#DTM500 – “I am surprised myself how much I have achieved”
The DTM is celebrating a special occasion: on 25 August, the 500th race of the series, founded in 1984, will be held at the Lausitzring. Enough reason for DTM.com to talk to the DTM’s two most successful drivers: Bernd Schneider and Klaus Ludwig. We start off with Schneider, who is on top of the rankings with five titles and 43 race wins. He is rightfully known as ‘Mr. DTM’.
You can read the interview with three-time champion Ludwig here.
The DTM is having its 500th race. What thoughts about that are coming up for you?
Bernd Schneider: “For me, it is great that the 500th race is there. In the years in which I raced, it was often said that it would be the last year of the DTM. Therefore, I am even more delighted that the DTM is celebrating its 500th race and that the series is in a better position than ever. I thoroughly enjoy watching the races.”
How proud are you of being a significant part of the history of this race series?
“I am really proud of having contributed to part of the DTM’s history, especially now, a little bit further down the line. It has already been eleven years in which I am no longer involved. I am surprised myself how strong I was committed to the DTM and how much I have achieved.”
Early days: Bernd Schneider (right) with his Ford team-mates Manuel Reuter (left) and Walter Mertes
What is the most poignant memory of your spell in the DTM?
“I often get the question about my most beautiful memory. That is like asking me which of my three children I love most. For me, the DTM has given me incredibly beautiful memories at every stage in my career. I am glad that we at Mercedes always had people on site who have captured it all. For instance, I have many nice photographs by Wolfgang Wilhelm and season review films by Helmut Deimel that he made for my championship years. Every now and then, I am sitting on the sofa with my young daughter to watch the season review films. Then we both have tears in our eyes: she is sad that I am no longer racing and for me, all those many great moments are coming up again. But there isn’t any single moment that stands out.”
That means, the question about your most beautiful win would be inappropriate, too?
“Yes, there is no way to answer that. I have really had some unbelievable races. The most beautiful wins were the ones that came unexpectedly, and there were quite a few of these, too. What was extremely important to me was winning my maiden championship title in 1995, because 1994 was a difficult season. I put my highest level of concentration into the championship win in 2000. I really wanted to win the championship in the year of the millennium with the restart of the DTM, and that is what I did. Throughout my career, I have never prepared for any other season the way I did it in 2000.”
Glory days: Schneider dominated the 1995 season
You have experienced nearly all car generations. The cars of the late 1980s and early 1990s, then the first Class 1 generation, followed by the high-tech cars in 1995 and 1996 and finally the V8 cars of the ‘new’ DTM from 2000. Which car did you like most?
“There are two cars that are particularly close to my heart. First of all, my championship-winning car from 1995, which was Gerhard Ungar’s masterpiece. The car simply was a benchmark. At the time, nobody believed that you could be competitive with a rear-wheel driven car against the four-wheel driven cars from Alfa Romeo and Opel. My favourite car from the new DTM clearly is the 2006 car with the 8-in-1 exhaust system. That is the car I won my final DTM title with. It is my dream car and I would love to own it, but it is in the museum and Mercedes doesn’t want to sell it. Instead, they let me drive it occasionally at historic events.”
Love affair: Schneider in his 2006 AMG-Mercedes C-Class
Looking back today, who was your fiercest rival?
“I have always had pretty good teammates, those are the ones you can best compare yourself with as they have the same machinery. For me, Klaus Ludwig was the man to beat in the ‘old’ DTM. He was clearly the number one in touring car racing and in sports cars as well, so he was the undisputed benchmark for me. It was Dario Franchitti who gave me my first grey hairs. He arrived in the DTM in 1995 and put his car on pole position straight away. In the old DTM, he then became my fiercest rival. But there were strong opponents outside of Mercedes, too: I have had mega-nice fights with Manuel Reuter, Nicola Larini or Alessandro Nannini. In the new DTM after 2000, my main rivals again were the ones from our own ranks: Jamie Green, Bruno Spengler, Gary Paffett as they came from Formula 3 as young talents. That was when I noticed that it was getting tougher for me. Not because I became slower, but because Mercedes had an unbelievably strong driver line-up at the time. Mika Häkkinen was also part of it.”
Rivals, powered by Mercedes: Mika Häkkinen (left) and Bruno Spengler