The cars and the drivers

  • Progressive engineering made the racers fast and reliable
  • Experienced drivers sat at the wheel of the cars
Mercedes 140 hp
The Mercedes 140 hp for the 1908 season was based on the previous year's model, but had been thoroughly revised in many details. The wheelbase was further shortened, the tire sizes were changed, and the tank shape was revised once more. The engine, an overhead valve design with twin camshafts below, overhead inlet valves and side exhaust valves, accorded with the concept developed by Wilhelm Maybach for the designs of the racing four-cylinders of the years 1903 to 1906. With a displacement of 12.8 liters the engine developed an output of 135 hp (99 kW) at 1400 rpm.
Mercedes 140 hp racecar:
Year built: 1908
Cylinders: 4 (in-line)
Displacement: 12,824 cc
Output: 135 hp (99 kW) at 1400 rpm
Top speed: 160 km/h
The Mercedes drivers
Christian Lautenschlager: Born on April 13, 1877, in Magstadt, not far from Stuttgart. He became a mechanic and, after completing his apprenticeship, worked at various factories in Germany and other countries. In 1899 he came to Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft as a mechanic. In 1905 he went to the racing department as foreman. His two victories in the 1908 and 1914 Grand Prix make Lautenschlager one of the all-time greats of international motor racing. He passed away on January 3, 1954, in Fellbach near Stuttgart.
Willy Pöge: Born on December 2, 1869, in Chemnitz. Industrialist (electrical engineering) and enthusiastic automobilist. Winner of many races and competitions. In 1911 he turned to aviation. Pöge died on May 12, 1914, of a heart disease.
Otto Salzer: Born on April 4, 1874, in Möglingen, Württemberg. Joined Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft on October 5, 1896 as a fitter. On January 1, 1900, he became foreman in racecar and passenger car production. As early as 1898 he took part in an eight-day long-distance run in Vienna, competing in a Daimler truck against horses. All horse-and-cart combinations retired from the competition after the fourth day, Salzer being the only person to reach the finish line. From 1906 onwards he also worked as a racecar driver and ranks among the most outstanding Mercedes drivers of the old school. Salzer passed away on January 7, 1944, in Obertürkheim.

Benz 120 hp
The Benz 120 hp is regarded as a pioneering achievement. The four-cylinder engine designed by Louis de Groulart has overhead valves, controlled via pushrods and rocker arms by a camshaft below. With a displacement of 12.4 liters the engine develops 120 hp (88 kW) at 1400 rpm. The chassis design followed proven principles which the rival from Untertürkheim also applied. The frame was of pressed steel sections; the side members were offset over the rear axle and not over the front axle as in a Mercedes.
Benz 120 hp racecar:
Year built: 1908
Cylinders: 4 (in-line)
Displacement: 12,076 cc
Output: 120 hp (88 kW) at 1500 rpm
Top speed: 160 km/h
The Benz drivers
Victor Hémery: Born on November 18, 1876, in Brest, France. Trained mechanic. From 1895 to 1900 he worked as a technician for Léon Bollée. 1900 to 1906, head of the testing department and experienced racing driver with Darracq. In 1907 he was engaged as a racecar driver by Benz & Cie. Completely impoverished, Hémery at the age of 74 committed suicide on September 8, 1950, in Le Mans, France.
René Hanriot: Born in 1867 in Vaite (Haute-Saône), France. Originally a champagne producer, later on a racing driver for Darracq and others. In 1907 and 1908 he drove for Benz & Cie.
Fritz Erle: Born on November 12, 1875, in Mannheim. Came to Benz & Cie. as a trained fitter on March 5, 1894. Together with Eugen Benz he took part in his first race in 1896: Paris – Marseille – Paris. After attending the Ilmenau college of technology in Thuringia, Erle passed the engineer's exam there. After rejoining Benz & Cie. he worked as a design engineer and in 1900 developed the first vertical four-cylinder engine. In 1904 he took over the management of automobile production together with Richard Benz, along with the testing department. Erle became head of the racing department in 1907, but he continued to personally compete in races as a driver. During the First World War from 1914 to 1918 Erle worked as plant manager for Benz & Cie. At war's end, as signing clerk he took over the management of the repair shop in Berlin, filling this position until his retirement in 1935. Erle died on November 20, 1957.