by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Mercedes-Benz Classic at the Ennstal Classic 2012: Diverse line-up of motorsport classics

It was 60 years ago that the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194) laid the foundation for the Stuttgart-based brand’s successful post-war involvement in motorsport. Mercedes-Benz Classic will be recalling this legendary era by racing authentic vehicles of the day during the “Ennstal Classic 2012” (10 to 14 July 2012 in Austria) – one of the most prestigious events in the classic car calendar in the Dachstein-Tauern region. The drivers of the classic vehicles include Mercedes-Benz brand ambassadors Hans Herrmann and Jochen Mass.

The exciting interplay between the outstanding competition vehicles and the innovative series-production models from Mercedes-Benz was one of the defining aspects of the automotive world of the 1950s and 60s. The same qualities which resulted in numerous victories in sports car races and rallies back then can be rediscovered today in an authentic atmosphere thanks to events such as the Ennstal Classic which was established 20 years ago.

Mercedes-Benz Classic is racing two classic sports cars at the Ennstal Classic 2012 in the three-day long-distance competition, the highlight of which is the Orange Marathon. Another two cars with motorsport in their genes are taking part in the Chopard Grand Prix for historic racing cars.

A Mercedes-Benz 300 SLS and a 280 SL will battle it out on the spectacular roads of a range of alpine regions to pick up points in the long-distance competition. This consists of the Prologue, the Orange Marathon and the Finale. The Prologue, held on 12 July 2012, starts in Stoderzinken and ends in Gröbming, both Styria . Highlights of the 403-kilometre route include the Sölkpass, the Turracher Höhe and the Katschberg. On 13 July 2012, the 492-kilometre Marathon starts from Gröbming, heads north beyond Steyr and then takes the competitors along challenging mountain passes to the finish in Schladming. 14 July 2012 is the day of the final in Gröbming which is played out in the streets of the town itself. The overall goal for participants in the long-distance competition is to maintain an average target speed – during the special skill tests, for example – of 50 kph with absolute, split-second precision; any deviation from the target time attracts penalty points. The many hidden special test sections make the competition a great challenge for the teams in the cockpits of the 230 participating vehicles.

Mercedes-Benz driver Jochen Mass will be competing in this marathon in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLS. This racing car is one of only two examples of a special motorsport version of the 300 SL Roadster (W 198). It was at the wheel of a 300 SLS like this that Paul O’Shea won the 1957 US National Sports Car Championship (Class D).

The Mercedes-Benz 280 SL (“Pagoda”) which is also participating in the long-distance competition represents the rally successes of the W 113 model series which Mercedes-Benz enjoyed in the early 1960s. A particular highlight was the near-series 230 SL rally car of 1963, the “Pagoda”, which Eugen Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser drove to victory in the Liège–Sofia–Liège marathon rally.

The “Chopard Grand Prix” on Saturday, 14 July 2012, is an exclusive demonstration event for historic racing cars. Hans Herrmann, a member of the Mercedes-Benz works team during the 1954 to 1955 Silver Arrows era, will be participating in the 300 SLR (W 196 S) racing sports car of 1955. This was the vehicle with which the Mercedes-Benz racing department won the World Sports Car Championship in 1955. Jochen Mass will take the wheel of a 300 SL racing sports car (W 194) of 1952. This vehicle, with its space frame and the characteristic gullwing doors, took a string of victories in 1952, including the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Carrera Panamericana.

This year’s Ennstal Classic will once again attract many thousands of spectators with its compelling combination of “Motorsport as it used to be”, a field of 230 sports/racing cars built before 31 December 1972 and the stunning setting of the Austrian Alps. Mercedes-Benz Classic is proud of its contribution to this exceptional event which it has partnered for many years now.

Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicles at Ennstal Classic 2012

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194), 1952

With the Second World War over, Mercedes-Benz returned to international motorsport with the 300 SL racing sports car (model series W 194) in 1952. The car was based on an extremely light, yet extremely torsionally stiff space frame covered by elegantly styled light-alloy bodywork made from sheet aluminium/magnesium. As the space frame required comparatively high sides for reasons of rigidity, the W 194 could not be fitted with conventional doors; as a result, the racing sports car came to be equipped with its distinctive upwardly opening doors. This detail was adopted in the series-production 300 SL (W 198) sports car of 1954, which soon earned the nickname “Gullwing” in English-speaking countries.

The W 194 was powered by the 170 hp (125 kW) M 194 six-cylinder in-line engine with a displacement of 2996 cc. The 300 SL made its racing debut in May 1952 at the Mille Miglia, having been unveiled for the first time that March. The greatest successes of the W 194 during its first and only racing season included a threefold victory in the Prix de Berne race, spectacular double victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours and the 3rd Carrera Panamericana in Mexico as well as victory in the “Nürburgring Anniversary Sports Car Grand Prix”.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (W 196 S), 1955

Mercedes-Benz won the 1955 World Sports Car Championship with the 300 SLR. This sports car was effectively a W 196 Formula 1 racing car equipped with a two-seater sports car body and a three-litre, eight-cylinder in-line engine made of light alloy in place of the 2.5-litre Formula 1 engine with its steel cylinders.

Developing 310 hp (221 kW), the 300 SLR was far superior to its competitors of 1955, as reflected by its one-two wins in the Mille Miglia, the Eifel race at the Nürburgring, the Swedish Grand Prix and the Targa Florio. The 1955 Mille Miglia was won by Stirling Moss assisted by navigator Denis Jenkinson (starting number 722) at an average speed of 157.65 kph, a record that still stands today. Pace notes proved invaluable in achieving this victory and at the time were a new technique allowing Jenkinson to direct the driver Moss across Italy very effectively. Juan Manuel Fangio (starting number 658) came second driving solo.

In Sweden and at the Le Mans 24 Hours, the 300 SLRs were assisted by an “air brake” – a 0.7-square metre hood over the rear axle that could be hinged up when braking to increase braking performance, especially at the rear axle. At Le Mans Mercedes-Benz withdrew the 300 SLRs, which were in the lead, after an accident involving the Belgian Pierre Levegh through no fault of his own.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SLS (W 198), 1957

In 1957, Mercedes-Benz developed the 300 SLS, a special version of the 300 SL Roadster (W 198), for the US National Sports Car Championship . Two models of the sports car were built for races in the US as the Sports Car Club of America refused to authorise use of the regular production version in the “Standard Production” category for the 1957 season. Mercedes-Benz therefore developed the production roadster as a competition vehicle for the Class D category.

The 300 SLS that was developed weighed just 970 kilograms (series-production version: 1,330 kilograms) while the engine output of 235 hp (173 kW) represented an increase of 20 hp (15 kW) compared with the roadster. Externally, the 300 SLS could be distinguished by the absence of bumpers, by its specially-shaped cockpit cover with air intake slot, the low racing windscreen and the roll-over bar behind the driver’s seat.

Paul O’Shea drove a 300 SLS to victory in Class “D” of the North American Sports Car Championship, far ahead of its competitors.

Mercedes-Benz 280 SL (W 113, 1968 to 1971)

The 280 SL, the third and last variant of the W 113 SL model series, was presented in spring 1968. The W 113 model series had succeeded the two predecessor models, the 190 SL (W 121) and the 300 SL (W 198) in 1963. While the new 230 SL shared the same 2,400 millimetre wheelbase as its predecessors, it also pointed the way to the future with features such as a safety body and (as an option) an automatic transmission. The concave form of the hardtop earned the roadster the affectionate nickname “Pagoda” as its look recalled Far Eastern temple architecture.

Neither a tame boulevard cruiser nor set up for an uncompromisingly hard ride, the new W 113 SL struck a fine balance which made it a great success. The new series demonstrated its sporting potential with its very first model when Eugen Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser won the Liège–Sofia–Liège marathon rally in a near-series Mercedes-Benz 230 SL in 1963.

The 280 SL version of the W 113 model series premiered in 1968 and was built until 1971. It was equipped with the 2.8-litre M 130 engine which developed 170 hp (125 kW) and could take the car to a top speed of 200 kph. Thanks to a camshaft with changed valve timing, the variant of the engine used in the 280 SL developed 10 hp (7 kW) more than the base version of the 280 SE of the W 108 model series. Compared with the 250 SL of the W 113 model series, output and torque increased by 20 hp (14 kW) and 10 per cent respectively.
Mercedes-Benz Classic drivers at the Ennstal Classic 2012

Hans Herrmann
Born: 23 February 1928 in Stuttgart

After his motorsport debut, Mercedes-Benz racing manager Alfred Neubauer brought 25-year-old Hans Herrmann to the works team of Daimler-Benz AG at the start of the 1954 season. Herrmann finished in third place in the Swiss Grand Prix on 22 August 1954. Driving three W 196 Streamline racing cars, the Mercedes drivers finished the Avus race in Berlin on 19 September 1954 with a triple victory in the order Karl Kling, Juan Manuel Fangio, Hans Herrmann.

During the 1955 racing season, Herrmann competed in a total of eight sports car races and ten Formula 1 races. In the Monaco Grand Prix he sat in for Kling and suffered serious injuries in an accident. Despite a full recovery he did not race for Mercedes-Benz again because the company withdrew from motorsport in October 1955. This marked the end of Herrmann’s engagement for Mercedes-Benz .

In the following years he returned to racing car and sports car competitions. After racing in Formula 2 and Formula 1 he retired from racing in 1970 with a victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours driving a Porsche. Herrmann continues to drive for Mercedes-Benz in classic motoring events to this day.

Jochen Mass
Born: 30 September 1946 in Dorfen (near Wolfratshausen)

Jochen Mass, originally a trained seaman, began his richly varied motorsport career in 1968 racing touring cars for Alfa-Romeo and as a works team driver for Ford between 1970 and 1975. During this time, he won the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (1972). At the same time, he drove in Formula 2 (1973) and in 105 Formula 1 Grands Prix (1973/74 for Surtees; 1975-1977 for McLaren; 1978 for ATS; 1979/80 for Arrows; 1982 for March) .

With the 1985 German Sports Car Championship title and a stint as works driver at Porsche until 1987 under his belt, he was recruited for the Sauber-Mercedes team, also as a works driver. He drove in Group C for this team until 1991. In the new Silver Arrow, the Sauber-Mercedes C 9, Jochen Mass won the Le Mans 24 Hours together with Manuel Reuter and Stanley Dickens and finished runner-up in the 1989 World Championship. Three years later, Mass became involved in team management for the German Touring Car Championship.

Sir Stirling Moss described him as “a highly skilled driver with an incredible feel for race cars and in-depth knowledge of motorsport of all ages”. Jochen Mass still drives for Mercedes-Benz at classic racing events including the ADAC Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring. Whether in a Silver Arrow W 165 or a Mercedes-Benz SSK, Jochen Mass knows and drives them all.

Credits: Daimler AG

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