German Racing Is F***ING NUTS
This is German Racing And German Racing is F***ING NUTS The Race is called the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft But you probably know it as DTM It was where the Germans created Lab-grown super soldiers, designed for one thing: Racing Domination And it is the reason that Germany can boast cars like this, this, or this But just as they were taking over the racing world…. they vanished. So what the hell was DTM? And how was a race so important to Germany’s automotive history, so short lived? Well, as I’m sure you know, the 1980s were a crazy time Parachute pants Jazzercise Guns n Roses Lots of powdered substances But cars? Cars kinda sucked. It was the era of late stage carburetion And if you were an engineer at Chrysler and your new V8 made 200hp you got a big bonus, likely taken intranasally But on the other side of the world, there was a little country called Germany that was on a mission to make the automotive world a better place *ahem* call it making up for past mistakes… And it all started here, With the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft, or DRM series. It was, like all the popular series in the 70s and 80s, a touring car race The grid was full of Group 5 legends like the BMW 2002 and the Porsche 935 And like any good German race, the winner year after year was…Ford. But in 1982, the Group 5 class cars were dropped in favor for Group C, And the Porsche 936 and 956 took the series back for Germany But DRM is not the series that matters.
Frankly, It was boring, nobody cared about wacky looking supercars back then. Plus, perhaps more importantly, it was just far too expensive. So in 1984, a new series was formed. One that fixed all the issues of DRM. More relatable Group A cars instead of Group C Realistic budget limits that let privateer teams join in on the fun And a strict limit on power, weight, and overall tech, so the racing was close It was called DPM You thought I was gonna say DTM, huh? Nope, turns out the original name for this series was the Deutshcen Produktionswagen Meisterschaft But eventually it was changed to Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft Because that was much easier to say Anyways, this race was truly the people’s race, BMW 635s, Mercedes 380s, Volkswagen Golfs! Along with some foreign contenders like the Alfa GTV6, Volvo 240, and even a Mazda RX-7 And they were racing at the tracks that live rent free in my Asseto Corsa tracklist Hockenheim, Zolder, the Nurburgring! And no longer was it Prototype Porsches putting bus lengths on everyone, Rubbing is racing was in full effect, as Germany’s finest battled it out, screaming down the back straights Some cars were turbocharged like the Volvo 240s, but others like the BMW 635CSI Sharknose, had a screaming Inline-6 making 320hp naturally aspirated. And while the orange Jagermeister 635 looked the fastest, it was the Gubin Sport BMW that won the first ever championship of the series. But okay sure, cool cars, much fast, that’s racing! What made this race so different from the ones that came before it? Well, how about the fact that 12 different brands scored points in that 1984 season.
No sir, it wasn’t the Formula Max Verstappen race that you might be familiar with these days This was racing at its most competitive. And competition means innovation. Competition like that one time that Zain and I became racing drivers… Every year of DTM brought new stories into the fold. The 85 season was won by the very turbocharged IPS Motorsports Volvo 240 The 86 season brought in the legendary Mercedes 190e 2.3-16v, A car built by AMG and organized by none other than Dr. Helmut Marko, the current red bull F1 advisor and geography class dropout Who still ended up coming second to Kurt Thiim in his Rover Vitesse V8, Revenge for which, Dr. Marko seems to be exacting to this day.
But fast forward to 1987, and it quickly became clear that a new platform that was going to dominate DTM The car came from a little automaker in Bavaria, and the car, well it was God’s own Chariot, the E30 M3 The E30 M3 was destined to become the most winningest car in motorsport history and DTM was where that prophecy began You see, BMW was at a point where they really wanted to become known as a sports car manufacturer, their slogan was “Sheer Driving Pleasure” after all, And so entering DTM was a critical step in cementing that. At the time, group A rules required that at least 5,000 road legal copies of a car had to be made within 12 consecutive months - and so BMW developed the hotted up version of their 3 series, and called it the M3 The result was astounding for a car off the showroom floor. A 200hp naturally aspirated 4 banger shifted by a 5 speed transmission to the rear wheels all while weighing just 2600 pounds! And that was in street trim! The M3 race cars were pushed to 300 hp with a curb weight under 2300 pounds! It was the perfect race car recipe, and Eric Van de Poele proved that to the world when he drove the M3 to its first title in the 1987 season And the crazy part is, the M3’s little NA 4 cylinder was going up against turbocharged monsters as well.
DTM had no engine subdivisions, everyone raced in the same class on the same grid, The only caveat was that high output turbo cars had a weight handicap, But with some cars making upwards of 3-4-500hp, there was a huge speed difference. Cars like the Mercedes 190 were making 260hp and just nowhere near contention for first place given its weight BMW found the sweet spot with NA power and weight then, But on the other side of the coin, Ford was developing something with a different approach They called it the Sierra Cosworth RS500, and by the time it was in race form, its output was nearly 500hp through its turbo 4 cylinder And well, it was an absolute weapon. In the 1988 season, Klaus Ludwig piloted his Cosworth RS500 to first place in the championship, dethroning the M3 in no time and proving to the world that turbo cars were superior The Germans were once again outclassed by Allied powers. But Mercedes had an answer, In the 1989 season, they introduced the 190e Evo 1 - and well It may have looked like your Grandpa’s sedan but that car? THAT CAR won races.
But Mercedes was plagued with technical problems and just couldn’t stay consistent, so the M3 reclaimed its place on the throne So natural aspiration won again, but despite that, complaints from the lower powered teams were at an all time high. They just couldn’t keep up with the turbo cars, and didn’t feel that the lax rules were fair to them So, the unthinkable happened - turbos were banned going into 1990 And well, Ford took that personally, and peaced out of the series for good, taking the beloved Cossie RS500 with them So then, the one car that could have beaten the M3 was gone…or was it? Because Mercedes introduced the coolest Benz ever, the 190E Evo 2! And it did amazing out the gate, putting down the fastest times each and every lap.. but then, both the 190s broke down and didn’t finish the race.
New year, same story with Mercedes. But another new foe has appeared! Audi entered the series with their beloved Quattro, no not that one, THAT one, the V8 Quattro. And just like with Rally, Quattro was fast! So fast that it was an Audi driver that won both in 1990 and in 1991 But enough was enough. Mercedes was done losing. They were done with BMW embarrassing them with the little M3.
They were done with Audi dominating Rally and DTM with Quattro. And oooooh don't get them started with what Nissan was doing in Japan and Australia with Godzilla! Plus, DTM was breaking records for spectator attendance, with each event having more than the last! And the Benz boys in Stuttgart fantasized about being at the forefront of this motorsports wave So in 1992, 3 teams entered the series officially backed by Mercedes - AMG, Mass-Scgon and Zakspeed. And only Audi, BMW, and Mercedes were left as far as official factory teams, so they knew who their targets were. The 190 Evo 2 got a plethora of updates; power steering, a 6 speed sequential transmission, a new braking system, And the car was performing at the best it ever had. Audi backed out halfway through the season due to their crankshaft being declared illegal.
They saw it as a conspiracy to remove them from the championship since they won so convincingly the years prior. So they left, unwilling to negotiate. Opel had backed out before the season even started in hopes to make an even better car for 1993, the Opel Calibra So it was just the M3 in Mercedes' way… And well, the new and improved the Evo 2 proved that BMW was no match. Klaus Ludwig won Mercedes’ first ever DTM championship that year racing for AMG, finally cementing Mercedes Benz footprint in DTM history But just as Mercedes was hitting its peak - it seems that DTM was at its peak as well. Leading up to the 1993 season, it was understood that the series would drop their loose Group A regulations. And in return, the would adopt the FIAs Class 1 rule book for touring cars Class 1 rules were much more modernized - gone was the handicap system from before and in its place was all new technology - ABS, four wheel drive, traction control, and even electronic diffs! And the engines? Well anything up to 2.5 liters,
6 cylinders, and 4 valves per cylinder was fair play! So just like that, the era of group A racing was over And the manufacturers? Well they weren’t too happy about it BMW left entirely, after disagreeing with the new rules Audi was still gone, salty about the disqualification in 92 Opel didn't finish the Calibra in time And well that only left Mercedes But there was a plot twist in the shape of a 4 leaf clover - Alfa Romeo, the Italian car maker said they're coming to compete in the German series And not only did they compete, they absolutely dominated the series with their 155 V6 Ti That V6 revved to 12,000 rpm with ease. The output was 420hp and the car only weighed 2400 pounds! Add a 4wd system pulled out of the Lancia Delta HF rally car and a 6 speed gearbox and Alfa had the recipe to embarrass Mercedes on their home turf Alfa Romeo won the championship easily, setting the record for the most race victories with Nicola Larini behind the wheel of the leading car But as cool as these class 1 cars looked and as fast as they drove - Just Alfa and Mercedes does not a DTM series make And with Alfa so far ahead of Mercedes, both fans and racing teams alike were beginning to question if DTM was still worth it… In 1995, the DTM cars also participated in a new series, the FIAs inaugural International Touring Car series - The ITC The traditional 10 DTM races were held inside Germany while the 14 ITC races would all be held outside of Germany And in theory, it would have brought more attention to DTM, showcasing the cars all over the world But class 1 cars were freaking expensive! The R&D and technology costs needed to make these cars competitive ripped through the pockets of every manufacturer and team And with over twice as many races, money was being burned through fast. Teams were going broke and dropping out of the series left and right. They just couldn’t justify the cost. So a hail mary audible was called by DTM organizers and the FIA Instead of having 2 different series, the DTM and ITC, why not combine them into one ultimate championship? They called the new idea the International Touring Car Championship, ITCC, not to be confused with the former ITC. But in order for the idea to be green lit, they needed support from the FIA. And to get full FIA support, the FIA needed full control And that would mean Germany’s home grown race would now become another cog in the FIA’s international racing machine.
But for the DTM organization, it was either this, or perish. So the reigns were handed over, and seemingly overnight, the FIA revolutionized the financial structure of the series And for a split second, the future looked promising But it seemed like nobody read the fine print. With the new structure, a large portion of the revenue stream now went directly to the FIA And the teams realized that they weren’t really going to see a financial benfit on their end The teams were already struggling with getting their cars ready for race day, But now with the new international championship, they also had to transport their cars, team, and equipment to races in Japan and Brazil And this didn't go over well with teams like Alfa Romeo, who didn't even sell cars in Brazil The price to television rights also increased, meaning that television coverage sucked And spectator tickets doubled overnight in some countries, which led to even more horrible turnout from fans The international touring car championship was falling apart as quickly as it was built And In 1996, everyone pulled out of the race for good, leaving only mercedes on the grid And well, DTM was dead. But, even though it was short lived, DTM had made its mark in motorsports And something about letting it die just didn't seem right to the Germans. So the organizers got back together and planned a comeback A new DTM. One that would account for all of the pitfalls that led to its demise The new DTM would mostly race in Germany but still have races in other european countries, but nowhere near as many as before Which would keep costs reasonable for teams But when they presented the idea of returning to the German Motor Sport Federation, they were denied Meisterschaft status, or proper championship status.
Refusing to let this stop them, they rebranded… to DTM. Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, not Meisterschaft, And because they weren’t bound by the international championship guidelines, they could basically do whatever they wanted. So in May of 2000, they kicked off their very first race at Hockenheim Instead of seeing the traditional sedan style cars on the grid, this new DTM featured only 2 door coupes And some of these cars were freakin sikh.
Well, the 3 cars. There were 3 cars. BUT they were 3 cool cars!! Mercedes entered a CLK Opel had an Astra And Audi had the TT-R driven by a private team with no manufacturer support all powered by V8s And it was pretty good racing! The Mercedes CLK driven by Bernd Schneider won that first comeback season and then won it again in 2001 In 2004, Audi officially joined DTM as a manufacturer team and well, they immediately won the drivers championship with Mattias Ekstrom But just when DTM was getting hot again, Opel pulled out. GM, Opel’s owner at the time, was cutting costs, and with those cuts went Opel’s motorsports teams That left only Audi and Mercedes from 2007 to 2012… And well, things got boring again for German Racing But BMW announced a comeback in 2012. After a twenty year absence, from back when the e30 was king And BMW won it! They won the drivers championship and the manufacturer title! The BMW M3 was DTM king once again. But DTM just wasn’t as popular as they had hoped it would be.
So in that same year, a plan was made to merge DTM with Super GT over in Japan The cars in Super GT and DTM weren’t that different anymore and with a few tweaks to the rules, they could race on the same grid So they did it! In 2019, DTM allowed the return of turbocharged cars, the first time since the late 80s! And the V8s were changed over to 2 litre turbos And now, DTM was ready to lineup with Super GT on the grid It was a huge deal Over 50,000 spectators arrived at Fuji Speedway in Japan to witness the race It was called the Super GT DTM Dream Race and on the grid were Lexus LC500s, Audi RS5s, Honda NSX-GTs, BMW M4s, and R35 Nismo GTRs It was an awesome lineup, but there was one notable exception… Mercedes It turns out, Mercedes left DTM that year in order to focus fully on Formula 1 And then after the Japanese showcase, Audi left DTM for good as well For the millionth time yet again, the factory teams were all out. The manufacturers were just too fickle to rely on for the DTM organizers. And enough was enough, it was time to put privateer teams at the forefront again! So DTM decided to drop Class 1 regulations and switched to GT3 The GT3 rules were much more accessible than Class 1, especially when it came to affordability And because of GT3’s diversity and relative affordability, the grid looked as full as ever! Audi R8 V10s, Twin Turbo v8 M6s, ferrari 488 Evos, Mclaren 720s, AMG Gt3s, and Porsche 911 GT3Rs And that is where DTM is today - Still showcasing Germany's greatest race cars, still adapting to whatever curveballs that come their way Still a testbed for Germany’s hottest sports cars.
And although they don’t have quite the charm they did in the days of 190e’s battling E30 M3s DTM’s refusal to die is proof that Germany has plenty to give the world of motorsports Thanks for watching! If you liked this video, then you’ll love this video on another European Racing Legend, Michele Mouton. Grab a shirt from our store if you haven't already and hit us up on Discord if you have a car story you want us to tell! I’ll see you in the next one.