Great history: The C-Class and motorsport
- Record drive in Nardò 1983 provides the initial spark
- Ever-present in motor racing ever since
- Safety Cars and Medical Cars for DTM and Formula 1
- – The career of the current C-Class as a motorsport star began with the record-breaking drive completed by the 190 E 2.3-16 model in Nardò, southern Italy (13 to 21 August 1983).
This was also the first major test for the new engine with four valves per cylinder and 136 kW (185 hp). The three record-breaking cars had very similar specifications to the subsequent production models; only minor modifications were necessary to optimise them for the test in Nardó, including optimised aerodynamics, a larger tank and longer axle ratios.
The test proved worthwhile: the brand broke three world records and nine other international records at the circuit in Nardò.
The world records broken by the 190 E 2.3-16 in Nardò, 1983:
25,000 kilometres, average speed 247.549 km/h
25,000 miles, average speed 247.749 km/h
50,000 kilometres, average speed 247.939 km/h
1984: The opening race on the new Grand Prix course at the Nürburgring. The new Grand Prix course in the Eifel region of Germany was inaugurated on 12 May 1984.
The 190 E 2.3-16 played a major role: the opening race involved 20 identical models of this type piloted by 20 renowned racing drivers – a who’s who of international motorsport.
The 190 E 2.3-16 impressively displayed its racing credentials. The top three drivers were Ayrton Senna, Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann.
In 1985, it was initially the French who took part in the French Touring Car Championship, above all Snobeck Racing Service (SRS) supported by Mercedes-Benz France with three vehicles.
This particular championship allowed far more extensive modifications than were allowed for German touring car races in motorsport Groups A and N.
At the first time of asking, the Snobeck Team finished in second place in the French Touring Car Championship with a touring car it had prepared itself based on the 190 E 2.3-16 with dry sump lubrication and individual throttles in the intake system.
In 1986 Volker Weidler finished runner-up in the DTM driving an AMG-prepared 190 E 2.3-16 model, behind him Kurt Thiim in a Rover Vitesse.
1987 was a less successful year in motorsport for the Mercedes-Benz brand. Jörg von Ommen finished ninth in the final DTM ranking.
It was nevertheless a pivotal year: Between 9 and 11 December 1987, the Lämmerbuckel training centre hosted an in-depth discussion dealing with the topic of “Mercedes-Benz and motorsport in the future?”, chaired by Board of Management members Edzard Reuter, Werner Niefer and Jürgen Hubbert.
As a result of this meeting, the Board of Management took the decision to participate in Group A (touring cars) and Group C (racing cars) at a follow-up meeting held on 12 January 1988.
At the end of 1988, two engineers who had been very much involved from the beginning, Rüdiger Herzog and Gerhard Lepler, were placed in charge of DTM at the then Daimler-Benz AG.
In 1988 the AMG, BMK (Brenner, Müller, Kostera), IPS (Ingmar Peer Stureson), Marko and Snobeck teams received official works support.
To give the Mercedes-Benz and BMW participants driving with naturally aspirated engines a better chance against the turbocharged Ford Cosworth, the rules for the cars with naturally aspirated engines were relaxed in this year’s championship, including freeing of ducts in the original cylinder head, intake tract and exhaust manifold, valve dimensions, and mixture formation.
This prompted AMG to replace the throttle valve with slides at the individual intake openings. These measures boosted the engine output from 191 kW (260 hp) to 220 kW (300 hp) at 8000 rpm.
Lighter magnesium components were used for the suspension. Roland Asch finished runner-up in this year with his BMK 190 E 2.3-16.
1989 was the year of the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution, model series 201. In order to make further modifications to the basic 190 E 2.3-16 vehicle, which was already homologated, a further 500 vehicles incorporating the new modifications had to be built according to the DTM Group A rules.
This ruling prompted the development of the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution model, initially just called the “Evo” and subsequently “Evo I” to distinguish it from the later 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II.
The body underwent major modifications. The 8 J x 16 ET 34 wheels with much larger 225/55 R 16 ZR tyres taken from SL model series R 129 required larger and more flared wheel arches.
This wheel/tyre combination was used to house larger brake discs, which were likewise taken from the R 129. To optimise the front and rear downforce, the Evolution model could be fitted with adjustable front and rear spoilers.
The engine required more extensive modifications to achieve a stable engine speed of 10,000 rpm for the racing version. Factory statistics indicated that a total of 502 of the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution models were built.
Whereas in the first races of the 1989 season, 190 E 2.3-16 models were still used (Hockenheim, 1st race: 1 Klaus Ludwig; Mainz-Finthen, 2nd race: 1 Kurt Thiim), the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution was used successively and continued the winning run (Mainz-Finthen, 1st race: 1 Roland Asch; Norisring, 1st race: 1 Kurt Thiim; Diepholz, both races: 1 Klaus Ludwig; Nürburgring, both races: 1 Klaus Ludwig). Of the eight Mercedes-Benz victories in the 1989 DTM season, six were achieved by the “Evolution”.
The 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution notched up the following successes in the 1990 season: Zolder, 1st and 2nd race: 1 Kurt Thiim; Hockenheim, 1st race: 1 Klaus Ludwig; Nürburgring, 2nd race: 1 Frank Biela.
In 1990, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II, model series 201. Externally the new variant, of which 502 models were once again produced, was distinguishable by even larger wheel/tyre combinations (8 ¼ J x 17 ET 34 with 245/45 ZR 17) and further flared wheel arches as well as larger front and rear spoilers with the necessary adjustment options.
The impressive wings of the “Evo II”, as the vehicle was called for short, reduced body lift substantially. As for the engine, the new 102.992 model variant based on the M 102 was used.
Compared to the preceding version, it featured numerous modifications including pistons for an increased compression of 10.5:1, modified timing and adapted intake ducts. In response to public demand, the “Evo II”, unlike its predecessor, was optionally available with air conditioning.
The racing car entered its first events in summer 1990. Kurt Thiim drove the AMG-Evo II to victory in the first race of the DTM meeting at Diepholz. At the end of November, Roland Asch won an invitation race in Kyalami, South Africa, that also proved remarkable for another reason: for the first time in a race, Asch used an anti-lock braking system (ABS) configured for motorsport.
In 1991, Klaus Ludwig finished runner-up in the DTM driving the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II.
1992 was the most successful year for the “Evo II” as the car notched up 16 wins. Klaus Ludwig won the championship ahead of Kurt Thiim and Bernd Schneider.
Mercedes-Benz won the team classification and the brand classification. Key factors here were the introduction of power steering and the ABS configured specifically for use on the race track.
The engines further developed at AMG now achieved 274 kW (375 hp) at 9500 rpm, while the six-speed transmission allowed better adaptation to the track conditions.
1993 was the last year the 190 E 2.5-16 EVOLUTION II was raced, and the year in which Class A was superseded by Class 1 in the DTM regulations. This new classification allowed greater design freedom.
It took AMG just eight weeks to finish a 190 E that complied with the Class 1 requirements, based on the “Evo II”. The main requirements for the new vehicle included an optimum centre of gravity and further improved aerodynamics.
To meet these requirements, the engine was equipped with dry sump lubrication so that it could be installed 5 centimetres lower, and it was installed 11.7 centimetres further rearwards.
In addition to this, Mercedes-Benz and AMG installed an active, electronically controlled suspension. Owing to the narrow time window for preparations, there could be no fine-tuning test drives at the start of the season, the upshot being that Klaus Ludwig was still driving an “Evo ll” when he won the second race at the Nürburgring.
The rapid progress made during the season culminated in Roland Asch finishing as runner-up in the new vehicle.
C-Class model series 202 continues the run of success
In 1994 the number of “silhouette cars” was on the increase due to the new racing formula in DTM: these cars looked like touring cars, but their engine and suspension designs had very little in common with production touring cars.
At Mercedes-Benz they helped the then new C-Class model series 202 to achieve sporting success. The engines were allowed to have a maximum displacement of 2.5 litres and six cylinders, and they had to be derived from a production engine that had been installed in at least 2500 of the manufacturer’s production models for twelve consecutive months.
Two cylinders were allowed to be added or removed for the racing engine. The V-angle, cylinder spacing and material composition had to match those of the production engine.
The minimum weight was 1000 kilograms for two-wheel-drive vehicles and 1040 kilograms for their four-wheel-drive counterparts. Erhard Melcher designed the 2.5-litre V6 engine (M 106) based on the 4.2-litre V8 engine (M 119) for use in the DTM by Mercedes-Benz AMG.
This engine achieved up to 346 kW (470 hp) during the course of development. To improve weight distribution, the six-speed sequential transmission was decoupled from the engine, moved rearwards and reconnected to the engine via an intermediate shaft.
The alternator was also moved rearwards and was driven by the differential by means of gears. This new design brought Klaus Ludwig the 1994 DTM title with Jörg van Ommen finishing as runner-up and also winning the ITR Gold Cup.
The cars were further developed in 1995. Some of the measures implemented: The engine valve springs were replaced by a pneumatic system that further improved reliability at extremely high engine speeds.
An engine could be replaced within 15 minutes, i.e. between two races at the same meeting. The driver’s position was moved to a point behind the B-pillar to position the movable additional weight so as to optimise handling.
In the last year of the DTM, which was held between 1984 and 1995, Bernd Schneider won the championship ahead of Jörg van Ommen – likewise driving a Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
In 1996 AMG developed an all-new car based on the modular concept, in which the front and rear section where bolted to the central module at four points, for participation in the ITC (International Touring Car Championship).
Additional weights beneath the car’s floor were movable within a range of 560 millimetres. Bernd Schneider finished runner-up in this year. Following its victory in the brand classification, Mercedes-Benz ended its involvement in the DTM/ITC.
With 86 wins, it was the most successful manufacturer in the period 1986 to 1996. From 2000 onwards, the DTM and ITC were superseded by the German Touring Car Masters, with “silhouette cars” based on two-door coupés being used up until 2003.
Continuing the motorsport success: the C-Class model series 203
In 2004 the newly formed DTM also featured “silhouette cars” based on four-door saloons. For Mercedes-Benz and the H.W.A. racing team, this meant using the C-Class model series 203.
The body’s supporting element on the new competition car was a space frame with steel roof and steel side elements. This design featured an integral driver’s safety cell, with clearly defined front, rear and side crash structures.
Unlike the production vehicles, the front and rear axle design consisted of double wishbone constructions with spring/damper elements actuated by pushrods. Rack-and-pinion steering was used as in the production models.
As for the engines, a 4.0-litre V8 engine with four valves per cylinder, in which the intake air was limited by two 28-millimetre mass airflow limiters, had been specified since the year 2000.
The power was transferred to the final drive with differential lock via a transaxle with sequential gearshift. A three-disc carbon-fibre clutch was used. The drive shaft was likewise made of carbon-fibre. In this year, Garry Paffett finished runner-up in the AMG-Mercedes, ahead of Christian Albers in the DC Bank AMG-Mercedes.
The regulations allowed modifications in 2005. The gross vehicle weight was reduced by 30 kilograms and by a further 15 kilograms for vehicles from the previous year. Handicap weights were introduced.
If a manufacturer won a race, its cars started the next race carrying an extra 10 kilograms, the second-placed manufacturer’s cars remained at the same weight and the third-placed manufacturer was allowed to reduce the weight of its cars by 10 kilograms.
A spoiler lip had to be included in the rear aerofoil area of all cars. Gary Paffett won the championship driving the DC Bank AMG-Mercedes.
No modifications to the vehicles were allowed in 2006. There was room for manoeuvre owing to changes in the weight management, which allowed 1070 kilograms for the vehicles from the current season, 1050 kilograms for vehicles from season 2005 and 1020 kilograms for vehicles from season 2004.
The winner’s handicap was reduced to 5 kilograms. The 2006 championship was won by Bernd Schneider driving the Vodafone AMG-Mercedes ahead of Bruno Spengler in the DC Bank AMG-Mercedes.
The C-Class model series 204 in motor racing
In 2007 the then new C-Class model series 204 appeared as a fresh face at the DTM race circuits. H.W.A. in Affalterbach began building the first DTM vehicle in the new model series at the end of December 2006. At the end of January 2007, Bernd Schneider and Bruno Spengler took the wheel for the first test drives at the Estoril track.
Since there was a development ban on the engines, only optimisation work was allowed or possible. The major differences on the vehicle were the new body and the wheel suspension design. Bruno Spengler was runner-up with the new car in the 2007 championship.
In 2008 the development ban for DTM vehicles was still in place. There were changes to the weight allowances including the driver: for 2008 vehicles it was 1050 kilograms, for 2007 vehicles 1040 kilograms and for 2006 vehicles 1030 kilograms.
Further rule changes concerned the ban on giving drivers team orders, visiting the pits during Safety Car phases and two obligatory pit stops during the second third of the race. Paul di Resta was runner-up in this year.
In 2009 the cost-reducing development ban was in place once again, meaning that the main difference between the 2009 cars and their 2008 counterparts was the fine-tuning of the aerodynamics.
One aspect of this was having some of the airflow directed inside the vehicle and then to a double diffuser to increase the downforce. Initially the exhaust gases were emitted on the right-hand side, but during the course of the season an eight-in-two system with its ends on both sides of the vehicle was introduced. Gary Paffett finished as runner-up in 2009, ahead of Paul di Resta, both driving an AMG-Mercedes.
In 2010 the shock absorbers were also included in the development ban, meaning that there were no technical modifications for this season. There was nothing new apart from the tyres: Dunlop used new standardised tyres which had the same structure as the previous year’s tyres but were based on a different rubber blend. The championship table was topped by three AMG-Mercedes drivers: Paul di Resta, Gary Paffett and Bruno Spengler.
The development ban was still in place for established teams Mercedes-Benz and Audi in 2011. Bruno Spengler drove his C-Class to third place in the 2011 DTM championship.
In 2012 the DTM vehicles were subject to continued restrictions on the further development of engines, transmissions and drive configurations – but there were extensive body modifications.
The most obvious change was the use of two-door coupé bodies by the three participating manufacturers: Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW. All three makes had to use certain like parts: standardised carbon-fibre monocoque with crash boxes at the front, at the rear and on both sides, front splitter, rear wing, transmission and cardan shaft. Gary Paffett finished runner-up driving the AMG-Mercedes.
Safety Cars and Medical Cars based on the C-Class
Mercedes-Benz was involved with the use of Safety Cars and Medical Cars in Formula 1 and the DTM from a very early stage. C-Class models were also used here, mostly estates owing to the extra space they provide.
In 1996, the C 36 AMG became the first Mercedes-Benz to be used as a Safety Car in Formula 1. It was also used as a Medical Car in 1996 and 1997. In 1998, model series 202 was used for the first time, in the shape of the C 55 AMG Estate.
This was followed in 2001 by the C 32 AMG Estate from model series 203, which featured a V6 supercharged engine. In 2004 it was superseded by the C 55 AMG with V8 naturally aspirated engine, followed in 2008 by the C 63 AMG Estate from model series 204 with the largest-displacement naturally aspirated engine (6.2 litres), which remains the preferred choice for the Safety Car to this day.
In the DTM, the C 55 AMG Estate from model series 203 was used as the Safety Car in 2004 and 2005. The C 63 AMG Saloon was then used from 2009 to 2011. In 2012 and 2013, the C 63 AMG Black Series was the DTM Safety Car.