Stately as a Galleon

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

To highlight its Classic department, Mercedes decided to go racing — slowly. In a vast Fintail…

The idea was simple and came from the mind of Michael Bock, head of Mercedes-Benz’s Classic department and as such the man in charge of the most important single-marque collection of cars there is. He wants more people with old Mercedes racing cars to use them and believing actions to speak louder than words, he determined to practice what he preached. The plan was to enter a racing Mercedes saloon into the FHR series of European endurance races in 2012, each time pairing a stellar Mercedes professional racing driver with a journalist. But the car was ready before the end of the 2011 season so it was decided its first outing would be at the last race of the year, at the Nürburgring. Step forward K Ludwig and, very much to his surprise, A Frankel.

The weapon du choix is a ‘Fintail’ 1963 220SE. I’d presumed that, being a factory car, it would contain every legal trick in the book, but nothing could be further from the truth. The last thing Mercedes wants is to turn up with a skunk works car and blow everyone into the weeds. Its approach, from the van in the car park to the car on the track, is delightfully modest and low-key. The Fintail is stripped out, has stiffer springs, race pads and a control Dunlop race tyre but otherwise is near enough completely standard. And that includes the 2.2-litre fuel injected engine which was rebuilt and carefully balanced, but still only produces 138bhp, just 20 more than when it was new. All Mercedes did not hold back on was safety, as a roll cage that would keep King Kong under control bears witness. At 1300kg, the car is just 75kg lighter than standard.

The first problem is that as practice starts, the Nordschleife is reported to be covered in ice. Klaus heads out, does a lap just to make sure the car is qualified, hands the car over to me and laconically confirms that there is indeed ice everywhere the sun has yet to reach. Having not raced at the ‘Ring in eight years,driving a car belonging to Mercedes with Klaus as your team-mate, it was pressure I could do without. My first lap takes almost a quarter of an hour — the fastest Klaus has ever been around the Nordschleife is 6min 19sec.

But by the time the race starts the sun has been shining for hours and the track is dry. My only problem is I’m still not sure exactly which way it goes. The race forms up in three groups of 50 cars each, with the Fintail towards the back of the last. We spent 20 minutes on a parade lap waving to the surprisingly large crowds before the race starts. And, as often happens on long tracks when you’re at the thin end of the grid, soon the cars that could get ahead had and those I could drop had been dropped. For all practical purposes, I had the track to myself.

Keeping a car like the Fintail on the boil around the ‘Ring is an art in itself. Drive it conventionally and it feels painfully, almost pointlessly slow. You drive up to a corner, brake, understeer through and spend what seems like the next half hour getting your speed back. So you don’t brake unless you absolutely have to which, in this car at this track, is hardly ever. Instead you turn into each corner impossibly early on a trailing throttle and as soon as your trajectory is established, get back on what little power there is, often long before the apex. There’s not enough steam to drift it, but you can all but eliminate the understeer and carry more speed than you’d ever have imagined. And then driving the soft and slow old car becomes positively fun. My lap times were still falling 20 seconds per lap when I pitted and handed over to Klaus, who then made me look ridiculous by going half a minute faster than my best. Only when I looked at the in car video and saw him using bits of track I didn’t know existed did I feel less than disgraced.

And what did Klaus think of our noble steed? By the end of the race he was going so fast even the Mercedes mechanics were starting to giggle, he won us the class and emerged wreathed in smiles. “Honestly, I thought she was going be a bitch. But in fact if you turn early, she is wonderful. Very forgiving and nicely balanced. You have to hook the kerb to get it to turn in and power on early, then it’s real fun. I never expected that.”

Nor I. We both agreed the car would be transformed by more power and Mercedes would be within its rights to use a 3-litre direct injection motor; but I don’t think that’s how they’re thinking. Everyone knows that if it put its mind to it, Mercedes could build a car no one could catch. But by using a car as unusual and beautiful as the Fintail and asking drivers of the calibre of Ludwig to drive it, Mercedes gets all the positive attention it needs, with none of the attendant downsides. So the Fintail may not be the fastest thing out there, but as far as classy ways for a car manufacturer to go racing is concerned, it takes a hell of lot of beating.

You may also like

Related products