1991 Sauber-Mercedes C11 #31 Pilots: M. Schumacher, F. Kreutzpointner, K. Wendlinger Team: Team Sauber-Mercedes Race: 5th overall (C2 class) at Le Mans in 1991 Spark - S1251 (resin)
There was a long road between Peter Sauber’s first car, the C1, and the Le Mans-conquering C9. By 1988, the Sauber team armed with the C9, had become a de facto Mercedes-Benz works team. For 1989, with the C9’s flight tendencies corrected, the car came in first place at La Sarthe. But even with the Le Mans win, Sauber and Mercedes didn’t stand still, and for the next year they presented the new C11. The C11 was a direct evolution of the C9, with a brand new undercarriage. Instead of aluminum, the new undercarriage became a carbon fiber affair, making the car lighter. Leo Russ, Sauber’s chief designer, also changed the front of the car, making it even more aerodynamic.
Powering the C11 was the same M119 from the C9. The engine was a 4973 cm³ V8 at 90° with 32 valves and two KKK turbos, delivering 730 hp in race trim. The C11 promised a lot, but Mercedes decided that the goal for 1990 was the World Sportscar Championship (WSC). Afraid that Le Mans could hamper their WSC effort, the C11 didn’t race there that year. But in the WSC the C11 delivered: the car won eight of the nine races, and Mercedes won the championship. For the 1991 season Sauber unveiled their new car, the C291. But since performance was lacking, for the 24 Heures du Mans of 1991 the C11 was back. Team Sauber-Mercedes also counted on a young Michael Schumacher. He debuted in prototype racing in 1990, right out of Formula 3.
Schumacher got to race the C11 #31 (chassis #C11-05). He had set the fourth fastest time in qualifying, so hopes were high. However, he wasn’t very used to preserving his equipment, and piloted flat out all the time. That took a toll on the gearbox, and from second place his car fell back to eight. But C11 #31 still managed to recover some ground, and finished the race in fifth place. That was the last race of the C11, and in 1992 Mercedes-Benz pulled out of prototype racing.
So, is this a sexy car that could have won at La Sarthe? Oh yes, ergo, I needed one. A hard to find model, but fortunately I was able to grab one – and locally! A gorgeous effort from Spark, that made a brilliant model. Just as nice as my C9 from HPI, sans removable engine cowl. So in the end a rare AND nice model.