Between 1984 and 1992, and from 2012 to 2020, BMW teams, drivers and cars shaped the DTM. And now, after 339 races, the end of the Class 1 era in the DTM sees BMW withdraw from the series as a manufacturer, with fantastic memories, but also an air of melancholy.
1984-1992: CHAPTER ONE.
Launched as the German Production Car Championship, the first DTM race got underway in 1984. In the thick of the action from day one was BMW Motorsport and the BMW 635 CSi. It was a colourful crowd that took to the grid in Zolder on 11th March: BMW, Opel, Rover, Alfa Romeo, Ford, and VW – and there was an emphatic winner of the inaugural race.
BMW locked out the top four positions, led by the impressive Harald Grohs. In doing so, they heralded the first chapter of the race series, which would go on to become one of the most successful and best series in the world over the coming decades.
At the end of the season, it was once again a BMW driver sitting pretty at the top of the Drivers’ Championship. Curiously, it was not Grohs, who claimed four victories over the course of the season, but Volker Strycek. The German did not win a single race, but was consistency personified and had racked up the most points by the end of the season.
After three years and a total of six victories, the BMW 635 CSi bid farewell to the DTM in 1986 and was replaced the following season by a car that would go on to dominate touring car racing around the world for many years. Back then it was new, now it is the greatest legend in the history of BMW Motorsport: the BMW M3 E30. Between 1987 and 1992, the car took the chequered flag at the end of a DTM race a remarkable 41 times.
On top of that came countless victories in world and European championships, as well as the major 24-hour races at the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps. As with the BMW 635 CSi, the success story began immediately with victory in the first race at Hockenheim in 1987.
Harald Grohs was the man on the top step of the podium again, but once again he had to play second fiddle to a fellow BMW driver at the end of the season – another man who was crowned champion without winning a single race. This time it was Eric van de Poele, as lightning struck for the second time.
The 1987 season heralded an era that remains the most iconic in the DTM. An era, in which the BMW M3, the Ford Sierra Cosworth, the Mercedes 190E and, later, the Audi Quattro locked horns on track and treated fans to some truly breathtaking racing. Each year, BMW drivers were among the main contenders.
1989 delivered another title win, this time for Roberto Ravaglia. And it was Ravaglia who won both races at the final round of the 1992 season at Hockenheim to bring the first chapter of BMW in the DTM to a close with a bang.
2012-2020: CHAPTER TWO.
Exactly 20 years passed between the withdrawal of the works team and the DTM comeback. Shortly after ending its involvement in Formula 1, BMW Motorsport returned to the best touring car series in the world with the BMW M3 DTM. Once again, they started with a bang.
It took until just race two of the season for Bruno Spengler to secure the top step of the podium at the Lausitzring in his black BMW Bank M3 DTM. Even the wildest optimists had not reckoned on success coming so soon after such a long absence from the DTM. Yet there was even better to come. After four race wins and a dramatic finale against Gary Paffett at Hockenheim, Spengler was crowned DTM champion in the year that BMW Motorsport returned to the series. At the same time, BMW and BMW Team Schnitzer also picked up the Manufacturer and Team titles.
After two seasons and a total of ten victories, another Manufacturer title for BMW in 2013, and a runner-up finish in the championship for Augusto Farfus, the BMW M3 DTM’s time came to an end. In its place was the BMW M4 DTM. And what can we say? The next sensation was not long in coming. Marco Wittmann took victory in the first race at Hockenheim – the first success in what proved to be a fantastic season. Wittmann won four races en route to claiming his first DTM Drivers title in emphatic style, a feat he repeated two years later.
That made Wittmann the only BMW driver, and at the same time the youngest driver in DTM history, to be crowned champion twice. It was also the German who achieved another highlight at the opening round of the 2019 season at Hockenheim, when he went down in the history books as the first winner at the wheel of a BMW M4 DTM Turbo in line with the Class 1 regulations.
The era of the turbo engines had begun – and it was actually set to last longer than just two years. However, after the withdrawal of first Mercedes and then Audi, the second chapter of the DTM drew to a close with the final round of the 2020 season. Between 2014 and 2020, the BMW M4 DTM won 30 races, two Drivers’ Championships, one Team competition and one Manufacturers title.
BMW REACTIONS TO THE END OF THE CLASS 1 ERA IN THE DTM
“Do you see over yonder, friend Sanch” We are all getting a bit nostalgic after the final race of the Class 1 era in the DTM. ”— Jens Marquardt
Jens Marquardt: “We are all getting a bit nostalgic after the final race of the Class 1 era in the DTM. Since our DTM comeback in 2012, we have enjoyed some fantastic times at BMW Motorsport, celebrating numerous titles and wins together. Unfortunately, the 2020 season did not go as we had hoped – and the two final races at Hockenheim did nothing to change that. Nonetheless, I would like to thank the entire team for their tireless effort, the pure passion and readiness to battle right to the end and constantly give their all – after wins and defeats, this mentality is always what drives us on at BMW and allows us to overcome every situation. I would also like to express our appreciation for our DTM partners of many years’ standing and thank them for their loyalty and support, and the great collaboration in recent years.”
Timo Glock: “Of course, it is a shame that the DTM as we know it is drawing to a close, but when one door closes, another opens. That is why we have to keep looking forward and wait to see what the future brings. I can only thank my guys and the whole RMG team. Everyone has done a great job in recent years, always providing me with a superb car. That is why I am wrapping up this season with mixed feelings.”
“When one door closes, another opens.”Timo Glock
Philipp Eng: “During the final laps of the race, I attempted to enjoy every metre in the BMW M4 DTM. Who knows when I will once again be able to drive such a fast racing car. Many thanks to everyone from BMW Team RBM for three great years that have seen me make friends for life. Thanks as well to BMW Motorsport for giving me the chance to drive in the DTM. Now I am really looking forward to the career challenges that the future holds. I am still young and have a lot of plans for the coming years.”
“During the final laps of the race, I attempted to enjoy every metre in the BMW M4 DTM.”Philipp Eng
Sheldon van der Linde: “It has always been my dream to drive one of these fantastic cars in the DTM. I managed to do that for two years and celebrated my first win this season. That was very important for me. It’s a shame that the Class 1 era is now over. Many thanks to BMW Team RBM and to BMW Motorsport for their support. I feel right at home here.”
“It has always been my dream to drive one of these fantastic cars in the DTM.”Sheldon van der Linde
By: BMW Motorsport official website