Christian Lautenschlager

Christian Lautenschlager

13/4/1877 - 3/1/1954

Mercedes test driver who raced a couple of times for the works team winning the French Grand Prix in 1908 and 1914. He raced at Indy in 1923 but crashed out on lap 14.

Lautenschlager was born in the small village of Magstadt, Baden-Württemberg, near Stuttgart in Germany. At 14, his poor parents sent him to Stuttgart to train as a machinist in Stuttgart. In 1894 he left for Switzerland, working in Zurich and Luzernand also worked in a bicycle factory in Chemniz, Saxony. After five years he returned to Stuttgart at the age 22 and applied for a job as mechanic at the works of Gottlieb Daimler. There he worked his way up to the position of test driver and then as a mechanic for the company's race cars.

In 1908, Lautenschlager was given the opportunity to drive one of three Mercedes racing cars and he drove to victory in the French Grand Prix at Dieppe, France. He returned to his factory job rather than joining the racing circuit as a permanent driver and raced only a few more times until achieving great fame on July 14, 1914 at Lyon, France. Considered one of the great Grand Prix events in motor-racing history, 37 cars from 13 manufacturers in 6 different countries competed in the French Grand Prix race that for the first time had a limit on the size of the engine allowed, set at 4.5 litres. Against a top field led by Frenchman Georges Boillot. However Boillot, who had won the race the past two years, had to drive flat out to try to keep the Mercedes behind him and, on lap 18, Lautenschlager passed the struggling Peugeot to take over the lead. On the last lap Boillot retired, collapsing over the steering wheel in tears. The German Mercedes team finished 1,2 and 3, with Lautenschlager taking victory for the second time.

The onset of World War I ended Grand Prix motor racing in Europe and in the early 1920s Lautenschlager raced on a semi-regular basis but without much success. He competed in the 1922 Targa Florio, finishing in tenth place. In 1923, he traveled to the United States to compete in the Indianapolis 500 as part of a three-car Mercedes team. Driving vehicles equipped with the first supercharged engine in the race's history, their effort proved less than successful and Lautenschlager finishing 23th crashing out after just 14 laps. His Mercedes team mates Max Sailer and Christian Werner finished in 8th and 11th places respectively. The following year brought no victories and he retired from racing.

Christian Lautenschlager worked for Daimler until his retirement. He died at the age of 76 in Untertürkheim, a suburb of Stuttgart.

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