Switch on the ignition, pull out the lever on the dash panel halfway and patiently wait for a few seconds. Now pull out the lever all the way – and the legendary OM 615 engine in the Mercedes-Benz L 206 D comes to life. The 2.2 liter diesel engine starts up and the first few revolutions shake the steel frame and the chassis. That is the starting signal for the L 206 D at the 6th Paul Pietsch Classic through the Black Forest. Then the diesel engine quietens down to a calming rumble as it idles. The low frequencies indicate what the L 206 D stands for: readiness and unconditional reliability.
On the classic tour on the tracks of the racing driver and publisher Paul Pietsch, the “Harburger” painted in the bright “Columbia Blue” tone is especially conspicuous: light commercial vehicles are rarely a part of such exclusive events. “We are happy about every rarity registered for one of our rallies”, says the organizer Harald Koepke, emphasizing the interest in the most colorful range of participants possible. The van with its all-round windows has a major advantage over the racing cars: it offers the driver and up to 8 passengers a fantastic view of the world outside.
In the 1970s, the L 206 D was also a meaningful alternative to the existing range of vans at the time: The drive concept consisting of a front engine and front wheel drive created a completely flat loading surface, in contrast to its most important competitor at the time.
The vehicles have to tackle 460 kilometers with innumerable corners, uphill and downhill stretches over the course of the rally – a true challenge for the L 206 D from 1972. The 55 hp diesel and the brake system are not actually designed for this kind of route. Thanks to a 200 kilogram additional weight in the interior, the braking behavior of the wheels on the rear axle is improved on wet roads – so that the idyllic route is no longer a problem. One thing is certain: Confidently known as the “economical giant” in the official sales brochure, it was one of the most exotic guests at this year’s Paul Pietsch Classic. It owes its nickname to the indestructible pre-combustion chamber diesel engine which makes more economical use of fewer than petrol engines and is also less prone to breakdown.
The rally runs on a tight schedule. Naturally, they tried to keep up with the pace in the Mercedes-Benz L 206 D. The atmosphere is tense because rallies are not about seconds but hundredths of a second. The results when the van crosses the finish line are even more amazing: The L 206 D arrived seven seconds and six hundredths too early. Was the team on board actually too hasty? No, everyone agrees: a measurement error is the only logical explanation. But after these three eventful days in the L 206 D, nothing can ruin the mood of the team and the audience on the roadside.
Photos: Kai Knoerzer