The 1980s and 1990s marked the return of Mercedes-Benz to the race track. Initially, in the years from 1985 to 1991, the star was worn by Group C racing sports cars. They were joined by racing touring cars from 1986 in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) and the International Touring Car Championship (ITC) in the years up to 1996 and finally the vehicles of the premier class: Formula 1.
Participation in the FIA GT championship was followed in 2000 by competition in the new German Touring Car Master Championship (DTM). Mercedes-Benz drivers have so far won six DTM championship titles (including four for Bernd Schneider) and have been runners-up nine times and in third place on six occasions. The Stuttgart-based racing stable has also notched up three triple DTM triple victories: in 2001, 2003, and 2010. Mercedes-AMG ended its involvement in touring cars after the 2018 season as the most successful brand in the DTM. For the final, the team secured the constructors’ and, with Gary Paffett, drivers’ championship.
1985 to 1991: from engine supplier to Group C world champions
In 1984, Mercedes-Benz signed an agreement with the Swiss racing stable of Peter Sauber in Zurich to supply engines for its Group C racing series of sports car prototypes. This was the first step towards Mercedes-Benz’s return to international motor racing following its withdrawal in 1955. Sauber had been competing in the Group C category since 1982, initially using Ford and BMW engines in its C 6 and C 7 sports car prototypes. Then in 1985, Sauber presented the C 8, fitted with a Mercedes-Benz M 117 engine – originating from a series production, modified V8 unit with a displacement of 4,973 cc. The C 8 promptly won the ADAC 1,000 km race at the Nürburgring racetrack in 1986.
The C 9 was used from 1987 to 1989, eventually becoming the first Sauber-Mercedes and racing from 1989 as a Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow. It went by various names during the construction period, according to the sponsorship arrangements. During the 1987 season, it was known as the Kouros-Mercedes, then as the Sauber-Mercedes until 1989, and it finally started a race in 1990 as a Mercedes-Benz. Up until 1988, the engine for the C 9 was the M 117, taken from the C 8, until its replacement in 1989 with the new M 119 engine – also a V8, with a displacement of 4,973 cc.
From 1988 onwards, Mercedes-Benz was again competing as an official works team in Group C for racing sports cars. The Sauber-Mercedes C 9, developing over 515 kW (700 hp), won a total of five races, and in 1989 Sauber-Mercedes finally took the world championship with the C 9. For the 1989 season, the Sauber-Mercedes racers were fitted with the new V8 biturbo M 119 engine with four-valve technology, which was able to develop up to 680 kW (925 hp) in short bursts. Along with a range of technical enhancements, the cars were also now painted in silver as a clear signal that Mercedes-Benz was back and looking to emulate its past successes on the race circuit. The new Silver Arrow won a total of 16 out of 18 races in 1989 and 1990, including the 24-hour Le Mans event in 1989, with Jochen Mass/Manuel Reuter/Stanley Dickens at the wheel.
1990 saw the arrival on the racetrack of the Sauber-Mercedes C 11, the successor to the C 9. This sports car prototype was the first Sauber car to feature a carbon fibre chassis, which gave the vehicle outstanding strength. By the end of the season, the C 11 had won the world championship, including both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles. At the wheel were Jean-Louis Schlesser, already world champion in 1989, and co-driver Mauro Baldi. This was also the year the Mercedes-Benz Juniors Team was established, with drivers including Michael Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger. 20 years later, Schumacher would be back in the cockpit of a Silver Arrow as a Formula 1 driver. Also in 1990, Norbert Haug took up as Head of Motorsport, being responsible for the Mercedes-Benz activities in Formula 1, DTM, Group C and Formula 3.
1991 saw changes to Group C regulations, prohibiting supercharged engines and limiting displacement to 3.5 litres. Mercedes-Benz developed a new V12 engine to these specifications for its new C 291 racing car. This was the last Mercedes-Benz Group C car, but it proved unable to replicate the victories of the C 9 and C 11 in previous years.
1986 to 1996: German Touring Car Championship DTM and the International Touring Car Championship ITC
In August 1983, the new 190 E 2.3-16 model was on its way to the Nardo track and a crop of world records. Mercedes-Benz had now ceased work on the rally version of the W 201 and was focusing on developing the compact class racing sports cars for the racetrack. The possibility of a return by Mercedes-Benz to international motor sport with this vehicle was signalled already in 1984, when for the official inaugural race at the new Nürburgring racetrack on 12 May, Daimler-Benz AG lined up with 20 identical Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 vehicles. Just a few days previously, the new, decidedly sporty compact-class model had been presented to the press at a trial drive on the newly designed circuit. Behind the wheel were 20 former winners at the Nürburgring, either in the German Grand Prix or the 1,000-kilometre event – including Jack Brabham, Hans Herrmann, Phil Hill, Denis Hulme, James Hunt, Alan Jones, Niki Lauda, Klaus Ludwig, Stirling Moss, Alain Prost, Keke Rosberg, Jody Scheckter, Ayrton Senna, and John Surtees.
Each of these drivers – whose names read like a who’s who of motor sport – did a lap of the circuit in one of these 190 E 2.3-16 vehicles, whose engineering and looks were substantially unchanged from the production model. The most striking difference from the production car was the integrated roll cage. The inaugural race was won by Ayrton Senna, then just 24 years of age and already making a name for himself as an outstanding Formula 1 prospect.
In 1985, the 190 E 2.3-16 was homologated for racing in Groups A and N. Of particular importance for Mercedes-Benz was the international German Touring Car Championship. Using the 190 E 2.3-16 with an output of up to 220 kW (300 hp), in 1986 it was initially some private teams, including AMG, that took part in the Group A Championship. Volker Weidler finished the season as runner-up in the championship with the racing touring car, powered with a 16-valve engine prepared by AMG. In 1988, no fewer than five teams with factory support from Mercedes-Benz competed in the DTM. Roland Asch was second in the overall standings for the season with his 190 E 2.3-16 group A vehicle. This season also marked the definitive return of Mercedes-Benz to motor racing, when they also officially entered the Group C championship as a works team.
In 1989, the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution was developed on the basis of the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 as a new variant specifically designed for competition in the German Touring Car Championship. The name of the car reveals that it was now powered by a new engine: the 2.5-litre, sixteen-valve unit delivered up to 250 kW (340 hp). To get the car’s weight down to the required 1,040 kg limit, the engineers removed almost all interior trim, and many body components such as the bonnet, boot lid and spoiler, were made of Kevlar®, an extremely tear- and tension-proof synthetic fibre for highly stressed components.
In 1990, there followed the AMG-Mercedes racing tourer 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II, the engine of which now delivered 274 kW (373 hp). Work on the car had started in August 1989. In order to gain homologation for the car, Mercedes-Benz had to produce at least 500 of them, and in May 1990, the last of the 502 units made rolled off the production line in the Bremen plant. AMG then took over as the partner responsible for the enhancements and equipment of the racing sports car. The racing debut of the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II took place on 16 June 1990 on the northern loop of the Nürburgring circuit. As from the final DTM race on 15 October 1990 at the Hockenheimring, all the works-supported teams were up to Evo II specification.
There was plenty of thrilling racing against tough competition from Audi, BMW and Opel, but the speed of the Mercedes-Benz touring cars saw them gain increasing success, which soon translated into championship titles. In the 1991 season, Klaus Ludwig was championship runner-up in his Mercedes-Benz, and the Stuttgart firm became DTM brand champions for the first time. Ludwig then won the drivers’ championship in 1992, and the firm also again won the brand title. Kurt Thiim was second in the drivers’ standings, and Bernd Schneider third, giving a clean sweep in the driver stakes. Roland Asch was runner-up in the drivers’ championship in 1993 in a 190 E Class 1, followed by Bernd Schneider, and the brand championship again went to Mercedes-Benz. With a total of 52 victories, the “Evo” models finished their racing careers at the end of 1993. From the 1994 season, it was followed by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which was to become the most successful DTM vehicle of all time.
In April 1994, Mercedes-Benz won in the DTM for the first time with the new racing touring car based on the C-Class. The 2.5-litre, six-cylinder engine was based on the E 420 powerplant, with the racing version developing over 294 kW (400 hp). The car’s thoroughgoing racing design gave Klaus Ludwig the drivers’ title in the 1994 German Touring Car championship, followed by fellow team member Jörg van Ommen. And Mercedes-Benz won its fourth consecutive brand title. In 1995, a sister series was established alongside the DTM in the form of the International Touring Car Championship (ITC). Mercedes-Benz entered that year’s competition with an enhanced AMG Mercedes C-Class racing touring car, with the driver’s seat moved back and towards the middle, as a safer position for the driver. The unitised body structure with integrated roll cage was a key feature of the design, giving this generation of racing touring cars up to 300 per cent greater rigidity than in previous designs. Bernd Schneider was a convincing winner of the DTM and ITC, and Mercedes-Benz also took the brand championship in both series.
After the German Touring Car championship ended in 1995, Mercedes-Benz entered the new 1996 racing version of the C-Class in the International Touring Car championship, which also came to an end after that year. During the years between 1986 and 1996, Mercedes-Benz had established itself as the most successful brand over the entire DTC/ITC period, with its high-speed racing touring cars based on the 190 E and the C-Class. They had notched up 84 wins, 4 driver’s championships, and 5 brand titles, as well as being runners-up in the brand championship on 10 occasions.
In subsequent years, Mercedes-Benz entered the FIA GT championship with the CLK-GTR racing touring car of 1997 and the Mercedes CLK-LM racing touring car of 1998. The CLK-GTR, jointly developed with AMG, was the first production racing car with a Daimler-Benz mid-engine. The 6-litre V12 unit developed around 440 kW (631 hp). With another engine variant, the car was also available for sale as a sports car for use on the roads for customers seeking this type of vehicle. Bernd Schneider won the GT1 drivers’ championship in 1997.
The CLK-LM took over during the 1998 racing season. The new racing touring car powered with a V8 engine was initially developed specifically for the Le Mans 24-hour race. While Mercedes-Benz did not win the marathon event in June 1998, the rest of the season was extremely successful, and Klaus Ludwig was the 1998 FIA GT champion in his CLK-LM. AMG Mercedes also won the constructors’ title for the second time.
Another car developed for Le Mans was the 1999 Mercedes-Benz CLR GT prototype, with a total height of just 1,012 millimetres. Work on the design and construction of the vehicle to meet the rigorous demands of the Le Mans 24-hour event started in September 1998. The design objectives were aerodynamics for maximum speed with relatively low lift, the lowest possible weight, and optimum stability to enable the car’s engineering to withstand constant maximum stress over a 24-hour period. The technology of the new car was based on the CLK-LM from the previous year. In spite of intensive preliminary trials, Mark Webber and Peter Drumbeck suffered accidents due to aerodynamic problems, and Mercedes-Benz pulled the third vehicle out of the race.
Since 2000: German Touring Car Masters (DTM)
The DTM returned to the racetrack in 2000, although the abbreviation now stood for the name of a new race series, the German Touring Car Masters. The racing car builders at Hans Werner Aufrecht (HWA) in Affalterbach developed the Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM racing touring car to enable Mercedes-Benz to start in the new DTM. This new touring vehicle managed to reconcile the conflicting objectives of low development and racing costs on the one hand, and top performances to pull in the crowds on the other. This was the compromise agreed upon between the participating manufacturers following the cost explosion in the old DTM.
The DTM regulations were a bold new departure, designed to ensure competition on an equal footing and to keep costs under control. The document defined rigorous constraints for the constructors, calling for maximum creativity within the series rules. The backbone of the rear-wheel driven Mercedes-Benz coupé with a 4-litre V8 engine developing around 330 kW (449 hp) was a spaceframe to which the engine and wheel suspension were bolted. An additional safety cage structure, made from carbon fibre composites, enclosed the seat and head support, pedals, gearshift lever, steering column bearing and belt system. The radiators were ahead of the front axle in two parts to create just enough space for a one-metre-long additional carbon fibre crash member. The contours of the body over the safety cage, comprising the roof, side walls and steel panel doors, had the same outline as in the Mercedes-Benz CLK production model.
The eight-cylinder engine designed by HWA had no direct relationship with any other Mercedes-Benz engine. Two air restrictors with a diameter of 28 millimetres limited intake air, thereby limiting both the power and engine speed. The latter was restricted to 8,000 rpm, whereas torque reached more than 400 newton metres. Gears were changed sequentially, with specified ratios for the six gears. There was, however, a choice of nine hub drives, so the car could be adjusted according to the terrain. Bernd Schneider won the drivers’ championship title for the 2000 season with his D2 AMG-Mercedes, and the HWA/AMG team won the team title.
Schneider repeated his success in 2001: two races before the end of the season, the man from Saarland successfully defended his title. Schneider was runner-up for Mercedes-Benz in 2002, and then, in 2003, the Stuttgart team’s DTM coupés achieved a clean sweep of the drivers’ championship (Bernd Schneider, Christijan Albers and Marcel Fässler), as they had already done in 2001. The 2003 season also yielded a fourth consecutive brand championship.
2004 marked a new departure in the DTM series, since the new vehicles were to be derived from mid-sized saloons rather than coupés. Accordingly, Mercedes-Benz entered the competition with a new AMG-Mercedes C-Class, but with the same engine as in the CLK coupé versions used since 2000. In 2004, these were driven by the Mercedes-Benz team juniors. Gary Paffett came second in the drivers’ � � championship for the season, followed by Christijan Albers.
In 2005, former Formula 1 World Champion Mika Häkkinen was back behind the steering wheel of an AMG-Mercedes C-Class and therefore returned to active involvement in motorsport. Features of the new-generation vehicle included changes to the rear spoiler lip in line with the modified DTM aerodynamics rules. Gary Paffett won the 2005 driver’s title, while Bernd Schneider took the 2006 championship in his AMG-Mercedes C-Class. Mercedes-Benz won the brand championship in both years.
In the 2007 season, Mercedes-Benz entered with a DTM touring car based on the C-Class of the 204 model series for the first time. At the end of the exciting season, Bruno Spengler came runner-up with Paul di Resta recording the same result in 2008. In 2009, Gary Paffett finished runner-up, followed by Paul di Resta. In 2008, 2009, and 2010, Mercedes-Benz also regained the DTM team title. The drivers’ championship for 2010 was won by Paul di Resta, with Gary Paffett as runner-up and Bruno Spengler in third place. This is the third time Mercedes-Benz has taken all three places in the German Touring Car Masters season rankings.
For the 2012 season, the DTM vehicles retained their engines, transmissions and drivetrain configurations unchanged. However, major modifications to the bodywork were permitted. The most striking feature was the use of two-door coupé bodies with the mandatory use of identical carbon-fibre standardised monocoques with crash boxes at the front, rear and both sides, front splitter, rear aerofoil, transmission, and propeller shaft. Gary Paffett finished as the runner-up in a DTM AMG-Mercedes C-Class Coupé of the C 204 model series, ahead of his team mate Jamie Green.
In the 2013 season, the touring racing cars competing in the DTM remain largely unchanged in terms of technical features. However, one innovation was the use of the drag reduction system (DRS) familiar from Formula 1 racing, which allowed folding the rear aerofoil to reduce drag and thus make higher straightline speeds possible. Pascal Wehrlein won the driver’s title in the 2015 season with a Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM.
In the summer of 2017, Mercedes-Benz announced its withdrawal from the DTM at the end of the 2018 season. The reason for this was a strategic realignment in its involvement in motorsport: from 2019 the brand from Stuttgart will take part in Formula E. Motorsport boss Toto Wolff said in 2017: “The years in the DTM will always remain a big part of our motorsport history.”
The 2018 season provided a particularly fitting farewell for Mercedes-AMG from the DTM: Gary Paffett won the driver’s title for the second time after 2005 and became the 2018 DTM Champion. Furthermore, with the victory in the team and constructors’ championship, Mercedes-AMG perfected the triple success. In total, in 2018, the Mercedes-AMG motorsport DTM team provided nine victories (including five one-two victories and a total of 28 podium finishes), twelve fastest race laps and 14 pole positions. This allowed the brand from Stuttgart to mark a grand finish to this successful chapter of its involvement in motorsport 30 years after the DTM premier of the works racing cars in 1988. In future, Formula E will be the focus alongside Formula 1 and customer sport. DTM Champion Gary Paffett also already took part in official Formula E test drives in Valencia in 2018.
Customer sport with the sign of the star
In late March 2010, Mercedes-Benz presented the SLS AMG GT3 in Puebla (Mexico), a thoroughbred racing version of the super sports car that among other things had a more powerful engine. The vehicle was designed for customer sport. The concept complied with the GT3 regulations of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile). Its racing series for near-production GT cars became increasingly important in 2010. Compared with the production version, the SLS AMG GT3 modifications featured enhanced aerodynamics, a roll cage and the “HANS, Head and Neck Support” protective device familiar from Formula 1 racing.
The concept was a complete success: the SLS AMG GT3 is seeing action in more than 22 racing series on five continents. The 2012 season was crowned with 43 victories and 9 championship titles. The impressive record of the SLS AMG GT3 experienced a new high point in the 2013 motor sport year. After winning the GT long-distance classics of Dubai/United Arab Emirates, Bathurst/Australia, and at the Nürburgring, other 24-hour victories such as in the traditional Spa-Francorchamps race and in Barcelona followed. The impressive victory in the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring was also the 100th victory for the racing touring car since the start of the customer sport programme in 2010.
The customer sport programme of Mercedes-AMG motorsport is being continuously expanded and developed. The customer sport Mercedes-AMG GT3 (2016) and Mercedes-AMG GT4 (2017) racing cars were created based on the Mercedes-AMG GT (combined fuel consumption: 12.5–11.4 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 284–261 g/km*).
Unlike the Mercedes-AMG GT production vehicle, the GT3 used from 2016 was powered by a 404 kW (550 hp) 6.2-litre V8 racing engine. For maximum racing performance, the electrohydraulic, sequential six-speed racing transmission is fitted according to the transaxle principle as on the series-production vehicles. The broadened body, the powerful air inlets, front and rear diffuser, flics and an adjustable rear aerofoil ensure optimum aerodynamic performance. The driver is protected by a resilient carbon-fibre seat pan and an integral roll bar made from high-tensile steel.
The GT3 was immediately a successful model and continued to write customer racing history. At the ADAC Zurich 24-hour race at the Nürburgring, the GT3 racing car attained the greatest success of the Mercedes-AMG customer sport programme at that time: overall victory, pole position, fastest race lap as well as places two, three, four and six have since been written in the history books of motorsport.
Its impressive list of achievements in the 2018 season also include the following results: a total of eight championship titles in the Blancpain GT series (overall standing for drivers with Mercedes-AMG driver Raffaele Marciello as champion, Team and Silver Cup as well as Endurance Cup for team, drivers’ Silver Cup and drivers’ Pro-AM Cup as well as Sprint Cup for drivers and drivers’ Silver Cup); victory of the team standing in the ADAC GT Masters; drivers’, team and constructors’ championship at the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup (TPNAEC); drivers’ championship for Tristan Vautier in the Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC); second and third places for Maro Engel and Edoardo Mortara in the FIA GT World Cup in Macau.
As a near-production customer sport racing car based on the AMG GT R, it was designed one year after the Mercedes-AMG GT4 was presented in GT3. It expanded the customer sport programme of Mercedes-AMG with a promising vehicle class. Its 4.0-litre V8 engine with direct injection and bi-turbo charging, capable of up to 375 kW (510 hp), achieves a maximum torque of more than 600 Nm. The GT4 took over the renowned safety concept of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and was successful in customer sport from the 2018 season.
The dawn of a new era: Mercedes-AMG motorsport in Formula E
In October 2016, Mercedes-Benz set out the path for the future involvement in the new Formula E racing series with battery-powered racing cars: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport received the option to take part in this new racing series as of the fifth season of FIA Formula E. On the occasion of the presentation of these plans, motorsport boss Toto Wolff said: “Electrification will play an important role in the future of the automotive industry. Racing has always been a research and development platform for the industry, meaning that Formula E will greatly increase in importance in the future.”
The strategy was substantiated in 2017. Mercedes-Benz announced that the brand will take part in the 2019/20 Formula E season with its own vehicles. Motorsport boss Wolff put the euphoric mood of the racing series carried out since 2014 in a nutshell: “Formula E is comparable with an exciting start-up company: it offers a brand new format which combines racing with a strong event characteristic in order to promote current and future technology.”
In May 2018, Mercedes-Benz presented the concept of the Mercedes EQ Formula E team. The team designation took up the Daimler brand name for electric mobility. The abbreviation stands for “Electric Intelligence”. Two fully electric racing cars will start in the 2019/20 season for the Silver Arrows. Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) in Brixworth (Great Britain) is responsible for developing the power unit. The racing experts are also developing the incredibly successful hybrid drives of Mercedes-AMG motorsport in Brackley (Great Britain) in Formula 1. Knowledge from the development of the power units for the current Formula 1 racing cars will flow into the Formula E vehicles. The electrical Silver Arrows are to be entered into the races by HWA from Affalterbach, the long-standing partner of Mercedes-AMG in the DTM. Toto Wolff says: “The combined expertise of the Mercedes family from Affalterbach, Brixworth and Brackley is a perfect basis for our new Mercedes EQ Formula E team.”
* The stated figures were determined based on the prescribed measuring process. These are the “NEDC CO2 figures” based on Art. 2 No. 1 of Implementing Order (EU) 2017/1153. The fuel consumption figures were calculated based on these figures.
Further information on the official fuel consumption and the official, specific CO2 emissions for new passenger cars can be found in the publication “Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO2-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch neuer Personenkraftwagen” [“Guidelines on the fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and electricity consumption of new passenger cars”], available free of charge from all showrooms and from Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH at http://www.dat.de/.