1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK LM #35 Pilots: B. Schneider, K. Ludwig, M. Webber Team: Mercedes-Benz Daimler Ag / AMG Race: DNF (GT1) at Le Mans in 1998 Spark - S0161 (resin)
The last season of the International Touring Car championship was 1996, and that was a problem for Mercedes-Benz. The ITC, until then, had been where Mercedes showed-off their racing cars to promote the brand. Fortunately, almost at the same time FIA announced the new GT Championship for production based sports cars. And though the new class was for GT cars derived from road-going models, homologation was easy. For the GT1 class the manufacturer needed to produce only 25 examples of the road version. So in the end of 1996 Mercedes (AMG, in fact) began working on a new car, the CLK GTR (W297). The chassis of the GTR was a carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb monocoque, with a bodywork totally made of carbon fiber. The engine was Mercedes-AMG’s GT 112, a 5986 cm³ V12. With DOHC and 48 valves, it delivered 600 hp.
In only 128 days Mercedes had two cars ready, and promptly enrolled them in the opening round of the FIA GT Championship. But to focus on the GT championship, they skipped Le Mans that year. And it paid off. At the end of the season, Mercedes took home the driver’s and constructor’s titles.
The following year the CLK was back to the GT Championship, but this season it would also race at La Sarthe. But to compete with the new Porsche GT1-98, the CLK needed upgrades. After all, races in the GT championship were hardly 1/10th of the distance covered at Le Mans. The new revised car, specifically made for La Sarthe, was the CLK LM. One of the biggest differences was the engine. The CLK LM used Mercedes-AMG’s GT 108 unit, a 4986 cm³ V8. Though with the same power output, it was lighter. In addition, since La Sarthe is a high speed track, the aero package had to be different. Therefore, the body of the car received a lower nose and roof to reduce drag. For the race, the Mercedes-AMG team had two cars, and expectations were high. Especially after qualifying day, when both set the fastest and third fastest times.
However, on race day, it was a disaster. CLK LM #35 abandoned on lap 19, and car #36 shortly after on lap 31. Unfortunately, the CLK LM would not repeat the same success of its CLK GTR sibling. Bad luck on the track notwithstanding, in scale the model is a success. As usual, Spark delivers a killer car, that looks totally awesome. And this was a feat for my collection. I don’t know why (low production run?) but the CLK LM is VERY hard to find. This was a must buy for me since I started collecting 1:43. Yet, this one here was the first one I ever found. Not cheap, but worth it – THE most gorgeous modern Mercedes to race at La Sarthe.