The DTM is Germany’s premier touring car racing series, and one of the most competitive championships in motorsport. From its original inception in 1984, through to the new DTM in 2000 and onwards into the present day, the DTM has a history of drama, manufacturer rivalries and national competition seldom found in any other touring car series.
Timeline of DTM History, 1984 – 2018:
The original DTM begins as the Deutschen Produktionswagen Meisterschaft (German Production Car Championship). Volker Strycek is the drivers champion driving the BMW 635CSi, with cars entered by privateer teams under FIA Group A rules.
Per Stureson wins the title in the Volvo 240 Turbo. Olaf Manthey and Harald Grohs finish 2nd and 3rd, the same as they did in 1984.
The DTM see’s it’s third new champion in as many years with Dane Kurt Thiim taking the drivers title in a British built Rover SD1.
Belgian Eric van de Poele takes the title in his BMW M3, the second title for a German made car in the DTM.
Turbochargers were banned at the start of the season due to rising costs of participation. Klaus Ludwig takes his first of three DTM titles in the British built Ford Sierra RS500 with Roland Asch and Armin Hahne finishing 2nd and 3rd in the table.
Roberto Ravaglia takes the third drivers title in a German car, the BMW M3.
The seventh DTM season saw former F1 driver Hans-Joachim Stuck win the title in the Audi V8 Quattro. 7 wins across the course of the season, including 2 in the final found at Hockenheim helped Stuck to the title in his first full DTM season.
The Audio V8 Quattro continued to be the class of the field in 1991. Frank Biela won the drivers title, with Mercedes Benz winning the inaugural manufacturers championship. 1988 champion Klaus Ludwig finished 2nd, with defending champion Stuck finishing in 3rd. Biela, who would go on to become the 1996 British Touring Car Champion won 6 races in the 1991 season including the two final races at Donington Park to take the title.
Klaus Ludwig took his second DTM title in the Mercedes-Benz 190E Evo 2 as Mercedes also successfully defended their manufacturers crown. Ludwig would finish the season 36 points clear of runner-up Kurt Thiim, in a season which featured races in Belgium, Czech Republic and Germany.
Group A rules were abandoned at the start of the season in favour of a 2.5l engine category called FIA Class 1. These class 1 touring cars featured ABS, four-wheel drive, electronic driver aids and chassis made of carbon fibre. Italian Nicola Larini won the title in an Alfa Romeo 155 V6 Ti, the car which holds the record for all-time number of DTM victories with 35. Alfa Romeo also won their only DTM manufacturers title amid competition from Opel and Mercedes Benz.
Klaus Ludwig wins his third and final DTM title in the Mercedes-Benz C Class. Mercedes begin a run of 3 consecutive manufacturers championships with defending champion Larini finishing the season in 3rd. The season featured races in Belgium, Italy, Britain and Germany with Ludwig winning just 3 races on his way to the title.
1995 saw the expansion of the DTM with the introduction of the International Touring Car (ITC) series alongside the regular DTM season. The ITC consisted of the same teams and drivers as the regular DTM season but the points were split, with points from German rounds only counting the DTM title and points from International rounds in Italy, Finland, Portugal, Britain and France counting towards the first ITC title.
Both championships were won by Bernd Schneider in the Mercedes C-Class V6, as Mercedes-Benz also took the manufacturers title. The other two manufacturers, Alfa Romeo and Opel struggled to match Mercedes.
The DTM and the ITC were merged in 1996 to form the International Touring Car Championship (ITCC). In return for support for the merger from the FIA, the ITCC gave up many aspects of control to the FIA, most notably financial. Much of the revenue from the series was channelled away from the teams who received little return on their investment in what was fast becoming an incredibly expensive series. Ticket prices doubled, and travel costs to race in far-flung corners of the globe but a great financial burden on teams and the ITR, the governing body of the DTM. Attendance at non-German races was generally poor, and manufacturers questioned why races were even being held in countries where their cars weren’t sold.
The 1996 ITCC title was won by Manuel Reuter in the Opel Calibra V6 4×4. Opel also claimed their first manufacturer’s championship beating Alfa Romeo by just 9 points. Reuter would finish 13 points ahead of defending champion Bernd Schneider in what was the ITCC/DTM’s final season. Due to spiralling costs, Opel and Alfa Romeo withdraw from the championship at the end of 1996. Leaving Mercedes as the only manufacturer in the series, the ITCC was cancelled and top-level motorsport wouldn’t return to Germany until 2000.
The DTM returned in 2000 with a greater emphasis on being a German-centric series, and measures in place to control costs which had previously spiralled out of control. However, as there were still too many races planned for outside Germany, the series wasn’t granted championship status by the German Motorsport governing body the DMSB and was instead named the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, keeping with the DTM letters for which the series was well known for. Alfa Romeo didn’t return to the re-launched DTM, and whilst interest from Audi and BMW was rumoured, manufacturer entries didn’t materialise. Mercedes and Opel fielded fully fledged factory teams whilst Audi were present with team Abt Sportsline, a semi-independent outfit running the Abt-Audi TT-R 2000.
The 2000 DTM championship was won by Bernd Schneider, who beat the Opel Astra of Manuel Reuter into 2nd place by 59 points. The team’s championship was won by HWA Mercedes, with the manufacturer’s title also going the way of Mercedes-Benz. The 2000 championship was a battle fought mainly between Mercedes and Opel, with the independent Audi’s struggling to fight at the front of an extremely competitive field.
2001 would go the same way as the previous year. Schneider, HWA and Mercedes won a clean sweep of all three titles as Opel’s downfall began to hasten. The independent Abt Audi’s rose to become the main challengers to Mercedes and won 5 out of 20 races in a season dominated by Mercedes-Benz. Schneider would beat HWA teammate Uwe Alzen to the DTM title by 50 points.
The Abt Sportsline Audi’s rapid improvement continued into the 2002 season as 1999 BTCC champion Laurent Aiello took the overall drivers title and his team, Abt Sportsline took the teams championship. Another disappointing season for Opel saw Mercedes-Benz canter to the manufacturers crown in a year which saw the DTM visit Belgium, Britain, Austria and the Netherlands alongside it’s native Germany.
Race lengths were increased in 2003 to one hour per race, up from 40 minutes in the previous seasons. All three titles returned to Schneider, HWA and Mercedes-Benz as the Audi’s were unable to match their feats of the previous season. Opel’s dismal run of form continued as the team finished bottom of the manufacturer’s table with just 60 points, compared to Mercedes-Benz’s 237.
Audi finally joined the DTM as a fully fledged manufacturer in 2004. With a trio of factory-backed efforts, the 2004 season saw all teams switch to running a saloon body with Audi running the Audi A4, Opel the Vectra GTS and Mercedes-Benz running the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Audi would enjoy immediate success, with Swede Mattias Ekstrom taking the drivers title and Abt Sportsline and Audi taking the teams and manufacturers championships.
Shockwaves were sent through the DTM at the end of the 2005 season when Opel announced their withdrawal. In decline since the start of 2001, Opel’s success in the new era of the DTM was limited, and as part of a cost-cutting move by parent company General Motors, the team left the series. Both Alfa Romeo and MG/Rover were mooted as replacements for Opel but neither entry materialised.
Gary Paffett prevailed in the title fight beating Audi’s Ekstrom by 13 points. As the teams and manufacturers titles returned to HWA Mercedes and Mercedes-Benz respectively, changes made to the regulations meant that only cars built from 2004 onwards could compete in the championship.
2006 saw both Mercedes-Benz and Audi field 10 cars each, as the title remained with the HWA team as Bernd Schneider claimed his fourth and final DTM title. In a straight fight between Mercedes-Benz and Audi for the manufacturer’s title, it was Mercedes-Benz who came out on top for the second consecutive season.
The start of 2007 marked three years of intense competition between Audi and Mercedes. Ekstrom secured his second DTM title beating Canadian and Mercedes driver Bruno Spengler by just 3 points. Abt Sportsline and Audi beat Mercedes to both the teams and manufacturer’s titles.
Despite never having won a race before the start of the season, Timo Scheider took the 2008 drivers crown as Mercedes-Benz claimed the manufacturer’s title. For the second time in as many seasons, the title was decided by the smallest of margins with Scheider beating Paul di Resta of Mercedes by just 4 points.
It was status quo in 2009 was Scheider successfully defended his crown and became the first driver after Bernd Schneider to win back to back titles in the modern DTM. Mercedes-Benz would once again win the manufacturers title.
After three seasons of losing out to Audi in the driver’s championship, the 2010 title returned to Mercedes and HWA as Paul di Resta beat teammates Paffett and Spengler to win his maiden DTM crown. Mercedes-Benz would defend their manufacturer’s title as the DTM visited Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Britain and China alongside its traditional German tracks.
The titles returned to Audi at the end of the 2011 season. Martin Tomczyk took his first and only DTM drivers crown whilst Audi and Abt Sportsline won the manufacturers and teams championships. Reigning champion di Resta did not defend his title after who moved to Formula One with Force India, and the DTM returned to Austria at the newly renamed Red Bull Ring.
All was a change in 2012 as BMW returned to the DTM after a 20-year absence. Competing in the BMW M3 DTM, BMW took a clean sweep of titles winning the drivers championship with Bruno Spengler, the team’s championship with BMW Team Schnitzer and the manufacturer’s title. 2012 marked the reintroduction of the two-door coupes after the four-door sedan style cars were retired at the end of the 2011 season. Semi-automatic gearboxes were introduced as a replacement for manual ones, and due to a ban on refuelling the fuel tanks were increased in capacity from 70 to 120 litres.
BMW retained the manufacturer’s championship in 2013, but the drivers and team’s titles went to Mike Rockenfeller and Audi Sport Team Phoenix. In a second disappointing year for Mercedes, Christian Vietoris was their highest placed driver finishing 4th in the driver’s championship as the manufacturer won just two races all season. Audi replaced their Rs4 DTM with a newer RS5 DTM.
The titles switched hands again in 2014, with the driver’s and team’s titles returning to BMW in the hands of Marco Wittmann and BMW Team RMG. Audi would reclaim the manufacturers crown in another year of struggle for Mercedes-Benz. Christian Vietoris was yet again the marque’s highest finisher, ending 2014 fourth in the championship table.
The DTM returned to two races per weekend for the first time since 2002 with the addition of a shorter race on Saturdays. Pascal Wehrlein became the youngest ever DTM champion as HWA Mercedes also regained the team’s title. The manufacturer’s title was reclaimed by BMW, who took their third title in the four years since their return. Despite powering Wehrlein to the driver’s title, Mercedes won just 3 out of 18 races in 2015, winning twice at the Norisring and once at Moscow Raceway.
Just like Paul di Resta in 2010, Pascal Wehrlein didn’t defend his crown in 2016. Wehrlein left the DTM to join Manor Racing in Formula One, and the title returned to Marco Wittmann and Team BMW RMG, with Audi taking the manufacturers crown. Audi won 10 out of 18 races during the 2016 season, with BMW and Mercedes-Benz winning 4 apiece. In a closely fought season which went down to the wire, Wittmann beat Audi’s Edoardo Mortara by just 4 points.
History was made in 2017 when Rene Rast became the first rookie to win the DTM title. In a season where Audi retained the manufacturer’s championship and won back the team’s championship, Rast won the title in a thrilling final race at Hockenheim where he beat Mattias Ekstrom by 3 points. In fact, Audi drivers would dominate the championship table with the Ingolstadt marque occupying the top 4 places in the final driver’s standings. Despite this, it was an improved season for Mercedes-Benz who registered 6 race victories throughout the season, with BMW picking up another 4 victories, just like in 2016.
Shockwaves were sent through the motorsport community when Mercedes-Benz announced their withdrawal from the DTM at the end of the 2018 season.