Joy Is An Empty Runway and a 1,000-HP Sauber-Mercedes C11

By 2 Min Read

You might think you have a cool job, then you learn about the guy who’s paid to shake down a 1,000-horsepower Mercedes-powered doorstop on an empty runway. Sports-car racer Richard Bradley posted a video on Twitter of his test of a Sauber-Mercedes C11 Group C prototype. It sounds incredible.


The C11 was the follow up to Sauber’s Le Mans-winning C9. It used its predecessor’s 5.0-liter V-8, the same basic engine Mercedes used in the SL500, and with two turbochargers, it made around 700 to 750 hp in race trim. For qualifying, though, Sauber cranked up the boost to get the engine beyond 1,000 horsepower. All in a super-high-downforce, carbon-chassis car, that weighed under 2,000 pounds. Sheesh.

Michael Schumacher drove C11s, including today’s subject, before making his Formula 1 debut. With the C11, Sauber and Mercedes dominated the 1990 World SportsCar Championship, but the car never won Le Mans. Sauber sat out the 1990 race, and managed a 5th place at the 1991 race. 

Despite being an intimidating prospect, racer Karl Wendlinger told that the C11 was easy. “The C11 was a very fast car, a very competitive car, but it was not so difficult to drive,” he said. “First of all, the car had lots of downforce, especially on the rear axle. And if you were once a little bit too fast somewhere, then there was a slight understeer —which is easier to correct than an oversteer.

“The engine was really comfortable to drive, very good pickup, nice rev-band to drive with, good torque, good power, so it was in total—car and engine was a very good compromise.”

Today, it seems like a damn good time. We’re jealous of anyone, like Bradley, who gets a shot behind the wheel.

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