On November 9, 1909 – 100 years ago today – a 200 hp Benz became the first car to break the 200 km/h mark – and in the process went faster than any car, aeroplane or rail vehicle before. Victor Hémery went on to set a total of five world land speed records at the wheel of this racing car, named the ‘Lightning Benz’, on the concrete track at Brooklands, United Kingdom.
Over the half mile distance with a flying start Hémery achieved an average speed of 205.666 km/h, and 202.648 km/h over one kilometre. He covered the one kilometre distance from a standing start in 31.326 seconds, the half mile in 25.566 seconds and the mile in 41.268 seconds, wiping from the record books the times previously set by Darracq.
The Lightning Benz became an international attraction as it continued chasing new records. On April 23, 1911 Bob Burman drove the car at Daytona Beach, United States, achieving an average speed of 228.1 km/h for the flying kilometre and 225.7 km/h for the flying mile – a new land speed record that would remain unbeaten until 1919.
The 200 hp Benz was specially designed for record-breaking attempts. Its engine had a mighty 21.5 litre displacement that gave the vehicle unbeatable power.
Brooklands was regarded as the mother of all race tracks for cars and motorcycles – the first circuit ever built exclusively for the purpose of motor racing. Racing and record-breaking attempts were held there from 1907 to 1939. In addition, Brooklands was the cradle of British aviation and the industry that grew up around it. Today, vestiges of the race track and the Brooklands Museum ensure that the site lives on in the memory. Daimler AG maintains a Brand Center for the Mercedes-Benz, Maybach and smart brands on the site.
Victor Hémery was one of the most successful drivers during the early years of grand prix motor racing before the First World War. Born in Brest, France, on November 18, 1876, he trained as a mechanic and worked for Léon Bollée from 1895 to 1900, before moving to Darracq as head of the test department and works racing driver from 1900 to 1906.
In 1907 Hémery joined Benz & Cie. as a works driver and in 1908 drove a Benz to victory in the St. Petersburg – Moscow race and finished second in the French Grand Prix behind Christian Lautenschlager in a Mercedes and ahead of René Hanriot, also in a Benz. Hémery committed suicide on September 8, 1950 at the age of 74. He had been living in impoverished circumstances in Le Mans, France.
Record Breaking ‘Lightning Benz’ Pictures
[Source: Mercedes-Benz AG]