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The Glory Years of DTM Part 2: 1985 – 1990

Submitted by on January 3, 2018

By Marcel Hundscheid / Speed-O-Graphica.com

In this second part of our DTM retrospective, we pick up in 1986 with just two years under the championship’s belt. You can head back and read part one right here.

Handicapping ensured a close fight for the championship in 1986 and resulted in five different marques and thirteen cars being podium candidates. Mercedes entered the championship with four cars, Ford brought four Sierras, two 635s were entered by BMW along with the 3-Series, Volvo entered with two 240 Turbos and Rover participated with a single Vitesse.

The fields were a little smaller than 1985’s, but the fight was on between Volker Weidler (Mercedes 190) and Kurt Thiim (ATN Rover Vitesse). Due to weight penalties and bad luck for the Ford Sierra, the title went to Thiim and the Rover Vitesse. Thiim won his first and only DTM title in his debut year. After winning the 1986 title, he joined AMG in 1988 and then Zakspeed in 1992. Thiim returned to AMG in 1996.

1987 kicked off in Hockenheim, and from that particular year it was decided that the season opener would be traditionally held at the Hockenheimring.

The battle continued, with the front-runners this year the BMW M3, Ford Sierra XR4TI, BMW 635 CSi, Volvo 240 Turbo and the Mercedes 190 E 2.3 16V. The fight for the championship remained open until the final event of the season, which was held at the Salzburgring in Austria. During practice two of the three championship candidates (Marc Hessel – BMW M3) and Manuel Reuter (Ford Sierra) crashed into each other.

As the lights went green Reuter took the lead but his tyres would not last the duration. He dropped back and out of contention. Hessel was seventh at that time in his M3 with Belgian Eric van de Pole fourth in a BMW M3. Van de Poele was hit by a puncture just two laps before the finish. Hessel took the lead and it looked like he would claim the title for BMW. However the German made a costly error, stopping in front of the finish line as he thought he had to wait for Van de Poele. Hessel manages to cross the finish line in ninth place!

At this point the racing format was changed to arouse more interest. Instead of a single 100 km race, two races would be contested at each round and drivers would score separate points. The season-opener in 1988 was held at Zolder in Belgium, attracting around 53,000 spectators. Public broadcasting brought the event to domestic screens.

Opel became the fourth brand in 1988, along with BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz, entering the championship with the front wheel drive 2.0 liter cadet GSi 16V. As expected, the rather tiny cadet was not a threat to Mercedes, Ford and BMW.

Ford remained the sole user of turbo engines and the XR4 TI was replaced by the Sierra Cosworth, which would dominate the season. However, the use of an air restrictor would eventually bring the field back together. Klaus Ludwig claimed the 1988 title with Ford.

From 1989 the DPM was renamed Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM) and would attract Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Opel and later Alfa Romeo from Italy. Italian Roberto Ravaglia managed to put BMW back on track with the impressive E30 M3. BMW introduced their first M3 back in 1986 as a homologation model for DTM, based on the E30 series and the M3 E30 remains one of the most successful touring cars in the world with more than 1500 individual wins.

Roberto Ravaglia claimed four major titles between 1986 and 1989. In 1986 he grabbed the ETCC title with Gerhard Berger and Emanuele Pirro. A year later, he won the World Championship in a Schnitzer BMW M3, followed by the overall victory in the Spa 24 Hours in 1988 and finally the DTM title in 1989 with the M3 E30.

The DTM used a turbo factor of 1.4, meaning that the displacement of turbocharged engines was multiplied by 1.4 in order to be able to classify them as equivalent to normally aspirated engines. During the 1985 season, seven races were won by cars using turbo engines. Klaus Ludwig mastered the Ford Sierra Cosworth and Ford Sierra XR4TI. Later the turbo factor was raised from 1.4 to 1.7. Klaus Ludwig claimed the title in 1988.

From 1991 turbo engines were banned, which led to Ford deciding to leave the championship. Audi entered DTM with their humongous four-liter V8. BMW and Mercedes, however, used 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engines. Audi’s big V8 produced almost 100 bhp more and they used the Quattro all-wheel-drive system from the production version of the race car. In the wet and on the shorter race tracks the Audi had lots of advantages in comparison to BMW and Mercedes.

Both the technology and the rivalries continued to develop in the ’90s, and we’ll pick up the story in part three.

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