Stuttgart, Germany– Karl Kling, a former member of the Mercedes racing team, was one of the great driver personalities of the glorious Silver Arrow era after the Second World War. The legendary racing manager Alfred Neubauer brought him into the team as a works driver; Kling was later to become Neubauer’s successor.
Professor Jurgen Hubbert, member of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler AG with responsibility for the Mercedes Car Group: “Alongside Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss, Karl Kling was one of the outstanding driver personalities of the postwar Silver Arrow era. We owe important successes to him, first as a driver and later on as the head of our racing team. He will remain unforgotten by us and all motor sport enthusiasts.”
Norbert Haug, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “Our Motorsport team mourns the loss of Karl Kling. As a member of the Mercedes-Benz factory team in the nineteen-fifties, he was instrumental in securing success for the Silver Arrows in both sports car and Formula One racing. Karl Kling has at all times been an exemplary representative of our brand, both as a racing driver and, at a later stage, as the company’s racing manager. He remained in touch with us and our present-day racing activities throughout the years. He will always be fondly remembered.”
Born on September 16, 1910, Kling developed a fascination for vehicle engineering and motor sport from an early age. His foreman’s training in motor vehicle mechanics at his local Daimler-Benz agent brought his first contact with the Stuttgart company. And it was here in 1936, having completed his degree in engineering, that he started work for the company as a customer service engineer.
Even before the outbreak of World War II, Karl Kling had begun representing Daimler-Benz in the then highly popular touring car events. After 1945, driving Veritas sports cars and racing cars, he became two-time German Sports Car champion, writing in the process a significant chapter in post-war German racing history.
In 1950 he began racing for Daimler-Benz, winning the ADAC’s six-hour race on the Nrburgring at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 170S. A year later he became a member of the official race team alongside the Argentinean Juan Manuel Fangio and doyen Hermann Lang.
Driving reactivated supercharged V-12 race cars from 1939, the team entered two Grand Prix events in Buenos Aires. A sixth and a second place respectively were sufficient to guarantee the 40-year-old Grand Prix newcomer further race outings.
Kling’s golden period began in 1952, when he enjoyed outstanding success in international circuit and long-distance races at the wheel of the new Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing prototype.
He won the Bern Grand Prix, took overall victory in the notoriously demanding Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, proved his skills with a second place in the tortuous Mille Miglia in Italy and finished runner-up in the Anniversary Race for sports cars on the Nrburgring.
When Daimler-Benz returned to Grand Prix racing in 1954 with their new W 196 Formula One car, Karl Kling was once again in on the act – first lining up alongside teammates Juan Manuel Fangio, Hermann Lang and Hans Herrmann, and later with such top drivers as the Englishman Stirling Moss and Piero Taruffi.
On the unveiling of the new Silver Arrows at the French Grand Prix in Reims on July 4, 1954, Karl Kling finished runner-up to Fangio. He subsequently achieved a number of high-placed finishes on just about every major Grand Prix circuit – his victories in the 1954 Berlin Grand Prix held on the famous AVUS racetrack and in the 1955 Swedish Grand Prix being particularly worthy of note. When Daimler-Benz withdrew from motor racing at the end of the 1955 season, Karl Kling took over from his mentor Alfred Neubauer as head of the motor sports department – still ongoing but now slightly modified. But he also continued to take an active part in racing – notably in long-distance races. In 1959 he won the Mediterranee – Le Cap Rally in a Mercedes-Benz 190 Diesel (!) and drove a Mercedes-Benz 220SE to victory in the Algiers – Cape Town Rally in 1961. On both occasions, his navigator was Rainer Gnzler, a well-known TV journalist in Germany.
Since the death of his wife, Karl Kling led a quiet life in his house on Lake Constance, where he continued to follow with great critical interest the fortunes of Daimler’s sporting involvement.
Karl Kling died on March 18, 2003.