Bringing racetrack legends to life

Mario Linke restores and maintains iconic race cars from the 1950s and 1960s—primarily Italian vehicles, such as Maseratis and Ferraris, as well as Porsches. But these rare and expensive models are no exhibition pieces—at Grands Prix for vintage cars, they show that they’ve still got what it takes. To get these legends fit for racing, Mario Linke chooses engine components from the MAHLE CLASSIC LINE. We interviewed him in his workshop and present a video from the cockpit of a Maserati Birdcage 63006 filmed during a race.

Experience vintage car racing from pole position!

Discover what it feels like to take part in a vintage car race up close with our video from the onboard camera of a Maserati Birdcage 63006 at Nürburgring Oldtimer Grand Prix 2017. The driver is Marco Werner – a repeat winner of LeMans.
Buckle up, put on your helmet—and start the film!

 

Interview with a classic car enthusiast

It is by no means a given that these historic vehicles are still winning races today. It takes a lot of sweat, skill, and high-quality products. In the “Methusalem” workshop in Cologne/Germany, this has been Mario Linke’s life for 30 years. In his interview with MPULSE, he talks about his passion, his background, and the importance of having the right partner by your side.

Image: Jan Birkenstock; Oldtimer Grand Prix 2017

MAHLE: Mr. Linke, why did you decide to specialize in classic motorsports?
Mario Linke:
I actually think it’s logical that someone who loves technology would eventually end up in motorsports. After all, motorsports have always been renowned for the highest quality, the greatest technical demands, and the most important technical advances. Especially in the first few years after the war, of course, when development took off so quickly. That’s how I came to specialize in vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s. These cars have witnessed the history of technology. They tell stories of times gone by. When it comes to engines and transmissions, I think motorsports is the most attractive field to be involved in.

MAHLE: How did you come by your specialist know-how?
Mario Linke:
I have been independent since 1988, so I’ve been doing this for 30 years now. And I’ve always surrounded myself with really good people. After all, you grow with your employees and your customers, and, naturally, something sticks over 30 years.

The new CLASSIC LINE
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MAHLE: And where did you work before you went independent?
Mario Linke:
I worked in small workshops, where I built car bodies. Back then, technology was always just incidental. Then I got to know an excellent engine manufacturer, a former racing mechanic with Ducati. Together, we discovered a love of racing engines and worked on getting into the motorsports market. It wasn’t easy. But we did it, little by little. We have now been racing continuously since 2000. Before then, it was more sporadic.

MAHLE: Does your workshop follow a particular approach?
Mario Linke:
Our workshop is independent. We sell or broker the sale of the vehicles we work on and look after the customer who races the vehicle afterward as a service.

MAHLE: The vehicles you work on are still used for racing. Obviously, you must need engine components of the highest quality. How did you come across MAHLE in this context?
Mario Linke:
MAHLE is the global market leader in this field. So it’s fantastic that such a well-established manufacturer remembers where it came from. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible in large corporations. It took some time for MAHLE to do this, but now things are looking great with the MAHLE CLASSIC LINE.

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MAHLE: Is it difficult for you to obtain spare parts?
Mario Linke:
No, not with MAHLE. It always takes a long time to find the right partner: with MAHLE, we’ve finally found it!

MAHLE: What is the greatest challenge you face when refurbishing vehicles?
Mario Linke:
Interacting with the customer is the main challenge because most customers cannot understand the time and effort involved in restoring an engine like this from the 1950s. It is very time-consuming and expensive. Creating this understanding is, I think, the greatest challenge. Everything else can be solved.

MAHLE: You’ve been focusing on Maserati, among other brands.
Mario Linke:
Yes. This year, for example, we restored the last Formula 1 car built by Maserati, which was constructed in 1958. We’d been using Juan Manuel Fangio’s Maserati 250F for racing since 2002. Over the years, we’ve had five of these here in the workshop, including Stirling Moss’s car. We refurbished the engine in each of them.

  • Image: Jan Birkenstock; LeMans 2016
  • The work on vintage engines - that`s Methusalem.
Fuhrmann engine
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MAHLE: You also worked on the Porsche Fuhrmann engine that was fitted with MAHLE parts, isn’t that right?
Mario Linke:
Yes, it’s one of the most elaborate and technically demanding engines ever built. It has the highest number of moving parts per cylinder. We installed MAHLE pistons in this engine too. Since the end of the 1990s, when I started specializing in racing engine construction, every piston we’ve used has come from MAHLE. And now we also use MAHLE bearings and bushings.

The workshop "Methusalem"...
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MAHLE: How many cars do you currently have in your workshop?
Mario Linke:
There are always between 10 and 12 Porsche, Maserati, and Ferrari vehicles.

MAHLE: What races do you have lined up at the moment?
Mario Linke:
We competed with three vehicles in Le Castellet/France: a Porsche 904, a Maserati 300S—which was the winning car from Cuba—and a Maserati Tipo 63 Birdcage. Recently, at the Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in Germany, we won both races—also with the Birdcage. This year, we’ll be in Monaco and Le Mans/France.

...an old locomotive shed from 1906
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MAHLE: And what are the biggest challenges in races like these?
Mario Linke:
Nowadays, stability plays a big role. In the 1950s, if a Maserati engine broke down, they simply fetched a new one from the plant. We cannot allow this to happen today because an engine like this accounts for a quarter of the vehicle’s value—sometimes the engine alone costs almost EUR 1 million. So, the challenge for me and my team is clear: we simply cannot afford a single defect in these valuable cars. The engines are unique, and this makes the vehicles unique too. All our vehicles run with original engines. As far as I’m concerned, it wouldn’t be historic racing otherwise.

Mario and his team (Image: Jan Birkenstock)
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MAHLE: Your workshop, “Methusalem,” is also unique.
Mario Linke:
That’s probably true. It’s an old locomotive shed from 1906. And the nicest thing about it is that I have great people on board. We work on vintage engines here. That is what we enjoy and what keeps driving us forward.

MAHLE: Then we wish you all the very best and many thanks for the interview, Mr. Linke!

So that classics stay classic

The new CLASSIC LINE catalogue will be available in March 2018. Further information about the new CLASSIC LINE you can find on our homepage.
By the way: Visit us at RETRO CLASSICS Stuttgart, hall 3, stand 3C32 from 22nd to 25th of March. We are looking forward to meet you!

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