Matters of moment, January 1953

Mercedes win in Mexico

The great victory of Mercedes-Benz in the recent arduous Mexican road race is significant news.

It will be remembered that in 1951 this Mexican race, then an exciting innovation in an area unaccustomed to International contests, attracted widespread attention when it was won by the 4.1-litre Ferrari, driven by Taruffi and Chinetti, from another 4.1 Ferrari, handled by Ascari and Villoresi, with a 5.4-litre Chrysler in third place. On that occasion the Americans seemed to think that the Ferraris were non-standard cars, although to European onlookers several of the American entries appeared to have been specially prepared.

This year, in consequence, the race was in two sections—that for sports cars and that for production cars. The latter proved the sweeping superiority of the American Lincoln, this make taking the first four places. But all eyes were on the faster category and here Germany, in the form of those beautifully built and prepared 300SL Mercedes-Benz, finished first and second, driven, respectively, by Kling and Lung. Chinetti’s Ferrari was third, Maglioli’s Lancia Aurelia fourth (the Aurelia’s performance, for a 2-litre ” Gran Turismo” class car, was magnificent). The race has given rise to much speculation. Behra’s Gordini, of only 2.3 litres, led to the second day, then crashed. Bracco’s Ferrari led for nearly 2,000 of the total 2,093 miles before retiring with engine trouble. If this hadn’t happened, goes the query, would Mercedes-Benz have won ? But in motor racing we must ignore such ” ifs ” in announcing the results and the great Charles Faroux has remarked that the efficient tactics of the German team are likely to have been responsible, directly or indirectly, for the Gordini crash and Ferrari’s mechanical failures.

The fact, then, is that Mercedes-Benz scored another great victory with cars of astonishing performance — Kling averaged over 102 m.p.h. for the race; 132 m.p.h, for the last 230 miles, while the disqualified Fitch in the third Mercedes-Benz was even quicker— beautifully prepared and controlled. This followed on outright Mercedes-Benz victories during the year at Berne, Le Mans and Nurburg. That Germany is able to obtain the financial backing which is essential to such success should become a major political issue in all European countries where cars are manufactured.

For there isn’t a shadow of doubt that the sensational come back of the German Mercedes-Benz concern in racing—in sportscar racing so far, but not for long so confined, we feel — will increase the sales of Germany’s “bread-and-butter” cars materially in the American, African and other valuable markets. Just as pre-Hitler Mercedes and Auto-Union race victories sold the D.K.W. in just these markets.

Whether or not you consider this a good or a bad thing depends on your politics. You may consider Germany should be rebuilt into an immensely strong nation, so that she can take her stand with the West should aggression develop from the East, or you may consider, as does a certain organisation which has circulated anonymous anti-German propaganda, that a too-strong post-Hitler Germany must eventually bring about a repetition in Europe of the strife of 1912 and 1939.

Motor racing, like art and music, should rank beyond politics ; healthy competition is good for trade. Britain should seek the necessary finance to go motor racing properly and look to it that Mercedes-Benz does not dominate the 1953 sports-car-racing season at Brescia, Le Mans, Monaco, Berne, Spa, Nurburg and Dundrod.

Recently some of our readers have suggested that victory in important races dues not imply serviceability of normal products. Be that as it may, a continuation of Germany’s sweeping victories with her silver Sports/racing cars cannot but have an adverse effect on the sales of the sales of high-performance catalogue models from other countries.  

Germany has re-established herself very rapidly as a car-producing and race-victorious nation, which implies engineering efficiency of a high order. The successful 300SL Mercedes-Benz sports/racing cars are developed from the production Type 300 saloon which, on the evidence of a contemporary, while weighing rather more than our Mark VII Jaguar and using a 3-litre single o.h.c engine instead of the English car’s 3-1/2 litre twin o.h.c. power unit, is only slightly inferior in respect of speed, acceleration and fuel consumption. This Mercedes-Benz is likely to appeal to a large proportion of the world’s buyers of high-performance cars and it will be constantly kept before them by reason of Mercedes-Benz racing victories.

There was a current story at the Paris salon of an influential European, not a German, who stayed an evening in Stuttgart prior to being shown over the Mercedes-Benz factory. That evening he happened to remark that his little, hard-used 170V Mercedes-Benz wasn’t running very well.  The next day he drove in it to the Mercedes works and at the end of the day was asked to take the latest Type 300 saloon and drive it to his hotel.  “We will return your own car in the morning,” he was told, ” if you will say at what time you propose to continue your tour.” Ten minutes before the prescribed time on the morrow a German test-driver asked for “Mr. X.” “I have come early,” he explained, “because I am to request you to try your 170V round the houses before I return in the 300.” “Mr. X” tried his 170V and found that it. had been appreciably overhauled, even to a reconditioned engine being installed. “Someone,” smiled the test-driver, “must have heard you voice a complaint against your elderly Mercedes-Benz and Stuttgart will not stand for that ! “

We cannot vouch for the accuracy or otherwise of this story, which may be true only in substance. The fact remains that it has reached England and is excellent propaganda for the famous carbuilding firm. Robert Bosch, too, is advertising again in English journals and taking elaborate steps to re-establish his renowned electrical equipment throughout Europe. The splendid German Volkswagen sells in-large numbers. Mexico may be only a beginning to Mercedes-Benz domination of famous sports-car races. Competition is healthy — providing there is competition from France, Italy, Spain, America, and, above, all Britain, busy themselves countering Germany’s growing proficiency in motor-racing and motor manufacture.