When Mercedes Benz decided to re-enter motorsport after a long absence since the Le Mans disaster of 1955, they decided to tackle the challenge in three directions. The first would be as in engine supplier, first to Sauber and then to McLaren which saw the beginning of the illustrious McLaren-Mercedes era. The second was in the American CART series that kicked off in Homestead, Florida. The same year, in 1997, Mercedes Benz also decided to take part in their third motorsport assault by entering in the new FIA GT Championship.
While Mercedes Benz, alongside Porsche and Panoz showed interest in the FIA GT Championship, Mercedes Benz didn’t have a car in hand even 4 months before the start of the season. So the designers and engineers got to work immediately to create a competitor that could present a challenge to the likes of the Porsche 911 GT1 and the BMW-powered McLaren. According to the rules, each manufacturer would have to make a minimum of 25 road going examples of their GT cars before they could qualify for the FIA GT Championship. With very little time, Mercedes-Benz and AMG designers thought it would be best to work with their pencil and paper and then further perfect their design with Computer Aided Design (CAD). The result was the awe-inspiring Mercedes Benz CLK GTR that carried the monstrous 6.9-litre AMG developed V12.
On April 7, the race-ready Mercedes Benz AMG CLK GTR took to the track at Hockenheimring, Germany. Here, Bernd Schneider not only picked up fastest lap honors, but also pole position in the CLK GTR’s maiden voyage. After a slightly staggered start to the season, the new AMG supercars reigned victorious at the A-1 Ring, Suzuka, Donington, Sebring, and Laguna Seca, taking the team championship back home to Affalterbach, while Schneider secured the Drivers’ Championship.