24 Hours of Le Mans - Mercedes and other German stories

24 Hours of Le Mans - Mercedes and other German stories

Though between them, Porsche and Audi have amassed 29 wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was Mercedes who in 1952 opened the door to German domination at the 24 Hours - and even crossed paths with its two native competitors at the end of the 1990s.

Porsche holds the record for most wins (16), to this day Audi demonstrates a never-before-seen domination at the 24 Hours (13 victories in 16 participations), but it was indeed Mercedes who scored the first win by a German manufacturer at Le Mans. In 1952, seven years after the end of World War II, and one year after Porsche's first appearance at the 24 Hours, Mercedes made an explosive return to motorsports with a one-two for winners Hermann Lang-Fritz Riess followed by Helmut Niedermayer-Theo Helfrich. 

The story breaks up into three parts. After that first phase (1952-1956), Mercedes returned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1986 and 1987 with cars called Kouros designed by Swiss constructor, Sauber. After the Jaguar ended Porsche's domination in 1988 (seven consecutive wins from 1981 to 1987), the marque relit the German torch at Le Mans in 1989: the prototypes rebaptized Sauber-Mercedes took three cars to the top 5: Jochen Mass-Stanley Dickens-Manuel Reuter (winners), Gianfranco Brancatelli-Kenny Acheson-Mauro Baldi (second) and Jean Pierre Jabouille-Jean Louis Schlesser-Alain Cudini (fifth).

The third phase took place in 1998 and 1999. While Mercedes was unable to fulfill the formidable potential of its CLK LMs amd CLRs, Porsche won its 16th and last victory to-date in 1998, and in 1999 BMW won and Audi made its first appearance at the 24 Hours. The German saga at Le Mans continues this year with the 2015 versions of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro and the Porsche 919 Hybrid.