Possibly one of the best die-cast model cars ever built, this is a replica of the Sauber C9 Mercedes-Benz that on June 10-11 1989 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by the Germans Jochen Mass and Manuel Reuter, and the Swedish Stanley Dickens.

The Race

The Le Mans 24h of 1989 was a true demonstration of power by the “silver arrows” of the Swiss- German team, as not only car #63 won the race, but the other two cars of the team classified second (car #61, driven by Mauro Baldi, Kenny Acheson and Gianfranco Brancatelli) and fifth (car #62, driven by Jean-Louis Schlesser, Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Alain Cudini). The podium of the race was completed by the Joest Racing Porsche 962C #9 driven by Hans-Joachim Stuck and Bob Wollek.

PNo.Team / CarDriverslaps
163Team Sauber-Mercedes
Sauber C9 Mercedes-Benz
Jochen Mass (GER)
Manuel Reuter (GER)
Stanley Dickens (SWE)
261Team Sauber-Mercedes
Sauber C9 Mercedes-Benz
Mauro Baldi (ITA)
Kenny Acheson (GBR)
Gianfranco Brancatelli (ITA)
39Joest Racing
Porsche 962C
Hans-Joachim Stuck (GER)
Bob Wollek (FRA)
41TWR Silk Cut Jaguar
Jaguar XJR-9LM
Jan Lammers (NED)
Patrick Tambay (FRA)
Andrew Gilbert-Scott (GBR)
562Team Sauber-Mercedes
Sauber C9 Mercedes-Benz
Jean-Louis Schlesser (FRA)
Jean-Pierre Jabouille (FRA)
Alain Cudini (FRA)
68Joest Racing
Porsche 962C
Henri Pescarolo (FRA)
Claude Ballot-Léna (FRA)
Jean-Louis Ricci (FRA)
7201Mazdaspeed Co. Ltd.
Mazda 767B (GTP)
David Kennedy (IRL)
Pierre Dieudonné (BEL)
Chris Hodgetts (GBR)
84TWR Silk Cut Jaguar
Jaguar XJR-9LM
Alain Ferté (FRA)
Michel Ferté (FRA)
Eliseo Salazar (CHL)
9202Mazdaspeed Co. Ltd.
Mazda 767B (GTP)
Takashi Yorino (JAP)
Hervé Regout (BEL)
Elliot Forbes-Robinson (USA)
1016Repsol Brun Motorsport
Porsche 962C
Harald Huysman (NOR)
Uwe Schäfer (GER)
Dominique Lacaud (FRA)
1989 Le Mans 24h overall classification

During qualifying, Schlesser also took pole position with a time of 3’15″40, at almost 250 km/h (155 mp/h) average speed and an amazing top speed of 401 km/h (250 mp/h), recorded at the speed trap in the Mulsanne straight. This was probably the main reason why the organization built two chicannes in the straight for the 1990 edition, moving these 400 km/h top speeds into history…

The Car

The Sauber C9 was a C-group racing prototype (C1 class), designed and built by the Swiss team over the basis of the previous C8 design, which the team raced in 1985 and 1986.

The C9 had a monocoque chassis largely consisted of aluminium, although considerably stiffer and with numerous light alloy and carbon fiber reinforcements. The rear suspension changed from vertically positioned spring/damper units in the previous model to a horizontal layout arranged over the top of the gearbox, aligned with the longitudinal axis of the car. Aerodynamic changes included the repositioning of the combined oil/water radiator to the nose of the car. The rear deck was considerably re-profiled and the rear wing was now mounted solely on a central support. As many other C-group cars, aerodynamically the car had two configurations: one for sprint circuits and a low drag version to make the most of the 5.8 km Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans.

The engine was developed on the basis of a Mercedes-Benz M119 unit, a 5L (4.973cc) 90º V8 with cross-plane crankshaft, double overhead camshafts, 32 valves, double KKK turbos, Bosch Motronic fuel injection and a dry oil sump. It was mounted in central-longitudinal position in the car, as a semi-stressed part of the chassis. The engines were prepared by Swiss engine specialist Heini Mader, with direct support and involvement from the Mercedes-Benz racing facility in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. In terms of power output, the engine delivered around 800 HP (597 kW) at 7,000 rpm with the 2.2 bar of turbo boost set for qualifying (maximum race boost was 1.9 bar). The transmission was in charge of a manual 5-speed Hewland unit. Tyres were provided by Michelin, and the car showed the following dimensions:

  • Total dry weight: 905 kg
  • Lenght: 4.800mm
  • Width: 2.000mm
  • Height: 1.070mm
  • Rear Track: 1.600mm
  • Wheelbase: 2.770mm

A Victorious Season

Even if it did not count for the WSC, winning at the 24h Le Mans race was obviously the highlight of the year for the Sauber-Mercedes team, but, as a whole, 1989 was a year of almost total dominance for the Swiss-German team in the Sportcars scene, including team and driver’s titles. These results were achieved against competition that included the factory supported Silk Cut Jaguar, Nissan, Toyota and Aston Martin teams and the strong private teams of Brun Motorsport, Joest Racing, Kremer Racing and Dauer Racing with the proven Porsche 962C cars.

The C9 made its debut for the 1987 season, with modest results at Silverstone, Le Mans, Norisring and Nürburgring. In 1988 the car and the team started showing their true potential, winning up to 5 rounds of the World Sportcars Championship (Jerez, Brands Hatch, Nürburgring, Spa-Francorchamps and Sandown in Australia), and taking the team to a final second position in the overall classification, behind the champion Silk Cut – Jaguars with the successful XJR-9. Sauber did not start the 1988 24 Hours of Le Mans, retiring their cars due to concerns over possible blowouts from their Michelin tyres, which were being exposed for the first time to top speeds in the range of 400 km/h at the Mulsanne straight.

1989 saw the “explosion” of the the C9: in addition to Le Mans, the car won 6 of the 7 races of the WSC, with Baldi / Schlesser victorious at Suzuka, Schlesser / Mass winning at Jarama, Nürburgring, Donington and Mexico, and Baldi / Acheson first at Brands Hatch and Spa-Francorchamps. Only the second race of the season, the Coupe de Dijon, escaped the dominance of the Sauber team and was taken by the Porsche 962C of Frank Jelinski and Bob Wollek.

The final ranking of the WSC for drivers in 1989 was as follows:

1Jean-Louis SchlesserFRASauber-Mercedes115p
2Jochen MassGERSauber-Mercedes107p
3Mauro BaldiITASauber-Mercedes102p
4Kenny AchesonSWESauber-Mercedes97p
5Frank JelinskiGERJoest-Porsche84p
1989 WSC Driver overall classification

The Team’s final ranking in the overall and C1 category was as follows:

1Sauber – Mercedes-BenzSWI155p
2Joest Racing – PorscheGER84p
3Repsol – Brun Motorsport – PorscheSWI66p
4Silk-Cut JaguarGBR47p
5Nissan Motorsports Intl.JAP37p
6Aston MartinGBR26p
7Toyota Team Tom’sJAP25p
8Porsche Kremer RacingGER21p
1989 WSC Team overall classification

The C9 continued its dominance at the first round of the 1990 WSC, achieving a 1-2 result at the 480 km sprint race in Suzuka, with Baldi / Schlesser leading Mass / Wendlinger. However, it was replaced by the C11 model from the second race at Monza, an equally successful car as it took all but one of the remaining WSC races including Monza, Spa, Dijon, Nürburgring, Donington, Montreal and Mexico. Only the Silverstone race was lost to the Silk Cut Jaguar team following disqualification of the #2 car and retirement of #1. Incidentally, this 480 km race at Silverstone marked the debut with the Swiss team of a certain… Michael Schumacher, who later on took second position at the Dijon and Nürburgring rounds, and an spectacular victory at the Hermanos Rodríguez circuit in Mexico, final round of the Championship. The Sauber team did not race the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1990, backing the retirement of Mercedes-Benz when the event was declared non-Championship by the FIA.

The Model

The replica shown here is made by Exoto, with reference RLG18196. This is the “Rolling Chassis” set, which actually contains two units: one complete with body and another one without it, so you don’t have to choose between a “race” display with the body on (losing the amazing internal details of the model) or a “naked” version: just showcase both, one along the other. Except for the absence of body in the “rolling chassis”, both units are identical so the “race” version also has all the internal detail. The only difference are tyres, as two sets are provided: slick for the race unit and rain for the “rolling chassis” (they are interchangeable).

As other special Exoto models, this is a Limited Edition, with only 1,989 units built. This is unit #1,022, as shown in the front part of the underbody.

The model started selling around the end of 2003, and was quickly sold-out, being very difficult (and expensive) to find today. For instance, as the date of this post, Exoto still offers 1 last unit of this reference through its website, at the modest price of… 5,800 USD.

This is the complete list of the Exoto Sauber C9 versions:

RLG181901989LMsilver – Works Prototype
RLG181911987Sprint63blue – Michelin
German Supercup (Mike Thackwell)
RLG181921987Sprint61blue – Kouros (rain tyres)
1000 km Spa (Mike Thackwell)
RLG181941989LM62Le Mans pole / 5th
Schlesser / Jabouille / Cudini
RLG181951989LM61Le Mans second
Baldi / Acheson / Brancatelli
RLG181961989LM63“Rolling Chassis” (2 units)
Le Mans winner
Mass / Reuter / Dickens
Limited Edition 1.989 units
RLG181971988Sprint62black- AEG (rain tyres)
1000 km Spa winner
Stefan Johansson / Mauro Baldi
1988Sprint62black – AEG
“Finish Line Plus” (weathered)
L.E. 88 units
RLG181991989LM63Le Mans winner
Mass / Reuter / Dickens
Exoto versions of the Sauber C9 Mercedes-Benz at 1:18 scale

Link to the Sauber C9 page at the Exoto website

The Exoto versions were the only 1:18 diecast replicas of the C9 until 2020, when Minichamps started building its own replicas (although they are very far from the Exoto versions in terms of detail and quality of construction).

In case you find the 1:18 scale model too small for your collection, Exoto also offers a 1:10 scale model (ref. LMC10040, the 1989 #63 LM winner version) with an even higher level of detail. It’s also a Limited Edition of 1.989 units, sold at a really hefty price in the range of 6,000 USD.