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The classic Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows


Luigi Fagioli (start number 22) in a Mercedes-Benz 750-kg formula racing car W 25

Luigi Fagioli (start number 22) in a Mercedes-Benz 750-kg formula racing car W 25

Luigi Fagioli

Luigi Fagioli

The race driver who started for Mercedes-Benz (from left): Manfred von Brauchitsch, Luigi Fagioli and Rudolf Caracciola

The race driver who started for Mercedes-Benz (from left): Manfred von Brauchitsch, Luigi Fagioli and Rudolf Caracciola

Rudolf Caracciola and his Mercedes-Benz 750-kg formula racing car W 25

Rudolf Caracciola and his Mercedes-Benz 750-kg formula racing car W 25

The winner Luigi Fagioli (start number 50) at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 750-kg formula racing car W 25

The winner Luigi Fagioli (start number 50) at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 750-kg formula racing car W 25

Rudolf Caracciola (start number 10) at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25

Rudolf Caracciola (start number 10) at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25

Rudolf Caracciola and his Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25 during the starting preparations

Rudolf Caracciola and his Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25 during the starting preparations

The winner Rudolf Caracciola at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25 with start number 2

The winner Rudolf Caracciola at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25 with start number 2

The winners Rudolf Caracciola - Luigi Fagioli

The winners Rudolf Caracciola - Luigi Fagioli

The winner Luigi Fagioli (start number 18) in a Mercedes-Benz 750-kg formula racing car W 25

The winner Luigi Fagioli (start number 18) in a Mercedes-Benz 750-kg formula racing car W 25

Three Mercedes-Benz formula racing cars  W 25 in the startin line. start number 4 - Luigi Fagioli, the winner. start number 6 - Manfred von Brauchitsch. start number 2 - Rudolf Caracciola.

Three Mercedes-Benz formula racing cars W 25 in the startin line. start number 4 - Luigi Fagioli, the winner. start number 6 - Manfred von Brauchitsch. start number 2 - Rudolf Caracciola.

The winner Luigi Fagioli at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25 B

The winner Luigi Fagioli at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25 B

Luigi Fagioli, who finished in third place, with start number 10 and Rudolf Caracciola (start number 26), who was to win the race, both in Mercedes-Benz W25

Luigi Fagioli, who finished in third place, with start number 10 and Rudolf Caracciola (start number 26), who was to win the race, both in Mercedes-Benz W25

Start of the International Eifel race: Manfred von Brauchitsch. Start number 5_ Rudolf Caracciola, the winner. Start number 6: Luigi Fagioli, who finished in fourth place

Start of the International Eifel race: Manfred von Brauchitsch. Start number 5_ Rudolf Caracciola, the winner. Start number 6: Luigi Fagioli, who finished in fourth place

The winner Rudolf Caracciola at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz racing car W 25

The winner Rudolf Caracciola at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz racing car W 25

The winner Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25.  Manfrd von Brauchitsch finished in second place

The winner Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25. Manfrd von Brauchitsch finished in second place

The winner Rudolf Caracciola (start number 2) in a Mercedes-Benz 750-kg formula racing car W 25

The winner Rudolf Caracciola (start number 2) in a Mercedes-Benz 750-kg formula racing car W 25

Three Mercedes-Benz formula racing cars (W 25) at the pit stop: Hermann Lang with the start number 42, Rudolf Caracciola (who was to win the race) with the start number 10 and Manfrd von Brauchitsch with the start number 8.

Three Mercedes-Benz formula racing cars (W 25) at the pit stop: Hermann Lang with the start number 42, Rudolf Caracciola (who was to win the race) with the start number 10 and Manfrd von Brauchitsch with the start number 8.

Start number 30 - René Dreyfus in an  Alfa Romeo. Start number 8 - Manfred von Brauchitsch in a Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25. Start number 28 - Louis Chiron in an Alfa Romeo.

Start number 30 - René Dreyfus in an Alfa Romeo. Start number 8 - Manfred von Brauchitsch in a Mercedes-Benz formula racing car W 25. Start number 28 - Louis Chiron in an Alfa Romeo.

The winner Hermann Lang at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz W 125

The winner Hermann Lang at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz W 125

Manfred von Brauchitsch, who finished in second place, followed by Richard Seaman, who finished in fourth place, both in a Mercedes-Benz W 125.

Manfred von Brauchitsch, who finished in second place, followed by Richard Seaman, who finished in fourth place, both in a Mercedes-Benz W 125.

Rudolf Caracciola, who was to win the race, with start number 14 in a Mercedes-Benz W 125.  In the fore: Bernd Rosenmeyer (start number 8) and Hans Stuck (start number 10), both in Auto Union.

Rudolf Caracciola, who was to win the race, with start number 14 in a Mercedes-Benz W 125. In the fore: Bernd Rosenmeyer (start number 8) and Hans Stuck (start number 10), both in Auto Union.

Manfred von Brauchitsch (start number 14) finished in second place at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz W 125

Manfred von Brauchitsch (start number 14) finished in second place at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz W 125

Double victory at the Italian Grand Prix in Livorno. The winner Rudolf Caracciola (start number 2) and Herman Lang (start number 6), who finished in second place, both in Mercedes-Benz formula racing cars W 125.

Double victory at the Italian Grand Prix in Livorno. The winner Rudolf Caracciola (start number 2) and Herman Lang (start number 6), who finished in second place, both in Mercedes-Benz formula racing cars W 125.

Starting number 36: Manfred von Brauchitsch (winner of the second run) in a Mercedes-Benz streamlined racing car W 25 with a 12-cylinder engine MD 25 DAB. Star tnumber 33: Luigi Fagioli in an Auto Union streamlined car. Start number 37: Hermann Lang in a streamlined racing car W 125 with a 8-cylinder engine M 125 F. Start number 34: Rudolf Hasse in an Auto-Union. Hermann Lang won the final run of the Avus race.

Starting number 36: Manfred von Brauchitsch (winner of the second run) in a Mercedes-Benz streamlined racing car W 25 with a 12-cylinder engine MD 25 DAB. Star tnumber 33: Luigi Fagioli in an Auto Union streamlined car. Start number 37: Hermann Lang in a streamlined racing car W 125 with a 8-cylinder engine M 125 F. Start number 34: Rudolf Hasse in an Auto-Union. Hermann Lang won the final run of the Avus race.

 

While still in its infancy at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, the automobile already demonstrated its performance and reliability in competitions. Vehicles of Benz and Daimler competed in all famous racing events around the world. And they established new speed records time and again. The Lighting Benz is an impressive example of this; in 1909 it was the first car to exceed the magic mark of 200 km/h. Soon afterwards, the supercharged racing cars from Mercedes-Benz appeared on the scene and dominated all major racing events.

The classic Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows

The company's early racing history culminated in a very special chapter in the 1930s: the era of the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows. They scored top results in international races, set the standards in terms of sporting spirit, and put the engineering to the acid test. The Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows were evidence for the company's commitment to competition – every year and with every driver. At the same time, every victory clinched with these special racing cars and every record established contributed to a legend which has been intriguing people to this very day, and which is effortlessly being continued by the modern-day Silver Arrows which have been entered in racing since the 1990s.

Silver Arrows – the words have a magic. The popular racing car designation originated in the 1930s when Mercedes-Benz changed the colour of their Grand Prix cars from white to silver at the beginning of the 1934 racing season. Exactly when and where this change took place has provided occasion for speculations and legends down to this day.

In the decades that followed the popular name "Silver Arrows" turned out to be quite flexible. In the 1930s, it was also used for competitor Auto Union. And the name resounded quickly throughout the country after the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-12 had been presented in mid-February 1997, sporting the attractive livery of its sponsor West, in which silver prevailed. First and foremost, however, the legendary name is applied to the Mercedes-Benz racing and record cars of the 1930s and 1950s.

Series of successes in several steps

Four racing car models shaped the first Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow era during the five years between 1934 and 1939. The series of triumphs began with the W 25 (1934 – 1936) and the W 125 (1937) for the 750-kilogram formula. Then came the W 154 complying with the three-litre formula in 1938/39, and finally the W 165 for the one-and-a-half-litre race in Tripoli in May 1939.

Over and above this, Silver Arrow was also the befitting name for several record-breaking cars, for instance the streamlined versions of the W 25 (1934 and 1936), the record-breaking versions of the W 125 (1938) and W 154 (1939), and finally the awe-inspiring T 80 (1939).

An attempted comeback with the pre-war W 154 at two races in Buenos Aires in February 1951 wilted into a footnote of history. The modern (post-war) period was initiated in 1952 with the 300 SL (W 194) racing sports car. Two years later the Silver Arrow legend came alive again: Entering the W 196 R Grand Prix car from July 1954, the Stuttgart-based company harked back on the unprecedented series of triumphs in 1939. In 1955, the successful 300 SLR racing sports car did its bit to the greater glory of the brand.

The driver personalities

The Silver Arrows were piloted by a number of drivers. The most eminent of these between 1934 and 1939 and then again between 1952 and 1955 were:

·        Manfred von Brauchitsch

·        Rudolf Caracciola

·        Luigi Fagioli

·        Juan Manuel Fangio

·        Karl Kling

·        Hermann Lang

·        Stirling Moss

·        Richard Seaman

 

The races from 1934 to 1939

In 1934 a new formula was to take effect in Grand Prix racing. Without fuel, oil and tyres the cars were allowed to weigh no more than 750 kilograms, and the body had to have a width of at least 85 centimetres. Otherwise there were no restrictions according to the rules adopted in October 1932 by the AIACR. Mercedes-Benz decided in 1933 to develop a new racing car for this formula. It was the return to top-level racing after a period of depression.

High unemployment, economic crisis, the Mercedes-Benz factory racing department shut down – the year 1932 was not a great time for motor sports activities in Germany. When the Nazis seized power in 1933, the conditions for motor sports changed in Germany: the Nazi government was bent on promoting the motor vehicle industry, took over the existing autobahn construction projects, cut taxes on new vehicles and urged the major manufacturers to involve themselves in motor sports.

This gave rise to the competition between Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union that put its stamp on racing in Europe in the years up to 1939. Auto Union bought the P-car project of Ferdinand Porsche. Mercedes-Benz likewise had to have an entirely new car. The supercharged racing cars, serial winners in the 1920s, belonged to a past era. Their weight alone made it impossible to develop them further under the new Grand Prix rules.

Pressed for time, the technicians around chief engineer Hans Nibel developed a completely new racing car designed as a monoposto (open-wheel car), the Mercedes-Benz W 25. The monoposto design, designed for one driver and no mechanic or co-driver, was the body form of the future for the elite class of racing. The days of racing with Grand Prix cars with two seats and four-seater touring cars were over. The combination of a slim body, a mechanically supercharged 3.4-litre in-line four-cylinder engine, independent wheel suspension, and a transmission directly mounted on the rear axle added up to an absolute winner.

In 1958 racing manager Alfred Neubauer recalled the first driving tests with the new racing cars that would become the brand's first Silver Arrows: In February 1934 Mercedes-Benz organised test runs in Monza and on the autobahn between Milan and Varese; testing in Germany followed. "The little car was sheer delight," Neubauer writes in retrospect. Rudolf Caracciola, who was recovering from his severe accident, also trained in Germany with the monoposto car: "I was cautious on the first lap, hesitant. … Then I opened the throttle more, the car got faster. The woods to my left and right consolidated into a greyish-green wall. The white ribbon of the road appeared to narrow even more, and the wind sweeping past had a high and clear singing tone."

The W 25 attained top speeds of more than 250 km/h. It would see its first competitive action in the International Eifel race on the Nürburgring. Drivers Rudolf Caracciola, Luigi Fagioli, Manfred von Brauchitsch, Hanns Geier and Ernst Henne were the members of the new Grand Prix team. Before the race on 3 June 1934 at Nürburgring, Mercedes-Benz changed the racing colour from white to silver, making the W 25 a forerunner of the "Silver Arrows", as Mercedes-Benz racing cars soon would be called. Manfred von Brauchitsch completed the race at an average speed of 122.5 km/h to set a new course record.

The silver of the racing cars was retained for future races, and Mercedes-Benz continued its winning ways. Caracciola won the Klausen race, Luigi Fagioli the Coppa Acerbo. The two drivers shared the victory by Mercedes-Benz in the Italian Grand Prix in Monza: The 1276 curves and 928 chicanes to be negotiated over the full distance made the race in Monza the toughest one in the entire 1934 season, and after his accident in Monaco in 1933, Rudolf Caracciola wasn't fit enough yet to stick it out over the entire time. So at the half-way mark in the race, Luigi Fagioli took over the wheel of Caracciola's car with the competitor's number 2 and defended the lead built up by Caracciola up to the finish.

Fagioli also won the Spanish Grand Prix, with Caracciola taking second. Mercedes-Benz had returned to the pinnacle of international racing. The 1934 season left no doubt about that. However, the new competitor Auto Union also proved a powerful force in the struggle for victory. The Stuttgart people answered the challenge with new generations of the W 25 in 1935. The most powerful version now developed 462 hp (334 kW) with a displacement of 4310 cubic centimetres.

This car gave Mercedes-Benz almost unlimited domination in the 1935 racing season: Rudolf Caracciola got back into top form and in his W 25 won the Grand Prix of Tripoli, the Eifel race, the French, Belgian, Swiss and Spanish Grand Prix races. He won the European champion's title in 1935. Also in 1935, Luigi Fagioli won the Monaco Grand Prix, the Avus race and the Grand Prix of Barcelona – ahead of Caracciola. "1935 was a year of triumph for Mercedes-Benz," Alfred Neubauer recalls. "We captured first place in five of the seven classic Grand Prix races in Europe."

Mercedes-Benz competed in the next season with a revamped W 25. "Our Mercedes engineers have come up with something entirely new for the 1936 racing year. The car is smaller and shorter now. But its displacement is 4.7 litres, and the engine develops well over 420 hp," Neubauer summarizes. But the latest stage in the evolution of the W 25 could not pick up the thread of the successes of 1935. Mercedes-Benz managed only two victories in 1936, in the Grand Prix of Monaco and Tunis, both won by Rudolf Caracciola.

After the more or less average performance of the modified W 25 in its third season, Mercedes-Benz designed a new car for the 1937 racing year. The W 125 would dominate 1937 with its eight-cylinder engine in which a mechanical supercharger made for peak outputs of more than 600 hp (441 kW) obtained from a displacement of 5.6 litres. The W 125 was designed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut – an engineer who even impressed the stern racing manager Neubauer: "A genial young man has given our cars a new touch. His name is Uhlenhaut, and he is the only design engineer who ever knew how to drive a heavy Grand Prix car around a course at racing tempo with his own two hands."

The engineers relied on new detailed solutions. For instance, for the first time in a Silver Arrow the compressor was arranged downstream of the carburettors. That is to say, the supercharger compressed the finished mixture. The in-line eight-cylinder marked the highest stage of development of the Grand Prix power plant in use since 1934. The W 125 enabled Mercedes-Benz to move to the fore of European racing again. For the ultra-fast Avus race on 30 May 1937 it was fitted with a streamlined body. Hermann Lang won this race, as he did the Grand Prix of Tripoli. His average speed of 271.7 km/h on the Avus course was not beaten until 1959.

In the Eifel race Caracciola and von Brauchitsch took second and third place, while Caracciola won the German Grand Prix ahead of von Brauchitsch. This marked the fifth win by Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz in this Grand Prix, which is so important for the German public. The brand claimed one victory after another that year. Manfred von Brauchitsch won the Grand Prix of Monaco, followed by Caracciola and Christian Kautz as well as Geoffredo Zehender (5th). In the Swiss Grand Prix the men on the winner's rostrum were Caracciola, Lang and von Brauchitsch; Caracciola won the Italian Grand Prix, with Lang in second. By winning the Masaryk Grand Prix in Brno ahead of von Brauchitsch, Caracciola polished off a record-setting year which once again came to an end with him holding the title of European Champion.

Along with the successes in formula racing, the Stuttgart racing department also impressed with wins in reliability trials and other competitions mainly carried out with touring cars. But it was the W 125 in particular that gave Mercedes-Benz a magnificent racing year. It was a string of successes which could not be repeated, because the 750-kilogram formula ended with this season. From 1938 new rules applied limiting the displacement to three litres with mechanical supercharger or 4.5 litres without supercharger. And once again the fathers of the Silver Arrows demonstrated their unconditional commitment to competition, in the Development department and on the racetrack: For 1938 the entirely new W 154 racing car was created. It would take up where the successful 750-kilogram racers had left off. An average 430 hp (316 kW) was available to the drivers in the first half of the 1938 season, at the end of which it was more than 468 hp (344 kW). And with these power reserves and its outstanding technical concept, the W 154 "muscle machine", crouching low on the asphalt, became the most successful racing car of the era.

The very first race, the Grand Prix of Tripoli, was a triple victory for Hermann Lang, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Rudolf Caracciola. In the French Grand Prix Mercedes-Benz managed to repeat the triple win, this time with Brauchitsch before Caracciola and Lang. Briton Richard Seaman won the German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring, with the car jointly driven by Caracciola and Lang coming in second, while Hermann Lang won the Coppa Ciano in Livorno and Rudolf Caracciola the Coppa Acerbo in Pescara. In the Swiss Grand Prix three W 154 cars again took the first three places (Caracciola, Seaman and von Brauchitsch); for the third time Rudolf Caracciola was crowned European Champion that year.

In the last racing season prior to the Second World War Mercedes-Benz continued the successes of 1938 with the W 154. The first major race of that year was the Grand Prix of Pau, from which Hermann Lang in a W 154 emerged as winner ahead of Manfred von Brauchitsch. In the Eifel race in May, Lang was again the first driver to cross the finish line; Caracciola came in third, von Brauchitsch fourth. Hermann Lang followed through on these early successes, displaying an impressive continuity throughout the summer and autumn: In the Vienna Mountain Road Race he captured victory in the W 154 hillclimb car (von Brauchitsch was 3rd); the two drivers repeated this placing at the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa; in the Swiss Grand Prix Lang finished ahead of Caracciola and von Brauchitsch.

Hermann Lang also won the Grand Prix of Tripoli. This race was the big exception among the Mercedes victories of 1939. It was announced that the competition would be held not in the three-litre formula dominated by the Stuttgart cars, but in the 1.5-litre category (voiturette formula). With this trick the organisers wanted to ensure victory for the Italian racing cars. But in only eight months the Mercedes-Benz engineers developed a completely new racing car, the W 165.

In the race the two Mercedes-Benz W 165 cars gave their opponents no break. Caracciola, on fresh tyres, raced right through with his short-ratio car, while Lang with his "long" rear axle ratio (and thus a higher top speed) made one quick pit-stop and won the Tripoli race almost one lap ahead of his team-mate. In 1939 Lang took the title of European Champion and German Mountain Champion. Caracciola, who won the 1939 German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring, was German road-racing champion.

The races of 1954 and 1955 

Juan Manuel Fangio world champion in both years in a Mercedes-Benz

In early 1953 the then Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler-Benz AG, Fritz Könecke, formulated the grand goal for the resumption of international racing activities: Mercedes-Benz should capture the double world championship in 1954, in the Formula One and for sports car, with factory drivers.

In the second European race of the season, the French Grand Prix, the new Silver Arrows took the start for the first time. In training the fully faired W 196 R had posted the fastest time, and now, at their racing debut on the 4th of July in Reims, they would exceed all expectations of the public and the competition. The newly engaged Argentinean driver Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling won a double victory in their streamlined monoposto cars. This sensational success also had historic implications, for exactly 40 years earlier, on 4 July 1914, Mercedes racing cars won the French Grand Prix in Lyon.

Mercedes-Benz concentrated on winning the title of World Champion for Juan Manuel Fangio in 1954. In the British Grand Prix on 17 July in Silverstone Fangio had only finished fourth in the streamlined car, whose contours were hard to overlook on winding courses. But Uhlenhaut had sped up the construction of the second variant of the W 196 R, this one in the classic Grand Prix car design with exposed wheels. In the remaining races in 1954 there was always at least one Silver Arrow driver on the winner's rostrum. Fangio won the German, Swiss and Italian Grand Prix races and placed third in Spain; Hans Hermann came in third in Switzerland. Fangio's victory on 22 August in Bern-Bremgarten in the Swiss Grand Prix already made him the Formula One World Champion for 1954.

With the improved Grand Prix car and the 300 SLR (W 196 S) racing sports car based on it, the Racing department then actually did go out in 1955 to get the two titles. Alongside World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio, Neubauer brought Briton Stirling Moss into the team as second star. In the course of the 1955 season, Peter Collins, Werner Engel, John Fitch, Olivier Gendebien, Hans Herrmann, Karl Kling, Pierre Levegh, André Simon, Piero Taruffi, Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips and others drove for Mercedes-Benz along with Fangio and Moss.

The 1955 racing season opened with the Grand Prix of Argentina, a hot-weather race from which Fangio emerged as winner. Fourteen days later he also won the Grand Prix of Buenos Aires. On this 30th of January 1955, four Silver Arrows took the start with the three-litre engine which was also to be fitted in the new Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR racing sports car. Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss scored a double victory in this high-speed test, and Karl Kling came in fourth.

The Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR had its competitive premiere on May Day in the Thousand Miles of Brescia. Four of the new cars lined up at the start, and the young Briton Stirling Moss won the race with his co-driver Denis Jenkinson – the first foreigner since Rudolf Caracciola (1931 winner in a Mercedes-Benz SSKL) to do so. Moss posted the best time ever stopped in the Mille Miglia: ten hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds, which figures out to an average speed of 157.65 km/h. Fangio, driving alone, came in second.

The W 196 R Grand Prix racer with its different wheelbases and body versions featured a large range of variation. Which version was used depended upon the peculiarities of the circuit, the strategy chosen and the likes and dislikes of the respective driver. Common to the individual versions are technical details like the swing axle with low pivot point and the eight-cylinder engine.

In the 300 SLR, at the end of May Fangio won the 18th Eifel race before Moss, and also won the Belgian Grand Prix in June in a W 196 R. Disaster followed these triumphs, in June, in Le Mans, where three 300 SLR started: Pierre Levegh's racing sports car was involved in a collision owing to a risky manoeuvre by another car; his 300 SLR was hurled into the stands; the disaster claimed 82 lives and injured 91 persons. Under the impression of this horrible accident, Daimler-Benz decided to withdraw Moss, who was in the lead, from the race. The tragic accident overshadowed the rest of the season.

In the Dutch Grand Prix a 1-2 win by Fangio and Moss in the W 196 R followed. The young British star Stirling Moss then won the British Grand Prix in a short-wheelbase W 196 R, followed by Fangio, Kling and Taruffi. This was a sensation for the British public: for the first time an Englishman had won this major race in his home country.

In the sports car race for the Swedish Grand Prix, Fangio again finished ahead of Moss in the 300 SLR; Karl Kling complemented this double victory with a win in the sports car class in a 300 SL. One of the two 300 SLR Coupés designed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut also was along for the ride in Sweden as a training car. The Coupés were never entered in a competition though.

In the competition for the Italian Grand Prix on 11 September 1955 the W 196 R Silver Arrows gave their last performance. As four of the season's events had been cancelled, this simultaneously was the first appearance made by the aerodynamically faired, streamlined racing cars in 1955. The W 196 R with exposed wheels competed in all the other races. After extensive alterations, Monza presented itself as a high-speed course on which the field passed the grandstand twice. Because of the high average speed allowed by this course, Neubauer decided that Fangio and Moss should start in the streamlined car with the long wheelbase. Kling got a monoposto with a conventional body and medium wheelbase, Taruffi started in a short "Monaco" car. Unchallenged, Fangio brought home his last victory for Mercedes-Benz, followed by Piero Taruffi, just 0.7 seconds behind him. With 40 points, the Argentinean champion became Formula One World Champion in that season for the third time; Stirling Moss (23) was runner-up.

300 SLR guarantee of successes with racing sports cars in 1955 – and winner of the "Constructor's Prize"

But it was still not clear whether the second goal of the Racing department for 1955 would be achieved. Alfred Neubauer recalls: "There is just a little blemish on the medal: the racing sports car world championship, also called the 'constructor's prize', hardly is going to end up in our possession. The competition for the 'constructor's prize' was held for the first time in 1953. It doesn't go to the driver, but to the company whose car wins. Ferrari has a clear lead and hardly can be caught – unless a miracle happens."

On 17 September, three 300 SLR took the start at the Tourist Trophy in Northern Ireland, and the miracle longed for by Neubauer came to pass: Stirling Moss and John Cooper Fitch won the race ahead of the 300 SLR of Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling. Third place was taken by Wolfgang Berghe von Trips, who had experience racing the 300 SL, but was driving the 300 SLR for the first time in competition, and André Simon.

The Sicilian adventure called the Targa Florio, in mid-October, finally secured the manufacturer's championship for Mercedes-Benz. Rival Ferrari could not be allowed to do any better than third place there. And so it came to pass – great effort being taken to make sure of it. Eight racing cars and eight heavy trucks as well as 15 other cars were heaved out of the ferry from Naples in Palermo. They had 45 mechanics to look after them. SLR driver Stirling Moss likes to emphasise that he never experienced such a measure of preparation, such precision und logistical effort again during his entire long career.

Neubauer brooded over the tactics: "I had never planned a race more thoroughly and carefully. I mustered all my experience, my skill, my tricks, my love, and invested it in this 1955 Targa Florio." Perhaps the most important plan of the racing strategist involved the change of drivers: contrary to the customary relieving of the driver after three laps, this time the Mercedes-Benz drivers were not supposed to get out of the cockpit until they had completed four laps. Uhlenhaut had the 300 SLR reinforced for the harsh course.

At 7 a.m. on 16 October 1955 the first car started. Stirling Moss took the lead, but dropped back into third place after an accident. Peter Collins took over the wheel of his car and on his first lap with the dented Mercedes-Benz set a new lap record. Now in the lead, Collins handed over the car to Moss, who won by a margin of four minutes and 55 seconds before Juan Manuel Fangio. John Fitch and Desmond Titterington in the third 300 SLR came in fourth behind Eugenio Castellotti and Robert Manzon (Ferrari 860 Monza). Mercedes-Benz managed to pull off the double victory needed to win the manufacturer's world championship – the goal had been reached.

That marked the end of the heyday of the classic Silver Arrows. Prior to the Le Mans disaster Mercedes-Benz already had decided to discontinue the activities of the Racing department following the 1955 season: The expense and effort for the development and production of the racing cars and for providing racing support was immense. Daimler-Benz AG had more urgent need for the energies of the engineers and mechanics to develop new passenger cars. Fritz Nallinger, Board of Management member responsible for Engineering, confirmed this at the ceremony honouring the successful racing drivers on 22 October 1955: "The further development of our product range makes it appear advisable to us to put these highly skilled people to work now, without overtaxing them, solely in an area which is the most interesting to our many customers worldwide, namely the field of production car engineering. The knowledge and experience gained from racing car construction will benefit my employees in this work."

The withdrawal from racing was an honourable retreat at the peak of success: In 1955 the W 196 R racing cars took part in seven events, winning six of them and taking five second places and one third place. The 300 SLR racing cars started in six races, posting five wins, five second-place finishes and one third-place finish. Mercedes-Benz hardly could have dominated the season more clearly. Further successes by factory drivers and private entrants driving
Mercedes-Benz cars complement the results for 1955: Paul O’Shea (USA) in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was class D sports car champion in the United States for the first time. O’Shea also won the title in the following two years. Werner Engel secured the European Rallye Championship in his Mercedes-Benz 300 SL in the same season. Armando Zampiero was Italian sports car champion in a
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.

The era of the Silver Arrows on the major racing courses was over for the time being. Many years would pass before Mercedes-Benz returned to championship sports car racing and Formula One. It was a melancholy farewell, as Alfred Neubauer recalls, drawing a line under a grandiose season: The drivers drew white cloths over the cars and said goodbye. "We shook hands once more. Then they drove off, heading for who knows where – Fangio and Moss, Collins, Kling, Taruffi and Graf Trips. And that was the end of it."