The latest chapter in the history of Mercedes-Benz and endurance racing was launched in 2011 when the SLS AMG GT3 appeared in response to the ever-expanding GT3 global market.
The first season was essentially a learning curve, the opposition from the likes of Audi and BMW were very strong and it would take time to get the combination of speed and reliability necessary for success.
The example on display at the Bremen Classic Motorshow was the first to add to the roll of honor detailing the long distance successes for the Stuttgart marque.
Sean Edwards, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Thomas Jäger and Khaled Al Qubaisi shared the driving duties in the Abu Dhabi Black Falcon SLS to take a well earned victory in the 2012 Dubai 24 Hours.
Against strong opposition from Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Nissan and Porsche, with some outfits being more "Werks" than others, Mercedes-Benz had a great race with their Heico Motorsport entries finishing second and third to lock out the podium.
The victory was repeated 12 months later when Bernd Schneider replaced Jäger to start an "Indian Summer" of motorsport for the great DTM Champion.
Schneider went on to the Antipodes the following month to win again in the Bathurst 12 Hours, driving a local SLS.
On something of a roll, but in completely different climatic conditions, Schneider approached the Nürburgring 24 Hours a few months down the line with confidence. Schneider, driving with Nicki Thiim, plus usual suspects Bleekemolen and Edwards, survived one of the roughest 24 Hour races ever held on the Nordschleife. I looked at the event back then HERE and HERE.
Two months later and Schneider was now driving for HTP Motorsport with Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Götz at the Spa 24 Hours in yet another SLS AMG GT3.
Once again, the 49 year old displayed the Midas touch with a commanding victory in the Ardennes. I looked at the Belgian classic HERE and HERE.
Schneider was not finished for the season, in late September with his Spa partners he took top spot in the Nürburgring 1000kms. The final act was to rejoin two of his co-drivers from the Dubai victory some eleven months earlier. Bleekemolen and Al Qubasi made it to the Gulf 12 Hours in December. Missing was Sean Edwards, who had been tragically killed while instructing during a private test session in Australia.
The result in the Middle East was another win for Schneider and his team mates, not bad for a man who had retired in 2008 - not bad for the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3. The replacement for this old warhorse was revealed at the Geneva Salon, and I have a more detailed look at the 2013 GT3 scene and Bernd Schneider's amazing season HERE.
Additional photography courtesy of and copyright Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz Classic.