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  Article Image gallery (19) 701Y000003 Specifications  
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Country of origin:Germany
Produced in:1999
Numbers built:4
Predecessor:Mercedes-Benz CLK-LM
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 19, 2009
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Click here to download printer friendly versionDespite winning the FIA GT Championship in dominating fashion for the second year running, the AMG Mercedes-Benz team could not look back at a perfect 1998 season. The big stain on their record was the complete failure of the CLK-LM in the 24 Hours of Le Mans; by far the most important race of the year. The two Mercedes present were forced to retire less than four hours in the event, which alone probably attracted more publicity than all ten rounds of the FIA GT Championship combined. In 1999 the German manufacturer returned to the French classic with a purpose-built CLR and grabbed all the headlines but unfortunately for the wrong reasons.

Rule changes had made it virtually impossible for Mercedes-Benz to defend their title, so an all out assault on Le Mans was the only logical option. Where the FIA banned the GT1 cars outright, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) created the new LM GTP class for the highly sophisticated machines. This very smart move meant that manufacturers like Toyota, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz all had a reason to return to the great race. Gone were the homologation requirements of GT1, which enabled Mercedes-Benz to develop a purpose-built machine without having to worry about a road going version.

With its long straights and high-speed corners, Le Mans is quite unlike any other track, so being able to develop a car with only the 24 Hours in mind is a great benefit. What is critical is get the right balance between low drag for the straights and enough downforce for the twistier sections. The emphasis of the CLR's aero package was clearly on cutting through the air as efficiently as possible. Compared to the CLK-LM used a year earlier, the new car was lower still and also featured a much narrower cockpit. All the exterior surfaces were extremely smooth with hardly any bumps, scoops or intakes. With some imagination, a hint of the CLK road car could be picked up from the four headlights and grille.

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  Article Image gallery (19) 701Y000003 Specifications