How the DTM is keeping its touring car past alive
The DTM pivoted away from its touring car heritage by moving to GT3 cars in 2021, but it’s still indulging its history with familiar machines appearing on the support bill. A move to expand the offering for fans, the new-for-2022 DTM Classic Cup is already proving a worthwhile addition to its platform and attracting some of its past names to do battle once more
Whenever historic Formula 1 machinery takes to the track on a grand prix weekend, there’s always the risk of the contemporary machines being upstaged. Think of the attention garnered by Fernando Alonso’s demo runs in his 2005 title-winning Renault R25 at the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, or Ralf Schumacher lapping his 2003 Williams FW25 at comparable pace in the crowd-pleasing Legends Parade segment at the Austrian Grand Prix. Masters Historic Formula 1 has supported F1 in the past, but it’s unlikely to do so on a regular basis.
That’s not the case with the DTM, which promotes its own historic championship as a fixture on its support bill. The new-for-2022 DTM Classic Cup permits machines that raced in the DTM between 1984 and 2007 (including its period known as the International Touring Car Championship with Class 1 machines, and the STW Super Touring series that filled the gaps between the ITC’s 1996 collapse and the DTM’s 2000 rebirth). European Touring Car Championship cars from the same era, as well as Super Touring machines that raced in the British Touring Car Championship, are also eligible.
It’s a broad church that underscores the continued significance of touring car racing to series organiser ITR, even after switching its platform to GT3. As DTM Classic director Peter Oberndorfer explains, ITR views its historic offering as an important draw to increase footfall, with 10 races across five rounds, the most recent at Spa earlier this month.
“Gerhard Berger [ITR boss] realised that these old cars are really attracting the spectators, a lot of them grew up with them and looked at them as kids from the fence or on TV,” says Oberndorfer, who finished fifth in the 1985 DTM. “Even young guys are interested in these cars. Maybe they’re more approachable technically, so we decided that this will be a fixed column of the DTM platform.”
DTM Classic joins the GT4-based DTM Trophy for young drivers, DTM Esports and the planned DTM Electric series, which is anticipated for 2024, as staples of the line-up. Oberndorfer also organises the Classic DRM Cup for cars from the pre-DTM era after what he terms a “quite successful” one-off for those machines at the Red Bull Ring in 2021. It has a limited schedule this year of three rounds.
Oberndorfer describes Classic DRM as a “market niche” with no other platform specifically for these cars. At its Imola premiere, both races were won by the ex-Klaus Ludwig 1981 DRM title-winning Zakspeed Capri owned and run by Mucke Motorsport, with father and son pair Peter and Stefan taking turns to drive, while overseeing the family team’s single-car DTM and two-car DTM Trophy efforts.
At the Nurburgring, Stefan campaigned a BMW M1 Procar and prevailed after a race-long dogfight with his father in failing light, a spectacular treat for those who had stayed after the fog delay. Mucke Sr won race two unopposed.
Father and son, Peter and Stefan Mucke, enjoyed an entertaining scrap in the DRM Cup at the Nurburgring with the latter's BMW M1 Procar prevailing
Photo by: Marc Boels
“After different experiences with other series, we decided to do it ourselves,” continues Oberndorfer, who took over the rival Tourenwagen Classic series “in a very friendly way” to realise ITR’s mission after DTM hosted Tourenwagen Legenden races in 2021: “Who would be better than the platform DTM to promote old DTM cars?”
Fittingly, DTM Classic’s first race at the Lausitzring was won by a name instantly familiar to aficionados. After early leader Stefan Mucke’s Opel Calibra pulled off, Yannick Trautwein led Kris Nissen in a 1-2 for the newly formed Schnitzer Classic team. Owned by Trautwein’s father Stefan, it recently acquired competition cars, spare parts, equipment and naming rights from the fabled Schnitzer BMW team that folded in 2020. Another Mucke-run entry, Ronny Scheer’s ex-Robb Gravett 1990 BTCC title-winning Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth, won race two.
From 16 cars at the Lausitzring, the DTM Classic Cup grid had expanded to 24 entrants at the Norisring, with a host of star names including Hans-Joachim Stuck and Walter Rohrl joining the grid, Stuck taking a podium in the second race in his 1992 Audi.
"Spectators can see all periods of motorsport history and I think it’s important to have that. Lots of people remember these cars from when they were young and now they’re a little bit older and have kids, they want to show them how the cars were at the time" Stefan Mucke
Bruno Spengler, the 2012 DTM champion with Schnitzer and five times a winner at the Norisring in the DTM, was also among the star names on the grid racing for BMW Classic, fittingly reunited with his chief mechanic from his title-winning year. Driving Johnny Cecotto’s 1998 STW title-winning BMW 320i he says was “for me like Christmas”.
“These cars were awesome,” the BMW works driver gushes. “This DTM Classic is something amazing because there are so many different cars, car variations. You have more recent cars that are a bit quicker than mine is, but to see all these different cars and this history, it’s amazing to be part of.”
Spengler joined Stuck and Audi 200 driver Anthon Werner on the race two podium. Gerhard Fuller’s ex-Uwe Alzen Opel Vectra STW had won the opener, profiting from a loose bonnet on Klaus Hoffmann’s 2000 Norisring-winning ex-Jo Winkelhock Opel Astra.
Stefan Mucke too was present in an ex-Gerd Ruch Ford Mustang from 1994, but withdrew with rear axle issues. But it was out again in Guido Momm’s hands at the Nurburgring Old Timer meeting that also formed part of the championship. There, 1993 DTM runner-up Roland Asch took pole for race one in an example of the Mercedes 190E he raced that year, before mechanical problems promoted Scheer’s Sierra. BMW driver Steffen Lykke Gregersen won race two.
Past DTM champions Spengler (2012) and Stuck (1990) joined Audi driver Anton Werner on the DTM Classic podium at the Norisring
Photo by: DTM
Oberndorfer believes that admitting cars that aren’t strictly DTM machines is the right call, “because they’re real touring cars, they’re quite close to some of the DTM cars”, and since parts availability “with real DTM cars is not that easy”.
It’s a point former Aston Martin and Ford GT ace Mucke agrees with, citing the rare opportunity for fans to compare the performance of cars built to different rulesets in the same race.
“Spectators can see all periods of motorsport history and I think it’s important to have that,” says Mucke, who raced in the DTM between 2002 and 2006. “Lots of people remember these cars from when they were young and now they’re a little bit older and have kids, they want to show them how the cars were at the time.”
“We have very good feedback,” reports Oberndorfer. “[Customers] are convinced they can have fun here. And the old pros that never stopped driving, they like to drive these old cars and come to races still the same as 30 years before.
“Also I think the DTM platform is attracting a lot of guys, so you have all the action here from the DTM, you have good tracks like the Norisring, like we had in Imola. We had a great field there [24 cars], so I think it was something of a market gap for the old DRM cars.”
Oberndorfer recognises a growing momentum behind DTM Classic Cup and is determined to retain an emphasis on quality in the field – “We’re not taking Porsches or sportscars, we’re taking touring cars” – while sustaining the wave of interest. He credits the English-language coverage on live streaming portal DTM Grid and broadcast TV agreements as “the best marketing for our series”, which benefits from piggybacking onto the DTM’s existing TV infrastructure.
“People see the field, they see the racing and of course the people taking part are telling their friends, ‘We’re happy, it’s a nice atmosphere’,” he says. “If you have a good product, it speaks for itself. I tried to see it from a perspective of the participants, the drivers and teams, and to do everything [to ensure] that they have a good time here.”
Peter Oberndorfer (right) with ITR boss Gerhard Berger sees potential in the growing DTM Classic platform
Photo by: DTM
Mucke adds: “We can see a big potential there. A lot of customers want to go there because it’s a great platform, it’s professional motorsport, it’s a great environment, lots of spectators. Of course, when you have a car that’s not cheap to run – the Calibra for example, you need a lot of team personnel and mileage of the engine is not much – then you want to spend that money not in a no-name series, you want to show your car in a good environment. The DTM platform will be important for us.”
Even if it’s unlikely, Mucke believes, that active DTM drivers will pull double duty “because the concentration should be always on DTM”, the attraction will always be there for the likes of Spengler at a loose end on weekends. Oberndorfer is keen for car owners to bring a high-profile secondary driver to share with at events.
“I’ve done a lot of professional racing in the last 20 years but driving these historic cars is sometimes much more challenging than driving a GT3 car where you have a lot of electronics and ABS,” Mucke says. “Driving a historic car from the 1990s isn’t easy, but it’s great fun and that’s what drivers want.”
Mucke says racing period DTM cars on the limit is much more challenging than hustling a contemporary GT3 with driver aids
Photo by: DTM
The challenges of running a Class 1 tin-top
Technology advances mean that cars competing in ‘historic’ racing are increasingly complicated. Perhaps the best example of this is the 2011 Peugeot 90X run by Bob Berridge’s BBM Sport in Masters Endurance Legends. But for another, consider the four-wheel-drive Class 1 beasts of the International Touring Car Championship. So extreme that manufacturers deemed them too expensive, causing the series’ implosion in 1996, they haven’t become any less so in the intervening years as they have become eligible for historic competition.
The 1995 ex-Keke Rosberg Opel Calibra currently being restored by Mucke Motorsport Classic was given an outing in the opening DTM Classic race of the year at Lausitzring with Stefan Mucke at the wheel, and led until a head gasket failed. As Mucke puts it, even in period when parts were being frequently serviced and replenished by factory teams, its finishing record wasn’t exemplary…
“The Calibra is a very difficult car with all the hydraulics and electronics, there is a lot of development necessary to get it reliable,” he says. “There’s a big job list!”
"I’m sure next year will be the year for the car. We will get there, but it’s a complicated car" Stefan Mucke
The process of rebuilding the engine and gearbox and acquiring spares for components to be lifed properly – in some cases every 500km – is “ongoing, where you can’t say from now to next week you can get all these parts”.
“It’s a lot of parts which has to be made,” explains Mucke. “There is some old stock on the market, but you never know what you get.”
Until a sufficient pool of spares is built up, the Calibra won’t race either in customer hands or again with Mucke behind the wheel - although he was out in practice at Spa. Its complexity makes it inaccessible for gentleman drivers to properly understand and optimise without a professional to set it up.
“We understand it better and most of the systems are running now, but it’s still a way [to go],” Mucke says. “I’m sure next year will be the year for the car. We will get there, but it’s a complicated car.”
But, he says, the response it got at Lausitzring was worth the travails.
“The feedback from the spectators was great,” adds Mucke. “Many people just came to the track to see that car…”
Mucke led at the Lausitzring in the Calibra before a blown head gasket forced retirement
Photo by: Marc Boels
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