From the first ever car competition in 1894 to the latest involvement in motorsport: the motorsport activities of Mercedes-Benz and its predecessor brands tell a success story that has its roots in the early days of the automobile. Since the 19th century the racing and rally cars have always been right at the front when it comes to sporting competition. Their successes exemplify innovative technology, the will to win of the drivers and efficient teamwork.
Outstanding moments in racing history of the brand include the participation in the world’s first car competition in 1894, the first win of a Mercedes at the Nice Week in 1901, the triple-win of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft at the Grand Prix of Lyon in 1914, the period of compressor cars after 1922 and, above all, the era of the Silver Arrows before and after the Second World War as well as at rallies and record drives in the period after that. Current successes such as the 2018 Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championship in Formula 1 or the 2018 Drivers’, Team and Constructors’ Championship in the DTM as well as customer sport build on this.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.