The Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR was intended to enter in the 1997 FIA GT Championship sportscar racing world championship series, known as BPR Global GT Series up to 1996. To be allowed to do so, 25 cars had to be built for the GT1 class. Porsche 911 GT1, McLaren F1, Ferrari F40 and others were already competing there, Nissan R390 GT1 and Toyota GT-One joined in later, at the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans.
After the CLK GTR won all World Championships titles it competed for in 1997 and 1998, the GT1 class was cancelled as no competitor showed up for 1999. In that year, the required road cars were finally delivered.
As the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft/ITC had folded in late 1996, with both remaining competitors Opel and Alfa Romeo leaving due to the high costs of their 4WD designs, Mercedes had no top series to compete in. FIA gave a special permission to enter their new FIA GT championship in 1997 with a new sportscar even without the required 25 cars in existence yet. These had to be presented later, though.
Within 128 days, a car dedicated only to racing was developed. The CLK GTR was built around a carbon fiber monocoque, the V12 engine was mounted longitudinally behind the passenger compartment. The body panels, which reminded in some details (front grille, four headlamps) of the standard Mercedes CLK, were made of Kevlar.
The engine was a development of the 5.9 liter Mercedes-Benz M120 engine unit from the Mercedes-Benz W140 road cars, with power limited to approx. 600bhp by mandatory air restrictors. The rear wheels were driven through a 6-speed paddle-shift transmission.
The CLK GTR were entered in mid-1997 season, yet could secure both the FIA GT1 world championship titles for driver (Bernd Schneider) and the cars, which took 5 places within the top ten despite their late arrival. The main opposition were the Porsche 911 GT1 and McLaren F1 GTR, both of which were older designs.
For the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans race, an evolution version called Mercedes-Benz CLK LM was introduced, which was even lower, and had a V8 engine that was supposed to be lighter and more efficient. The car #35 driven by Bernd Schneider, Mark Webber and Klaus Ludwig scored the Pole position, yet in the race, both cars had to retire early due to oil pressure problems in the new, untested engine. This gave the Porsche 911 GT1-98 its only win in that year, as the Mercedes dominated all FIA GT races in 1998, winning world champion titles for Klaus Ludwig and teammate Ricardo Zonta alike.
For the 1999 season, no competitor showed up to the FIA GT1 category, which was canceled, similar to the DTM/ITC two years early. Once again, Mercedes crushed not only the competitors, but the competition itself, leaving itself without a playing field.
Yet, for the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans, and even more extreme car was developed, the Mercedes-Benz CLR, which would become a spectacular failure though.
Even after the FIA GT1 class was cancelled for 1999, Mercedes was obliged to finally deliver the required 25 cars in total. They were built by AMG at the Affalterbach factory between winter of 1998 and summer of 1999. Thus sprouted, the coolest car to ever exist.
The road cars differed only slightly from the race car, and were not refined for typical road use standards which would have been very expensive, especially as many modifications were prohibited by the rules in the first place. Most cars were expected to be rarely-driven collector items anyway. Using it for stop-and-go cruising within a city, especially in hot weather, is certainly not what this car was made for - unlike some so-called supercars which never were intended for racing. From the otherwise unrelated standard production CLK, only the instrumentation, front grille and the four headlamps were used.
Ilmor Engineering provided the enhancements, bringing displacement from 5.9 liters to 6.8 and increasing the now unrestricted power to 720bhp and torque to 572 lb/ft. The factory claimed a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 200 mph.
Then recorded as the most expensive production car ever built, with a price of $1,573,000, it certainly deserved this title. It was considered the spiritual successor to the legendary Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing of the 1950s.
Technical Specification of the road car
|Name||Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR AMG|
|Top Speed||199 mph / 320 km/hr. (The NFS version did 334 km/hr)|
|Power|| 612 BHP / 456.4 kW @ 6800 RPM
720 BHP / 536.9 kW @ 6700 RPM - SuperSport
|Torque||572 ft·lbf / 776 Nm|
|Engine|| 6898 cc V12
7291 cc V12 - SuperSport
|Transmission||Manual, Six Speed|
|Acceleration 0-60 mph:||3.4 s|
|1/4 Mile (1320 ft):||9.4 sec. @ 145 mph|
After the completion of the 25 original CLK-GTRs, AMG's specialist group now known as H.W.A. modified existing CLK-GTR chassis or created additional cars from spare chassis. These cars included 5 CLK GTR AMG Roadsters, modified with the removal of the roof and the addition of rollover bars.
Another variant was the CLK GTR AMG SuperSport, which took an ordinary CLK GTR and added an AMG-built 7.3L V12 (the same unit used in the Pagani Zonda and Mercedes-Benz SL73 AMG). The car also gained an additional front splitter and is the only CLK-GTR not painted in silver, this time appearing in red and black. Only 5 were produced by HWA.
Guinness World Records listed it as the world's most expensive production car.
In 2006, a Mercedes-Benz AMG CLK-GTR Limited Edition Roadster was called 'World's most expensive lemon' after the owner had complained that the oil pressure light came on followed by engine failure and the transmission had failed to shift properly on a Beverly Hills street, followed by Mercedes-Benz's refusal to fix the car on warranty.   At the time of purchase in 2004, it had cost $1.7 million. Although the car was bought directly from Germany, Mercedes-Benz USA was named as a defendant in the following lawsuit.
- Mercedes-Benz motorsport
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