Pioneering spirits were riding a wave in the early summer of 1927: The world had just finished applauding the transatlantic flight by Charles Lindbergh when the next premiere was celebrated in the Eifel region – a milestone in the annals of motor racing: The opening of Nürburgring!
Today this racetrack with its (in)famous North Loop, the 'Green Hell', can look back on 90 years of sporting history. Nine decades that are replete with legendary drivers, vehicles and events. A history to which Mercedes-Benz has contributed many unforgettable chapters. Which made it a matter of honour for the Stuttgart-based brand to show a major presence at the official birthday celebrations for Nürburgring.
A 'white elephant' in a red cloak: the supercharged Mercedes-Benz Model SS (W 06, 1930) in action at Nürburgring.
Ludwig's legend: The Mercedes-AMG C-Class racing touring car driven by Klaus Ludwig in 1994.
Last weekend the time had come: For the three days of the Nürburgring Classic motorsport meeting, 'history was written into the asphalt of Nürburgring'. With over one dozen sports touring and racing cars, Mercedes-Benz Classic spanned the eras from the supercharged racing touring cars of the late 1920s to the DTM successes of the recent past. On all three days, the exhibition in the paddock area was one of the huge attractions for visitors. There was also a do-it-yourself opportunity: in the pitstop competition, fans were able to try their hand as a racing crew and change the wheels of an original DTM car. The seats in the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport VIP Lounge on the roof of the pits were also well-filled at all times, as they were in the 'Keyholders Club' to which all owners of a Mercedes-Benz car key had free access, and which offered an outstanding view of the starting/finishing straight.
A total of around 17,000 automobile enthusiasts ensured a very successful birthday event in fine weather conditions. The large number of celebrity wellwishers were also joined by Roland Asch, Maximilian Götz, Ellen Lohr, Klaus Ludwig and Jochen Mass. These racing drivers and brand ambassadors repeatedly took to the stage together throughout the weekend, meeting numerous requests for selfies and autographs. Naturally this also included many a conversation on the subject of cars and racing: from the tenacity of Ellen Lohr, who still remains the only female DTM race winner, to the dream of Maximilian Götz to be allowed behind the wheel of a Silver Arrow one day. Or on how – like Klaus Ludwig and Jochen Mass – one becomes a multiple champion in the Eifel. Roland Asch also revealed why he sometimes likes to put his head out of the window on the last lap of a race: 'So that I don't look so sweaty when I'm on the winner's rostrum!'
Also quick off the mark as mechanics: Klaus Ludwig, Maximilian Götz and Roland Asch during the pitstop competition (left to right).
Racing drivers and brand ambassadors amongst themselves: Klaus Ludwig, Ellen Lohr, Roland Asch, Maximilian Götz and Jochen Mass (left to right).
Generations on the racetrack.
On the Sunday it actually looked as if there might be a new photo of Roland Asch on the rostrum. The DTM legend was at the wheel of the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II (W 201) works racing car in the German Touring Car Classics, one of over a dozen series that took to the track during the anniversaty meeting. During the 40-minute run, Asch established his 'Evo II' in the leading group in the company of two privately entered stars. Just before the end, this meant that three generations of successful Mercedes-Benz racing touring cars dating from 1991, 1995 and 1996 were in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Then Asch's luck ran out on the last lap: a technical defect put an end to his bid for the rostrum.
Eyecatcher and homage.
The cars from Stuttgart also aroused plenty of enthusiasm in the other races, some of which were held on the Grand Prix circuit and some on the North Loop. Among the eye-catchers were the duels for the Rudolf Uhlenhaut Trophy, where only Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs (W 198) took to the track. The final homage was the three-hour ADAC Eifel Race for older and more recent classics on a combination of the Grand Prix circuit and North Loop. It was almost 90 years to the day since the starting gun was first fired at the new race circuit – also for the Eifel Race.
A guiding star also presided over this first race: it was won by Rudolf Caracciola with the fastest time in all classes, ahead of his team colleague Adolf Rosenberger. Both were driving the Mercedes-Benz Model S (S for 'Sport'), the supercharged racing touring car developed from the Model K and the first of the famous 'white elephants'.
In honour of Rudolf Caracciola.
It was not least because of this victory that Caracciola became a racing icon and the most successful racing driver of the pre-war period – indeed one of the bends was named after him, the Caracciola Carousel. He was the first to negotiate this bend on the inside of what was actually a drainage channel. The bend was later asphalted and converted into a banked curve. During the 90th anniversary celebration, in the presence of Thomas Caracciola, the great-nephew of Rudolf Caracciola, a bust was formally unveiled to commemorate this first victory. This homage to Rudolf Caracciola will now welcome all visitors to Nürburgring who enter the complex from the historic paddock.
Nine decades, countless stories.
There are countless more highlights in the shared history of Nürburgring and Mercedes-Benz. The Eifel circuit is also regarded as the birthplace of the 'Silver Arrows': in 1934 the then Mercedes-Benz racing manager Alfred Neubauer had the white paint ground off the racing cars in an emergency overnight operation, so as to meet the weight limit of 750 kilograms prescribed by the race rules. And in early August 1954 Juan Manuel Fangio's victory at Nürburgring laid the foundations for his double Formula 1 world championship for Mercedes-Benz, driving the W 196 R.
With anecdotes like these, the annniversary celebrations at Nürburgrings once again confirmed thatalongside a very special race circuit, legendary vehicles and striking personalities, it is these immortal stories that make for the fascination of motorsport. So here's to you: Keep on racing, Nürburgring!