AMG suddenly brought this race to the motorsport stage: on July 24, 1971, at 15 p.m., almost 80 touring cars took to the start of the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours. In the middle of the field, a mighty Mercedes-Benz luxury sedan from the W 109 series drives over the Ardennes circuit. It is not a works racing car, but a vehicle that is used by the engineering office founded in 1967 by Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher. AMG has prepared this forerunner of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class comprehensively for the endurance race, with the focus on the engine and chassis. The technical data are gigantic for racing touring cars of the time: 315 kW (428 PS) from 6.835 cubic centimeters of displacement, up to 620 Newton meters of torque, a top speed of more than 265 km / h and an acceleration ability from standstill to 100 km / h in 6,1 , 300 seconds. AMG 6.8 SEL XNUMX is the name of the red racing car - even if the star on the radiator clearly refers to the Stuttgart brand.
The company name AMG is not yet widely known in 1971, but is common mainly to enthusiastic sporty enthusiasts of high-performance Mercedes-Benz automobiles. The first letters of the surnames Aufrecht and Melcher and the town of Großaspach (where the two founders worked together on racing engines for the first time in the 1960s) make up the abbreviation. The company's headquarters are in a former mill in the neighboring village of Burgstall.
At the end of the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours in 1971, the AMG brand built a reputation for itself in the world of racing overnight. Because Hans Heyer and Clemens Schickentanz drive in the 300 SEL 6.8 to a sensational 2nd place in the overall classification and secure victory in their class. Even the well-known news program “Tagesschau” on ARD reports on the racing coup in Belgium. The magazine "auto motor und sport" celebrates it as "Swabian prank".
The "incredible second place"!
This racing success 50 years ago cannot be taken for granted. Because the large sedan weighing 1.635 kilograms (at least 195 kilograms lighter than the production version) has to assert itself in the Belgian marathon race against a field of nimble racing touring cars. Fortunately, the old Spa-Francorchamps circuit suits the vehicle - 14,863 kilometers long and with many straights on which full throttle can be driven. The 300 SEL 6.8 holds up well and speeds reliably through the night, while more and more vehicles are retiring from the race: At dawn, 23 cars are still on the road, entire works teams have painted their flags. The outsider from Affalterbach continued on his lanes and finally crossed the finish line as the second vehicle among the 18 remaining racing touring cars.
In retrospect, the trade magazine “Road & Track” describes the successful balancing act between power and weight: “In the race, the large V8 engine had an insatiable thirst for fuel, and the weight [of the vehicle] meant that its tires quickly wore out. But the speed of the Rote Sau more than compensated for these inefficiencies on the long straights of Spa-Francorchamps. After 24 hours she stormed into an unbelievable second place behind a Ford Capri. "During the race, the big V8 had an insatiable thirst for fuel, and its weight meant that it quickly wrecked its tires. However, the straight-line speed of the Red Pig more than made up for its inefficiencies on the long straights of Spa-Francorchamps, and after 24 hours, it ended up storming its way to an incredible second place behind a Ford Capri.“) The drivers of the Ford are the former Mercedes-Benz racing driver and today's Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador Dieter Glemser and the Spanish racing driver Alejandro“ Àlex ”Soler-Roig.
Reminder of the historic success at the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours 2021
For the performance and sports car brand Mercedes-AMG and for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport, the success at the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours 50 years ago is a milestone in the brand's history. This year, a total of 13 Mercedes-AMG GT3s entered by customer teams will be at the start of the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (July 31 to August 1, 2021). One of the GT3s commemorates the anniversary in two ways: Its design is based on the racing touring car from 1971, and it also bears the starting number 50.
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Racing touring car 300 SEL 6.8 - the red pig from 1971!
Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz
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