Motorsport history by Mercedes-Benz - Newsletter 4/2020

Aug 20, 2020
  • 30 years ago Sauber-Mercedes won both the drivers’ and team championship of the 1990 World Sportscar Championship with the C 11. Emerging young drivers Michael Schumacher, Karl Wendlinger and Heinz-Harald Frentzen began their international careers in Group C
  • 70th birthday of Mercedes-Benz works driver Roland Asch on 12 October 2020
  • Silver Arrows driver Manfred von Brauchitsch was born 125 years ago

Stuttgart. After the impressive anniversary celebrating 125 years of Motorsport at Mercedes-Benz last year, the brand continues to celebrate further outstanding racing moments from its history in 2020. The highlights include the triumph of Sauber-Mercedes in the World Sportscar Championship 30 years ago. Mercedes-Benz Classic also congratulates Brand Ambassador Roland Asch, one of the most popular racing drivers in German motorsport, on his 70th birthday in October 2020. Finally, the brand remembers Manfred von Brauchitsch: the racing driver of the first Silver Arrows era was born 125 years ago.

30 years ago: Double world championship with the Mercedes-Benz C 11

Successful across the board: In 1990 the Sauber-Mercedes team won in eight out of nine races of the World Sportscar Championship in Group C. Jean-Louis Schlesser and Mauro Baldi won the drivers’ championship in the Mercedes-Benz Group C 11 sports car and became world champions. As in the previous year, Jochen Mass was runner-up. Sauber-Mercedes defended its title in the teams’ championship.

Return of the Silver Arrows: As they had already done in the first championship year with the Sauber-Mercedes C 9 in 1989 the German-Swiss team entered with a racing car painted silver. This return of the Silver Arrows to the circuit was down to the impetus of Professor Werner Niefer, who was the chairman of what was then Mercedes-Benz AG and deputy chairman of Daimler-Benz AG. It was on his initiative that the original dark blue racing cars were painted silver – just like their successful predecessors that had written racing history up until 1955.

Innovative technology: The C 11 is the logical progression of the successful C 9, which won the legendary 24-hour race in Le Mans in 1989. The Silver Arrow was also built at Sauber in Hinwil (Switzerland) under the management of head designer Leo Ress. It was the first time a carbon fibre chassis was used, which contributed towards the minimal kerb weight of 870 kilograms and also offered a high level of rigidity. The Mercedes-Benz engineers around Dr Hermann Hiereth optimised the Mercedes-Benz M 119 engine. The V8 turbo engine with four-valve-per-cylinder design had 4973 cubic centimetres of displacement and during the qualifying tuning generated up to 680 kW (924 hp) in the racing car. In normal racing conditions and with continuous stress it was 537 kW (730 hp). The drivers were inspired – they praised the drivability of the deep-rumbling eight-cylinder engine and the well-tempered handling of the C 11.

The Mercedes kids: For the 1990 World Sportscar Championship, Mercedes-Benz race director Jochen Neerpasch wanted the experienced drivers Jean-Louis Schlesser, Mauro Baldi and Jochen Mass to be accompanied by highly promising young drivers. The top three of the German Formula 3 Championship were chosen: Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Michael Schumacher and Karl Wendlinger. The youngsters were already impressing at the first test drives in Le Castellet at the end of 1989. Peter Sauber summed it up: “Frentzen was the fastest, Schumacher was hardly any slower, drove very consistently and was very interested in the technology even then. Wendlinger was the most cautious and really didn’t want to break anything.”

Successful races: In the 1990 seasons the three junior drivers started as partners with Jochen Mass. The pairings of Mass / Wendlinger and Mass / Schumacher each won a world championship race. All three young drivers had great careers ahead of them. Michael Schumacher won the Formula 1 World Championship seven times. Heinz-Harald Frentzen won three Grand Prix races and was the Formula 1 World Championship runner-up in 1997. Karl Wendlinger had his Formula 1 debut in 1993 with Sauber in Kyalami and today is an AMG Brand Ambassador and instructor at the AMG Driving Academy.

70th birthday of Roland Asch

Once a racing driver, always a racing driver: Roland Asch was also a success with the Star. On 12 October 2020 he will celebrate his 70th birthday. The “Schwabenpfeil” (Swabian Arrow), as his fans liked to call him, never officially ended his career as a racing driver. Together with his son, Sebastian, he even took part in the 2018 24-hour race in Dubai and only narrowly missed out on a class victory with a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT4.

DTM legend: “My best year in racing was 1988. We achieved a lot with only a little money: runners-up in the DTM!” says Roland Asch, enthused to this day. The Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 for that season was bought by the owner of a Ford dealership in Ammerbuch-Altingen near Tübingen, financed from their own resources. Friends supported him at the racetrack, and on some days after work the Mercedes-Benz engineers worked on preparations for the “16-valver”.

Test driver for Mercedes-Benz: Gerhard Lepler, head of internal development of racing touring cars, signed the highly promising racing driver Roland Asch as a test driver. Important experiences were gained, particularly at the racetrack in Rijeka (Yugoslavia), from which Asch also benefited for the use of his own DTM touring car. In 1988, with 242 points, he was runner-up behind Klaus Ludwig (Ford Sierra RS 500 Cosworth, 258 points) and won the championship title in the Porsche 944 Turbo Cup.

Works driver in the DTM: For the 1989 to 1994 seasons Roland Asch was the DTM works driver of Mercedes-Benz. In the Mass-Schons team he won the first race of a Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution I in Mainz-Finthen. In 1990 he switched to the team of Dany Snobeck, which lead the way for Mercedes-Benz in touring car racing in the mid 1980s by taking part in the French production car championship. In 1991 and 1992 Asch competed for the Zakspeed team. He took part in the season finale in Kyalami, South Africa, with a 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II works racing car with a “camel” paint finish. This was made special by the fact that, for the first time, a racing car had an anti-lock braking system (ABS) developed especially for racing. Asch won one of the two races with this vehicle as well as the overall ranking. In 1993 and 1994 Roland Asch became team colleague of Bernd Schneider in the AMG team. In both years he finished ahead of the later record DTM champion. In 1993, in the final year of the 201 model series in the DTM as a 190 E class 1, Asch finished as runner-up for the second time behind Nicola Larini (Alfa Romeo).

Brand Ambassador: For many years, father of three Roland Asch has been a Brand Ambassador. “When Mercedes-Benz Classic calls me up and asks that I test an old racing car, I’m right there,” says Asch. He drives a broad range of racing cars from the Sauber-Mercedes in Group C to the Silver Arrows of the 1930s and takes part in events such as the 1000 Miglia and the Goodwood Festival of Speed. And, of course, he is always happy to sit behind the wheel in a Mercedes-Benz racing touring car from his DTM era. “I have always felt particularly happy in the ‘16-valver’,” he says. Logically, his private collection of classic cars also includes a Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II from the homologation production of just 502 vehicles.

Manfred von Brauchitsch was born 125 years ago

Breakthrough with the SSKL: On 15 August 1905 Manfred von Brauchitsch, later to become a racing driver, was born in Hamburg. Initially he wanted to become an officer, but after a serious motorbike accident he was discharged as unfit for service by the army in 1927. In 1929 he began motor racing. His breakthrough followed in 1932 when with the Mercedes-Benz SSKL, featuring a pioneering streamlined body, he won the international Avus race in Berlin and even beat the great Rudolf Caracciola. This spectacular success provided the nobleman with a contract as a Mercedes-Benz works driver for the 1934 season.

Silver Arrow: In 2019, in the “125 years of Motorsport” anniversary year, Mercedes-Benz Classic rebuilt the SSKL streamlined racing car and assembled it with great authenticity to ensure it could be experienced – also on the track. Body, chassis and engine were produced as close to the original as possible in the complex project.

Master of many hundreds of horsepower: Manfred von Brauchitsch won many major races. In 1934 he won the international Eifelrennen race at Nürburgring on the race debut of the Mercedes-Benz W 25 and was victorious in both the 1937 Monaco (W 125) and 1938 French (W 154) Grands Prix. His driving style was spectacular, paying little attention to the state of the vehicle. Tyre damage and even accidents led to many failures or defeats. He was dogged by an image of notorious bad luck. Decades later the racing driver explained his motivation: “Of course it is nice to win. But it is glorious to sit in such a racing car, to command this complex machine and to be master of many hundreds of horsepower.”

Bon vivant: After the Second World War Manfred von Brauchitsch tried to make a comeback in motorsport, but he failed. In 1954, with the emphatic support of the government of the GDR, he emigrated to East Berlin where he found new popularity as a highly regarded peace activist and sports official. When it came to his somewhat unconventional life, he described himself as a “bon vivant”. His contact to Mercedes-Benz never fully broke off: for instance, in 1974 he was invited to attend the French Grand Prix as a guest, driving a demonstration lap at 280 km/h in the Mercedes-Benz W 154 dating back to 1939. In 1995, Manfred von Brauchitsch celebrated his 90th birthday at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. He died at the age of 97 on 5 February 2003 in Gräfenwart, Schleiz.

French Grand Prix, July 3, 1938: Triple victory for the Mercedes-Benz W 154 racing cars (Manfred von Brauchitsch – Rudolf Caracciola – Hermann Lang).
Monaco Grand Prix, August 8, 1937: Winner Manfred von Brauchitsch and runner-up Rudolf Caracciola in the Loews corner, both of them driving Mercedes-Benz W 125 formula racing cars.
On 22 May 1932, Manfred von Brauchitsch won the Avus race decisively in Berlin in the aerodynamically optimised Mercedes-Benz SSKL. In doing so, he set a class world record with an average speed of 194,4 km/h over a distance of 200 kilometres.
480 km at Monza, April 29, 1990. Mauro Baldi (starting number 1) leads with a Mercedes-Benz group C racing sports car C11. The team Baldi/Schlesser win the race.
ADAC Avus Race in Berlin, 12 September 1993. Winner (1. and 2. Run) Roland Asch (number 12) with his AMG Mercedes race-touring car 190 E-class 1.
Mercedes-Benz racing driver Manfred von Brauchitsch (left) talking to his teammate Luigi Fagioli at the international Eifelrennen race at Nürburgring on 3 June 1934. Von Brauchitsch won the race in a Mercedes-Benz W 25 750-kilogram formula racing car.
DTM at the Hockenheimring, 15 October 1988. Honouring Roland Asch, who took 2nd place in the race and the overall DTM ranking in 1988.
Mainz-Finthen airfield race (1st heat), 14 May 1989. Roland Asch wins in a Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution racing tourer.
Mercedes-Benz SSK 27/170/225 PS (series W 06, 1928 to 1930). ADAC Eifelrennen 2011, “Elefantenrennen” on 11 September 2011. Winner-to-be Roland Asch is behind the wheel.
The winners of the ADAC GT Masters 2015 in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, Sebastian Asch and Luca Ludwig, with their fathers. Photo at the Hockenheimring on 4 October 2015. Left to right: Roland Asch, Sebastian Asch, Luca Ludwig, Klaus Ludwig.
Motorsport festival at Hockenheimring, 24 April 1994. Roland Asch (starting number 3) with the AMG Mercedes C-Class racing touring car (W 202), 1994.
German Touring Car Championship (DTM) invitation race in Kyalami, South Africa, 18 November 1990. Roland Asch wins the general classification in a Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II racing tourer. It is the first racing car to feature an anti-lock braking system (ABS) developed specifically to meet motorsport requirements.
Manfred von Brauchitsch in a Mercedes-Benz W 154 3-litre formula racing car. The photograph was taken on the occasion of his 85th birthday in 1990.
Mercedes-Benz racing driver Manfred von Brauchitsch, portrait from the 1930s.
Racing driver Manfred von Brauchitsch after his victory at the International Avus race in Berlin on 22 May 1932 in a Mercedes-Benz SSKL with a streamlined body. Next to him are Mercedes-Benz racing manager Alfred Neubauer (right) and mechanic Willy Zimmer.
German Touring Car Championship (DTM), 1988. Roland Asch (right) of the BMK team with the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 (W 201) racing touring car.
A look under the body of the Mercedes-Benz C 11 Group C racing car during test drives at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet (France).
480-kilometre “Shell BRDC Empire Trophy” race in Silverstone (Great Britain) on 20 May 1990. In the lead, the Jean-Louis Schlesser / Mauro Baldi driver team in the Mercedes-Benz C 11 Gro up C racing sports car with starting number 1.
Pit stop and change of drivers in the Mercedes-Benz C 11 Group C racing sports car of the winning Jochen Mass / Karl Wendlinger team at the 480-kilometre “Coupes de Spa” race in Spa-Francorchamps (Belgiu m) on 3 June 1990.
Pit stop of a Mercedes-Benz C 11 Group C racing sports car during the 480-kilometre “Trofeo F. Caracciolo” race in Monza (Italy) on 29 April 1990. Third from the right: Sauber designer Leo Ress.
Team photo  of the Mercedes-Benz Group C team on the occasion of the 480-kilometre “Player’s Ltée Mondial” race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal (Canada) on 23 September 1990. To the right is the Mercedes-Benz C 11 Group C racing sports car with starting number 1 of the winning Jean-Louis Schlesser / Mauro Baldi team, to the left the C 11 with starting number 2 of the Jochen Mass / Karl Wendlinger team.
German Touring Car Championship (DTM), 1991. Roland Asch with the Mercedes-Benz team and the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II racing touring car (W 201).
German Touring Car Championship (DTM), 1991. Roland Asch with the Mercedes-Benz team and the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II racing touring car (W 201).
German Touring Car Championship (DTM), Diepholz airfield race, (1st heat), 8 August 1993. Award ceremony of Roland Asch.
Mercedes-Benz Classic Brand Ambassador Roland Asch at the 2018 1000 Miglia.
Racing driver and Mercedes-Benz Classic brand ambassador Roland Asch, photo taken at the Classic Insight “125 Years of Motorsports” in Silverstone, England, April 2019.
Mercedes-Benz SSKL streamlined racing car. In 2019, the “125 years of Motorsport” anniversary year, Mercedes-Benz Cl assic assembled the vehicle with great authenticity to ensure it could be experienced – also on the track. Body, chassis and engine were produced as close to the original as possible in the complex project. Photo from the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance from 15 to 18 August 2019.
International Eifel Race at Nürburgring, 3 June 1934. The later winner Manfred von Brauchitsch (starting number 20) in the Mercedes-Benz W 25 750-kilogram formula racing car.
International Eifel Race at Nürburgring, 3 June 1934. Von Brauchitsch won the race in a Mercedes-Benz W 20 750-kilogram formula racing car.
Start at the Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, 8 August 1937. First row of the grid, from left to right: Rudolf Caracciola (covered) in second place, next to him the later winner Manfred von Brauchitsch (starting number 10). Both driving the Mercedes-Benz W 125 750-kilogram racing car.