1986 to1996: DTM and ITC.
The 1980s and 1990s were marked by the
return of Mercedes-Benz to the racetracks.
In August 1983, the new 190 E 2.3-16 was on its way to its world record runs in Nardò. By this time, Mercedes-Benz had 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 with this vehicle to international motor sports was already on the horizon in 1984: for the official inaugural race at the new Nürburgring racetrack on 12 May 1984, Daimler-Benz provided 20 identical Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 cars. The new and decidedly sporty compact-class model had had its press trial drive a few days earlier on the redesigned track.
At the wheels were 20 former Nürburgring winners, 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.
The drivers – whose names read like a who’s who of motor sports – each drove one of these 190 E 2.3-16 cars, whose engineering and looks were essentially 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, who had already made a name for himself as an outstanding up and coming Formula 1 driver.
In 1985, the 190 E 2.3-16 received its homologation for racing in groups A and N. The main priority for Mercedes-Benz was the international German Touring Car Championship. The 190 E 2.3-16 had a power output of up to 220 kW (300 hp), and was at first raced by some private teams that included AMG in the Group A championship in 1986. Volker Weidler finished the season at the first go as the runner-up in the championship with the racing touring car, powered by a 16-valve engine prepared by AMG. In 1988, as many as five teams entered the DTM championship with factory support from Mercedes-Benz. Roland Asch was second in the overall standings for the season with his 190 E 2.3-16 Group A car. This season also marked the definitive return of Mercedes-Benz to motor sport, when they also officially entered a works team in the Group C championship.
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. As the name of the car indicates, it now had a new engine under the bonnet: the 2.5-litre sixteen-valve engine produced up to 250 kW (340 hp) of power. To get the car’s weight down to the required limit of 1,040 kilograms,
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-resistant and tensile synthetic fibre for high loads.
1990 saw the arrival of the AMG-Mercedes 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II racing touring cars, now with an engine output rating of 274 kW (373 hp). Work on the racing car had already started in August 1989. In order to gain homologation for the car, Mercedes-Benz had to build at least 500 of them, and in May 1990 the last of the 502 cars made rolled off the assembly lines at the Bremen plant. AMG then handled the further optimisation and outfitting of the racing sports car. The racing début of the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II took place on 16 June 1990, on the Nordschleife (northern circuit) of the Nürburgring track. Starting with the season’s final DTM race on 15 October 1990 at the Hockenheimring, all the factory-supported teams were up to Evo II specification.
There was plenty of thrilling racing against tough competition from Audi, BMW, and Opel, but the fast Mercedes-Benz touring cars became increasingly successful, which soon translated into championship titles: in the 1991 season, Klaus Ludwig finished as the runner-up in his Mercedes-Benz, and the Stuttgart-based company won the DTM constructors’ title for the first time. In 1992, Ludwig then won the championship together with the constructors’ title, Kurt Thiim in second and Bernd Schneider in third place completed the sweep. Roland Asch finished as the runner-up in the drivers’ standings of Class 1 in 1993, ahead of Bernd Schneider. The constructors’ title was also won by Mercedes-Benz.
The Evo models ended their racing career in late 1993 with a total of 52 victories. They were replaced in the 1994 season by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which would become the most successful DTM car ever.
Start in the ITC.
In April 1994, Mercedes-Benz scored its first DTM victory with the new racing touring car based on the C-Class. With this car, whose body concealed pure-bred racing technology, Klaus Ludwig finished atop the drivers' standings in the German Touring Car championship in 1994. And Mercedes-Benz won its fourth consecutive constructors’ title. In 1995, a sister series to the DTM was established – the International Touring Car Championship (ITC). Mercedes-Benz entered that year’s competition with a further advanced AMG-Mercedes C-Class touring car, whose driver’s seat had been moved further back and towards the middle – a safer position for the driver. The unibody formed a single structure together with the integrated roll cage, giving this generation of racing touring cars up to 300 per cent greater rigidity than earlier designs. Bernd Schneider was the clear winner of the DTM and ITC in 1995, and Mercedes-Benz also took the constructors’ title 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 fast racing touring cars based on the 190 E and the C-Class. The Stuttgart-based company had notched up 84 wins, 4 drivers’ championships, and 5 constructors’ titles, as well as being runners-up for the constructors’ title on 10 occasions.