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Mercedes-Benz C291

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mercedes-Benz C291
1991 Mercedes-Benz C291 Automuseum Dr. Carl Benz, 2014 (02).JPG
A C291 at the Automuseum Dr. Carl Benz, 2014
CategoryGroup C Prototype
ConstructorSauber Motorsport
PredecessorMercedes-Benz C11
SuccessorMercedes-Benz C292
Technical specifications
EngineMercedes-Benz M291
Competition history
Notable entrantsGermany Team Sauber Mercedes

The Mercedes-Benz C291 was a sports-prototype racing car introduced for the 1991 World Sportscar Championship season. It was Mercedes-Benz final car in the Group C category.[1][2]


The 1991 season marked the introduction of the FIA’s new, and controversial, 3.5 litre formula which replaced the highly successful Group C category that had been used in the World Sportscar Championship since 1982, though due to a small number of entries for the 3.5 litre formula heavily penalised Group C cars (which were subject to weight penalties and started behind the new-style C1 entries on the grid) were allowed to participate in the season's C2 category.

To meet the new regulations Mercedes-Benz came up with an all-new car; the C291 which was designed by its racing partner Sauber.

One survived and is on display in the Carl Benz Museum in Ladenburg, Germany.[3] Another one is located in the Michael Schumacher Collection in Cologne, and this is the Autopolis-winning chassis.


The primary feature of the new regulations was the use of a 3.5 litre naturally aspirated engine. This made it impossible for Mercedes-Benz to use the engines from its previous Group C cars. Also, to produce similar power to the Group C cars a 3.5 litre naturally aspirated engine had to be very high-revving and be constructed from different materials in order to rev highly.

Unlike Jaguar's XJR-14 who had the readily available and proven Ford HB V8 engine from the Benetton B190B Formula One car (the engine regulations for the new 3.5 litre formula were identical to Formula One), Mercedes-Benz had to design an all-new purpose-built racing engine and its M-291 3.5L Flat-12[4] unit was the result. The engine produced about 550–600 brake horsepower (410–450 kW) compared to about 730 brake horsepower (540 kW) produced by 5.0 litre V8 twin turbo found in the C291's predecessor, the Mercedes-Benz C11.


Unlike the Jaguar XJR-14, the C291 resembled previous sports-prototypes, despite the fact that the redesign of the Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe in 1990 meant cars with their low drag design, top-end power, straight-line acceleration and top-speed characteristics were no longer required[citation needed]. Unlike the Jaguar (and latterly the Peugeot 905B) the Mercedes still featured a full width low-drag single-tier rear wing and no front wing. This resulted in the car having a higher top speed than the Jaguar (and only slightly less than Group C cars).[citation needed]

However, this, allied to the characteristics of the 3.5 litre engine, meant the car would have slower acceleration above 150-170 mph than most Group C cars, therefore not taking advantage of the low-drag design, and conversely the low-drag design meant the car was slower in the corners than the Jaguar and Peugeot's 905B, this time not taking advantage of the lower kerb weight of 750 kilograms (1,653 lb).[citation needed] Overall the C291 was not as fast as a contemporary Formula One car around some circuits used by the Grand Prix fraternity, and was a lot slower at Le Mans' Circuit de la Sarthe in 1991.[citation needed]

Race results

During the development and testing of the new M291 powerplant, it became apparent to Sauber Mercedes that there were problems in the engine design and construction. Thus the team started the 1991 season with a lone C291, while at the same time running an older C11.[5] In the first two races of the season, the C291 failed to finish while the C11 finished 2nd and 3rd. At the third race, the C291 scored a 2nd-place finish, ahead of the C11. For the fourth round, the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans, the team decided that the C291 would not be capable of completing the race, and thus were forced to enter three C11s.

After Le Mans, Sauber Mercedes decided that the C291 had been developed enough to compete on its own, and it finished the season without running a C11 alongside. However, the C291 failed to finish the next three races of the season. Only in the final race of the year at Autopolis was the C291 not only able to finish, but also able to score its only win.[1] Sauber Mercedes finished the season third in the teams championship.

After much disappointment the C291 was planned to be replaced by the more radical C292 for the 1992 season, but Mercedes-Benz decided to pull out of sportscar racing before the C292 could compete and turned to Formula 1 in 1993, although it did not continue to use the troublesome M291 powerplant.[6]

Complete World Sportscar Championship results

Year Entrant Class Drivers No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Points WEMCP
1991 Team Sauber Mercedes Group C SUZ MNZ SIL LMS NUR MAG MEX AUT 70 3rd
France Jean-Louis Schlesser 1 2 14 18 11 5
Germany Jochen Mass 2 14 11 5
Austria Karl Wendlinger 2 14 2 DNQ 15 14 12 1
Germany Michael Schumacher 14 2 DNQ 15 14 12 1
Germany Fritz Kreutzpointner DNQ


  1. ^ a b "Sauber-Mercedes Victory 1989 Le Mans 24 Hours - Profile, Photos". Sports Car Digest - The Sports, Racing and Vintage Car Journal. 2019-06-17. Retrieved 2021-08-08.
  2. ^[bare URL]
  3. ^ "La Mercedes C291 de Michael Schumacher reprend la piste - Automoto | TF1". MYTF1 (in French). 20 September 2016. Retrieved 2021-08-08.
  4. ^ "That time Mercedes almost built an 18-cylinder engine". driving. Retrieved 2021-08-08.
  5. ^ Petrány, Máté (2017-05-22). "This Group C Sauber-Mercedes Is the Car That Inspired the Pagani Zonda". Road & Track. Retrieved 2021-08-08.
  6. ^ "Listen To The Howl Of The Doomed Mercedes Flat-12 Engine". Jalopnik. 18 January 2017. Retrieved 2021-08-08.
This page was last edited on 2 June 2022, at 20:44
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