The news that Mercedes-Benz will leave the DTM at the end of the 2018 season sent shockwaves through the global touring car community last year. A stalwart of the DTM since its return in 2000, Mercedes have been it’s most successful team, winning 9 out of a possible 17 constructors championship titles since the turn of the millennium. As the sun sets on this chapter of Mercedes’ DTM story, I’ve taken a look at the history of the marque in the series starting way back in 1988.
Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft Era
Mercedes first entered the DTM in 1988, with a car they originally intended to use for rallying. The Mercedes-Benz W201 (also called 190E) was the marque’s first foray into touring car racing in partnership with performance partners AMG. In their debut season, Mercedes won 6 races and Roland Asch finished runner-up for the Berlin-based BMK team. Mercedes continued with the 190 E into 1989, with Kurt Thiim finishing 4th in the driver’s standings with 8 race wins.
1990 saw Mercedes debut the iconic 190E 2.5-16 Evo2 with its huge rear wing. The 1990 season saw the title fight go right down to the wire and Mercedes won 5 races with Thiim finishing 3rd in the overall standings. Five race victories were enough for Mercedes to secure their first ever DTM constructors title in 1991 as the 190E 2.5-16 Evo2 took Klaus Ludwig to 2nd in the championship standings. For the second year in a row, the winner of the driver’s title was powered by an Audi V8 Quattro.
The 1992 DTM season was Mercedes’ most successful yet with the 190E 2.5-16 Evo2 winning 16 races, of which 11 were won by the AMG-Mercedes factory team. Klaus Ludwig won the drivers title with 5 race wins with Thiim and Bernd Schneider rounding out the championship’s top three. Despite the resounding success of ’92, 1993 was a different story and Mercedes were beaten to both the drivers and constructors titles by the new Alfa Romeo 155. The 190E 2.5-16 Evo2 scored eight wins over the course of the season and Mercedes drivers Asch and Schneider finished 2nd and 3rd in the championship in the 190E 2.5-16 Evo2’s final season in the DTM.
Mercedes brought a brand new car in for the 1994 season, the legendary AMG Mercedes C-Class. Ludwig won 3 races on the way to his thrid, and Mercedes’ second DTM drivers title in the debut season for the C-Class. Mercedes also picked up their third constructors crown and won 11 out of 24 races.
1995 saw Mercedes achieve a clean sweep of all possible titles, the DTM drivers and constructors titles, and the ITC drivers and constructors titles. Bernd Schneider won both the DTM and ITC titles with 11 race wins over the year, one which Mercedes and the C-Class dominated from start to finish. As the DTM changed format and became the ITCC for 1996, Mercedes’ success waned, and they finished bottom of the constructor’s championship. Scheinder although unable to defend his title, did pick up 4 race wins on his way to second in the driver’s standings. The C-Class would also win three other races in 1996 in the hands of Dario Franchitti, Jörg van Ommen and Jan Magnussen.
The DTM Era
The DTM returned with a bang in 2000, and so did Mercedes-Benz with the AMG-Mercedes CLK-DTM 2000. Mercedes drivers won 8 out of 16 races on their way to winning the constructors title, and Schneider won six on his way to his second DTM drivers title. The success of the CLK-DTM continued into 2001 as Schnieder became the first person to successfully defend the DTM drivers title. Mercedes won 15 out of 20 races on their way to the constructor’s title for the second year running as the marque locked out the top four positions in the driver’s standings.
2002 saw Mercedes face much stiffer competition as rivals Audi powered Laurent Aiello to the drivers crown and won 11 races in the process. Mercedes would win 9 races and Schneider would finish 2nd in the driver’s standings, and they would also retain their constructors crown. It was back to business as usual in 2003. Mercedes dominated the season winning 9 out of 10 races and comfortably beat both Audi and Opel in the constructor’s championship. Despite only winning 2 races, Schneider scored points every single one on his way to his 4th DTM title, and 3rd in 3 years.
2004 proved to be more challenging despite soon-to-be champion Gary Paffett picking up 3 race wins on his way to 2nd in the standings. Mattias Ekstrom won the drivers title and although Mercedes scored 1 more race win than Audi during the season they lost out on the constructor’s title by just 4 points. This was the first time in five years that Mercedes failed to secure the constructors crown. Mercedes had campaigned with their factory team in the new Mercedes-Benz AMG C-Class W203, with the AMG-Mercedes CLK-DTM 2003 now only being used in their customer programmes.
Both 2005 and 2006 would see Mercedes bounce back in style, winning both drivers and constructors championships. Paffet won the title in 2005, and Schneider added yet another title to his tally in 2006 ensuring that Mercedes continued their run as the team to beat in the DTM. 2006 would be the final season of competition as the Mercedes-Benz AMG C-Class W203 being its most up-to-date factory team car.
2007 heralded a new dawn, and the new-look Mercedes-Benz AMG C-Class W204 DTM made its competitive debut. Mercedes won 7 races, with the new shape W204 winning 6 of them and Paffett taking one race victory in the older-shape W203. Despite this success, the marque missed out on the drivers and constructors titles with both going to Mattias Ekstrom and Audi.
DTM and Mercedes legend Bernd Schneider retired from the sport at the end of the 2008 season after winning an extraordinary 5 titles and 43 races. Mercedes won the constructors titles in both 2008 and 2009 but the driver’s titles went the way of Timo Scheider and Audi.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Mercedes achieved another clean sweep of drivers and constructors titles. Mercedes dominated the season winning 9 out of 11 races as Paul Di Resta took the title ahead of Gary Paffett and Bruno Spengler who completed a lockout of the championship’s top three. for the marque. As of the time of writing, 2010 remains Mercedes’ last constructor’s title.
2011 wouldn’t be as fruitful, as the now ageing W204 won just 4 out of 10 races. Audi yet again completed a lockout of the drivers and constructors titles and Spengler was the highest placed Mercedes driver in 3rd. The season would be the final season for the C-Class and it retired from competition as the most successful car in DTM’s history.
2012 heralded a historic change in the DTM with the arrival of BMW and the debut of the new Mercedes-AMG C-Coupé DTM. Paffett and Jamie Green secured a historic 1-2 finish on the car’s race debut at Hockenheim but despite winning 3 out of 10 championship races in 2012, Mercedes were beaten to the driver’s championship by BMW and finished last in the constructor’s table behind BMW and Audi.
Mercedes would win just 2 races in 2013 and 3 in 2014 as the marque struggled to keep pace with BMW and Audi but 2015 would see a return to winning ways. With a new car to campaign in, the Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM, Pascal Wehrlein became the 5th different DTM drivers champion for Mercedes despite the marque winning just 3 out of 18 races during the season. Wehrlein also became the youngest ever driver to win a DTM title.
2016 and 2017 didn’t prove to be as successful for the team and Mercedes finished 3rd and then 2nd in the constructor’s championships. At the time of writing, they are looking on course to win their first constructors title since 2010, and first driver’s championship since 2015. In 2016 the C63 DTM was replaced by the Coupe body shape of the same model.
As Mercedes leave the DTM to focus on their Formula E program they leave behind a legacy as one of touring cars’ most successful manufacturers. Nine constructors titles since the turn of the millennium ensure that Mercedes can leave DTM with their heads held high, and safe in the knowledge that they have played their part on some of the DTM’s most iconic moments. They may well return in the future, and if they do, they will certainly have a fantastic history to build on.