By Constance Watson
LONDON (Reuters) - A rare Mercedes race car became the most expensive car ever sold at auction when an anonymous bidder bought it for 19.6 million pounds ($29.6 million) at a sale in Britain on Friday.
The 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 in which five-time Formula 1 world champion driver Juan Manuel Fangio won two grands prix, also became the most expensive Mercedes-Benz ever sold, auction house Bonhams said.
"We've just witnessed history in the making," Bonhams Motoring Director James Knight told Reuters from the sale at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in southern England.
The previous auction record was held by a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, which sold for $16.39 million in 2011.
The 2.5-litre straight-8 Mercedes-Benz driven by Fangio already had a storied history.
The driver's 1954 victories in the German and Swiss Grands Prix were the first successive wins by the Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 team in the German racing crew's post-World War Two comeback.
The car competed in five world championship-qualifying Grand Prix races. After Fangio's 1954 Swiss Grand Prix win, the W196R was retired to the Daimler-Benz Museum.
John Lennon's first car - a 1965 Ferrari GT coupe - also sold for 359,000 pounds at Goodwood on Friday.
The late Beatle bought the blue Ferrari after he passed his driving test in 1965 and sold it three years later. It had a top pre-sale estimate of 220,000 pounds.
($1 = 0.6615 British pounds)
(Reporting by Paul Casciato)