Mercedes-Benz celebrates centennial of first 1-2-3 Grand Prix finish

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Lautenschläger races at Lyon
Mercedes-Benz entries in the 1914 French Grand Prix | Mercedes-Benz Classic
Mercedes-Benz entries in the 1914 French Grand Prix | Mercedes-Benz Classic photos

The theme for the 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed, England’s annual celebration of historic racing cars and the people who drove them, is “Addicted to Winning — The Unbeatable Champions of Motor Sport.”  At press preview of the festival was held recently in London and featured a display of racing cars from Mercedes-Benz, which this year celebrates the centennial of its 1-2-3 sweep of the French Grand Prix in 1914.

“The excitement of competition and the fascination of winning describe the spirit of the magical moments from 120 years of Mercedes-Benz motor racing history,” the German automaker said in a news release. “Mercedes-Benz is set to make this unique history, shaped both by people and vehicles, come alive at the Goodwood Festival of Speed with a host of original racing cars from the company’s collection.”

The Mercedes statement also noted that it was at Bonhams’ Festival of Speed auction last year at Goodwood that a Mercedes W196R Grand Prix racing car sold for a record $31.6 million.

Lautenschläger races at Lyon
Lautenschläger races at Lyon

Though Mercedes’ experience in motorsports dates back some 120 years, this year it will focus on a celebration of the 100th anniversary of its historic 1-2-3 finish in the 1914 French Grand Prix as well as the domination of its famed Silver Arrows racing cars in the 1930s and 1950s.

“The Festival of Speed is a premier event on the international classic automobile calendar,” said Michael Bock, head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. “Mercedes-Benz attaches particular importance to putting in a strong appearance at Goodwood, one reason being that the motto for 2014 reflects the key message from 120 years of Mercedes-Benz motor sport in an exceptional way.”

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It was on 4 July, 1914, that Mercedes drivers Christian Lautenschlager, Louis Wagner, and Otto Salzer and their co-driver riding mechanics swept the podium in the new Grand Prix racing cars produced by Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft in the race on a 23.4-mile circuit south of the city of Lyon. Competition for the 20-lap race included Peugeot and Delage from France, Sunbeam from England and Fiat from Italy.

Lautenschläger and co-driver Hans Rieger
Lautenschläger and co-driver Hans Rieger

Mercedes entered five of its new racing cars in the French Grand Prix. Two retired from the race with technical issues, including one that had served as a “rabbit” in the race, setting a very fast early pace and helped to wear out the powerful Peugeots. Lautenschlager, Wagner and Salzer went on to produce what is believed to be the first 1-2-3 finish in international auto racing history.

The cars were powered by Merecedes’ new 4.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the company’s first with a four valves per cylinder design. The engine provided some 106 horsepower at 3,100 rpm and a top speed of more than 110 miles per hour.

The 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed takes place June 26-29 at the country estate of the Earl of March in England.

 

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.