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

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.”

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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