Mercedes in Sportscar racing

Mercedes sportscar racing history is almost a parallel of Jaguar's.

In the mid-50s they were Jaguar's main competition in sportscar racing, only withdrawing after the tragic 1956 Le Mans crash when one of their cars went into the crowd on the start finish straight.

They remained out of Sportscar racing until 1986, when the Swiss Sauber team (whose C6 with the delta rear wing had shown well despite running a low powered BMW 3.5 litre 6 cylinder engine) unveiled their Mercedes powered C8 (the C7 was a BMW powered car, very similar in appearance to the early C8).

Sauber's C6, powered by a straight 6 BMW engine

Sauber's C6, powered by a straight 6 BMW engine

The beautifully turned out Kouros sponsored cars always sounded as if they were about to expire with a very flat sounding V8, but they were fast from the start and within a couple of seasons the cars were exposed as full works Mercedes cars and winning both races and championships.

Sauber Mercedes at Silverstone 1986

Sauber Mercedes, Silverstone 1986

Sauber Mercedes at Le Mans 1987

Sauber Mercedes, Le Mans 1987

Sauber Mercedes at  Spa 1987

Spa 1987

Sauber Mercedes at Brands Hatch 1988

In AEG colours at Brands Hatch, 1988

They succeeded in taking victory at Le Mans at only their seconds attempt in 1989, when they swept all before them in the WSC, as well.

Sauber at Le Mans 1989

Full works Mercedes - Le Mans 1989

Mercedes were one of the few teams to persevere with the 3.5 litre category, although their car (the C291) was not really in the 2 seater F1 class.

Mercedes C291 - 3.5 litre class car

Mercedes C291 - 3.5 litre class car - not my photo(sadly)

It did, however manage to take a couple of wins, although it was generally outclassed by the more modern Jaguar, Peugeots and Toyotas.

Mercedes C291 - the example at Mercedes World, Brooklands

Mercedes C291 on display at Mercedes World, Brooklands

In 1997, after the demise of the ITC, in which they'd been heavily involved, Mercedes returned to the FIA GT series.

The 1997 GT CLK

The CLK GT at Laguna Seca, 1997

Their CLKs caused much controversy as the FIA allowed them to race without EC homologation (in effect without proving they were road cars) and they seemed to run much too low to be usable on the road.

Mercedes focussed on the German Touring car championship for many years, not entering there SL or SLR models in any GT racing, but with the launch of the gullwinged SLS in 2010, they entered the GT3 arena.

The 2011 GT3 SLS at Silverstone

The 2011 GT3 SLS at Silverstone

The GT3 SLS has finished well in the British Championship, but didn't seem to be quite on the pace in the FIA series in 2011, although it was not so far off the pace as to suggest that it would be impossible to take a victory.

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