DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters)

Video: DTM’s last race on the Nordschleife, 1993

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    The DTM were racing at the Nurburgring last weekend and I knew they’d raced on the Nordschleife in the past so I wanted to find out when the last German Touring Car race on the long circuit was.

    I was surprised to discover it was as recently is 1993. Nicola Larini defeated the German teams for Alfa Romeo in a pair of four-lap races around the 22km track. Here’s highlights:


    I wish DTM and F1 could race again there.


    I remember seeing that race, and also how beating ‘Ring regulars like Ludwig increased Larini’s reputation. If I remember correctly, Autosport (the paper version, obviously), ran an article on him with a full-page photograph of Larini wearing shades, titled: “Is this the best touring car driver in the world?”.


    Amazing footage! Great to see full-blooded racing on the Nordschlife, it’s like Gran Turismo, but real!


    I attended this last DTM race on this particular track layout with my dad, well baked in the summer heat, standing on the hill parallel to the “Steilstrecke”, from where one could see both the approach of the cars out of the valley and their ascent towards the carousel. Naturally, it was minutes of waiting every lap until they’d come by again, but being able to hear the field before you could see them was something that impressed me. And, perhaps unlike DTM’s modern iteration, you could well distinguish the cars, sonically, too. The Alfa Romeo with the V6 engine had a very “warm” sound, the Daimler four-cylinder at the end of its development cycle roared, combined with a transmission / gearbox whistling noise that, being a school kid and all, sounded very weird to me at the time.

    Regarding the race in the general, it would have been very hard to continue as it was. The cars reached almost 300 kph at Döttinger Höhe in 1993, and for the year after, every manufacturer would come in with redeveloped cars for the new “Class 1” regulations, or, as in Mercedes’s case, with an entirely new car. Bridgestone as one of the tyre suppliers at the time estimated that the 1994 cars would be able to improve on the existing lap record of 8 minutes and 46 seconds (for GP circuit & Nordschleife) by about 20 seconds.

    The teams also allegedly voiced concerns about material failures on the recently introduced class 1 cars on the Nordschleife. That wasn’t unfounded crying, most likely. For example, in 1990, Mercedes raced their now kind of famous Evo 2 variant of the 190 for the first time on the Nordschleife, and both drivers had rear tyre failures at Fuchsröhre, which is one of the fastest parts of the track. That or, say, a suspension problem at pretty much any part of the track would have been serious.

    The specific circumstances of 1994 even added to those concerns. The race that might otherwise have used the Nordschleife took place the first weekend of June, which was just weeks after the deaths of Ratzenberger and Senna at Imola (and even less time since Wendlinger’s harsh crash at Monaco thereafter), so a lot of public attention would have been on anything that might have went wrong at a race on the Nordschleife.

    There was, as far as I know, some kind of inspection of the track where they — rather hypothetically — talked about the five or ten spots on the track where they might have to place braking chicanes as other non-permanent DTM tracks regularly had them. It would not have been impromptu tyre barriers, but elevated plastic curb platforms mounted in place, so not as crass as the tyre chicane F1 implemented at Barcelona on short notice, but in the end, I think it was decided to not race the circuit rather than compromise the layout like that. Which, if I’m looking at how much GP circuits were modified in 1994 and 1995, was a bold decision to make.

    It’s reaching levels now where the top VLN cars are pushing to the limits of the track. I recommend looking up the video of the Manthey Porsche and the Mercedes fighting for the win on the last few laps this year. There were three or four inconspicuous-looking parts of the track where I was stunned to see how light the front end of the car would get.

    I think it’s one of the factors that makes this race track so impressive, that it sometimes forces even the absolute professionals to admit that they’ve reached the limit and they have to take a step back and redefine their expectations.


    @a Fascinating stuff, thanks very much for that, especially the information on why they eventually stopped racing on it.



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