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  Mercedes-Benz CLK-LM

  Article Image gallery (20) Unknown Specifications User Comments (2)  
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Country of origin:Germany
Produced in:1998
Predecessor:Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR
Successor:Mercedes-Benz CLR
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:November 16, 2009
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Click here to download printer friendly versionThe two biggest rivals of the CLK-GTR were Porsche's revised 996 GT1 and BMW Motorsport's new long-tail McLaren F1 GTR both of which had been homologated ahead of the season. A revision in restrictor sizes for turbo-charged engines had all but sidelined the Porsches, leaving the CLK-GTRs and F1 GTRs to fight for victory. At the Hockenheimring, the limited development time showed and both CLKs were forced to retire. During the following two rounds, the team was quickly coming to grips with the new car although they could not match the raw speed and ability of JJ Lehto and Steve Soper in the fastest McLaren just yet. After the third race there was a big break in the season to allow the teams to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Mercedes-Benz decided to skip the legendary endurance race and instead focus on further developing the CLK-GTR. This immediately yielded results; Bernd Schneider and Klaus Ludwig led a one-two victory for Mercedes at the Nürburgring. The following round, at Spa saw Lehto and Soper shine once more under changeable weather conditions. Schneider hit back by winning the next three rounds, jumping from car to car, when needed, during these races. Subsequent wins at Sebring and Laguna Seca brought Bernd Schneider and AMG Mercedes the driver's and constructor's titles. All this with a car that was yet to be homologated.

As was mandated by the FIA, AMG did built a single CLK-GTR road car before the end of the year. Setting it apart from the racing car was an integral rear wing and a seven-litre version of the V12 engine, which was rated at 612 bhp. Mercedes-Benz retained the first road car and it would take another year before the deliveries of the promised production cars would start. The batch of 20 customer cars was eventually built between the winter of 1998 and the summer of 1999. Priced at roughly $1.5 million, the CLK-GTR earned the distinction of being the most expensive road car ever built at the time. In the following years existing cars were modified by AMG/HWA with larger engines and at least five additional cars were built with Roadster bodies.

When AMG Mercedes returned to the FIA GT Championship in 1998 they found only Porsche had come back. Arch-rival BMW had retired their McLaren in favour of a new open-top prototype in a quest for outright glory at Le Mans. Taking a page out of the Mercedes-Benz instruction manual for interpreting the regulations, Porsche had prepared a brand new version of their GT1 car, complete with a carbon-fibre tub. The restrictor imbalance left the Porsches harmless again in the FIA GT; the first two rounds were won by the CLK-GTR. These would be the final outings for the Works cars, although Persson Motorsport continued to run their cars for the remainder of the season.

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  Article Image gallery (20) Unknown Specifications User Comments (2)