DTM Heroes

How Bernd Schneider became DTM’s greatest ever racer

A German driver rejected by F1 went on to become the most successful star in DTM’s long history. In his own words, this is Bernd Schneider’s story.

I often get asked about my favourite memory from my time racing in DTM.

That’s a bit like asking me which of my three children I love the most! For me, DTM has given me some incredibly beautiful memories – and at every stage of my career.

My favorite season

"I’ve had some unbelievable races. For me, the best wins were the ones that came unexpectedly – and there were quite a few of those. What was most important to me was winning my maiden championship title in 1995, because my ’94 season had been a really difficult one. I probably focused hardest on the title in 2000 – I really wanted to win the championship that year as it was the start of a millennium and the restart of the DTM. I never prepared for a season better than I did that year."

Schneider admits preparations for his first DTM title in 1995 were the most intense of his career

The best car

There are two cars that remain particularly close to my heart. First of all, my championship-winning Mercedes C-Class V6 from ’95, which was [Mercedes/HWA technical boss] Gerhard Ungar’s masterpiece.

That car was simply the benchmark.

Back in those days, nobody believed you could be competitive with a rear-wheel-drive car against the four-wheel-drive cars from Alfa Romeo and Opel. But we were.

Then my favourite car from the ‘new’ DTM was the 2006 Mercedes, with the eight-in-one exhaust system. That’s the car with which I won my final DTM title – and it’s my dream car; the racing car I would love to own.

Sadly, it’s in the museum and Mercedes doesn’t want to sell it. But at least they let me drive it at historic events from time to time.

Schneider’s Mercedes’ 2006 C-Class was a mighty title-winning car – one he has tried, and failed, to buy from the German marque!

My greatest rival

Well, Klaus Ludwig was definitely the man to beat in the ‘old’ DTM.

He was number one driver in touring cars, and in sports car racing, too. So he was the undisputed benchmark for me. But it was Dario Franchitti who gave me my first grey hairs. He arrived in DTM in ’95 and put his car on pole straight away. Then he became my fiercest rival.

But there were plenty of strong drivers outside of Mercedes, too: I had some incredible battles with Manuel Reuter [Opel], Nicola Larini and Alessandro Nannini [both Alfa Romeo].

When the series restarted in 2000, my main rivals were once again within Mercedes – Jamie Green, Bruno Spengler and Gary Paffett, drivers who’d all graduated up from Formula 3.

Racing against those guys was when I first noticed that it was getting tougher for me. Not because I was any slower, but because Mercedes had an unbelievably strong driver line-up at that time. They had signed [double F1 champion] Mika Häkkinen by that time too, remember.

With Klaus Ludwig – the driver Schneider called his ‘benchmark’ in DTM

What I take away from DTM

"I still feel so proud to have contributed to some of DTM’s history. It’s been 11 years since I last raced in the series – and that time away from it has really given me perspective on things.

Every now and then, I sit down on the sofa with my young daughter and we watch the season review films together. Both of us have tears in our eyes –she’s sad that I’m no longer racing; and I’m tearful remembering all those great moments again…"

Premium manufacturersAudiBMW