The year 1988 was a very important year for Mercedes Benz as regards racing, because Stuttgart decided to return to the track (after 33 years) and participate in the Sport Prototype World Championships.. In 1982, the category was officially established as the Group C category.
The history of Mercedes with this Group C began at Hinwill (Lake Zurich) where Peter Sauber started building his racing cars in 1969. In 1981 he started in the group C with the C6 (derived of a previous BMW M1). On this chassis he fitted a new body and a 3.9 litre Cosworth. Streamlining was worked out at the University of Stuttgart, in collaboration with a specialist of Daimler-Benz. The best result was a 6th place at Le Mans.In 1983, they designed the C7, a M1 3.5 litre engine. It became 9th at Le Mans and 10th on the Fuji Track (and gained by this its first world championship point).
On the C8 they mounted for the first time a Mercedes Benz eight cylinder 5 litre- engine (derived from the S-series Sedans). Two KKK turbosuperchargers with intercooler were mounted to make the car more competitive (e.g. the C 111-IV in 1979). The engine could develop 700 hp. But the short career of the C8 came to an end when it literally took off at the 24h of Le Mans. Afters two complete turns in mid air, it landed 500 meters further on all four wheels.Wheels, doors and engine were still working. Nielsen, who drove the car, came out without a scratch. It was the C8 that was sponsored for the first time by Yves Saint Laurent (YSL). After a lot of different technical difficulties with a new C8, the Sauber team decided not to participate in the two Norisring trials, Brands Hatch and Spa and opted for the Nürnburgring on August 24th. From the qualifications on out, the car was able to stay in there with the favourites (Porsches and Jaguars). After several accidents due to the very bad weather, the race ended u with a duel between the C8 (Thackwell) and the XRJ6 (Warwick), but Thackwells engine quit and he had to drop out. Pescarolo (C8) came in first.The Kouros-Mercedes (C8/03)last appearance was in the 1000 km of Spa (6th place).
1987 was a transition season for Mercedes in which the C9 made its debut. (difference with the C8 was a one-piece, all-aluminium body frame (48 kg) and a new suspension system). An important innovation was the use of Michelin tires in place of the Goodyears.
Two Kouros-Mercedes were entered for the Le Mans race :
C9/01 # 61 : Pescarolo, Thackwell and Okada
C9/02 # 62 : Dumfries and Ganassi
#62 did the fastest lap but dropped out after 500 km with a bad transmission, # 61 did a double blow-out .
The only points that the Kouros-Mercedes obtained that year was at the Spa 1000 km, where Schlesser and Thackwell came in seventh.
Fur the Nürnbergring supercup event, the final race in the world championship series, the two C9s were no longer flying the Kouros colours but were sponsored by Michelin.Schlesser ended first, Stuck (Porsche) second and Thackwell third.
In 1988 the C9 returned with the body decorated with a huge layout of a racetrack, sponsored by AEG. The official drivers for that season were Schlesser, Baldi and Mass. The car had a brand new telemetric system. All important engine data were picked up by sensors during each lap and sent to the on-board computer for processing. As the car passed the pits, the data was sent to a computer in the pits. This info was processed and used by the team for making decisions regarding the correct racing strategy. The C9/02 ended first in the 800km at Jerez, Spain. The Monza 1000km was the scene of another exciting battle between Mercedes, Jaguar and Porsche. The Sauber, driven by Baldi, Schlesser and Mass ended second between the 2 Jaguars (Cheever/Brundle and Larrauri/Sigala)Baldi and Johansson scored the Fourth victory in the Spa race. At the end of the season, Mercedes ended with 5 victories.
In the next season, the C9 had a brand new paintjob. Its basic colour was dark-blue with a light-blue band going across the body from one side to the other. The most sensational innovation was the three-pointed star on its front bonnet. This provided the absolute visual proof that Mercedes Benz was directly engaged in the sport of motor-racing.
In the same season, Mercedes presented 2 completely new, silver-coloured versions. These 2 cars were hailed as the new Silver Arrows. The use of different coloured rear view mirrors (red for the 61 and yellow for the 62) was a very elegant way for making it easy to tell them apart.
The Le Mans 24h were held on June 10 and 11th with 3 C9s :C9/04 # 61 : Baldi, Acheson and Brancatelli
C9/05 # 62 : Schlesser, Jabouille and Cudini
C9/03 # 63 : Mass, Dickens and Reuter
At midnight, Lammers Jag was in the lead with the 2 Saubers (61 and 63) just behind, but due to transmission problems, Lammers had to stop at 6.00 AM and # 63 ended first, followed by # 61. Schlesser (# 62) came in 5th behind Wollek (Porsche) and Lammers (Jaguar).
The last race of the season (Mexico city) was won by Schlesser, thus becoming World Champion.
Technical details : 1987-1988 / 1989-1990
Engine : V 8, 2KKK turbochargers with Behr intercooler
Bore and stroke : mm96.5 x 85
Piston displacement : 4973 cc
Power : 700hp at 7000 rpm / 720 hp at 7000 rpm
Fuel system : Bosch Motronic electronic injection
Gearbox : Hewland VGC, 5-speed + reverse
Frame : aluminium monocoque, bodywork of carbon-fiber and kevlar
Brakes : steel-fiber (or carbon-fiber) on all four wheels, hydraulic system
L/W/H : mm 4800-1950-1070
Wheelbase : 2700 mm Tyres : Michelin (1990 : Goodyear)
Empty weight : 860 kg / 902 kg
Text : Mercedes Benz Opera Omnia ; Centennial edition p208-227 ;