1989 Sauber-Mercedes C9 Pilots: J. Mass, M. Reuter, S. Dickens Team: Team Sauber Mercedes Race: 1st overall (C1 class) at Le Mans in 1989 HPI - 991 (diecast)
Peter Sauber started building cars in 1970 and the first prototype he built was the C1 – the “C” is from Christine, his wife. His cars were quite competitive, but they didn’t have particularly good engines. But in 1985 that changed, when he partnered with Mercedes-Benz. For 1985 and 1986 the involvement of Mercedes was just as a supplier of the M117 engine for the C8 car, and at La Sarthe the results were disappointing. Extensively redesigned, and despite the not very inspired new name, the C9 was a totally different car that entered the race in 1987. Once again the cars disappointed, so for 1988 Mercedes transformed Sauber into the factory team, with full support.
With the cars now in the traditional Silberpfeil color, 1988 started out well. However, the combination of higher speeds and higher down force had increased the loads on the tires too much, causing the rear tires to burst on one of the C9s at very high speeds on the Mulsanne during qualifying for Le Mans. Mercedes deemed too dangerous to start the race, and still traumatized by the 1955 accident, they opted to not race. Even so, the manufacturer managed a second place in the World Endurance Championship that year.
Since the car seemed to be on the right track, 1989 began with a new engine: the M119. It was a twin turbocharged (by KKK) V8 with 4973 cm³, 32 valves and DOHC, and capable of 720 hp. At Le Mans the cars performed superbly, and managed 1st, 2nd and 5th places. So with car #63 (chassis #88-C9-03), after an hiatus of 37 years, Mercedes finally won again at La Sarthe.
A gorgeous rendition in scale by HPI, this could be considered a “must have” model for the Le Mans collector. Outstanding detail over all and the very nice feature of a removable engine cowl, showing a nicely detailed engine underneath. Compared to my other HPIs, I might say the C9 #63 has the best engine detail. And of course, there’s that so nice display box. You can display the car in maybe the perfect way, with engine in the open. So all in all, a great model if you can find one.
Tires! Check your tires, PLEASE! On my model the rear tires were basically glued to the plinth. When I unscrewed the car from the base, the plinth wouldn’t detach because of the tires 😲. Fortunately they were okay with no damage. However, I’m positive that if the car sat longer in its display case some permanent damage could have happened. So as I have said times before, check you tires.