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  Sauber Mercedes C9      

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Country of origin:Switzerland
Produced from:1987 - 1989
Numbers built:6
Predecessor:Sauber C8 Mercedes
Successor:Sauber Mercedes C11
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:November 07, 2014
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Click here to download printer friendly versionOne of the first specialist manufacturers to build a Group C racer was Peter Sauber. This Swiss engineer and motor racing enthusiast previously constructed mainly small-engined sports-prototypes, so Group C was quite a step forward. He had teamed up with engine specialist Heini Mader and together they created the Cosworth engined Sauber C6 in 1982. The car looked very purposeful, but the badly vibrating V8 engine proved to be a reliability nightmare. In the following seasons, the Swiss team had a little more success with the BMW engined C7, but they could not match the Works developed Porsches and Lancias. The C7's biggest achievement was a ninth at Le Mans in 1983; preventing a complete Porsche top-ten.

Perhaps with the intention of securing factory backing, Peter Sauber asked Mercedes-Benz if he could use their brand new windtunnel to test his latest racing car. The Germans were clearly impressed and shortly after the wind tunnel test an exclusive engine deal was signed between Sauber and Mercedes. This effectively meant the return of Mercedes-Benz to sportscar racing for the first time since their withdrawal after the tragic 1955 Le Mans. The priority was to develop a race winning engine first before drawing too much attention and in the first few years of the cooperation, Mercedes-Benz was listed as an engine supplier only.

Sauber was particularly interested in the recently introduced, all-alloy five litre V8 engine, known internally as the M117. Mader was commissioned to turn this street engine into a full Group C powerplant by adding two KKK Turbochargers. With Group C fuel limitations in mind, the engine was not only developed for outright performance, but also to get sufficient mileage. In qualifying trim the engine easily produced 700 - 800 bhp, but in racing spec 650 bhp was the more sensible output. The newly developed twin-Turbo V8 was mated to a familiar Hewland five speed gearbox.

For the first Sauber Mercedes, the C8, Peter Sauber used the C7's aluminium monocoque as a basis. The Mercedes engine was mounted in a steel subframe directly behind the driver's compartment. All the other running gear was very conventional with independent suspension and vented discs all-round. Subject of the windtunnel test, the ground-effects body was indeed very efficient, although not very stable. At Le Mans in 1985 the sole Sauber Mercedes C8 entered recorded the second highest top speed, but also flipped on the Hunaudieres in practice. Although the car landed on its wheels, it was damaged too much to start the race.

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  Article Image gallery (115) Chassis (5) Specifications User Comments (6)