#DTM500 1988-1992: More factory support
At the Lausitzring, later this month, the DTM will be celebrating its 500th race since the series was founded in 1984. A perfect occasion, therefore, to look back upon the series’ history (read part one here), the men and machines that stood out (or sometimes didn’t) and recall some remarkable races.
In part two, we look at the years from 1988 until 1992, in which more and more factories joined the bandwagon of the burgeoning series, often funding several teams to run their cars. The DTM was a success story, not in the least thanks to live broadcasting on German TV channel 3SAT. Even competition between tyre brands was fierce and great drivers enjoyed success while youngsters also got the chance to shine.
A last hurrah
In 1988, the writing was on the wall for the turbocharged engines in the DTM and indeed, Klaus Ludwig would become the last driver to win the DTM title with a turbocharged engine until the turbos made a glorious return to the DTM for the 2019 season. Ludwig, who had already shone in the ‘Deutsche Rennsport-Meisterschaft’ in the 1970s and scored two wins at Le Mans, celebrated his maiden DTM title with the Ford Sierra in 1988.
A thrilling finale
Prior to the 1988 season finale at Hockenheim, four drivers from three different manufacturers still had chances of winning the title: BMW’s Markus Oestreich, Mercedes driver Roland Asch and Ford drivers Klaus Ludwig and Armin Hahne. In the first race of the Hockenheim double-header, Oestreich crashed out after an attempt to overtake Kurt Thiim and retired, losing the points’ lead to Ludwig. Even though Asch did everything he could by winning the final race of the season, fifth place was enough for ‘King Klaus’ to seal the title.
Legendary Ford trio: Armin Hahne, Klaus Niedzwiedz and Klaus Ludwig
Scandal in Salzburg
Round ten of the 1988 season was held at the ultra-fast Salzburgring in Austria, but the event was more like a demolition derby. Several attempts were made to get the race underway, but each one resulted into a pile-up, the track being blocked, damage to the Armco barrier and other mishap. After three starts, the first race was cancelled. Then, an attempt was made to start the second race, but there was another multi-car pile-up and the officials decided to call it a day. Rumours persist, however, that it was also due to the fact that many drivers were keen to catch their flights home from Salzburg airport on Sunday evening that the second race was eventually called off as well…
Taking the long way
1988 also was the first year that the DTM raced on the long Nordschleife on the support package of the annual 24-hour race, with a pair of wins for Ford driver Armin Hahne.
Nothing could stop Kurt Thiim
In the 1989 round at the Norisring, Mercedes driver Kurt Thiim had a very peculiar incident in the first race: he hit a tyre stack that had come loose and broke his hand due to the impact from the steering wheel, but still went on to win.
Perhaps one of the most unlikely race cars ever, the massive V8 quattro was Audi’s weapon of choice for its maiden DTM campaign in 1990. The brand from Ingolstadt joined the DTM having celebrated titles in the Trans-Am and IMSA-GTO series in the US in the two previous years. And its sheer size didn’t prevent the V8 from being successful, with Hans-Joachim Stuck winning the title in 1990 and Frank Biela becoming champion in 1991.
Four-wheel drive: The unique Audi V8 quattro dominated in 1990 and 1991
The world champion is a winner
Walter Röhrl is best known for his achievements in rallying, having won two world championship titles with Fiat in 1980 and Opel in 1982. The Bavarian, who also had success with the Audi quattro, was quite fast at a circuit as well, as his victory in the Nürburgring DTM round in 1991 with the V8 quattro proved. Thus, Röhrl became one of five automobile world champions to score DTM race wins, the others being Hans-Joachim Stuck (a sports car world champion), Mika Häkkinen and Keke Rosberg (F1 world champions) and Roberto Ravaglia (world touring car champion).
Austrian stalwart Dieter Quester can claim to have caused one of the most spectacular finishes in motor racing history. In the first race of the 1990 Avus round, he lost control of his BMW M3 in the final corner, hit the Armco barrier, flipped the car on its roof and crossed the finish line upside down! The race was red-flagged and, as usual, the order on the previous lap was used for the classification. As a result, Quester still ended up third!
In the second race at Avus in 1990, German Frank Schmickler caught the attention by finishing fourth with his BMW M3. While factory-backed teams filling most of the grid, usually claiming the top spots, Schmickler was a genuine privateer, so this result was all the more remarkable.
Michael Schumacher, a regular in Mercedes-Benz’s sports car team at the time, raced as a guest driver in the 1990 season finale at the Hockenheimring. He collided with points’ leader Johnny Cecotto in the first race, the Venezuelan losing his points’ lead and eventually the title to Hans-Joachim Stuck. Only weeks before his Formula 1 debut, Schumacher returned for another two DTM events in 1991, at the Norisring and Diepholz.
Before Formula 1: Michael Schumacher driving for Mercedes-Benz in DTM
The DTM has had a long tradition of non-championship races. The first ones were the ITR Gold Cup races at Brno and Donington in 1991, with an attractive prize fund at stake. Audi’s Frank Biela became the inaugural Gold Cup winner, Peter Zakowski ended up as the best privateer.
Former chemistry student Ellen Lohr has raced almost everything from Formula Ford via trucks and off-road machinery to stock-cars, but she will forever be known as the first lady to win a DTM race. Driving a Mercedes-Benz 190, she won the first race at Hockenheim in spring 1992 – after she had pushed former F1 champion Keke Rosberg aside.
Ellen Lohr, super happy. Keke Rosberg, not amused.
With two titles in the DTM’s second era from 1988 until 1992 to his name, with Ford in ’88 and Mercedes in ’92, Klaus Ludwig is also the most successful driver of this era in terms of race wins. In the five seasons mentioned, he won no less than 21 races, followed by Johnny Cecotto with 13 race wins.
‘King Klaus’ ruled the DTM in the late 80s and early 90s