When the Hockenheimring stages the finale of the 2011 DTM season next weekend, this will also mark the end of an era in the world’s most popular touring car series: the AMG Mercedes C-Class will be retired after 158 races in DTM and ITC.
With a grand total of 84 victories (win ratio: 53%), it ranks as the most successful vehicle in the 27-year history of the DTM. The C-Class accounts for almost half of the 164 Mercedes-Benz wins in the 341 races since 1988 (win ratio: 48%). A further 30 victories were achieved with the AMG Mercedes CLK (2000 to 2003) and 50 more with the AMG Mercedes 190E (1988 to 1993).
Three generations of the C-Class raced in the years 1994 to 1996 (DTM/ITC) and 2004 to 2011 (‘New DTM’). Mercedes-Benz gave the C-Class its DTM debut in the 1994 season; it scored its first victory on the second race weekend and, by the end of the season, had brought home both the drivers’ title for Klaus Ludwig and the constructors’ title. “The C-Class came along at just the right time,” recalls Ludwig. “We immediately made a big step forward. It was the key to championship success and was an instant hit with the fans. Then as now, touring cars like the C-Class were a favourite of the German crowds.”
In the second year, too, the title went to a C-Class driver as the current DTM record champion Bernd Schneider celebrated the first of his six championships in the DTM/ITC with Mercedes-Benz. Schneider is now the only driver to have won a title in both the DTM/ITC era (up to 1996) and the ‘New’ series since 2000.
“The AMG Mercedes C-Class was one of the best racing cars of my career,” says Schneider. “It was a thoroughbred racer that was spectacular to drive and made a great noise, which drivers and fans enjoy in equal measure.” With six championship victories in the DTM/ITC in the years 1995, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2006, Schneider is the most successful driver in DTM history. He also holds the record for most wins (43), most pole positions (25) and most fastest laps (59).
Between 1994 and 1996, the C-Class triumphed 34 times in 74 DTM and ITC outings. When the C-Class returned to action in 2004, it took over from the AMG Mercedes CLK which had performed sterling service for Mercedes-Benz in the 2000 to 2003 seasons. Since then, the C-Class has won 50 out of 84 races (win ratio: 60%) – more than any other car since the revival of the DTM in 2000.
“The C-Class is a great car,” says Gary Paffett. “I first drove it when I launched my DTM career in it 2004 and I then went on to win the championship in 2005.” The Englishman, who is driving the THOMAS SABO AMG Mercedes C-Class this season, is the most successful driver currently competing in DTM, with 17 wins to his name. “I also had great success with the later model from 2007 onwards and missed out on the title by only the narrowest of margins.”
Scotsman Paul Di Resta won the 2010 DTM drivers’ championship driving an AMG Mercedes C-Class. This year, he races for Force India-Mercedes in Formula One. “The first DTM car I drove was a C-Class at the 2004 McLaren BRDC Autosport Young Driver Award,” says di Resta, “and I remember the experience to this day: a car that felt like a single-seater, but with great power, fun to drive… and a roof over my head! I spent four seasons racing the car in DTM and was able to join the ranks of the drivers who became champion with the car – an achievement I am incredibly proud of. Working with the C-Class taught me a lot about setup and how to work with the technical team to get the most out of the car – the racing is so close that you need to squeeze out every last bit of performance. It was a perfect preparation for the demands of Formula One.”
Mercedes-Benz can look back with pride on a long and successful tradition in the DTM. Since the company first entered a works team in 1988, no rival manufacturer has won as many races as Mercedes-Benz. The three-pointed star has won the drivers’ title ten times, the constructors’ championship nine times and the team title on 13 occasions – no other manufacturer has enjoyed greater success in the DTM. In 2000, Mercedes-Benz was also instrumental in establishing the ‘new DTM’. The introduction of new technical regulations in the 2012 season marks the next chapter in the world’s most successful touring car series. The closing race of the 2011 season will also be the last race contested by the AMG Mercedes C‑Class, the most successful DTM car of all time. In the 2012 season, Mercedes-Benz will respond to the changed circumstances with the launch the new DTM AMG Mercedes C-Coupé.
Norbert Haug, Vice-President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “Our C-Class has written a success story unmatched by any other car in DTM history. To win 84 races from 158 races is a fantastic achievement, for which I would like to thank all of our teams and drivers. Foremost among them, of course, is our partner HWA AG and its executive and technical director Gerhard Ungar, as well as his team – with these successes, you have written a chapter in motorsport history. The C-Class will stand as the most successful car of the ‘old’ DTM up to 1996, as well as in the ‘new’ era from 2000 to 2011. Thank you for all your hard work and extraordinary achievements; they are unique, and that’s why we are so pleased to commemorate this success story in Hockenheim, when the C-Class will race for the last time.”
Source: Daimler AG