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Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow world record drive in 1939: Caracciola in the 465 hp record car

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Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow world record run in 1939
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A on January 28, 1938 shortly before twelve everything seems to be over: Bernd Rosemeyer, only 29 years old, dies in an accident with his Auto Union record car. Will the prestigious hunts for speed records now be stopped? While Auto Union is not building any more record racing cars, work at Daimler-Benz continues. Various shapes are tested on scaled-down models in the wind tunnel of the Research Institute for Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines Stuttgart (FKFS).

From wind tunnel research, the body shape for a racing car with clad, free-standing wheels is based on the Grand Prix Car W 154, which is driven by a supercharged V12 with a displacement of three liters. This car is being built specifically for the upcoming record attempts with a standing start. In February 1939 Rudolf Caracciola improved the international record in class D for cars with two to three liters displacement with this streamlined W-154, initially to 175.1 km /h over one kilometer and to 204.6 km /h over the mile .

New German record route

As a new route for the world record attempt, the Daimler-Benz team is using a new section of the Berlin-Leipzig-Halle motorway that was only completed in autumn 1938. Since the Rosemeyer accident at the latest, the section of the Frankfurt – Darmstadt motorway has been considered unsuitable for speeds of over 400 km /h. In contrast, the 29-meter-wide and around 10-kilometer long piste between Dessau and Bitterfeld with a concrete median is specially designed for record runs.

Rudolf Caracciola is dissatisfied with the piste despite the new records. 'There was sand on the left, still new lane, so that the wheels spun and the full power could not be transmitted,' summarizes Caracciola biographer Günter Molter and explains: 'So he tried it the next time he started on the right, already traveled route . But even here he had the impression that he had not driven at full speed. ' Molter describes that of the Mercedes factory driver on the second record day, when he set two new class records with a flying start with the record car that was already in use in 1938 and achieved 399.6 km /h over a mile. The three-liter V12 of the W 154 is also installed for the test near Dessau.

Caracciola in the 465 hp record car

FiveDays later, the record team arrives again with the other car, which was specially built for stationary starts, in order to increase the record. On February 14, 1939, Caracciola reached a speed of 177.4 km /h with the 465 hp streamlined car from a standstill after one kilometer. This is the last world record attempt with a Mercedes-Benz for many decades. The Type 80, developed under the direction of Ferdinand Porsche to attack the absolute speed record, which is supposed to be powered by a 3600 hp aircraft engine with 44.5 liters displacement via a double axle, is no longer used: not least because the planned one Record track near Dessau proves to be unsuitable.

Just a few weeks after the opening of the section of the motorway in Saxony-Anhalt, Daimler-Benz director Wilhelm Kissel made a devastating verdict: 'In Germany, it is impossible to attempt a world record because it is yourself on the new record track near Dessau the run-up and run-out are too short, 'quotes book author and television editor Eberhard Reuss in his detailed documentation' Hitler's racing battles 'from 2006 from the document that was classified as strictly confidential at the time.

The Silver Arrow should reach 600 km /h in Bonneville

Kissel's conclusion: To the salt lake near Bonneville in the USA, too the English world record drivers use for their attempts, there is no alternative. The Englishman George Eyston set the record up to 575.314 km /h. For the Mercedes T80, the designers have calculated a required top speed of 600 km /h - but the war thwarted all efforts.

15 years later, however, the wind tunnel work is bearing fruit: The shape of the rear end can be found in Formula 1 car W 196 R from 1954 again.

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