The event was a complete success. Gottlieb Daimler and his son Paul also travelled to Paris and took their places amongst the spectators close to Porte Maillot. “Large crowds gathered,” Paul Daimler said as he later reminisced about the event. “On the heavy steam-powered vehicles, we saw stokers, dripping with sweat and covered in soot, shovelling combustion material into the furnaces. And then we saw the drivers of the vehicles with gasoline and petroleum engines, perfectly relaxed behind the steering wheel, operating levers every now and then - as if they were just out for a little jaunt. It was an incredible sight to behold and one I will never forget.”
It was an event that also remained etched on the memory in Stuttgart, as nine of the 17 motor cars that crossed the finish line were equipped with Daimler engines, among them the first four cars to finish the race. Known as the “Moteur système Daimler”, it was manufactured under licence based on original plans by Gottlieb Daimler by the French car manufacturer Panhard & Levassor. This first endurance race from Paris to Rouen in 1894 marked the world’s first motorsport event and also the first sporting success for the Stuttgart-based brand.
It made the car famous and led to the founding of the Automobile Club de France, which organised the first “proper” race in 1895. This ran over the considerable distance of1,192 km from Paris to Bordeaux and back, following a basic principle that still applies today: the fastest wins. Once again, it was the French cars equipped with the “Moteur système Daimler” that won out.
The speed races that took place from 1895 onwards in Paris, London, Marseille, Nice, Berlin, Chicago and elsewhere boosted the automotive business. The slogan “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” became a recipe for success for the manufacturers who therefore made great efforts to turn up and win.
Mercedes-Benz motorsport: a remarkable story of success, from the first race to the present-day German Touring Car Championship (DTM), and from the first Grand Prix to Formula One.