Highlights from 125 years of motorsport at Mercedes-Benz

Big Bang: In 1894, the first car competition in history takes place in France, from Paris to Rouen. Two vehicles share first place – both have licence-built Daimler engines. And so the 125-year history of motorsport at Mercedes-Benz begins.

The era of Mércèdes: In 1901, Emil Jellinek dominates at the Nice Week with the Mercedes 35 PS. The vehicle is a milestone in innovative history and is considered as the first modern car. It characterises automotive development and serves as an example for the entire industry.

Publisher, artist and prince: The most important founders of car competitions at the start of the 20th century include publisher James Gordon-Bennett, painter Hubert von Herkomer and Prince Henry of Prussia. Racing driver Camille Jenatzy wins the fourth Gordon Bennett race (1903) with the Mercedes 60 PS, Fritz Erle wins the third Herkomer Race (1907) and the first Prinz-Heinrich-Fahrt (1908) with a Benz.

Home and hosed: The 1908 French Grand Prix is won by a Mercedes 140 PS in front of two racing cars by Benz. Winner Christian Lautenschlager has to undertake a total of 22 tyre changes during the race on the strenuous circuit.

Lightning-fast: The Benz 200 PS record car from 1909 becomes a world star. In 1909, it is the first land vehivle in Europe to break the magical speed marker of 200 km/h and breaks numerous speed records in the following years.

Triple: In 1914, the Mercedes team attains a triple win at the French Grand Prix with its new Grand Prix racing cars, which are painted white – the colour of German racing cars since the Gordon Bennett race.

Mercedes sees red: The Targa Florio, a strenuous road race in Sicily, is won by Mercedes with a vehicle painted red. The purpose of the unusual colour: The Italian fans are unable to tell from a distance that a German racing car is approaching – usually painted in white – as it is not uncommon for unpopular competitors to have stones thrown at them.

At high pressure: At the end of the 1920s and start of the 1930s, the Mercedes-Benz supercharged sports cars of the S-Series set standards in European racing. The high-performance cars of the S, SS and SSK models are also available as production vehicles for private drivers with sporty ambitions.

Silver Arrow: The legend of the “Silver Arrow” begins with the Mercedes-Benz W 25 Grand Prix racing car. This is the name of the racing cars of the brand from Stuttgart, which dominate European racing from 1934. The W 25 is followed by the W 125 (1937), the W 154 (1938 and 1939) and the 1.5-litre “Voiturette” racing car W 165 (1939).

World record: Alongside the race wins, Mercedes-Benz also inspires with numerous speed records. In January 1938, Rudolf Caracciola sets the world speed record on a public road with the twelve-cylinder record car based on the W 125: he reaches 432.7 km/h over the kilometre with a flying start. A record that stood for almost 80 years.

Record giant: The most ambitious Mercedes-Benz record car of the 1930s is the T 80. The three-axle, 8.24 metre vehicle is powered by an up to 2,574 kW (3,500 hp) aircraft engine. But the T 80 is never used. Its original chassis is presented by Mercedes-Benz Classic in 2018 as a spectacular showpiece.

Gullwing door debut: After the Second World War, Mercedes-Benz re-enters motorsport in the 1952 season with the 300 SL racing car (W 194). The immediately successful competition vehicle forms the basis for the legendary 300 SL production sports car (W 198).

Most successful season: Mercedes-Benz ends the 1955 season with a double triumph: in Formula 1, Juan Manuel Fangio wins the second World Championship in a row in the W 196 R. And with the 300 SLR racing car (W 196 S), the brand from Stuttgart wins the World Sportscar Championship. The all-time summit is achieved when Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson win the Mille Miglia in the best time ever attained in the legendary road race. A modern echo of this most successful season in the history of motorsport is the Mercedes-AMG double championship in Formula 1 and DTM in 2018.

Blue Wonder: Alongside the Mercedes-Benz racing car stars of the 1950s themselves, there is also a racing car high-speed transporter. The vehicle is created as a one-off with parts for the Mercedes-Benz models 300 S (X-tubular frame), 300 SL (engine) and 180 (doors). There are also many individually created components.

Long-distance athlete: After the end of the 1955 season, Mercedes-Benz, at the height of its success, withdraws from Formula 1 and from sports car racing. The brand instead concentrates on production vehicle development. Rally sport is one of the areas to benefit from this, in which, in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, near-production Mercedes-Benz vehicles are very successful. There are further rally successes in the late 1970s and early 1980s for the SLC Coupés (C 107) and the G-model (overall victory at the 1983 Paris-Dakar Rally).

A passion for performance: In 1967, Hans-Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher founded the AMG engineering office. Starting with the small operation that prepares or optimises Mercedes-Benz production vehicles for racing results in today’s sports car and performance brand Mercedes-AMG.

Record icons: The C 111, a futuristic study for a super sports car with a Wankel engine presented in 1969, results in a whole family of record vehicles. From 1976 to 1979, they set countless speed records with diesel and petrol engines with speeds of up to 403.978 km/h (C 111-IV).

Return to the circuit: Mercedes-Benz re-enters international racing in Group C, first as an engine supplier for the Sauber racing team in 1985 and then as an official Sauber-Mercedes works team from 1988. A further golden age is the era of the FIA-GT Championship with wins in 1997 and 1998.

Champion generator: The innovative compact class (W 201), a predecessor of today’s C-Class, becomes the basis of the DTM successes of Mercedes-Benz. From 1986 on, initially private drivers take part in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (German Touring Car Championship or DTM) with the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16. The 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution (1989) and Evolution II (1990) DTM racing cars are legendary. Mercedes-Benz wins the DTM Manufacturers’ Championship in 1991, 1992, 1994 and 1995. Klaus Ludwig (1992 and 1994) and Bernd Schneider (1995) are DTM champions in this time whilst driving Mercedes-Benz.

The second DTM: After the end of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft and the International Touring Car Championship in 1996, from 2000 Mercedes-Benz takes part in the successor racing series Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (German Touring Car Masters or DTM). Until the triumphant final season of 2018 (winning the Drivers’, Team and Manufacturers’ Championship), Mercedes-Benz provides the DTM champion eight times and wins the Manufacturers’ Championship ten times.

The customer is racing king: Since 2010, Mercedes-Benz has offered customer sport racing cars based on the Mercedes-AMG high-performance sports car. After the successful premiere with the SLS AMG GT3, currently the Mercedes-AMG GT3 (2016) and Mercedes-AMG GT4 (2017) models based on the Mercedes-AMG GT (combined fuel consumption: 12.5–11.4 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 284–261 g/km*) are in use.

Silver Arrow renaissance: Mercedes-Benz has been involved in Formula 1 again since the 1994 season. Initially, the Sauber team is the partner in the premier class of racing and from the 1995 season, it is McLaren. In 2010, however, its own works team starts again for the first time. The new Silver Arrows of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport are as successful today as their legendary predecessors were in the 1930s and 1950s: from 2014 to 2018, the team has won five Drivers’ World Championships and five Constructors’ World Championships in a row. Lewis Hamilton has been a part of the team since 2013. During this period, he wins 52 Grand Prixes and is World Champion in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018. In 2016, Nico Rosberg wins the title. 

High-voltage racing: In the anniversary year of 125 years of Mercedes-Benz motorsport, the brand from Stuttgart is opening a new future chapter of racing. From the 2019/20 season, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport will be taking part in Formula E, the racing series for battery-powered racing cars, as the Mercedes EQ Formula E team.

Experiencing history: Mercedes-Benz Classic regularly sends racing vehicles from the company’s own collection to international events. And, in the steep curve of the exhibition area Legend 7: Silver Arrows – Races and Records, the Mercedes-Benz Museum lets many highlights of 125 years of motorsport come to life.