Last weekend’s finale to the 2020 DTM season at Hockenheim (GER) saw BMW Motorsport contest the last races in a unique era stretching back nine years. BMW returned to the DTM with a works programme in 2012, but the realignment of the platform has brought this works involvement to an end – sufficient reason to look back on the greatest successes, highlights and emotions from the past nine years.
The ‘old DTM’ was closely associated with BMW. It all began in 1984 with the very first DTM race and victory for Harald Grohs (GER) in a BMW 635 CSi at Zolder (BEL). In the 1980s and at the start of the 1990s, BMW had a works presence in the DTM. During that time, the Bavarian manufacturer claimed the Driver title three times with Volker Strycek (GER), Eric van de Poele (BEL) and Roberto Ravaglia (ITA). BMW also won the Manufacturers Championship seven times between 1984 and 1990. To this day, the BMW M3 remains the most successful touring car ever.
BMW returned to the DTM with a works programme in 2012. The statistics for the past nine years: 140 races, 40 victories, 124 podium finishes, three Driver titles and three Manufacturer titles. However, far more important than the bare figures are the memories behind them. With this in mind, BMW DTM drivers past and present cast their mind back over their most emotional moments in the series.
The initial tests: when it all began.
BMW drivers were experiencing emotional moments long before the start of the 2012 season. “There were obviously a lot of special moments, but the first test was certainly one that stands out. I was the main test driver and was involved in preparing for the return to the DTM,” recalled Augusto Farfus (BRA), who competed for BMW in the DTM from 2012 to 2018. For very personal reasons, Farfus also associates these first tests with emotional memories as at the very same time as he was in Europe working on the BMW M3 DTM with BMW, his daughter was born in Brazil. “That was a very important time in my life,” he stressed.
Bruno Spengler (CAN) also has fond memories of the winter of 2011/12. “My very first DTM test with BMW was definitely a highlight for me,” he confirmed. “It was very exciting to get behind the wheel of a BMW DTM car for the first time. The entire development period was a super time when we all did a great job as a team and developed a winning car.”
2012: Title treble in comeback year.
A winning car – the BMW M3 DTM was precisely that. The comeback season in 2012 was a sensational year, ending in a title treble. Spengler was champion driver, BMW Team Schnitzer won the Team title, and BMW triumphed in the Manufacturers Championship. No wonder Spengler has so many fond memories of that special year.
“One stand-out memory is the Lausitzring, where we claimed the first victory for BMW since returning to the series, together with BMW Team Schnitzer. It was a great team, in which I always felt like part of a family. That first win for BMW was very, very emotional and special for me,” said Spengler. Joining him on the podium was Farfus, who also lists this as one of his finest moments: “Bruno’s victory and my third place were an important milestone for BMW and for me personally.” A little later, Farfus climbed onto the top step of the podium himself. He not only took his maiden DTM victory at Valencia (ESP), but also secured pole position and set the fastest lap of the race: “At the time, I think it was rather unique for a rookie to come into the series, to be competitive from the word go, and to be so successful in the first year.”
However, the biggest highlight of 2012 was still to come: Spengler’s victory at the finale at Hockenheim (GER), and the ensuing titles for him, his team and BMW. Even today, the Canadian still gets goosebumps when he thinks about that day: “I had to win the race to win the championship. For us then to win all three titles was a very emotional moment. I remember driving into Parc Fermé and how I was given such a great reception by all the mechanics and engineers who had worked so hard. That was very special.”