Even today, starting number 28 signifies a spectacular racing victory.

Parlez-vous Grand Prix?

100th anniversary of the triple victory in Lyon.
  • Parlez-vous Grand Prix?

  • Endurance test for man and machine.

    It was a hot day in Lyon, France in July 1914. Well over 200,000 spectators crowded on the edge of a dry, dusty circuit. The resounding applause was for the newcomer Max Sailer. He pushed his Mercedes racing car to its limits, driving record lap times and, after five out of a total of twenty laps, he was leading the French Grand Prix with a sensational lead ofalmost three minutes.

    But triumph proved to be a long way away: over the total distance of 752.6 kilometres, only eleven of the 37 entrants completed the distance properly. The race was a test of endurance for man and machine. Sailer dropped out in the sixth lap.

    The three triumphants racing cars after returning to the factory.

    A glorious victory for the whole team.

    After Max Sailer dropped out, Georges Boillot led in a Peugeot and Christian Lautenschlager worked his way up to second place. It was a strength-sapping, exciting race. On lap 18 of 20, luck turned in favour of the Mercedes team. First Christian Lautenschlager managed to fight his way into the lead. On the same lap, Otter Salzer also overtook Peugeot driver Goux to take up fourth position. Louis Wagner was already in third place. When Boillot’s Peugeot could no longer cope with the stress of the race and dropped out on the last lap, the Mercedes triple victory – the first in the history of motor sports – was assured. In addition to the skill of the courageous drivers, the triumph was, above all, thanks to innovative engineering and precise planning on the part of the entire Mercedes team.

    Technical top performance.

    The engineers’ work on the design which was to become legendary began back in October 1913, when new rules were announced. Developing a car suitable for the tough circuit in Lyon required peak technical performance. The important thing was to get the balance right between top performance on the one hand, and reliability and endurance on the other. The Mercedes engineers quickly realised what was needed: the key to success was a combination of numerous innovative solutions to questions of detail. A very stable chassis, weighing as little as possible, a streamlined body and a light-weight but powerful engine all went to make the new racing car a supreme and efficient model.

    The perfect combination of speed and reliability made the outstanding triple victory possible.

    Magic moments.

    The greatest challenge was the engine which, according to the rules, was allowed a maximum capacity of 4.5 litres – considerably less than the large engines of previous years. The Mercedes engineers pulled out all the stops and developed an especially lightweight four-cylinder engine with four-valve technology and an engine speed of about 3100 rpm – approximately a third more than was usual at the time. The co-driver was a mechanic who regularly pumped oil to the camshaft, so that the valves were constantly lubricated. Three spark plugs per cylinder meant reliable ignition, and a second fuel pipe was a safeguard against failures. The four-cylinder engine had an output of over 100 hp and at its very debut achieved the legendary triple victory.

    Innovative high-performance engine: the 4,5-litre four-cylinder engine of the Mercedes Grand Prix racing car.

    But in later years too, this engine ensured spectacular victories and provided magic moments in the 120-year motor racing history of Mercedes-Benz.

    The reserve car of the day came into its own 100 years after the race in Lyon.

    Fascination at your fingertips.

    On the 100th anniversary of the triple victory of Lyon, Mercedes-Benz Classic revived the excitement and, at the original location, brought together the three cars still in existence. For the first time, Lautenschlager's winning car with number 28 was reunited with substitute car number 41bis.

    Today, both cars are star exhibits of two private collections in the USA. When they drove round the 1914 circuit together, Le Mans winner and former Formula 1 driver Jochen Mass provided safe yet breath-taking driving in the third car, which is normally exhibited in the Mercedes-Benz Museum.

    Impressions from Lyon.

    Up to this very day, innovative technology is one of the reasons for many successes.

    Innovative pioneers.

    However, the innovative strength of the Stuttgart-based brand could also be seen in other victories, which were achieved immediately following rule changes. From 1934 onwards, the new Silver Arrows dominated the international racing circuits. The Stuttgart engineers achieved the balancing act between stability and speed here too after the permitted unladen weight had been restricted to 750 kg. After World War II, as early as 1952, they concentrated on a new ruling which was to come into force two years later. Those responsible chose to withdraw temporarily from Grand Prix sport in order to be able to return as pioneers in 1954. Currently, this visionary planning can be observed in Formula 1. The fact that Mercedes-Benz have dominated since the switch to hybrid engines was made illustrates clearly their lead in the field of futuristic technologies.