The 1989 Le Mans-winning Silver Arrows Sauber-Mercedes C9 will be among the featured cars on the show field at the 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, scheduled for March 7-9 at the Golf Club of Amelia Island at Summer Beach in Florida. Next year’s event will honor the 25th anniversary of the Le Mans victory by reuniting Amelia’s honoree Jochen Mass with his winning Silver Arrows Sauber-Mercedes C9.
From their glory days in the 1930s, the all-conquering racers from Mercedes-Benz were known with affection, respect and, occasionally, fear, as the “Silver Arrows”.
The nickname has its roots in a clever solution to a weight restriction mandated by the grand prix rule book. During the 1930s, to save weight and meet the international regulation requiring grand prix cars to race under the maximum weight of 750 Kilograms, Mercedes-Benz removed Germany’s traditional racing white paint from their racers. The menacing look of the bare alloy bodies suited the aerodynamic shapes designed by Mercedes-Benz engineers. At once the fans and the press nicknamed the new polished, bare-metal Mercedes Grand Prix racers the “Silver Arrows”. It wasn’t hyperbole. Speeds over 200 mph were recorded by the Silver Arrows in the late 1930s! The nickname stuck and it persists today.
On June 10th and 11th, 1989 a Sauber C9, powered by a five-liter turbocharged Mercedes-Benz V-8 engine, set a Le Mans speed record that will stand forever. On the way to victory, the new C9 Silver Arrows recorded a top speed of 253.5 mph on Le Mans’ long 3.7 mile Mulsanne straight. It’s a record that will never be broken.
The governing body of international motorsport was so alarmed by the speed of the Le Mans-winning Mercedes Silver Arrows that it demanded the creation of chicanes on the Mulsanne straightaway to blunt the staggering top speeds.
“The Eighties was a golden age of endurance sports car racing,” said Bill Warner, Founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “All the major manufacturers raced for victory at Le Mans. Mercedes-Benz’s 1989 Le Mans winner was the technological apogee of the breed and it is still the fastest car in Le Mans’ 90 year history. Having the fastest car that ever raced at Le Mans reunited with its ’89 winning driver at Amelia on the 25th anniversary of that milestone victory is very exciting.”
Jochen Mass, honoree of the 19th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, is not only Mercedes’ 1989 Le Mans winner, he’s an international motorsport star who won 32 World Sports Car Championship races and is a Formula 1 winner who has raced for the McLaren, Surtees, ATS, March and Arrows Formula 1 teams.
“Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows have been winning races and championships for nearly a century,” said Warner. “Mercedes power has won Grand Prix races, Formula 1 World Championships, the World Sports Car Championship, the World Sports Prototype Championship, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500. Their uncompromising engineering excellence and expertise has shaped — sometimes reshaped — every automotive discipline. Witnessing a Mercedes-Benz racer in action makes it easy to understand that their motto “the best or nothing” isn’t a frothy slogan, it’s a corporate quality commandment. Racing cars like the ’89 Le Mans winner are the embodiment of that philosophy.”
The 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is scheduled for March 7-9, at the Golf Club of Amelia Island at Summer Beach in Florida. For additional information, visit AmeliaConcours.org.
[Source: Amelia Island Concours; Daimler AG]