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Ecclestone car collection to wow crowds in Bahrain 22 Apr 2009

1937 Auto Union driven by Hans Stuck © LAT Photographic 1937 Mercedes W125 driven Manfred von Brauchitsch © LAT Photographic 1966 Ferrari 312 driven by Lorenzo Bandini © LAT Photographic 1964 Ferrari 1512 driven by Lorenzo Bandini © LAT Photographic 1976 McLaren M23 James Hunt World Champion © LAT Photographic

Over 20 Grand Prix and Formula One racing cars from the private collection of Formula One Management CEO Bernie Ecclestone will provide a stunning exhibition throughout this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix meeting. This rare and exclusive collection has never before been seen in public and underlines the relationship which the Bahraini people and the Grand Prix organisers have with Mr Ecclestone.

In his youth, Bernie Ecclestone competed in two-wheeled motocross before graduating to four-wheeled motor racing with 500cc motorcycle-engined Formula Three cars in 1949. Many years later, as the man behind the world-wide popularity of Formula One racing, he began discreetly to accumulate a remarkable personal collection of landmark cars that charted the history of Grand Prix racing.

A dazzling selection of 24 of these cars is to be displayed at the Bahrain International Circuit during the sixth running of the Bahrain Grand Prix and will be open throughout the weekend to race spectators. It includes some of the most famous racing cars ever built during Grand Prix racing’s 103-year history.

The 1937 Mercedes-Benz W125 is one of the rarest cars on show. This car represented the pinnacle of the sport and was known simply as the ‘Silver Arrow’. This pre-Second World War decade of racing was dominated by such German giants. Belying its 70 years of age, this missile-shaped machine’s supercharged 5.66-litre straight-eight cylinder engine developed over 640 horsepower in its day. The car was capable of over 190mph and remained the most powerful in Grand Prix history for 45 years.

The classic Mercedes’ main rival was the Auto Union conceived by Dr Porsche, the supercharged 6-litre ‘P-Wagen’. Uniquely at that time, its V16-cylinder engine was rear-mounted, behind the driver’s cockpit (it was a number of decades before this configuration became the accepted norm for Grand Prix racing car design). The unit developed such colossal torque that these cars could lap the entire Monaco street circuit in top gear.

Grand Prix racing was re-organised as International Formula One in 1948, with the FIA Formula One Drivers’ World Championship inaugural race being run at the British Grand Prix of 1950. The BRM (British Racing Motors), was an amazing industry-backed attempt to build a world-beating Formula One car, but the high-pressure-supercharged 1.5-litre BRM V16 would never win a major race - despite producing over 550 horsepower and proving perhaps the noisiest racing car ever built.

Ferrari won its first Formula One world championship race in the 1951 British Grand Prix, with the 4.5-litre Ferrari Tipo 375 V12, driven by Argentinean star Jose Froilan Gonzalez. His great mentor was the legendary five times world champion Juan Manuel Fangio. Two 2.5-litre Formula One cars - a 1954 Maserati 250F and 1957-type Lancia-Ferrari V8 - celebrate two of the revered superstar’s world titles.

In 1958 the FIA launched its new Formula One Constructors’ World Championship competition, whose first winner was the British Vanwall team with 4-cylinder fuel-injected ‘teardrop’ cars as driven by Sir Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks and Bernie Ecclestone’s contemporary and great friend, Stuart Lewis-Evans.

By 1964-65 Formula One regulations demanded 1.5-litre engines, and the flat-12 cylinder Ferrari 1512 emerged as the most complex and jewel-like of that era’s exquisitely intricate, ‘Swiss-watch’ racing designs. In 1966 Formula One was changed to accept 3-litre engines, and Ferrari won again with the V12-engined ‘312’ model, as driven by John Surtees, the only sportsman ever to become world champion on both two wheels and four at this level.

Ferrari versus McLaren battles have characterised Formula One for over 30 years. In 1976 James Hunt won the drivers’ title in the McLaren-Cosworth M23 while the Ferrari 312T2s driven by Niki Lauda, Clay Regazzoni and Carlos Reutemann took that year’s constructors’ cup.

Aerodynamic experimentation reached its height in the 1978 Swedish GP-winning Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT46B ‘Fan Car’ driven by Niki Lauda. This amazing design sucked itself down onto the track surface to gain cornering grip and traction. The design was, however, outlawed by racing’s governing body. Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team then used turbocharged 1.5-litre BMW 4-cylinder engines in their 1983 BT52 cars to punch their number one driver, Nelson Piquet, to the world championship crown. Amazingly, the tiny production-based BMW engine developed as much as 1,290 horsepower.

These cars, together with many more, tell the story of Grand Prix racing through the ages and throughout the golden eras of the sport. The cars are priceless examples of the uniquely flamboyant demand for speed matched with supreme engineering and the ‘latest’ technology. Having these cars in Bahrain is a massive ‘first’ for the Kingdom - the first time that they have ever been seen in public together.

The Ecclestone Heritage Collection will be on display throughout the Grand Prix in the F1 Village and Vending Area and all spectators are invited to view the collection close-up at no extra charge.