Mercedes-Benz Classic at Le Mans Classic 2022 ... Motor racing successes in France since 1894


Stuttgart, 29th June, 2022

The brand’s motor racing successes in France since 1894: this is the theme of Mercedes-Benz Classic’s extensive presence at the Le Mans Classic 2022. The event will take place from 30 June to 3 July 2022 on the original site of the “24 Hours of Le Mans” and will celebrate the history of this most famous endurance race in the world. With more than twenty vehicles from all eras of the brand’s history, former racing drivers and numerous other attractions, Mercedes-Benz Classic is offering visitors a varied programme. One focus is on “70 Years of the SL” – with the double victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1952 as an important milestone both in the history of the legendary sports car and in the motorsport history of the brand. Mercedes-Benz is the Official Sponsor of the Le Mans Classic.

The tenth edition of the Le Mans Classic, launched in 2002 by Peter Auto and organised in collaboration with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, offers an impressive review of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With 800 racing cars on the track, 8,500 historic cars on display and numerous club presentations, it is one of the largest classic events in the world. The competitions will take place in line-ups arranged by era, and of course also continue through the night – in other words, with a real long-distance spirit. Part of the attraction for participants and visitors alike is the dress code: “sporty chic” from all eras is desired and gives the Le Mans Classic a casual elegance in addition to the motorsport flair. With each edition, the event has attracted more fans. Most recently, around 195,000 visitors came in 2018.

Double victory at Le Mans some 70 years ago

Some 70 years ago, Mercedes-Benz achieved an outstanding triumph at the 24 Hours of Le Mans: a double victory. On 15 June 1952, two 300 SL racing sports cars (W 194) crossed the finish line one after the other. This and other double, triple and quadruple victories put the first SL directly in the limelight in the 1952 season and at the same time positioned the brand back on the stage of international motorsport after the Second World War. This initial spark gave rise to the production version, the 300 SL “Gullwing” (W 198), just two years later. The fascination with the SL has remained unbroken ever since and has continued to develop successfully over seven decades. Today, the new Mercedes-AMG SL (R 232), developed entirely by AMG, transports the genes of the SL legend into the future.

At Le Mans, Mercedes-Benz Classic will celebrate the SL history with numerous vehicles, from the original W 194 dating from 1952 to the latest generation, the Mercedes-AMG SL (R 232) presented in 2021. Other early SL models will complete the presentation: the 300 SL “Gullwing”, 300 SL Roadster and the 300 SLS motorsport version (all W 198). In addition, media representatives will have access to a driving pool of SLs from all eras plus additional vehicles to mark the anniversaries of “50 years of the S-Class 116 series” and the “40 years of the Mercedes-Benz W 201”, which can be driven on routes outside the event grounds.

A highlight at the Mercedes-Benz Classic stand right next to a current Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4MATIC+ will be a 300 SL Roadster (W 198) dating from 1960. The vehicle comes from the Mercedes-Benz Classic sales offer. It has undergone a factory restoration and is in top condition. The Roadster is finished in the rare colour combination of Mercedes blue with red leather and a light grey soft top, while the hardtop is painted in the body colour.

Original vehicles in action and on display

  • Daimler two-cylinder engine, 1894. The first automobile competition in history in July 1894 from Paris to Rouen was won by vehicles with this engine, manufactured under licence by Panhard & Levassor.

  • Mercedes-Simplex 40 hp, 1902. In the years 1901 to 1903, Mercedes dominated with this model, among others, in the “Weeks of Nice” with high-profile motorsport competitions.
  • Mercedes Grand Prix racing car, 1914. In the 750-kilometre race for the 1914 French Grand Prix in Lyon, Christian Lautenschlager, Louis Wagner and Otto Salzer achieved a triumphant triple victory in cars of this model.
  • Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194). At the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1952, Hermann Lang / Fritz Riess and Theo Helfrich / Helmut Niedermayr achieved a double victory for the brand in this model.
  • Mercedes-Benz Formula One racing car W 196 R with streamlined body. It was in this Silver Arrow that Mercedes-Benz returned to Grand Prix racing in 1954 after an interruption of 15 years. In the car’s very first race on 4 July 1954 in Rheims, Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling posted a spectacular one-two finish. Following three more victories, Fangio finished the season as Formula One World Champion.
  • Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 (W 201) “Supertourisme”. From 1985 to 1987, Snobeck Racing Service (SRS) entered the sixteen-valve model in the French Touring Car Championship. These entries also paved the way for Mercedes-Benz to return to motorsport. From 1988, SRS also competed in the DTM as a development team with the 190 E 2.3-16.

  • Sauber-Mercedes C 9 Group C racing sports car. On 11 June 1989, this Silver Arrow took a one-two in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (Stanley Dickens / Jochen Mass / Manuel Reuter; Kenny Acheson / Mauro Baldi / Gianfranco Brancatelli). Another vehicle came in fifth place. At the end of the season, Jean-Louis Schlesser won the drivers’ title in the World Sports Car Championship in the C 9.
  • McLaren-Mercedes MP4-15. Driving the MP4-15 designed for the 2000 Formula One season, Mika Häkkinen won four races out of 17 Grands Prix. David Coulthard achieved three victories, including the French Grand Prix at the Circuit Nevers Magny-Cours – a one-two victory with Mika Häkkinen.
  • Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+ Formula One racing car, 2018. This car led the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team to its fifth double triumph in a row. Lewis Hamilton drove to his fifth drivers’ world championship, and the team secured the constructors’ world championship once again. Lewis Hamilton won the French Grand Prix in June 2018 in the F1 W09 EQ Power+.

Racing driver interviews and engine start-ups

The brand’s varied programme in terms of vehicle presentations includes interviews with former racing drivers Ellen Lohr, Klaus Ludwig, Jochen Mass, Kurt Thiim and Karl Wendlinger. What were their biggest successes for the brand? In which vehicles? How did they experience Mercedes-Benz in their time? These, among others, are the questions that they will face. Those wishing to delve deeper into the motorsport history of Mercedes-Benz in France can take part in stand tours around the vehicles. Three racing cars from three eras will be allowed to sound out there regularly: the engines of the Mercedes-Simplex 40 hp, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car and Sauber-Mercedes C 9 will be regularly started for demonstration purposes. A “Pitstop Challenge” with a timed wheel change on an original DTM vehicle, as well as racing simulators, will round off the programme at the Mercedes-Benz Classic stand. And those wanting to look out onto the race track from there will find space in the deckchairs with a view of the action on the circuit.

The Mercedes-Benz Classic Brand Ambassadors at the Le Mans Classic 2022

Ellen Lohr
Born on 12 April 1965 in Mönchengladbach, Germany

Ellen Lohr came to motorsport from karting, in which she was active from 1979 to 1983. Her greatest successes were participating in the Junior Kart World Championship and claiming a first-place title in the North-West German Kart Championship. After competing in the German Formula Ford 1600 series (German Champion in 1987) and initial races in the DTM (BMW) and the German Formula 3 Championship with Volkswagen in 1989/90, she was signed up by the AMG-Mercedes team for the German Touring Car Championship. Ellen Lohr was the first and ─ to this day ─ only woman to clinch a DTM victory: On 24 May 1992, she was victorious in the first race at the racing festival in Hockenheim at the wheel of an AMG-Mercedes 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II. For the 1995 season, she moved to the Mercedes-Zakspeed team, and in 1996 drove for the AMG-Mercedes Persson MS team. In 1997, she competed in the European Truck Racing Championship at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz racing truck. From then on, Ellen Lohr continued to be actively involved in numerous other racing series, including the Paris–Dakar Rally (as of 2005) and once again in truck racing (as of 2012). In 2019, Ellen Lohr competed in the Nascar Whelen Euro Series.

Klaus Ludwig
Born on 5 October 1949 in Bonn, Germany

Honoured with the title of “King Ludwig” by his fans, the outstanding racing driver and three-time DTM champion Klaus Ludwig began his motor racing career in the early 1970s with slalom races, orientation rallies and touring car races. His first major successes included the German Motor Racing Championship (DRM) title in 1979 and 1981, and victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979, 1984 and 1985. Ludwig came to the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) in 1985, where he initially drove for Ford and won his first title in 1988. In 1989, he moved to the AMG-Mercedes team, with which he won two championship titles (1992 and 1994, runner-up in 1991) and a total of 19 race victories in the years up to 1994. In 1995 and 1996, he competed in the ITC (International Touring Car Championship) for Opel Team Rosberg. He subsequently returned to AMG-Mercedes, winning the driver and team trophy in the International FIA GT Championship together with Ricardo Zonta in 1998. Afterwards, he officially retired from motorsports. In 2000, however, he made a comeback and competed in the new German Touring Car Masters (DTM), ending the season and his racing career with a third-place finish in the overall standings driving a Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM.

Jochen Mass
Born on 30 September 1946 in Dorfen near Erding, Germany

Jochen Mass, originally a trained seaman, began his diverse career in motor sport in 1968 in touring car races for Alfa Romeo and as a works driver for Ford from 1970 to 1975. During this period he won the 24 hours of Spa-Francorchamps in 1972. At the same time, he also took part in Formula 2 racing (1973) and competed in 105 Formula One Grands Prix (1973/74 with Surtees; 1975 to 1977 with McLaren; 1978 with ATS; 1979/80 with Arrows; 1982 with March). In 1984, Mass drove a Mercedes-Benz 500 SLC (C 107) in the Paris–Dakar Rally. After winning the German Sports Car Championship in 1985 and a stint as a works driver with Porsche until 1987, he joined the Sauber-Mercedes team as a works driver in 1988. He competed in Group C for the same team until 1991. In the new Silver Arrow, the Sauber-Mercedes C 9, Jochen Mass triumphed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1989 in the same team as Manuel Reuter and Stanley Dickens, going on to finish runner-up in the world championship in the same year. Three years later, Mass joined the team management of the DTM. Sir Stirling Moss once described him as a “soul mate” and as “a driver with an enormous feeling for racing cars and a great deal of expertise who is familiar with the racing history of every era”. It is therefore not by chance that Jochen Mass can nowadays be seen at the wheel for Mercedes-Benz at historical events. From the W 125 Silver Arrow to the Mercedes-Benz SSK – Jochen Mass knew and drove them all.

Kurt Thiim
Born on 3 August 1958 in Vojens, Denmark

The Dane Kurt Thiim began his motor sport career in 1974 with kart racing (Danish karting champion in 1985) and outings in Formula Ford 1600. His victories took him up the ladder as far as Formula 3, from where Thiim switched to touring car racing, winning the 1986 German Touring Car Championship in a Rover Vitesse. After that, he firmly established himself in Mercedes-Benz vehicles, going on to drive for AMG-Mercedes from the middle of the 1988 season. Up to 1991, he achieved good finishes and individual victories, first for AMG-Mercedes and then, from 1992, for Zakspeed-Mercedes (1992 vice champion). He later drove for the UPS team in an AMG-Mercedes. In 1991, Thiim also took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Sauber-Mercedes C 11, in a team with Stanley Dickens and Jonathan Palmer. However, the vehicle dropped out in the course of the race. He belonged to Mercedes-Benz’s racing squad until 1997, after which he drove for various teams and in different championships.

Karl Wendlinger
Born on 20 December, 1968 in Kufstein, Austria

Karl Wendlinger’s motor sport career began in go-karting at the age of 14. In 1989, he won the German Formula 3 Championship. In 1990 to 1991, the Austrian was a member of the Mercedes Junior Team, along with Michael Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, and competed in the sports car world championship. In 1991 he graduated to Formula One. From 1994 Wendlinger drove for the Sauber-Mercedes team together with Heinz-Harald Frentzen. This was followed by periods in DTM, Formula 3000 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His main successes on the track included winning the FIA GT Championship (1999), finishing first in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTS class (in the same year), overall victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2000 and second place in the 24-hour race on the Nürburgring (2003). From 2004 to 2011, Karl Wendlinger competed for various teams in the FIA GT Championship. With Jetalliance Racing, he finished runner-up in 2007. Since 2012, Karl Wendlinger has been a Mercedes-AMG brand ambassador and instructor at the AMG Driving Academy.

The Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicles at the Le Mans Classic 2022

Mercedes-Benz motorsport successes in France

The “24 Hours of Le Mans” is the most exciting endurance race in the world. The spectacular double victory there in 1952, 70 years ago with the 300 SL racing sports car (W 194), and another double victory in 1989 with the Sauber-Mercedes C 9 – these are two of the great successes of Mercedes-Benz in France. There are numerous other points of connection to our neighbouring country: among other things, the world’s first car race in 1894 from Paris to Rouen, the exciting “Nice Weeks” directly after the turn of the century with the first Mercedes and the Mercedes Simplex, the sensational triple victory at the French Grand Prix in 1914 and the equally outstanding double victory at the French Grand Prix in Reims in 1954 still make motorsport hearts beat faster today.

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