Three of the most memorable moments in the century-long history of the world’s most famous endurance race are centered around the Silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz. First, in 1952, when the Germans took a most surprising 1-2 overall triumph. The second was in 1955 when a catastrophic crash saw a Mercedes racecar fly into the crowd, prompting the single most horrific crash in motorsport history. And finally, in 1999, another high-speed Merc decided the ground was not enough. It took to the air in one of the most spectacular ‘uh-oh’ moments of car racing.
Since that incident from a quarter of a century ago, Mercedes-Benz has stayed away from Le Mans. However, there was no loss of life following that sensational involuntary fly-by stunt. A complete opposite of the 1955 disaster, when over 80 people were killed and 120 injured, the 1999 mishap was the result of poor engineering and awful aerodynamics.
At extremely high speeds on the long straights at the Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe, the Mercedes CLR tended to build up air pressure under its nose, effectively pushing the whole car away from the ground (t the downforce exerted by the body’s aerodynamic elements. A ‘perfect storm’ combination of long overhangs and short wheelbase plotted against the racer’s stability. There were three crashes – all three seeing the Mercedes CLR car go end over end in mid-air.
The first two were not captured by any video cameras. Still, the third is one of the motorsports’ most easily recognizable breathtaking moments (play the video below and see it again; I’m fairly certain you’ve seen it at least once before). And it was all down to bad aerodynamics. Ironically, aerodynamics allowed Mercedes-Benz to be super-fast at Le Mans in 1955, with an innovative airbrake placed behind the driver.
The Silver Arrows have skipped Le Mans since 1999, but that hasn’t stopped motorsport fans from dreaming of a glorious return – and the AMG One sounded like a probable candidate for the comeback. Sadly, that fantasy didn’t happen, and the next best thing left for racing enthusiasts is to take it to the digital Neverland, where pixels and hexadecimal algorithms join forces to give the imagination a visual shape.
That’s where we ran across the cyber-prophet Christopher Giroux, a Senior Exterior Automotive Designer for Ford Motor Company and full-time car visualist with a knack for futuristic concepts. Whenever he’s not busy drawing Ford bodies, he roams the realms of virtual reality, taming shapes and putting physics in its place – and in imaginary car forms.
One of his most intriguing projects of the binary wizard (social media call sign chrisgx13) is the Mercedes EQR300, a full-blown race car destined to dominate Le Mans – if it were to land into metal, carbon, or any other space-tech materials that the Germans could contrive.
Just like the SLR300 from seven decades ago, the EQR300 relies on airbrakes to keep the car with the wheels on the ground. But, unlike the ‘intrados’ aero panel that raised behind the pilot to slow the vehicle down, the third-millennium land missile has scales that tousle from the bodywork and disrupt the air stream, pulling the reins on the imagined racer.
The scaly array on the front hood, the rear wing, and the wheel half-covers flip up (like butterfly valves) when the pilot slams the pedal. And yes, there are air brakes on the wheels (almost). Take a look at the gallery and see how the tiny hexagonal active aerodynamic elements work. The wheels are partially obstructed by half-circle discs on which the brake scales sit.
The EQR300 is an electric hypercar, judging by the body’s splendid, continuously fluid shape, uninterrupted by any air inlets to keep internal combustion burning. Also, the complete absence of exhaust pipes hints at battery-only muscle for this slipstreaming EQR300 proposal. Lastly, we can all agree that ‘E’ in its EQR moniker doesn’t stand for Ethanol.
The car bears the AMG Performance seal-of-approval decals on the sides (any hopes for the future?) and a strong resemblance to the Aston Martin Valkyrie, with air tunnels going through the body to let high-pressure air escape. In an eerie nod to the AMG One hypercar, the EQR300 is covered in Mercedes-Benz logos on the front clip, sides, and stabilizing wing. However, contrary to the purely aesthetical purpose of the AMG One livery, the Giroux-crafted virtuality is wearing the tri-stars with a practical goal in hindsight: providing stopping power.
The minute hexagons described by the grouping of the Mercedes emblems are actually the air brake scales – and this is probably the closest any car concept ever got to mimicking the perfection of the animal kingdom. Like a predatory bird rumples its quills and feathers to navigate its low-density medium, the EQR300 ruffles up when it closes for an apex.
Mercedes-Benz might have hit the ‘Skip’ button when the Le Mans track came up on the competitional calendar playlist. Still, we should remember that Ferrari took its time before coming back to the French circuit last year. After making a previous appearance at the Temple of Endurance in 1973, the Prancing Horse struck back in 2023, taking the overall win. Who’s to say the Germans don’t have a secret plan to conquer France yet again?