- Fascinating original Mercedes-Benz vehicles take to the streets
- Famous faces: David Coulthard, Jochen Mass, Bernd Mayländer and Karl Wendlinger
Stuttgart/Brescia – Mille Miglia (16 to 19 May 2013) is one of the highlights in the calendar of classic car enthusiasts the world over. Alongside many other vintage models, Mercedes-Benz Classic will once again be at the starting line this year with the legendary 300 SLR and will also be publishing current videos of the event online.
Mercedes-Benz and Mille Miglia are inextricably linked. Second place in 1952 for Karl Kling behind the wheel of a 300 SL racing car (W 194), for example, symbolised the successful return of the Mercedes-Benz brand to the international racing stage. Memories of the legendary victory of Rudolf Caracciola also come to mind: together with his co-driver Wilhelm Sebastian, the Mercedes-Benz driver became the first non-Italian to win the Mille Miglia in his SSKL model in April 1931.
The second major success from Mercedes-Benz at what is probably the most famous thousand-mile race involved the 300 SLR (W 196 S). In 1955, Stirling Moss and his co-driver Denis Jenkinson won the Mille Miglia with a vehicle of this model series sporting the starting number 722. Travelling at an average speed of 157.65 km/h (97.95 mph), they completed the course in the fastest ever time of ten hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds.
Today, the Mille Miglia is promoted as a test of endurance, stretching from the northern Italian town of Brescia to Rome and back. Along the thousand-mile course (around 1600 kilometres), a number of challenges await the participants and their classic cars. The rules state that only vehicle models which were part of the original race line-up (1927 to 1957) are permitted to take part.
There will be four famous faces representing Mercedes-Benz Classic at this year’s event: former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard will drive a 300 SLR (W 196 S) while Karl Wendlinger and Jochen Mass will team up in a 300 SL (W 198). This duo allows us to reminisce on the years of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Team from the 1990s with the budding young talents Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Michael Schumacher and Karl Wendlinger all under the wing of their mentor Jochen Mass. Bernd Mayländer, the current driver of the Official F1™ Safety Car, will also start at this year’s Mille Miglia in a 300 SL (W 198). Both the cars and the drivers will bring more than just a splash of racing glamour to the event – as one expects of this long-distance race. In addition to several Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 198) models, this superb line-up will include an SSK, the legendary six-cylinder supercharged vehicle from the pre-war era. Also taking part is the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing model (W 194) with the original chassis number 5. It is the same vehicle that saw Rudolf Caracciola secure fourth place at the Mille Miglia in 1952. What’s more, the 300 SLR with starting number 658, behind whose wheel David Coulthard will be starting the race, is an original participant vehicle: in 1955, the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio drove this very vehicle solo across the finish line to take second place in the overall rankings, coming in just behind the winning team of Moss and Jenkinson, thus making 1955 doubly successful for the Mercedes-Benz brand.
Mille Miglia will start this year with the technical check in Brescia on 15 May 2013. A new record number of participants has been reached with 400 vehicles given the go ahead to take part. On 16 May, the classic cars will be presented in the historic old town of Brescia, before the first vehicles roll over the starting ramp and hit the road that evening. The participants will drive past Lake Garda, continuing on through Verona, Vicenza and Padua towards Ferrara, the first stage finish. The next leg continues the morning after (17 May), taking the drivers to Ravenna, through the Republic of San Marino, before finally arriving in Rome. The long final stage (18 May) starts in Rome and continues on through Viterbo, Siena, Florence, Bologna, Maranello, Modena and Cremona, before heading back to Brescia. The winners will then be crowned here on 19 May.
Taking place at the same time as this year’s Mille Miglia, there will be an exhibition of the Daimler Art Collection from 7 March to 30 June at the Museo di Santa Giulia in Brescia, entitled “Novecento mai visto: From Albers to Warhol to (now).” Taking centre stage at this event are more than 230 works from around 110 international artists. This exhibition will also be accompanied by a special show in Museo Mille Miglia. Here, three exquisite original vehicles from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection will be exhibited together with corresponding Warhol motifs.
The vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Classic at Mille Miglia 2013
Mercedes-Benz SSK 27/170/225 hp (W 06), 1928
Of all the six-cylinder supercharged vehicles from the Mercedes-Benz S-series, the SSK (W 06) is the most exclusive and most impressive model. SSK stands for “Super-Sport-Kurz” (Super Sport Short) and its particularly sporty design is emphasised by the shortened wheelbase. Rudolf Caracciola got off to a flying start in the summer of 1928 in the brand-new SSK, winning the Gabelbachrennen race, as well as both the Schauinsland and Mont Ventoux races. In 1930 and 1931, the SSK helped him secure victory at the European Hill Climb Championship. Spectacular success was also achieved with the lighter, even more powerful version from 1931, known as the SSKL (“Super-Sport-Kurz-Leicht”; Super Sport Short Light). One particularly significant victory was recorded at Mille Miglia in April 1931 when Rudolf Caracciola drove the SSKL over the finishing line in first place, making him the first ever non-Italian to win the race. He even set a new record by travelling at an average speed of 101.1 km/h.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing car (W 194), 1952
Mercedes-Benz returned to the world of international motorsport after the Second World War in 1952 with the 300 SL racing car (W 194). This vehicle was based on an extremely light, yet torsionally stiff space frame, covered by an elegantly curved, aerodynamic light-alloy body shell made from aluminium magnesium sheet metal. The space frame, with its increased torsional stiffness, was quite high at the sides of the vehicle in comparison to other vehicles. In turn, this meant that conventional doors were not suitable. Instead, the W 194 featured the characteristic gullwing doors attached to the roof. This design was also used for the 300 SL (W 198) series-production sports car from 1954, referred to in the English-speaking world as the “Gullwing.”
Powering the W 194 was the 170 hp (125 kW) M 194 inline six-cylinder engine with 2996 cubic centimetres of displacement. The 300 SL launched its racing career at the Mille Miglia in May 1952, after being unveiled in March of the same year. There were major successes recorded in the first and only racing season of the W 194, which included 1st. 2nd and 3rd place at the Bern Prize for Sports Cars, the spectacular 1st and 2nd place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and at the 3rd Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, as well as winning the Jubilee Grand Prix for sports cars at the Nürburgring.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (W 196 S), 1955
In 1955, Mercedes-Benz won the World Sportscar Championship with the 300 SLR. This vehicle is essentially a W 196 R Formula 1 racing car fitted with a two-seater sports car bodyshell albeit with a three-litre in-line eight-cylinder engine and light alloy cylinder blocks instead of the 2.5-litre Formula 1 engine and its welded steel cylinders which were required for thermal reasons.
With 310 hp (221 kW), the 300 SLR was way ahead of the competition in 1955, as proven by its 1st and 2nd place victories at the Mille Miglia, the Eifel race, the Swedish Grand Prix and Targa Florio. Stirling Moss and his co-driver Denis Jenkinson (start number 722) won the Mille Miglia in 1955 with a record average speed of 157.65 km/h, one that remains unbeaten to this day. They were helped to victory by the “prayer book.” This was a series of notes on the course used by Jenkinson to direct Moss as they travelled across Italy. Lone driver Juan Manuel Fangio (start number 658) took second place.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 198), 1954
In February 1954, the 300 SL “Gullwing” was unveiled to the world for the first time at the International Motor Sport Show in New York. The new high-performance sports car was based on the legendary 300 SL racing car (W 194) from the 1952 season. A light and torsionally rigid space frame supported the engine, gearbox and axles. Just like the racing version, it left no space for the classic door design, so the gullwing doors also became a distinctive feature of this series-production sports car. In any case, the “Gullwing” represented real innovative thinking. As the world’s first series-production passenger car, it was powered by a four-stroke engine with fuel injection. This not only increased efficiency, but also engine performance. With 215 hp (158 kW), thus 20 percent more than the carburettor racing version, top speeds of up to 260 km/h were possible, depending on the final transmission ratio. This made the 300 SL the fastest series-production vehicle of its time and the 1950s racing car that dreams were made of.
It also helped secure victory at Mille Miglia: in 1955, the team of John Fitch and Kurt Gessl won the Gran Turismo class for vehicles with a displacement of over 1600 cubic centimetres, achieving 5th place in the overall classification. Olivier Gendebien and Jacques Washer also secured 7th place in the same class. The 300 SL made another appearance at Mille Miglia in 1956 when the team of Prince Metternich and Count Einsiedel took 6th place in the big GT class.
Mercedes-Benz 220 a (W 180), 1954
The 220 model introduced in the spring of 1954 – also known internally within the company as the 220 a (W 180) – was the first Mercedes-Benz six-cylinder model to feature a self-supporting structure. Presented by Mercedes-Benz just six months previously in the mid-size 180 model, the modern and spacious self-supporting “Pontoon” body offered a standard of comfort as yet unknown to drivers. The single-joint swing axle, introduced to series-production with the 220 model, ensured safe handling.
At the Mille Miglia in 1956, several Mercedes-Benz 220 models started in the class for standard special touring vehicles. In this class, modifications were permitted to both the chassis and the engine. The team of Erwin Bauer and Erwin Grupp won their class at the legendary Italian endurance race with a special 220 model. Three vehicles had been specially prepared for the Mille Miglia by Karl Kling and his team. They already had the twin-carburettor system of the successor 220 S model, with an engine capable of approximately 115 hp (85 kW). For the challenging journey, there were shorter and harder springs, as well as modified shock absorbers. Furthermore, the drivers were able to change gears using the floor shift, just like in the 190 SL, instead of the previously used steering column shift.
The drivers for Mercedes-Benz Classic at Mille Miglia 2013
David Coulthard began his career in kart racing. From 1983 to 1985, he was the Scottish Junior Kart Champion. He climbed up through the ranks of Formula racing to join the Formula 1 Williams team in 1994. In 1995 he took third place in the Formula 1 World Championship. At the start of the season in 1996, the Scotsman switched to McLaren Mercedes, joining team-mate Mika Häkkinen of Finland. In 2001, he was the runner-up world champion behind Michael Schumacher. From 2005 to 2008, Coulthard started for Red Bull Racing. After this time, his Formula 1 racing career came to an end. Altogether, Coulthard took part in 246 Grand Prix races between 1994 and 2008, 150 of which for McLaren Mercedes. He clocked up 13 victories, 12 of which were for McLaren Mercedes. From 2010 to 2012, he drove an AMG Mercedes C-Class for the Mücke Motorsport team in the DTM German Touring Car Championship (Deutsche Tourenwagen-Meisterschaft).
Born: 30 September 1946
Jochen Mass began his diverse motorsport career in 1968 racing touring cars for Alfa-Romeo. He then drove as a works driver for Ford between 1970 and 1975, with whom in 1972 he won the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Alongside this, he became involved in Formula 2 (1973) and raced in 105 Formula 1 Grands Prix (1973-1974 with Surtees; 1975-1977 with McLaren; 1978 with ATS; 1979-1980 with Arrows; 1982 with March). Having won the German Sports Car Championship in 1985 and competed as a works driver for Porsche until 1987, he became a works driver in the Sauber-Mercedes team. Until 1991 he drove for this team in Group C. In the new “Silver Arrow”, the Sauber-Mercedes C 9, Jochen Mass together with Manuel Reuter and Stanley Dickens achieved victory in the 24-hour race in Le Mans and became world vice-champion in 1989. Three years later Mass became part of the team management for the DTM. Sir Stirling Moss has described him as “a driver with an enormous feeling for racing cars and great technical knowledge, who is familiar with every era in racing history”. It is therefore hardly surprising that to this day, Jochen Mass is behind the wheel for Mercedes-Benz at historical events such as the ADAC Eifel race at Nürburgring. Whether the W 125 Silver Arrow or the Mercedes-Benz SSK, Jochen Mass knows and drives them all.
Born: 29 May 1971
Bernd Mayländer regularly made it to the top echelons of Formula 1 racing. Born in the German town of Waiblingen, he has been the official driver of the Mercedes-Benz Official F1™ Safety Car since the year 2000; a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG has been used since the 2010 season. Mayländer began racing in 1990, starting off in the Porsche Club Sport, Porsche Carrera Cup (overall winner in 1994), Porsche Supercup and in endurance races. From 1995 onwards, he started with the Persson Motorsport team, competing in the DTM German Touring Car Championship (Deutsche Tourenwagen-Meisterschaft) and the International Touring Car Championship (ITC), as well as the FIA GT Championship where he drove an AMG-Mercedes CLK-GTR from 1997 onwards. In 1997, Mayländer won the race in Spielberg in an AMG-Mercedes CLK-GTR together with Klaus Ludwig and Bernd Schneider. In 2000, he took first place in a Porsche 996 GT3 at the 24 Hours Nürburgring event. His last DTM season was in 2004 as part of team Rosberg, driving an AMG-Mercedes C-Class. Since 1996, Mercedes-Benz has provided the Official F1™ Safety Car for the Formula 1 World Championship races.
Born: 20 December 1968
Karl Wendlinger was fourteen when he entered the world of motorsports with kart racing. He went on to win the German Formula 3 Championship in 1989. From 1990 to 1991, the Austrian was part of the Mercedes Junior Team that also included Michael Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. As part of this team he took part in the World Sportscar Championship. In 1991, he made the move to Formula 1. From 1994 onwards, Wendlinger drove for the Sauber-Mercedes team together with Heinz-Harald Frentzen. He took part in the DTM German Touring Car Championship, International Formula 3000 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Some of his most important victories on the circuit include the FIA GT Championship (1999), first place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTS class (the same year), overall victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2000 and second place at the 24 Hours Nürburgring event (2003). From 2004 to 2011, Karl Wendlinger started for various teams in the FIA GT Championship; in 2007 he was runner-up with Jetalliance Racing.