Sauber C9/88 - 1989

Cette collection est une adaptation de 24H Le Mans ® Le auto delle corsa più leggendaria al mondo Éditeur : Centauria Editore s.r.l. 

Sauber C9/88

Having resolved the technical problems of previous years with the help of Mercedes, who was still a "mere" supplier, the two-seater from the Swiss Sauber team won the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a race conducted intelligently and without ever forcing the mechanics.

The No. 63 C9 driven by Jochen Mass, Manuel Reuter and Stanley Dickens raced to overall victory after passing the Spice SE87C of the British GP Motorsport team. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

Over its 100-year existence, Mercedes-Benz has won almost all the most famous motor racing events. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the exception: the German brand only won once at the Sarthe circuit, in 1952 with the 300 SL. Mercedes may have won two if the C9's success in 1989 had been credited to it, but that was not the case: that year's two-seater winner, notwithstanding the star emblazoned on the nose and a considerable transfer of technology, was 'still a Sauber', unlike its heirs, the C11, C291 and C292, all of which failed to repeat the feat.

1 In 1989, Mercedes-Benz invested more resources in the Sauber programme. The C9s were painted in the Stuttgart firm's silver livery, with few sponsors on display, including AEG, a microelectronics company belonging to the Daimler-Benz group.

2. The M119 engine on the C9, similar to the M117, benefits from 4-valve cylinder heads and improvements to the connecting rods, pistons and cooling.

3. The configuration for Le Mans included a monoplane spoiler instead of a bi-plane and a different support from that used in other races.

© IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

The collaboration between Peter Sauber's Swiss team and the giant from Stuttgart dates back to 1985: following the encouraging results obtained with the BMW-powered C7 which, in 1983, stood out in a race monopolised by Porsche by finishing ninth behind eight 956s and ahead of the rest of the field, the Swiss team engaged Mercedes in the development of the C8. Initially, Sauber only requested permission to use the new wind tunnel for aerodynamic tests; the results were so interesting that they prompted the German manufacturer to participate in the project by supplying the 5-litre M117 series V8 engine prepared and supercharged by the Swiss Heine Mader.

The car was fast, but unreliable: in 1985, the only Sauber to take part in Le Mans failed to start after an accident during qualifying; in 1986, the 2 two-seaters were forced to retire at the start due to mechanical problems. 

1. The bodywork and rear suspension of the C9 have been redesigned compared to previous models.

2. On the cars competing at Le Mans, the slots above the front wheels have been replaced by solid panels.

3. The C9's body is made of aluminium, like that of previous C9s. The carbon structure only appeared on the 1990 C11.

© IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

Mercedes did not give up and intensified its efforts, helping Sauber in 1987 to develop the C9, a straight evolution of the previous C8. But the French 24-hour race ended in another double withdrawal, while in 1988 the car proved to be as reliable as it was fast, but excessive aerodynamic downforce put too much strain on the tyres, which degraded too quickly during testing. Without formally defining the causes of the problem, the team opted not to start, paving the way for the success of the TWR-Jaguar XJR 9.

A. The involvement of Mercedes-Benz in the project is reflected in the fact that the company's brand appears on the steering wheel. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

Finally, 1989 brought success. Aerodynamic refinements and the new M119 V8 engine made the car competitive, and it arrived at Le Mans already leading the world championship with a first, two second and a third place in the first two events at Suzuka and Dijon. That year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans was not part of the overall championship, but the determination was there to win after the disappointments of the past. In qualifying, two C9s took the lead on the grid and reached 400 km/h on the Hunaudières straight, before the two new chicanes were introduced in 1990 to 'break' the top speeds.

In the race, Sauber did not seek immediate domination and let its rivals fight for the top positions, keeping its three cars closely behind the leading group. When the Jaguars, Porsches and Nissans all began to suffer mechanical problems, the C9s took the lead with the N° 63 of Jochen Mass, Manuel Reuter and Stanley Dickens ahead of the N° 61 of Kenny Acheson, Gianfranco Brancatelli and Mauro Baldi. The third C9 (n° 62) driven by Jean-Louis Schlesser, Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Alain Cudini finished 5th.

B. The winning car during a pit stop. In the background, driver Jochen Mass, wearing a white suit, preparing to take over. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

C. In 1989, the Sauber C9s were the fastest in qualifying, with two cars leading the grid. But the winner was the third C9 (no. 63), which had started eleventh. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

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