Mercedes-Benz Classic Motorsport

  • 27 to 31 August 1963: Eugen Böhringer wins the Spa-Sofia-Liège Rally (60 years)
  • 17 September 1903: Semmering victory with Simplex 60 hp (120 years)
  • 25 October 1998: Klaus Ludwig / Ricardo Zonta win FIA GT Championship (25 years)
  • 1 November 1998: Mika Häkkinen Formula One World Champion with McLaren-Mercedes (25 years)
  • 22 December 1913: World records at Brooklands with Benz 200 hp racing car (110 years)
  • Birthdays: Jean-Louis Schlesser, Mika Häkkinen, Peter Sauber, Camille Jenatzy, Keke Rosberg and Karl Wendlinger

Mercedes-Benz, the world’s oldest vehicle manufacturer, has been involved in motorsport for almost 130 years. The commitments in the sign of the three-pointed star range from Formula One to rallyes. This chapter in the company’s history is correspondingly diverse. Here is a brief summary of some of the important anniversaries and milestones from motorsport history.

27 to 31 August 1963 – 60 years ago

Eugen Böhringer wins the cross-country Spa-Sofia-Liège Rally

  • Major success for the new Mercedes-Benz 230 SL “Pagoda”
  • 90 hours’ driving time almost without breaks
  • “You just have to put your foot down and not brake too much.”

This rally is unimaginable today: in the Spa-Sofia-Liège Rally of 1963, the driver and co-driver covered 5,500 kilometres on public roads in 90 hours. From Belgium to Bulgaria and back, the route led over the often unpaved roads of the Alps and the Karst through Germany, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia and Romania. That was the point for the only break in the roadbook – for 60 minutes the engines fell silent. Eugen Böhringer (1922 to 2013) was one of the favourites in August 1963; after all, he had already won in 1962 together with Hermann Eger in a Mercedes-Benz 220 SE (W 111). In 1963, the all-new 230 SL (W 113) came into use. Böhringer’s “Pagoda” – so called because of the inwardly curved hardtop – had been modified for rally use. The work encompassed larger fuel tanks, a strengthened chassis and a modified engine with around 125 kW (170 hp) of power instead of the standard 110 kW (150 hp). Böhringer started in Spa and played to the strengths of the new sports car as he exploited his driving skills, true to his motto: “You just have to put your foot down and not brake too much.” It was a style that enabled him and his co-driver Klaus Kaiser to win the overall classification in 1963. The failure rate shows how tough the rally is: out of 129 starters, only 20 teams reached the finish line. A third victory in a row was even within the realms of possibility for Böhringer in 1964, when he finished third with Klaus Kaiser. Just a little too much time was lost for victory, due to a defective alternator and two punctures. The “Marathon de la Route” was held as a long-distance rally from 1931 to 1964. As a continuation, races were held at the Nürburgring until 1971, over 82 to 96 hours. But by then Böhringer had already come to the end of his career.

17 September 1903 – 120 years ago

A Mercedes-Simplex 60 hp wins the Semmering race

  • The car marks a departure from the carriage style of vehicle prevalent at the time
  • The Semmering race in 1899 heralds the birth of motorsport in Austria
  • Hermann Braun victorious four times in this mountain race

Around 1900, motorsport events became increasingly popular and more and more countries began to organise races. Austria joined this circle in 1899 with the Semmering hill climb, an event significantly promoted by the Jellinek family. In 1900, Emil Jellinek gave Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach the impetus to develop the car as we know it today, and paved the way for the Mercedes brand. On the Semmering, the technical progress of the car was to be demonstrated to high society. The mountain race leads from Schottwien (Lower Austria) over ten kilometres to the 984-metre-high Semmering pass. The average gradient was ten per cent, and the vehicles had to master nine curves. Between 1899 and 1933, this mountain race was watched by up to 60,000 spectators. Hermann Braun won the fifth edition of the race on 17 September 1903 with a Mercedes-Simplex 60 hp Gordon Bennett racing car. Born in Cannstatt in 1874, he initially worked as a technician at Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG). From 1898 on, car enthusiasts such as Emil Jellinek employed him as a driver. In his first victory 120 years ago at Semmering, he needed 8:47.6 minutes, an average of 68.3 km/h. By his fourth consecutive victory in 1906, he had lowered this figure to 7:47.0 minutes (80.5 km/h) with the Mercedes 120 hp. By comparison, Rudolf Caracciola won in 1928 with a Mercedes-Benz SSK in 6:40.29 minutes. Here, the average was already 90 km/h. With the Mercedes-Simplex, the car finally took its leave of the carriage form in the early 1900s. Characteristic features included the elongated shape, the lightweight high-performance engine built deep into the frame and the honeycomb radiator organically integrated into the front, which was to become the brand’s defining distinguishing feature.

25 October 1998 – 25 years

Ludwig and Zonta become FIA GT Champions with Mercedes-Benz CLK-LM

  • The decision falls in the last race of the season
  • Team AMG Mercedes wins ten out of ten rounds
  • The former AMG Mercedes DTM team develops the highly reliable super sports cars built on the basis of limited-series production cars.

The drivers’ title in the FIA GT Championship would be decided in the final race of the season at Laguna Seca. In this final, Klaus Ludwig and Ricardo Zonta beat their teammates Bernd Schneider and Marc Webber in the Mercedes-Benz CLK-LM (C 298). They were tied, with five wins each, but Ludwig and Zonta were ahead on points and so became the champions of a strong GT series. The decision in the brand ranking had long since been taken: ten victories in ten races on international race tracks made AMG Mercedes the title winner ahead of Porsche. The team from Affalterbach had entered this still young series in 1997. After the sudden end of the DTM/ITC at the end of the 1996 season, AMG technical director Gerhard Ungar and the DTM technical team developed the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR (C 297) with a twelve-cylinder engine. At the end of the year, Bernd Schneider won the drivers’ championship, AMG Mercedes the team championship. In 1998, at the second round in Silverstone, the CLK-GTR was replaced by the CLK-LM, which was powered by a 5-litre V8 engine with around 441 kW (600 hp). This race car remained undefeated throughout the entire FIA GT season. Today’s Mercedes-Benz Classic Brand Ambassador Klaus Ludwig won the DTM three times and the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times over the course of his career. Ricardo Zonta raced in Formula One from 1999 to 2005.

1 November 1998 – 25 years ago

Mika Häkkinen becomes Formula One World Champion with the Silver Arrow

  • Successful partnership between Mercedes-Benz and McLaren
  • Thrilling finale in Suzuka
  • Second title in a row for Häkkinen and McLaren-Mercedes in the 1999 season

The Formula One season finale at the Japanese Grand Prix on 1 November 1998 was to prove extremely exciting. Both Mika Häkkinen in the McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13 and Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari had a good chance of winning the title. Due to a stalled engine, the German had to fight from the rear of the field, while Häkkinen led. After many overtaking manoeuvres and the fastest race lap, a puncture knocked Schumacher out of the race. Although there were still 20 of 51 laps to go, the title had already been secured by the Finn. This was the first outstanding success for the partnership that had been established in 1995 between the German engine manufacturer and the tradition-steeped British racing team. From the 1997 season, McLaren-Mercedes started as Silver Arrows, with David Coulthard promptly winning the first race, the Australian Grand Prix on 9 March 1997 in Melbourne, in the new colour scheme. In 1999, Mika Häkkinen celebrated his second title with the McLaren-Mercedes team, and in 2008 Lewis Hamilton took first place in the highest of all motorsport classes. The successful partnership between Mercedes-Benz and McLaren came to an end in 2010, when Mercedes GP took to the start as the vehicle manufacturer’s own Formula One team. In the 2023 season, Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains supplies the drive unit, consisting of drivetrain and electric machines, to Team McLaren and also to Williams and Aston Martin.

22 December 1913 – 110 years ago

World records with the Benz 200 hp at Brooklands

  • A highlight in the record history of the Benz 200 hp
  • World records with up to 118.8 km/h average speed
  • The third of a total of six vehicles of the model built

On 22 December 1913, the British winter weather was kind to us and it remained dry at Brooklands. This circuit southwest of London was ideal for record-breaking races: the oval had a total length of 5.2 kilometres (3.25 miles) and two banked curves connected by straights. On this 22 December 1913, British racing driver Lydston Granville Hornsted, better known by his initials, L. G., or his nickname “Cupid”, set two new world records with a Benz 200 hp: Hornsted’s average speeds were 113.8 km/h for the half-mile (804.67 metres) and 118.8 km/h for a kilometre, both from a standing start. Both world records document the immense acceleration capacity of the Benz 200 hp racing car, which became known as the “Blitzen-Benz” (Lightning Benz) in the USA between 1910 and 1913. Hornsted’s record-breaking car was the third of a total of six Benz 200 hp cars built from 1909 onwards. The English racing driver was already working as a representative for Benz & Cie. in Great Britain at this time. Compared to the original version, the car received a modified radiator grille, an attachable wind deflector and technical modifications. According to legend, the huge exhaust of the 21.5-litre four-cylinder engine was extended to the rear of the vehicle by the addition of a stovepipe. In 1914 Hornsted achieved seven more records with this car. In the same year, the record car returned to Benz & Cie. After the end of the war, the chassis of the Hornsted car was given a new body painted in classic white. The car entered the opening race of the Avus in Berlin in 1921 and the kilometre race in Scheveningen (Netherlands) in 1922.


  • 75 years ago – Jean-Louis Schlesser, born 12 September 1948. He became World Sportscar Champion with Sauber-Mercedes in 1989 and 1990.
  • 55 years ago – Mika Häkkinen, born 28 September 1968. He won the Formula One World Championship with McLaren-Mercedes in 1998 and 1999.
  • 80 years ago – Peter Sauber, born 13 October 1943. He was team manager of Sauber-Mercedes from 1988 to 1991.
  • 155 years ago – Camille Jenatzy, born 4 November 1868. The racing driver won the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1903 with Mercedes. He died on 7 December 1913.
  • 75 years ago – Keke Rosberg, born 6 December 1948. The 1982 Formula One World Champion drove for the AMG-Mercedes team in the DTM from 1992 to 1993.
  • 55 years ago – Karl Wendlinger, born 20 December 1968. The Mercedes-Benz Junior from 1990 to 1991 raced in Formula One, the World Sportscar Championship and the DTM. Since 2012, he has been a Mercedes-AMG Brand Ambassador and an instructor at the AMG Driving Academy.