Mercedes CLK GTR, the winner of the 1997 FIA GT championship, will be sold at auction

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After the Mercedes 300 SLR Unhlenhaut Coupe, another iconic Mercedes car sells at auction. It is the Mercedes CLK GTR racing car with chassis number 004, in which Bernd Schneider won the 1997 FIA GT Drivers’ and Teams’ Championship.

The auction is organized by Sotheby’s auction house, which also handled the sale of the Mercedes 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe, the most expensive car in history, which sold for 135 million euros. The auction is semi-public, and, therefore, the price is not known, but experts estimate its value at around 10 million euros. Those interested can bid until March 6, 2024.

The Mercedes CLK GTR with chassis number 004 is one of only four built by Mercedes and AMG for the FIA GT Championship. Bernd Schneider raced the same car in all 11 rounds of the 1997 FIA GT Championship and achieved four wins, two further podium finishes, five pole positions, and five fastest laps.

The car was owned by Mercedes-Benz until July 2015 when it was sold to a collector who received a certificate, which confirmed the origin of the car: “It is proven that the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR with the Chassis No.-Nr. 297397WA000004 is the car that won the FIA-GT-Championship in 1997”.

Before purchase, the car was carefully checked by the HWA AG company that built the 25 street examples. It has been used at events by the new owner, appearing at the 2019 Chantilly Concours d’Elegance. Accompanying the car is an original seat and double lap belts (to accommodate faster driver changes) used in period by Mark Webber, along with a diagnostic laptop.

Only 128 days for a development from a blank sheet of paper

The Mercedes CLK GTR has a fabulous history, having been developed from a blank sheet of paper. On December 5, 1996, the Mercedes Board gave the green light to AMG to build a GT car. A few days before Christmas, the V12 engine was tested on the test bench, and later Mercedes bought a McLaren F1 GTR (chassis 11R) from the private French team Larbre Competition, which they converted to test the engine and transmission components. On March 27, 1997, Bernd Schneider completed his first test lap at the Jarama circuit. Only 128 days passed from the decision to produce this model to the first test.

The FIA regulations stipulated that by the start of the season, in April 1997, a minimum of one street car and one racing car had to be produced, with the condition that by the end of the season, a total of 25 street cars had to be produced.

However, Mercedes did not have a street model ready until the homologation on April 1, 1997. Mercedes had only two race cars with chassis numbers 004 and 006 ready. And that’s when Mercedes decided to convert one of the race cars into a street car. So the 004 car got street tires and wheels, the interior was adapted for the street, the massive rear wing was dropped and it also got an LB-RA 100 registration number.

Photos in the model’s official FIA homologation forms clearly show a racing fuel filler, sequential gear-selector, bizarre interior, unique rear wing, racing engine, and profiled wheel arches-all clear giveaways that FIA Head of Constructors Gabriel Katringer had been shown a disguised racecar and not a road-going CLK GTR.

AMG later built its first road-going prototype in time for a public unveiling at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1997. After homologation, the car with chassis number 004 was restored to race car status and Mercedes was very lucky to be able to participate in the first FIA GT round at Hockenheim only because the race was postponed for a week.

The race car cost 1.5 million DM, the street version over 3 million DM

The race car cost DM 1.5 million. The carbon fiber chassis was built by Lola in England, while the six-speed sequential gearbox was supplied by the British X-Trac. The mid-mounted naturally aspirated V12 engine was based on the M120 aluminum block from the S-Class. The engine was adapted for a race car and got titanium connecting rods and dry sump lubrication, to be lighter and to lower the gravity center. It develops a maximum power output of 600 PS and a maximum torque of 750 Nm, available from 3,900 rpm, a relatively low value for a race car. The car weighed only 1,000 kg and reached a maximum speed of 330 kph.

The street version was built by HWA AG (owned by Hans Werner Aufrecht, AMG’s co-founder) and had a slightly more comfortable chassis. The interior, with its simple-looking steering wheel, harmless-looking instruments, and leather-Alcantara-velour interior, fits well with the Mercedes series models of the late 1990s. The street car was priced at 3,074,000 DM in 1998, equivalent to about 1.5 million euros. Taking inflation into account, the updated price would be 2.2 million euros, but the rare units that appeared at auctions sold for around 9-10 million euros. At the time, the Mercedes CLK GTR was the most expensive street car in the world.

The street car had a different engine than the racing car: a 6.9-litre naturally aspirated V12 (M297) developing 612 PS and 731 Nm, mated to a similar 6-speed sequential gearbox. At 1,140 kg, it was slightly heavier than the racing version, accelerated from 0 to 100 kph in just 3.7 seconds, and reached a top speed of 320 kph. Mercedes built only 25 units (20 coupes and five roadsters) from 1998 to 1999.