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Karl Kling

16th September 1910
Giessen, Hesse
18th March 2003 (Aged 92)
Gaienhofen, Baden-Wurttemberg
Most recent race (in database):

Karl Kling was a company man – working for Mercedes-Benz from 1928 to managing the rally team during the 1960s.

Early racing career and World War II

He competed in the company’s cars during the late 1930s but further ambitions were interrupted by the onset of war in Europe in 1939. He served in the Luftwaffe as a mechanic before resuming his racing career in 1946 when driving a BMW 328 in national events.

National sports car champion in 1947, he acquired a Veritas RS in 1948 and won the title for the next two seasons. He also beat a field that included Hermann Lang, Hans Stuck and Manfred von Brauchitsch to win at Solitude in 1950 with a Formula 2 Veritas Meteor-BMW.

Kling soon rejoined Mercedes-Benz as test driver when it decided to return to international racing. Now in his early-forties, he was part of the Mercedes sports car team in 1952 and his 300SL won the Prix de Berne that supported the Swiss Grand Prix.

Sharing the car with Hans Klenk as his navigator/co-driver for the remaining major endurance races that year – they finished second in the Mille Miglia (losing due to a slow tyre stop), retired at Le Mans and famously won the Carrera Panamericana. That Mexican victory was despite damage to car and Klenk after they hit a large vulture on the opening day.

Formula 1 with Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes returned to Formula 1 at the 1954 French GP and Kling part of the three-car team. The streamlined W196 proved the class of the field and Kling shadowed team leader Juan Manuel Fangio as they finished first and second – Kling just 0.1 seconds behind on his world championship debut. He won the non-championship Berlin GP at Avus and was placed in Germany and Spain to claim fifth in the 1954 World Championship.

He remained with the team in 1955 for a season in both F1 and the World Sportscar Championship. Third in the British GP at Aintree, he finished second in the Tourist Trophy and Targa Florio when sharing Fangio’s 300SLR. But another successful season for the German team was overshadowed by the Le Mans tragedy and it withdrew at the end of the year.

Career after Formula 1

Rather than race for another concern, Kling’s brief but eventful international career was over for he retired from racing. He remained with Mercedes and later replaced the legendary Alfred Neubauer as Director of the competition department.

He drove a Mercedes-Benz 220SE to win the 1961 Algiers-Cape Town Rally before eventually retiring from the company in 1970. He settled on the German banks of Lake Constance where he died in 2003. His funeral was a modest and private affair in keeping with how Karl Kling had lived his life. He started just 11 GPs but he twice finished on the podium and was a more than adept endurance driver.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1955 F1 World Championship
5 0 1 0
0% win rate
11th 5
1955 World Sportscar Championship
3 0 3 0 16
1954 F1 World Championship
6 0 1 0
0% win rate
5th 12
1953 World Sportscar Championship
Alfa Romeo
1 0 0 0 0