The ex-Alessandro Nannini/Marcel Tiemann FIA GT1 Endurance Racing Factory Team Car
1997 MERCEDES-BENZ CLK-GTR WORKS SPORTS RACING CAR
Chassis No. 0006
Mercedes racing silver with blue mirrors and Warsteiner D2 livery, black cockpit
Engine:V12, dohc, four valves per cylinder, electronic fuel injection, 5,987cc, 600bhp (see text) at 7,000rpm, 770lb-ft at 3700rpm (with FIA air restrictors); Chassis: carbon-fiber monococque with integrated steel roll cage, carbon-fiber composite body; Gearbox: straight toothed six-speed manual sequential shift; Suspension: front and rear, double wishbone with adjustable shock absorbers, adjustable stabilizers and spring retainers, pull-rod actuated springs; Brakes: six-plunger aluminum fixed calipers, internally ventilated discs with carbon-fiber linings. Rack-and-pinion power steering. Left hand drive.
Late in 1996 the German DTM (Deutches Touring Meisterschaft) series, then the most technically advanced and expensive racing series in the world, broke down after most of its manufacturer/entrants withdrew. Mercedes-Benz was faced with a decision: do we apply the budget allocated to the DTM to more 4-color advertisements for our production cars or risk it on a crash program to build a competitive racer for the increasingly attractive, but Porsche/BMW-dominated, FIA GT series? For most manufacturers that decision would be, in MBA-speak, a 'no brainer'. Advertising moves units and builds quarterly revenue and profit; racing only builds an image, takes years to pay off and doesn't help our performance bonuses or stock options' values.
So Mercedes-Benz committed its massive DTM budget to the CLK-GTR. Mercedes chose its performance partner AMG to build the new car. AMG was formed in 1967 by Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher in Grossaspach (thus A-M-G) as a tuner of Mercedes-Benz cars perhaps still best known for the 'Hammer' built in 1988, the year AMG became M-B's sedan racing team. A formal cooperation agreement with M-B followed in 1990 making AMG the specialist branch of Merecedes, building the C36, E50, C43 and E55 with production of 5,000 examples in 1999, the year AMG became a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler AG. The first FIA GT race was at Hockenheim in April 1997. That gave AMG only a few months to conceive, design, build, test and prepare a three-car team with one spare.
Intended to promote the soon-to-be-launched CLK coupe and convertible, AMG grabbed as much DTM technology as it could for the rules-constrained FIA GT series, looked at BMW's success with the V12-powered McLaren F1 GTR and chose the S-class 600-series 6-liter V12 engines. AMG laid out a conventional mid-engine rear-drive chassis with ground effects bodywork that slightly resembled the CLK and began bagging, vacuuming and cooking carbon fiber in a well-organized frenzy.
The AMG Mercedes-Benz team was ready for Hockenheim on April 13, 1997, but barely, having completed the cars only the day before practice, 128 days after the go ahead. Drivers were 1995 DTM champion Bernd Schneider, 1994 DTM Champion Klaus Ludwig, Alexander Wurz, Alessandro Nannini and Marcel Tiemann, later joined at times by Roberto Moreno, Bernd Maylaender, Ralf Schumacher, Aguri Suzuki and Greg Moore. They lined up against factory teams from Porsche, BMW and Panoz, with strong private Porsche and BMW entries. The CLK-GTR's competition had seasons of experience and equally deep pockets. High stakes in the Drivers' and Teams' Championships dictated team tactics be employed from the beginning of the season, especially as AMG Mercedes would be starting much lower on the FIA GT learning curve, always sure to cause early-season dnfs. The team's lead drivers, DTM veterans Schneider, Ludwig and Nannini, started on an even footing but points accumulated would determine who would be favored if a chance for the Drivers' Championship developed.
The AMG Mercedes team's accomplishment fully justified Mercedes-Benz's decision to fund the FIA GT effort. The cars showed their speed early, with Schneider taking pole at the season opening Hockenheim race. AMG Mercedes quickly overcame the expected early season teething discomfort and the CLK-GTRs bit soundly into the race results, Schneider/Wurz barely losing the second round at Silverstone when torrential rains red-flagged the 4-hour race in 3 hours 20 minutes, costing Schneider the lap on which he passed the Kox/Ravaglia McLaren-BMW F1 GTR for the lead!
Nannini then qualified 2nd in Helsinki but finished 16th after a gearbox change during the race while Schneider/Wurz recovered from a crash with a McLaren to regain 8th at the checker. At this point in the season, JJ Lehto and Steve Soper led the best placed AMG Mercedes drivers in the Drivers' Championship by 18 points while Team BMW led AMG Mercedes by 28 points, a huge deficit for a first year car and team.
At the Nürburgring on June 29 the CLK-GTR really showed its form as Bernd Schneider swept pole, fastest race lap and the race win, barely a minute ahead of teammates Nannini and Tiemann. During the race, after an accident slowed the third CLK-GTR, AMG Mercedes moved Klaus Ludwig into Schneider's car, giving him equal race points to Schneider and keeping all three AMG team leaders in contention for the Drivers' Championship. At Spa-Francorchamps on July 20 the Ardennes circuit's characteristic intermittent rain interrupted the CLK-GTR's progress after Nannini, who qualified 2nd to JJ Lehto's factory McLaren F1 GTR, led early before retiring and Schneider was unable to catch Lehto's McLaren. The Ludwig/Ralf Schumacher CLK-GTR finished 5th, 2 laps down.
At Zeltweg in Austria a week later Ludwig returned the driver-swap favor, giving Schneider a turn in his leading, and eventually winning, CLK-GTR. The consistent and quick Nannini/Tiemann pairing finished a close 2nd even without second gear in the race's closing stages, building up their Drivers' Championship points without team tactics. Another driver-sharing deal at Suzuka on August 24 put Schneider into the winning Nannini/Tiemann car during the race. The Ludwig/Maylaender CLK-GTR took the pole. Back in Great Britain on September 14 Schneider again swept pole, fastest lap and the race win partnered by Wurz, a result necessitated by the officials' decision to stop mid-race car swapping, less than a minute ahead of the other front row qualifier, the Nannini/Tiemann CLK-GTR.
AMG Mercedes domination was challenged by JJ Lehto's win in the McLaren 1 minute 24 seconds ahead of Nannini/Tiemann's CLK-GTR at Mugello on September 28, even though the three CLK-GTRs swept the top three qualifying positions. Schneider/Wurz were caught up in an incident involving other cars; Ludwig/Maylaender finished 9th after mechanical problems. Three weeks later the FIA GT series made its way to the US for the final two races.
At Sebring, Nannini crashed, but Schneider and Ludwig, now sharing the #11 Mercedes, overcame rain to win the race. This result put the Drivers' Championship on the line among Schneider and McLaren drivers JJ Lehto and Steve Soper at the season finale at Laguna Seca on October 26. The race win by Schneider/Ludwig's CLK-GTR capped the season, taking both the Drivers' and Teams' Championships for the AMG Mercedes team. Ludwig finished fourth in the Drivers' Classification with the consistent, and frequently brilliant, Nannini and Tiemann in a tie for 5th.
In retrospect, 1997 was a vintage year in GT racing. The caliber of the cars (Mercedes CLK-GTR, Porsche 911 GT1, McLaren F1 GTR and Panoz), teams (AMG, Porsche, BMW, Gulf-Davidoff, Konrad, Roock, Schnitzer, Dams and David Price), drivers and venues (on three Continents) is unmatched in recent history. Three major manufacturers faced off with factory teams, and no secrets were made of their involvement, intentions or the extent of the resources that would be deployed in their campaigns to win. Yet the cars are, because of the FIA GT rules applied this season, largely the result of artful construction with minimal exotic technology. The season, often with only 7 days between races, and 4-hour races required strong, simple and reliable cars. The many cars which recovered from racing accidents to achieve strong results demonstrates that the designers and constructors succeeded in achieving these goals.
Through it all, one car on the AMG Mercedes team showed its combination of performance and reliability with consistent speed and finishes: the Nannini/Tiemann #10. Its record speaks for itself.
Presented here, 0006 is in perfect race-ready condition in its 'Silver Arrow' color scheme with Warsteiner-D2 livery and blue door mirrors. It is one of only four such V12-powered CLK-GTRs built. At 2400 pounds, its 680bhp (officially, FIA regulations stipulated only 600bhp!) V12 gives 3.5 pounds/horsepower. It should be noted that during the entire 1997 season not one CLK-GTR failed to finish a race because of engine problems.
Sources estimate these factory team cars cost nearly $3 million each to build (not including amortization of development costs). The 21 'street' CLK-GTRs which had to be built to homologate the four race cars sold for a factory price of DM3.2 million each, a price capped by FIA GT regulations and bearing no relation at all to their true cost. Offered here today at a small fraction of its original cost, the potential saving on this factory team CLK-GTR could buy a barn full of S-class Mercedes.
The car is offered complete with a factory set of wheels, spare front hose and rear body section; these items can be collected from the vendor in England. Mercedes-Benz factory prepared Works cars are rarely ever available and now that AMG is a wholly-owned subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler, it can be expected that the remaining CLK-GTRs, in long-standing tradition, will be retained by the factory. This is one of just four factory-built V12 CLK-GTRs and the first ever to be publicly offered for sale at auction. It is a proven winning modern 'Silver Arrow'.