Mercedes' GT1 road-going masterpiece
By the mid to late-90s, there was growing interest from Mercedes and Porsche to return to high profile racing, featuring homologated race cars in the tradition of the great Gran Turismo racers of yesteryear. The result was the FIA GT Championship, which commenced in 1997 to great fanfare. Mercedes-Benz AMG would enter the top-level GT1 class and compete head-on with the astounding Porsche 911 GT1 and BMW-powered McLaren F1. In this sense, the upper echelon of FIA GT racing was essentially a battle between Germany’s top three automotive competitors. In order to participate in FIA GT, 25 homologated road cars had to be produced by each manufacturer. Not surprisingly, these limited-production cars were instantly collectible and highly sought after.
The task was a monumental one; AMG had only four months to design, build, and test a viable and competitive race car and its road-going brother, with the intent of winning and doing so repeatedly. Early in 1997, the proposed engine for the CLK GTR, a 6.9-litre V12, was already undergoing rigorous testing. AMGs mechanics worked round the clock on their most impressive product to date. Finally, after just four months from when the first sketches were conceived on paper, the very first CLK GTR entered its first race in Germany and later reigned victorious at the A-1 Ring, Suzuka, Donington, Sebring, and Laguna Seca, taking the team championship, while Bernd Schneider secured the Drivers’ Championship. AMG returned to the FIA GT series in 1998 scoring six 1-2 finishes and securing the team championship, as well as the Drivers’ Championship for Ricardo Zonta and seasoned Mercedes racing driver Klaus Ludwig.
This exceptional example is the ninth of only 25 built. The CLK GTR is the closest a road-going car will ever come to its race-ready sibling. Its performance figures are downright mind-blowing. Considering its status as one of the rarest German sports racing cars ever produced, it holds true to the valued traditions of homologated GT racing and has cemented its place in history as an instant classic among classics.
RM Sotheby's will be offering this 1998 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLK GTR at their upcoming Monterey auction between the 24-25th August. For more information on this and other vehicles at the sale, click on the link below. Photos: Patrick Ernzen ©2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's.