by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing car: 60-year anniversary of the fourfold victory at the “Great Jubilee Prize” at Nürburgring

The 1952 racing season was in full swing and the 300 SL racing car had already shown its qualities on many an occasion. In Bern and Le Mans, the Mercedes-Benz drivers celebrated important successes with their threefold and double victories. The “Nürburgring Great Jubilee Prize for racing cars” held at the beginning of August as part of the general programme of the German Grand Prix offered two innovations. On the one hand, the specifically developed sports car class for up to 8000 cc displacement allowed for two 169 kW (230 hp) Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 194) racing cars with compressor engines to start the race. On the other hand, only open-topped vehicles were allowed to compete in the Eifel race, which thus led Mercedes-Benz to bring a Roadster version of the 300 SL racing car to the Nürburgring. The car was a true people magnet and it was to be the only racing appearance of the model in Germany. Three of the four Roadsters were created on the basis of already existing Coupés (chassis numbers 0006, 0007, and 0009). The part of the gullwing doors which reached into the side flanks thus became an entry hatch. The Roadsters were 100 kilograms lighter than the Coupés.

The vehicle with the chassis number 0010 was built completely from scratch and differs from the other three Roadsters in its slightly altered dimensions. The wheelbase was shortened from 2400 to 2200 millimetres and the track widths were also smaller than on the other vehicles. The thinner radiator grille, intended to improve the air flow around the vehicle, also allows for easy recognition of the freshly developed Roadster.

After the start, the spectators witnessed an enthralling battle, which nobody had really anticipated. During the first lap, the French racing driver Robert Manzon driving a 2.3-litre Gordini had already flown past Theo Helfrich and Fritz Rieß in their 300 SL racing cars. After passing Hermann Lang during the second lap, Manzon set his sights on Karl Kling in pole position. He managed to reduce his time difference from 20 to 7 seconds, but then succumbed to a striking transmission. Instead of a boring “Sunday procession”, the four remaining 300 SL models offered pure excitement: Hermann Lang recalled his old skills and closed the gap between him and his team mate Kling who was leading the pack. In his race to catch up, Lang achieved an average speed of 131.5 km/h, making it the fastest lap of any sports car on the day and even managed to overtake Kling. With his pole position at Nürburgring, Lang had driven his last victory in his racing career. Kling, despite a few technical problems, came in second, while Rieß and Helfrich rounded off the winning quartet with positions three and four respectively.

Credits: Daimler AG

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