George Russell collects Trofeo Bandini Award

George Russell drove a 100-year-old Mercedes to collect the Trofeo Bandini Award in the medieval village of Brisighella. The 1924 Targa Florio-winning car was restored by Mercedes-Benz Heritage to celebrate the centenary of the landmark victory. Thousands of locals took to the streets to witness the demo run. George will also drive the car at Imola later.

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George Russell completed a historic demo run through the streets of the medieval Italian village Brisighella on Wednesday, 15th May. The 26-year-old drove one of the original Mercedes cars that participated in the 1924 Targa Florio, a race won by the German marque. The Brit did so en route to collecting the Trofeo Bandini Award ahead of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

George Russell said:

It has been amazing to get behind the wheel of a 100-year-old Mercedes. It’s a car you expect to be sitting in a museum for people to admire rather than being driven and entrusted with its first public outing since its restoration, which was an absolute honour. The way it drove was exceptional! The noise was fantastic, and the handling of the corners, considering the narrow tyres, was very impressive. It was an absolute joy to get the chance to drive it, so I want to say a huge thank you to the Mercedes-Benz Classic team.

Collecting the Trofeo Bandini Award was also a true privilege. So many great F1 drivers have won this award, and it was an honour to add my name to that list. It has been a brilliant day, and I’m excited for the rest of the weekend in Imola.

Marcus Breitschwerdt, Head of Mercedes-Benz Heritage, commented:

Yesterday, our original Mercedes Targa Florio racing car from 1924 returned to an Italian road – 100 years after the Mercedes victory at the race in Sicily. It was an incredibly emotional moment for everyone involved. This red racer thrilled the Italian crowds a century ago, and now, it has brought a similar response with George Russell behind the wheel. We are happy and proud that the car successfully made its first public appearance after its comprehensive restoration at our Mercedes-Benz Classic Centre.

Francesco Asirelli, President of the Trofeo Bandini Association, added:

We were delighted that George was here to collect the 31st edition of the Trofeo Bandini. He is a very knowledgeable young man and a great sportsman. We have been working to make this happen for nearly a year, and the moment finally came. He brought the sun to Brisighella, and it was a fantastic day.

Many thanks to Mercedes-Benz Classic for restoring such an incredible car and having its first public running at our event. Everyone was overjoyed to see it on the village streets, and it was a fantastic experience. A huge thanks must go to Mercedes-Benz and the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team for making it happen.

The award was established in 1992 for the famous Italian racing driver Lorenzo Bandini, who passed away in 1967. The trophy is given to an F1 figure and selected by a special committee. The presentation takes place in Brisighella, a village in the Emilia-Romagna region of the country. George drove the century-old 2-litre machine from the nearby town of Faenza to the ceremony in the village square, celebrating the award and commemorating Mercedes’ overall victory and triple class victory in the Targa Florio 1924.

A public road endurance race held in the mountains of Sicily, Italy, the Targa Florio began near the start of the 20th century. First run in 1906, it was one of the toughest competitions. It became one of the most important for automotive manufacturers looking to demonstrate the performance of their racing cars and the skills of their drivers. After first tasting success in 1922, Mercedes entered the 1924 race with the 2-litre Targa Florio race car. It was the first project that then Chief Engineer Ferdinand Porsche developed further until it was ready for racing.

Painted red to deter local fans from impeding its progress, Christian Werner won the prestigious race over 432 kilometres in 6 hours, 32 minutes, and 37.4 seconds to take the German marque’s second victory. It was the first victory in the Targa Florio for a driver from outside Italy. Werner also led the team in a triple-class victory for racing cars with a displacement of up to 2 litres. His teammates finished in the overall standings in 11th place (Christian Lautenschlager) and 16th place (Alfred Neubauer).   

In 2022, Mercedes-Benz Heritage decided to rebuild the original 2-litre Targa Florio racing car from the company’s collection as authentically as possible for the anniversary – by the high standards of a factory restoration. It is the vehicle in which Christian Lautenschlager completed the Targa Florio in 1924. Werner’s winning car has not survived. The removal of the racing car from the Mercedes-Benz Museum was followed by a meticulous analysis from paintwork to the motor to the vehicle’s body and by extensive research in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives – the brand’s “memory”. Original technical drawings and historical photos were crucial sources for authentic restoration, and the Classic Centre carried out this with a network of experts.

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