The expert’s tip: Klaus Ludwig would put his money on BMW and Glock
Klaus Ludwig still is regarded as the most successful German touring-car driver and therefore, he also is called ‘King Ludwig’. Ludwig who was born in Bonn began his DTM career back in 1985 with a Ford Sierra. In 36 races he made it to the top step of the podium and secured 14 of these wins at the Nürburgring. And three timers he won the DTM Drivers’ Championship: in 1988 with a Ford and in 1992 and 1994 with a Mercedes. In 2000, at the age of 50, Ludwig won both rounds of the Sachsenring weekend for Mercedes-Benz, thus making history as oldest race winner in the history of the sport. Prior to this year’s race weekend at the Nürburgring, DTM.com talked with Ludwig who will return behind the wheel himself in the ‘Tourenwagen Classics’.
How do you assess the course of the season to date? What flops and tops could be witnessed from your point of view.
“We have a new star in DTM: René Rast. Unfortunately he also made some mistakes and therefore, he isn’t as dominant as he was in the early stages of the season. And at the very beginning of the season, Lucas Auer also proved to be a new star. At that point in time I really believed that he would make a clean sweep. It was amazing. He definitely will make it to F1. Nonetheless, the situation slightly changed in the last races. And then there is the excruciating topic handy weights. I hope they will be abolished next year. I believe that even the brand that will benefit most from the handicap-weighs at the Nürburgring, BMW, aren’t particularly fond of these regulations. After all, you don’t want real wins, no gifts. Nobody in motor racing is really happy with such a situation. From my point of view, the best car to date was the Audi. It’s super fast on every racetrack. A fact that has been underlined by their successes. But at the Nürburgring, the Audis arguably will be an also-ran, due to these excruciating handicap weights. Just impossible on this level. But when it comes to marketing and closeness to the fans, DTM holds a top position. In this area they are doing a really good job.”
Dou you think that DTM has got a future, following the retirement of Mercedes?
“I was really delighted about the commitment of Gerhard Berger. He is a guarantor for the future of the series. There are one or two manufacturers who won’t keep on racing in Le Mans. Furthermore, the future with the 1.9-litre turbo engines has already been somewhat outlined, with limited aerodynamics and simpler cars. I am confident that Gerhard will find a third or even a fourth brand. In this case, DTM will have a bright future. It definitely would deserve it. Who knows, possibly Mercedes will be annoyed in three years that they aren’t a part of it, any longer. After all, the platform still is fantastic.”
There is the claim: ‘Everything was better in the old days’. Would you underline this statement regarding DTM?
“No, ‘Everything was different in the old days’ is the correct statement. The only thing that was better was the fact that the brand Opel was involved for a long time. Opel is a brand for the masses and they attracted spectators galore. It was great time. At the same time I have to admit that not everything was perfect. For instance, I also had to drive around with handicap weights for many years. And it was far more blatant in those. Nobody was allowed to talk about it. It was incredible. If I had 50kg handicap weights aboard my car I was whistled and booed by the crowds and they said ‘He’s too old’ Today, everybody knows that you can’t make it to the top with 50kg extra-weight aboard your car. The only thing you can do is cruising at the end of the field.“
As ‘King of the Nordschleife’ you certainly can share your profound Nürburgring knowledge with us, prior to the DTM races...
“To be honest, I have to admit that the GP circuit and even more the short sprint circuit that is used by DTM today aren’t my favourites. I love fluent racetracks such as Silverstone or Spa. I told the architect 30 years ago that his circuit wasn’t exactly fantastic, from my point of view. But you have to live with it. You could race on the entire loop what wasn’t popular for several years as those responsible wanted the cars to pass the grandstands more often. But that’s just nonsense. We need exciting corners. Possibly one could talk to the Nürburgring operators and convince them to add some corners. In the area of the Hatzenbach bend, for instance, you could add an interesting corner combination that would add to the excitement. Currently, overtaking is virtually impossible. On the other hand, taking a look to the Sachsenring we see that everything is limited: the testing, the noise level and and and... Therefore, we are happy to have the Nürburgring.”
We’d like to know your predictions. Who will win in the weekend and who will clinch the title?
It’s far too early for predicting who possibly will win the title. This weekend, BMW will be extremely strong. 25kg less are 25kg less. If you have got this advantage and don’t beat yourself – for instance with a rest of fuel of only 450g – you are in an extremely promising situation. I am particularly impressed by the massive development of Timo Glock. He finally turned into a top driver in this car. And I think that he is extremely likeable. And in Germany he is known as former F1 driver. We are about to witness a thrilling race weekend.”
In the ‘ Tourenwagen Classics’ you are going to battle it out in a Class-1 Mercedes 190 with former rivals such as Christian Danner, Volker Strycek or Roland Asch. What are your goals for the race?
“We drive together instead of competing with one another. There is zero competition. As I know my car from the past I can say that we will look good if it is running well. Markus Wüstefeld, the owner of the car, is a true enthusiast. We will see who is going to drink champagne, in the evening. Ralph Bahr who manages the series – inter alia – wanted me to get involved for more than a year. Now I fulfilled his desire – and I’m looking forward to it.”