world’s racing circuits with works vehicles on a permanent basis. But sports director Kling was clear in his words, saying “This success will encourage us to carry on putting great effort into rallies. But Mercedes does not intend to return to motor racing.”


In the 1960s, Mercedes-Benz teams took part in the “Gran Premio Argentina” road race on several occasions. On 26 October 1961, Walter Schock competed in this very special rally, which was contested by a total of 207 drivers. A tough race was in store for the participants on a route covering 4600 kilometres and taking in a difference in altitude of around 3000 metres. The hard slog ended on 5 November with a double victory for Mercedes-Benz. Walter Schock and Rolf Moll were the first to pass the finishing line, followed by Hans Herrmann and Rainer Günzler. “That must be the toughest race I’ve ever competed in,” said rally champion Schock on his return from South Africa. The Mercedes-backed teams received personal support from Juan Manuel Fangio together with race manager Karl Kling. As this competition was very important for the American market, Mercedes-Benz continued its involvement in the coming years, too.

33rd Monte Carlo Rally, 18 to 25 January 1964. Ewy Rosquist-von Korff and Eva-Maria Falk won the category of touring cars up to 2500 cc in a Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb.

 

Monte Carlo Rally, 1963. Ewy Rosqvist and Ursula Wirth with a Mercedes-Benz 220 SE.

1962 saw a sensational win by the ladies’ team comprising Ewy Rosqvist and Ursula Wirth, while Eugen Böhringer sped to victory in 1963 and 1964, crossing the finishing line with two other Mercedes-Benz cars directly behind him in each case.

32nd Monte Carlo Rally, 19 to 26 January 1963. Ewy Rosqvist-von Korff (left) and Ursula Wirth won the Ladies Cup in a Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb.

 

11th Acropolis Rally, 16 to 19 May 1963. Mercedes-Benz competed with three cars. On the left is the ladies’ duo of Ewy Rosqvist and Ursula Wirth (starting number 45) competing in a Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb (3rd in class and 12th overall). In the middle is the team Eugen Böhringer / Rolf Knoll (starting number 41), which claimed victory in its class and in the overall placings in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SE. On the right is the team Dieter Glemser / Klaus Kaiser (starting number 37) competing in a Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb (2nd in class and 5th overall).

Böhringer, who drove Mercedes-Benz cars in rallies as of 1957, won the European rally championship in 1962 at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 220 SE. With his co-drivers Peter Lang and Hermann Eger, Böhringer notched up points in various races throughout this season, including the Monte Carlo Rally (2nd place), the Tulip Rally (7th place),

Motor racing on ancient terrain: Eugen Böhringer and Rolf Knoll (starting number 41) wrap up the 11th Acropolis Rally in May 1963 in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SE touring car. They were winners in their category and overall winners.

the Acropolis Rally (1st place), the Midnight Sun Rally (5th Place), the Polish Rally (1st place), the Liège-Sofia-Liège Rally (1st place) and the German Rally (2nd place).

Liège – Sofia – Liège Rally, 1963. Eventual winners Eugen Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser with their Mercedes-Benz model 230 SL (starting number 39).

A highlight of the year was the victory in the legendary Liège-Sofia-Liège road race in the Mercedes-Benz 220 SE.

Liège – Sofia – Liège Rally, 1962. Eugen Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser won the event in a Mercedes-Benz 230 SL (model series W 113).

The Stuttgart-based driver was also victorious when this marathon across Europe came around again in 1963. This time, the destination was Bulgaria rather than Rome, and the winning vehicle was a Mercedes-Benz 230 SL “Pagoda”. This was the first time ever that a driver had achieved two successive victories in this gruelling rally.

ADAC International 6-Hour Touring Car Race at the Nürburgring, 16 June 1963. Mercedes-Benz model 300 SE touring car. The team Eugen Böhringer / Dieter Glemser (starting number 119) claimed 2nd place in class 9 for cars up to 2500 cc.

Mercedes-Benz was also successful in North America: the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLS was designed especially for the American sports car championship in 1957. It was based on the series-production 300 SL Roadster sports car, with a 900 kilogramme reduction in weight and engine power boosted from 215 hp (158 kW) to 235 hp (173 kW) to turn it into a highly competitive vehicle once again. The SLS provided Paul O’Shea with his third title in succession, following two wins in the “gull-winged” 300 SL in 1955 and 1956.

“Guia 101” Endurance Race, Macao, 18 May 1969. Erich Waxenberger and Albert Poon (starting number 51) won the six-hour Macao race in a Mercedes-Benz model 300 SEL 6.3.

The powerful eight-cylinder 300 SEL 6.3 saloon only saw works team action in one race, winning the six-hour touring car race in Macao in 1969 with Erich Waxenberger at the wheel. The oil crisis at the beginning of the 1970s put an end to this saloon’s motorsport career. Automobile historian Karl Eric Ludvigsen emphasizes the importance of this break in Mercedes-Benz’s motor racing history: “The oil crisis resulted in the first interruption to Daimler-Benz’s long tradition triggered by external events. The company’s racing traditions began around the turn of the century, with the only hiatus – apart from the war years – occurring in 1955; every year, there was always one or more Benz, Mercedes or Mercedes-Benz cars in at least one key race, with either direct or indirect support from the works.”

 


Private drivers continued Mercedes-Benz’s racing traditions, however. Increasingly, their vehicles came to be prepared for competitive use by AMG – a company founded in Burgstall near Stuttgart by former Daimler-Benz employees Hans-Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher in 1967 as an “engineering firm pursuing the design, testing and development of racing engines”.  The leading products in the company’s early years included the refined version of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL with a 6.8-litre engine, which claimed a class victory and took 2nd place overall in the 24h Spa Francorchamps race.  The independent tuning firm made a name for itself preparing vehicles for racing competitions over many years, before it was taken over in its entirety by the then DaimlerChrysler AG.

Courtesy of and Copyright Daimler AG. All images courtesy of and Copyright Mercedes-Benz Classic.

John Brooks, May 2011


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

A  strange weekend, no racing for me, calm before the storms of the Le Mans and Nürburgring 24 Hours next month. So a chance to pause and reflect.

Gil Scott-Heron, RIP

 

 

The news came down the Mojo wire of the passing of Gil Scott-Heron. What does that have to do with motorsport? Nothing, but despite that I feel the need to mark this event with respect, he was a great Jazz Artist and Poet. There really “Ain’t No Such Thing As A Superman”.

Someone who is finding that out in a public way this year is Michael Schumacher, being constantly outpaced by Rosberg Junior at the Grand Prix tracks. However anyone who doubts the commitment of the Seven-time World Champion just needed to watch him wring the the neck of his Mercedes at Monaco yesterday during Qualifying. Fearless does not even get close. Like all the hot shoes the speed through the chicane at the Swimming Pool was staggering.

Mercedes Benz has a reputation for efficiency, amongst other things, and I have to say that their press site is one of the best out there. Daimler AG is rightly proud of their heritage and is happy to share it. So there are several pieces using their source material in the pipeline.

Daimler do not only hire top drivers, their photographers are first rate too. So here is a small selection of imagery from yesterday’s action on the shores of the Mediterranean.

I would like to have that stuff myself, but……………………………..

John Brooks, May 2011

Shiny Bauble

Even without the flying antics, the Mercedes Benz CLR was an attention grabber. The low lines, the purity of the livery, the whole Mercedes Benzness of it all.

Permission to Land?

The disaster of the 1999 Le Mans meant the end of the sportscar programme for the company. Imagine how things might have turned out for the ALMS if Mercedes, Porsche and Toyota had joined BMW and Audi in North America in 1999 and 2000. Even NASCAR might have been worried.

John Brooks, January 2011

The Star’s a Car

The 2011 Dubai 24 Hours saw a trio of Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3 entries and very impressive they were in the flesh. They are the real deal and will give Porsche, Audi and BMW a right hard time at this year’s Nurburgring 24 Hours.

So as a salute to this batch of Silver Arrows they feature as the first Blink of An Eye post. Who knows it might even become a daily thing?

Wheel of Fortune

Click to enlarge.

John Brooks, January 2011