100 years of 200 hp.
Brooklands, 22 December 1913. At the world’s first race track, solely designed for competitive use, the air is thick with pre-Christmas cheer. And there is tension building: a young Briton who goes by the name of “Cupid” blows on his hands, before placing them on the steering wheel of his polished blue Benz 200 hp. It is only a matter of minutes until the young man behind the wheel delivers two new world speed records. From a standing start, Lydston Granville Hornsted completes the half mile at an average speed of 113.8 km/h and the kilometre at 118.8 km/h. This marks the start of a fairytale record-breaking series, for which this vehicle will go down in history.
Hornsted’s record-breaking vehicle is a modified version of the already legendary “Blitzen Benz”. It is the third of altogether six Benz 200 hp race cars, which were first built in 1909. Victor Héméry, head of the testing department at Benz & Cie, had received a challenging request: to design a vehicle that could reach 200 km/h. It was based on the 150 hp Grand Prix vehicle, whose engine went on to have the largest ever capacity in the company’s racing stable thanks to enlargement of the bore. The first version of the oversized four-cylinder engine achieves 184 hp at 1,500 rpm; however with a bit of fine tuning, this value can be increased to 200 hp at 1,600 rpm.
This was the vehicle in which Héméry, another particularly gifted racing driver, cracked the 200 km/h mark for the first time in Europe – and also on the Brooklands race track.
Fast as lighting.
The success story of the record-breaking race car doesn’t end in Europe, however: once it became clear to Benz & Cie that European race tracks had not been designed for vehicles as fast as this one, the decision was taken to sell it abroad in January 1910. It was quickly christened the “Lightning Benz” (“Blitzen Benz” in German) by new owner, Ernie Moross.
Bob Burman sat behind the wheel on 23 April 1911, hitting a speed of 227.51 km/h over the flying kilometre and 225.64 km/h the flying mile. Making the “Blitzen Benz” twice as fast as any aeroplane – and the fastest vehicle ever.
The glorious nine.
Built in 1912, Hornsted’s vehicle is a modified version of this “Blitzen Benz”. The designer Fritz Erle had won the French Gaillon and Limonest hill climb mountain races in the vehicle, among others. Despite this, the Briton requested a series of changes to be made to the original design: he wanted a modified radiator grille, as well as an attachable wind deflector, along with other technical modifications. According to legend, the mighty exhaust of the 21.5 litre four-cylinder engine was extended as far as the rear end of the vehicle with the attachment of a stovepipe. He took his first laps around the race track in November 1913, before setting his festive records.
And he didn't stop at these two. Seven further spectacular world records were set the year after with this vehicle, including over two miles and over five from a flying start.