Premier vintage racing events like the Monterey Motorsports Reunion (née The Historics) and Silverstone represent the closest that we can come to transporting ourselves back in time to watch the greats battle it out on the track. In period, however, the vehicles on the track were weapons grade tools that were only as valuable as they were fast.
Today, with many of these historic vehicles lost to time, the survivors are prized as some of the most expensive machines in existence. The downside of placing these cars in their natural trackside environment is that accidents can – and will – happen as occurred this past weekend at the Goodwood Members Meeting in England.
During the Salvadori Cup race on Saturday afternoon, a collision between two cars worth an estimated $10 million put a damper on the proceedings given the rarity and value of the cars involved; an almost invaluable Benz and a rare cat from Coventry.
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SLS Porter Special – a one-off period special worth almost $8 million – was driven by former Formula One pilot and Le Mans champion Jochen Mass. Starting life out as a 300 SL Gullwing, it was modified in period and recognized as one of the most significant of the various racing 300s. It was transported to England specifically to run in the Salvadori Cup from the private collection of German billionaire Dr. Klaus Lehr and the über-rare Mercedes was one of the highlights of the meet.
The 1959 Lister-Jaguar, owned by Barry Wood, was driven by his son Tony and is estimated to have been worth well in excess of $1 million. What actually transpired (despite thousands of eye witnesses) is not yet clear, but in a very similar fashion to the tragedy at Le Mans in 1955 Lehr has accused the Jaguar of making a last minute dash into the pits forcing the Mercedes to brake hard to avoid contact.
Lehr argued, “In the last moment [Wood] decided to go to the pit lane and he just crossed in front of Jochen Mass and he just used the brakes and as you can see from the pictures he crashed into the car … Maybe [Wood] was too ambitious (a) driver. He should have just continued and driven another lap and gone into pit lane later.”
His view is hardly uncontested, as many witnesses have said that the Jaguar was already slowing to enter the pits when the Mercedes exited the chicane and was surprised by the Jaguar ahead. It is interesting to note, however, that the Jaguar posted the 2d fastest qualifying lap while the Benz was 20 places behind.
Given their extraordinary value both cars will be repaired and fight again on the track. Neither driver was injured but both were taken to the trackside medical center for examinations. Meanwhile the recriminations between the various owners and drivers have just begun.
© British Motoring Journal – 2015
Images courtesy of Gary Parravani and SWNS