It was a debut in sparkling silver, and it ended with shining gold! The International Eifel Race, held on 3 June 1934 at the Nürburgring, was dominated by the all-new Mercedes-Benz W 25 developed from 1933 for the 750-kilogram formula introduced for 1934. With Manfred von Brauchitsch at the wheel, the victory was sealed with an average speed of 122.5 km/h – a new track record. However, the victory was almost outshone by the revelation of the new Mercedes-Benz racing cars taking to the track with their aluminium bodies in bare silver rather than the classic racing white paint finish. According to the legend, the metallic silver skin was only exposed during the night before the race, by grinding off the white paint to bring the starting weight of the W 25 down to the limit prescribed by the race rules.
This first appearance by a Mercedes-Benz ‘Silver Arrow’ began an unrivalled series of successes achieved by the W 25 and subsequent Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows in the years up to 1939. Mercedes-Benz followed up on these outstanding successes, initially in the 1952 season with racing sports cars and then with two Formula One World Championship titles in succession from 1954.
Triumph in the Eifel
The International Eifel Race at the Nürburgring was one of the greatest motor sport events of the 1934 season. In his memoirs, published in 1964, Manfred von Brauchitsch remembers the flood of spectators that made the pilgrimage to the Nürburgring: “Numerous special trains brought the crowds to the small Eifel town of Adenau. Thousands of motorcycles, buses and trucks wound their way along the country roads to the Nürburgring. They came to the Eifel from Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, and Cologne, from the entire Ruhr region, from Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin, in excited expectation of a titanic battle between engines. 200,000 spectators lined the track. Many had already put up tents during the night at the Hatzenbach bend, the ‘Carousel’, the ‘Fox tube’, the Wehrseifen valley stretch, and at the ‘Swallow’s tail’, to secure a good vantage point.”
The start had actually been planned for 13:00, after two motorcycle races, however bad weather delayed the start for the racing cars until 15:00. Mercedes-Benz was represented by two vehicles: von Brauchitsch in car No. 20 and Fagioli at the wheel of No. 22. The full line-up featured 44 vehicles. Fagioli and von Brauchitsch took an early lead in the W 25, followed by Hans Stuck (Auto Union) and Louis Chiron (Alfa Romeo). With Fagioli having been forced to retire on the 14th and penultimate lap, von Brauchitsch took the victory for Mercedes-Benz, followed by Stuck and Chiron.
The Rise of the Silver Arrows
Victory in the International Eifel Race ushered in a whole series of wins and podium placings for the Silver Arrows. In 1934, at the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz W 25, the works team drivers won the International Klausen Race (Caracciola), the Coppa Acerbo in Pascara (Fagioli), the Italian Grand Prix (Caracciola / Fagioli) and the Spanish Grand Prix (Fagioli).
For Manfred von Brauchitsch, victory in the Eifel Race was the only win of 1934. The success of the W 25, which competed in Grand Prix races until 1936, was instead dominated by Rudolf Caracciola. In the 1935 season, Caracciola won a total of six Grand Prix races, with Fagioli achieving a further three victories. In 1935, Caracciola became European Champion, having already clinched the German Championship. When Auto Union racing cars proved dominant in the 1936 Grand Prix season, Mercedes-Benz developed the new W 125 Silver Arrow for 1937: the final year of the 750-kilogram formula. It was with this car that Caracciola once again took the European Championship.
Over the subsequent years and decades, the success story of the Silver Arrows was continued by numerous Mercedes-Benz racing cars. During the classic era of the Silver Arrows, these legendary cars included the W 154 3-litre racing car (1938 – 1939), the W 165 1.5-litre racing car (1939 Tripoli Grand Prix), the 300 SL racing sports car (W 194, 1952), the W 196 R 2.5-litre Formula One racing car (1954 and 1955), and the 300 SLR racing sports car (W 196 S, 1955).