New edition of an epic battle
On 18th June 1992, after a one-year break, the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife made its comeback on the DTM calendar. On the Thursday prior to the 24h Race weekend, 110,000 spectators came to the Eifel circuit and witnessed two memorable races. And for many motor-racing enthusiasts, the fierce and tough battles for the win between Klaus Ludwig and Johnny Cecotto remained a very special memory for many decades. 25 years later, the two chief characters of these fights met in the ‘Green Hell’ once again.
“I truly looked forward to meeting Johnny. Of course, the time of our battles is over."Klaus Ludwig
Ludwig who soon will turn 68 and Cecotto (61) were offered the opportunity to take their very well maintained original cars out at the Nordschleife – an offer that made both drivers grin broadly. In addition to the two former racing drivers, the Mercedes 190E 2.5-16 Evolution 2 and the BMW M3 Sport Evolution starred at ‘The Ring’. The ‘King of the Nordschleife’ and the former motorbike World Champion took a trip down memory lane. Both visibly had big fun, exchanged anecdotes and insisted on accelerating their cars to racing speed in some sectors. “I truly looked forward to meeting Johnny. Of course, the time of our battles is over. But who knows? Perhaps we can add a percentage point to the popularity of DTM, with campaigns like this one,” said Ludwig and added: “Johnny’s car was really powerful. We treated each other fair even in those days. There were a few misunderstandings and a few collisions but with hindsight they were no big deal. It was a great time and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”
The Nordschleife battle of the two drivers began in 1992 with the surprising fastest qualifying time of Cecotto. Consistent with the 20th anniversary of the BMW Motorsport GmbH, he secured the pole with an 8:44.33-minute lap. And the race that should follow made DTM history. The visitors were captivated by the action. In race one, no other driver was able to match the pace of Cecotto and Ludwig. They passed each other for the lead again and again but following a mistake made by Ludwig in the ‘Galgenkopf’ sector, the battled seemed to be over. But far from it! Short before the finish line, Ludwig made use of the slipstream and passed Cecotto for the win. With a lead of 18 hundredths of a second, the three-time DTM Champion celebrated his first win in the season. It was one of the closest finishes in the history of the sport.
“I can’t recall the details after so many years but it was a fantastic and close battle.” Johnny Cecotto
“I can’t recall the details after so many years but it was a fantastic and close battle,” revealed Cecotto. “I wanted to win every race. I was faster in the corners and he on the straights. The finish was extremely close. But in the end I had no chance of stopping him.”
The second round of the weekend was just as thrilling. Ludwig went off in the ‘„Castrol S’ while his fellow Mercedes driver Keke Rosberg and Cecotto taking the lead. On the penultimate lap, however, Ludwig made the crucial moves. In the Bergwerk section he passed Cecotto and Rosberg at the ‘Döttinger Höhe’. Cecotto stayed close behind the new leader but Ludwig opted for a zigzag course and so, passing him proved to be impossible. This time, the Venezuelan crossed the line 37 hundredth behind the winner. Ludwig, however, took the championship lead with his back-to-back wins – and at the end of the season, he secured the title, followed by Kurt Thiim and Bernd Schneider. While Cecotto had to settle for finishing fourth.