1990 – 1991 Mercedes-Benz Sauber C11

Encouraged by the good results with Sauber C9, Sauber developed a brand new car for 1990. The Mercedes-Benz C11 was introduced for the 1990 World Sports-Prototype Championship. Built by Sauber as a successor to the Sauber C9, the C11 used the same Mercedes-Benz M119 5.0L bi-turbocharged V8 and much of the running gear. The aluminium monocoque in the previous C9 was replaced by a more modern and rigid carbon fiber one. It was the first time that Mercedes-Benz chose to put their name on the car, instead of simply using Sauber.

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The reason that Sauber skipped from C9 to C11 is due to the difficult pronunciation of C10 in German, with C and 10 being pronounced nearly identically.

Although Sauber-Mercedes had been successful in winning the 1989 24 Hours of Le Mans, the team choose not to defend the title in 1990 due to the race not being part of the 1990 World Sports-Prototype Championship schedule. The team chose instead to concentrate on winning the championship.

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At the first race that it had, the car did not actually race, choosing instead to run only in practice while the team used the reliable Sauber C9 from the previous year. However, for the 2nd race the C11 did race, and was able to successfully come home with first and second. Throughout the rest of the season, the C11 won all but one race and easily took the team’s championship for the year. The winners of the last race of the season were Jochen Mass and a young Michael Schumacher.

Here is an on-board video with Sauber Mercedes C11 In 2013

Although the C11 was to be replaced by the Mercedes-Benz C291 for the 1991 World Sportscar Championship season, problems with the C291′s new engine led Mercedes-Benz to continue to campaign the C11 alongside the C291. The C11 was able to gain three more class wins in the 1991 season before the C291 fully replaced it.

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Mercedes elected to run three C11s at Le Mans, having little faith in the longevity of the still-new C291, a decision echoed by Tom Walkinshaw who had Andy Wallace qualify the XJR-14 then parked it, to run a trio of XJR-12s. The dark horses, though, were the ‘lightweight’ triple-rotary engined Mazdas, one of which was driven flat-out for the duration by Volker Wiedler, Johnny Herbert and Bertrand Gachot to thrash the Jaguars, which were constrained by their fuel consumption.

Mercedes had a terrible race, losing two C11s with broken alternator mounting brackets which led to water pump failures, while the third finished back in fifth place with Schumacher, Wendlinger and Fritz Kreutzpointer on board. “Would you buy a used Mercedes from these men?” asked Mercedes in an advertisement, a darkly-lit portrait giving them a decidedly sinister appearance.

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Chassis: 89.C11.00
Built late in 1989, this C11 was the original prototype. Although never raced in period, it was used extensively in testing. The car was retained by Peter Sauber until the current owner acquired it a few years ago. The car has since been restored to full running order and has been raced extensively in the historic Group C championship. At recent outings at Spa and Paul Ricard, the car showcased its stunning performance during qualifying, setting lap times that would have put the car at the sharp end of the grid for the contemporary Le Mans Series events held at the same tracks.

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Chassis: 90.C11.01
This was the first C11 built for the 1990 World Endurance Championship, for which it was used throughout the season. Although it debuted as the #1 car at Suzuka, it was raced as the #2 for the remainder of the season. It was raced to second at Monza by Karl Wendlinger and Jochen Mass and the Austrian/German pairing later in the year won the Spa round after starting second. Retired from active duty at the end of the year, chassis 90.C11.01 was later acquired by a German collector and historic racer. He is seen here at the 2011 Spa Classic where he faced a sister car in the hotly contested Group C race. A few years later, it was bought by the current, English owner, who raced it for the first time during the 2014 Spa Classic.

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Chassis: 90.C11.04
Chassis 04 was first seen in the fall of 1990 when it practiced but did not race at the Donnington round of the World Championship. An electric problem in the warm-up prevented it from taking part in the race. Jochen Mass and Karl Wendlinger drove it to a ninth at the subsequent Montreal race. Chassis 04 then served as a spare or T-Car for several events until it was put back on track for the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans. Fifteen hours into the race the engine failed, causing a premature exit. Today this C11 is still owned by the factory and has been maintained very well. Mass was reunited with his old car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2007.

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Chassis: 90.C11.05
The final C11 built, chassis 05 was only raced once in 1990, at the Mexico City round of the championship. It was disqualified for ‘overfueling’. In 1991, it was called into service more often. Although it did not win outright, it took class wins at the Suzuka, Monza and Silverstone rounds of the championship. At Le Mans it was piloted by Karl Wendlinger, Michael Schumacher and Fritz Kreutzpointer to a fifth overall. After its retirement, it became one of only very few Mercedes-Benz prototype racing cars ever sold to a privateer. Its new American owner campaigned the car quite extensively until 2004. In 2007 the current owner acquired chassis 05 and had it fully restored by Lanzante in England. Back to full running order it is seen here at the Modena Trackdays in 2009.

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Another video with Mercedes-Benz Sauber C11: