Like the CLK LM race cars it evolved from, the Mercedes-Benz CLR’s career in motorsport was ephemeral and marred by disappointments. Namely, the CLR had an annoying habit of trying to act like the spaceships it resembled in looks. In practice sessions leading up to and during the 24 Hours of Le Mans race itself in 1999, the CLR became airborne at speed, peeling from straightaways and somersaulting into the sky above the cars with safer variety of downforce that wouldn’t turn into lift. The cars were pulled from the race—no driver-pilots were given more than a serious scare thankfully—and though it’s still debatable as to the what exactly caused the CLRs to fly, the result was Mercedes-Benz cancelling the program that year, along with a few changes being made to the famous circuit’s main straight. What had begun as an extremely successful sports car program (the CLK-GTR that preceded the LM and CLR won its debut season) had come to a close after, almost literally, attempting to fly too close to the sun.
The cars attained immediate infamy for their aerobatic display, and the CLR’s mythic story has only galvanized the allure of these cars over the years; not for being winners—though most drivers reported them to be excellent cars otherwise—but for the pure spectacle that lives in a few seconds of footage on YouTube. It’s funny how something as incredibly complex and multidimensional as a racing car, and one built by one of the world’s most significant manufacturers in history no less, can be reduced to a single instance. Thankfully there are other memories of these special cars, and we’ve recently added them to our shop in the form of beautiful collections of black and white film photos printed on heavyweight archival-quality paper.
Nearly two decades ago, photographer Laurence Baker was hired by Mercedes-Benz to document the entire week the CLR’s spent in their contest for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and he opted for a more timeless medium than the day’s digital gear, shooting the experience instead on film. The photos were never seen until now, and come packaged today as a set of 40 distinctive images of the cars, the drivers, the teams, and the spaces in between them. Available in two formats (further information can be found here, in the Shop), each will be limited to a run of just 99 sets. For the Le Mans historian, the Mercedes-Benz enthusiast, or the motorsports memorabilia collector, these pictures provide insight into what it looked like to compete at Le Mans at the end of an era; what it looked like to campaign a top works team from scrutineering in the town square of Le Mans to the race itself; what it looked like to arrive with hopes and leave with memories that were close to being tragedies. It’s a romantic view of a time when relatively modern racing aped the danger and unpredictability of the early years of the sport, and it adds an extra dimension to a story that is well known but only on the surface.
Each set is presented in a handmade suede-lined box embossed with the silver three-pointed star of Mercedes-Benz. Also embossed on the box are the set’s number and the name of its recipient. Further information on embossing and ordering can be found in the 400-euro-job Shop.
Please note: ships from Europe. US and international customers are subject to additional import fees/VAT.