The Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR was created to compete at the highest level of sports car racing: the FIA GT Championship. The car was designed from the ground up to be a purebred racing car, with the road-going versions required for homologation built as an afterthought. During development Mercedes secretly purchased a McLaren F1 GTR and switched its BMW V12 for one of their own. This car was to serve as a benchmark for competitors lap times as well as to test out the new and highly aerodynamic bodywork destined for use on the CLK GTR.
Dominant: CLK GTRs won 17 of the 22 races they entered.
After a somewhat shaky start to the GT season thanks to brake failures, the CLK GTRs really began to hit their stride. Mercedes finished the 1997 GT season as the constructor's champion and Bernd Schneider clinched the driver's title in his GTR. With the GT Championship conquered Mercedes set their sights on the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Modifications included aerodynamic tweaks for Le Mans' high speeds and engine changes. Despite replacing the 6.0 litre V12s with supposedly more reliable V8s, both CLK LMs were forced to retire after engine failures. Undeterred, Mercedes returned to GT racing and ran away with the rest of the season. All told the CLK GTR/LMs won 17 of the 22 races they entered.
Snow? 630 horsepower? Rear wheel drive? What could go wrong?
To satisfy the FIA's homologation requirements Mercedes was obliged to produce 25 road-going versions of the CLK GTR. The cars weren't completed as they should have been by the start of the 1997 season but the FIA allowed Mercedes to compete anyway, much to the chagrin of their competitors. As the CLK GTR was designed as a racing car, creature comforts were sparse to nonexistent. Storage lockers were integrated into the door sills and a leather interior was installed, while a new traction control system aimed to keep the CLK GTR's 630 horsepower from launching the car into a tree. The price of this road-going racer in 1998 was a cool $1.5 million.