GREAT RACING MARQUES.
By E. K. H. KARSLAKE.
FROM the days of the enormous cars which were nearly all bonnet, with huge outside copper exhaust pipes and chain drive, to the long period when it was the only supercharged car on the market, the Mercedes has always been recognised as the leading make in the sporting and racing class ; and it is indeed fitting that the car whose origins can perhaps be traced back further than those of any other should still be among the most advanced in design.
After working since 1883 on the production of an internal combustion engined car, Herr Gottlieb Daimler finally succeeded in building his first car in 1885, and from that moment the history of the German Daimler, or, as it was afterwards called, the Mercedes, may be said to have begun. It was some time, however, before his cars began to seek racing honours, and it was not until 1901 that the Mercedes started its succession of victories. In that year, however, a race was held from Nice to Salon and back, and was won by Werner, who covered the 225.5 miles at 33.3 m.p.h. on his 25 h.p. Mercedes.
After that the German cars were to be seen in all the big races, although it was some time before their winning day came again. That same year they took part in the famous race from Paris to Berlin, but the French cars were still too good for them, and were able to occupy the leading places. The next year the Mercedes interest was attacked by one of the worst pieces of luck that have ever happened in racing. The great race of the year was Paris-Vienna, a contest over 700 miles of open roads, with a neutralized part in the middle consisting of the passage through Switzerland, where no racing was allowed. The race was won in most convincing style by Marcel Renault,
who was competing in the light car class, but of the big cars it is almost certain that Count Zborowski and his Mercedes would have made fastest time had it not been for the fact that he was held up at one of the frontiers owing to some irregularity in his papers. As it was, he finished half an hour behind the winner.
The Paris-Madrid race of the next year, which was stopped in so dramatic a manner at Bordeaux, because of the terrible number of accidents which had occurred over the first stage, marked the appearance of the 90 h.p. Mercedes which was later to become so famous ; and it was in this year that the Mercedes achieved a victory which placed it in the first rank of the great racing firms.
In 1902 the Gordon Bennett Cup had been won by S. F. Edge on the Napier, so that in 1903 the race had to be run in the British Isles. After some difficulty it was decided to hold the race in Ireland, and a course was selected near Carlow. Germany was represented by a team of three Mercedes driven by de Caters, Jenatzy and Foxhall-Keene, which had to compete against teams from England, France and America. Jenatzy, who was nicknamed the Red Devil, drove throughout in meteoric manner, and finally finished first, averaging 49.2 m.p.h. for 327.2 miles.
The winning Mercedes was a 60 h.p. model, as the 90 h.p. which Jenatzy was to have driven had been destroyed in a big fire at the Caunstadt factory. The four cylinders had a bore and stroke of 140 x 150 mms. (9240 c.c.), with the exhaust valves at the side and overhead inlet valves operated by push-rods and rockers. Transmission was by the famous Mercedes coil-spring clutch and side chains. As a result of this victory the 1904 Gordon Bennett
race was held in Germany over the Saalberg course near Homburg. Of the three cars representing Germany, two were Mercedes, driven by Jenatzy and de Caters. As soon as the race started, a magnificent duel was opened between Jenatzy and Thery on the French Richard-Brasier. Jenatzy drove in his usual demoniac style, but the Frenchman was too fast for him, and he finally had to be content with second place, with his team mate, de Caters, third.
The next year, therefore, the race was held in France, and was run over the Auvergne circuit near ClermontFerrand. Germany was represented by three 120 h.p. Mercedes driven by Jenatzy, de Caters and Werner, while three more of the same type built at WienerNeustadt carried the Austrian colours—though perhaps their story should belong more to Austro-Daimler. In the race, the dashing Jenatzy retired on the third circuit, but Werner managed to finish fifth, and de Caters seventh.
As France refused to hold the race any more, the Gordon Bennett Cup was replaced in 1906 by the Grand Prix. For this Mercedes entered a team of three 125 h.p. cars, of 175 x 150 mms. bore and stroke (14,430 c.c.), with Jenatzy, Mariaux and de Caters as drivers. The course was the well known one near le Mans, the competitors having to cover 774 miles in two days. Of the Mercedes, however, de Caters ran off the course at St. Calais, while the other two were never in a position to trouble the leaders.
The next year the race was at Dieppe, and the Mercedes were again entered. This year the engines of the cars, which were driven by Jenatzy, Salzer and Hemery, had the bore increased to 180 mms., giving a capacity of 15,274 c.c., which was typical of the tendency of the time towards large bore, short stroke engines. Although very fast, however, their fortune was no better than in the previous year, and they did not figure very prominently in the race. In 1908, however, came another Mercedes win. The Grand Prix was held over the same course as the year
before, and attracted three Mercedes, driven by Poege, Salzer and Lautenschlager among the 49 starters, an enormous field, which makes an interesting if depressing comparison with the small number of competitors in modern Grand Prix. The Mercedes soon showed that they were among the fastest cars on the course, and Lautenschlager finally finished first, averaging 68.9 m.p.h. for 478 miles. Of his team mates, Salzer retired on the third lap, but Poege got home fifth, averaging 63.4 m.p.h.
For this race the bore was limited to 155 mms., so that the dimensions of the winning Mercedes were 155 x 170 mms. (13,170 c.c.). The usual Mercedes valve arrangement was used—overhead inlet and side exhaust —and a high-tension Bosch magneto was now employed for these engines, which attained nearly 1,500 r.p.m., while transmission was still by a four speed gear box and side chains.
The German win proved too much for the French, and the Grand Prix was allowed to lapse until 1912. When it was revived, Mercedes did not at once return to the arena, and so escaped the doom which overtook the other old-time champions who suffered defeat at the hands of a new generation of racing firms. Instead, the Germans instituted a much more cunning policy, and when they again took part in a race, it was not in the Grand Prix de l’A.C.F., but in the so-called Grand Prix de France, a comparatively obscure event, organised by the A.C. de l’Ouest in 1913.
For this race, Mercedes entered 4 cars, 3 six-cylinders and one 4-cylinder, all still equipped with chain drive, with Lautenschlager, Salzer, Pilette and Elskamp as their drivers. The race proved a Mercedes-Delage duel, and ended in a victory for the latter, the German cars finishing third, fourth, sixth and seventh.
The Mercedes had been beaten, but they had not done it in the lime-light, and they had served their apprenticeship to the new form of racing. The next year the Grand Prix de l’A.C.F. was for 4i litre cars, and was held on the Lyon circuit. Mercedes entered five cars, driven by Lautenschlager, Salzer, Pilette, Wagner and Seiler, and the German firm drew up a very definite plan of campaign for the race. With five cars, they decided that they could sacrifice some by setting a very fast pace at the outset and still win the race, while their rivals with only three cars would be forced out of the contest. Their chief rivals were the Peugeots, which had won the race in 1912 and 1913, and although the Mercedes had all the necessary speed and acceleration, the French cars were favoured by having 4-wheel brakes. At the outset Seiler set the pace ahead of the great Georges Boillet, who was trying to win his third consecutive Grand Prix on the Peugeot, and held the lead until he fell out on the sixth lap with a broken connecting rod. His place was taken by Lautenschlager, and the pace was so hot that on the last circuit Boillet too went out with a broken propellershaft. Lautenschlager, the victor in 1908, proved once more the winner, averaging 65.35 m.p.h. for the 467 miles. He was followed home by his two team mates, Wagner and Salzer, Pilette having suffered the same fate as Boillet on the fourth circuit.
The winning Mercedes had an engine of 94 x 160 mms. bore and stroke (4,440 c.c.), with four cylinders cast separately and an overhead camshaft operating 4 valves per cylinder. Very light steel pistons were used, and three plugs per cylinder fed by 2 Bosch double spark magnetos. For the first time Mercedes abandoned chain drive for racing in favour of a propeller shaft enclosed in a torque tube.
Thus, on the very eve of the war, Mercedes gained the singular honour of scoring a grand slam in the French Grand Prix, a performance which has never been repeated before or since. But just before the outbreak of hostilities, Ralph de Palma bought the car which had been driven in the Grand Prix by Louis Wagner, and shipped it to America. It was entered for the Indianapolis race in 1915, and succeeded in coming in first, averaging 90.4 m.p.h. for the five hundred miles, and setting up a record for the race which lasted until 1922.
As might be expected, the very necessary animosity which had been sedulously fostered by energetic propagandists did not disappear with the Peace of Versailles, and for some time after the war, other countries did not “
invite” German cars to compete in their races. Italy, however, was among the first to relent, and Mercedes took advantage of this in 1921 to enter two 23/95 h.p. cars in the Targa Florio. These were of the well known sporting type with 6 cylinders of 105 x 140 mm. (7,236 c.c.) with overhead valves and camshaft, and were driven by Lautenschlager and Seiler. Their most formidable opponents were the Fiat team, and in the end Seiler finished second to Masetti’s Fiat. In the next year’s race Mercedes was represented by no less than 7 cars. Three of these were of the 1914 Grand Prix type, one of which was a private entry by Count Masetti, and the other two were entered by the firm. with Lautenschlager and Salzer as drivers. Of
the other four cars, two were 28/95 hp. models, driven by Werner and Seiler, and the other two were 1,500 c.c. 4-cylinder cars of 65 x 113 mms. bore and stroke, which differed from the standard production in having two overhead camshafts, and which had Minoia and Scheef as their drivers. The great feature of interest attached to the Mercedes, however, was that they were fitted with superchargers, which was the first appearance of this device in racing history. In the race, Minoia dropped out after a series of ignition troubles, but all the other six cars finished, and Masetti gained first place, averaging 39.2 m.p.h. for the 269 miles, with Seiler sixth, Werner eighth, Lautenschlager tenth, Salzer thirteenth, and Scheef twentieth. Thus eight years after its first appearance the 4i litre Mercedes scored an important victory these cars in fact may be said to have refused to grow old, and in 1926 Caracciola on one of the 1914 racers succeeded in
breaking the record for the Semmering hill climb, one of the most important events in the Austrian season.
The next year Mercedes decided to enter for the Indianapolis race, and produced for it a team of 4cylinder 2-litre racers of 70 x 129 mms., and otherwise following very closely the design of the 1,500 c.c. 1922 Targa Florio cars. The three racers, which, in spite of having 2-seater bodies, proved themselves very fast in practice, were to have been driven by Lautenschlager, Werner and Max Seiler. The latter, however, crashed in practice, and his place was taken by his nephew, Carl Seiler, on the spare car. Early in the race Lautenschlager crashed at the South turn of the track, but Werner got into third place, and stayed there until valve trouble changed his car into a 3-cylinder, and he could only finish eleventh. Carl Seiler in the meantime secured eighth place. In 1924 Mercedes once more led an attack upon the
Sicilian races. This year the Targa Florio was combined with the final for the Florio Cup, and Mercedes entered a team of three 2-litre racers of the same design as those which had run at Indianapolis, with Lautenschlager, Werner and Neubaver as drivers. Pour laps of the Madonie circuit counted for the Shield and five for the Cup, and Werner taking the lead on the second lap and never losing it, succeeded in carrying off both the Targa and Coppa Florio. Lautenschlager finished
eleventh in the Targa and ninth in the Cup, Neubauer sixteenth and thirteenth in the two divisions of the race.
The Italian Grand Prix of that year marked the appearance of the new 2-litre 8-cylinder Mercedes, one of which was driven by Count Zborowski. The tragic accident, which cost the life of that great driver, is well known to everyone who is interested in motor racing, and as a result of it the Mercedes team was withdrawn. The next year, the German equivalent of the S.M.M.T. put a ban on German cars taking part in races for specially-built cars, with the result that these Mercedes have not had another chance of showing their form in a big international race. One of them, however, won the German Grand Prix last year, in the hands of Caracciola, averaging 84.4 m.p.h. for 245 miles.
Three 33/180 h.p. Mercedes also ran in the Spanish 12-hour touring Grand Prix at San Sebastian last year, with Merz and Goutner, Caracciola and Kiihule, and Werner and Wall) as their teams of drivers. The system of handicapping used in the race, however, did not give them a chance to beat the smaller cars, but they occupied the first three places in the 5,000 c.c. and over class.
The Daimler Motoreu Gesellschaft has, in fact, lost none of its enthusiasm for racing, and if a more prosperous state of affairs prevails in Germany in the near future and the ban is removed, one may expect to see the Mercedes once more in the great international races.