Like Classic DTM? Tourenwagen Classics At Zandvoort Has You Covered
Photography by Will Broadhead
I grew up watching the thrills and spills of the British Touring Car Championship, and though I adored Formula One first and foremost as a child, the more rapid-fire format and argy-bargy of the BTCC was better suited to my juvenile attention span. More than that, once or twice a year I got to see the cars in live action at places like Thruxton and Silverstone, and many a happy hour was whiled away watching the likes of Soper and Cleland go at it around Thruxton’s famous complex of Campbell, Cobb, and Seagrave. I thought the BTCC was the best thing ever when it came to door-banging touring cars, but little did I know over in Germany they had something else…
I first happened upon the DTM, the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft, by accident, on a long-forgotten Satellite TV station called Screen Sport. I was probably around six years old at the time, and my mind was blown by these seemingly ultra-exotic Group A cars, to my eye everything seemed bigger and brighter than the British offerings. I fell in love with the Mercedes, BMWs, and Audis that filled the screen with colors and sparks, and while in England we had Ford Sierras, over in Germany the teams had entered Ford Mustangs. In England we could expect to see Vauxhall Belmonts, but the Germans had the beautiful Alfa Romeo 155 (it would be 1994 before that particular car made it to the BTCC, 1993 in Germany). I was besotted, but sadly my glimpses of the action were limited to chance happenings on the television. This was well before the days of being able to find content online, and to record TV, you had to use something called a VCR?
Fast forward to the present and the sight of a dusty old 155 or a 190E parallel-parked on some no-name street still transports me to that state of childhood marvel, and occasionally I’m lucky enough to see an ex-Larini Alfa perform a demo in the modern era, but I was still waiting for my chance to see some of these old chargers actually race at speed. Imagine my delight then, when browsing the class listings for the recent Historic Grand Prix at Zandvoort, nestled in amongst the various rungs of single-seaters was a class for “Tourenwagen Classics,” an event for ’80s and ’90s DTM machines. I was delighted and booked my trip to Holland in almost the same instant.
Tourenwagen Classics does exactly what it says on the tin, presenting an opportunity for your favorite machines from the first version of the DTM championship (the series folded in 1996 due to financial pressures from the lack of manufacturer support), to throw off the shackles of museum confinement and race as they were designed. Some are built up as replicas, but there are plenty of real-deals here. There is also the odd car from the 1994 Super Touring Class, including some rogue machinery from the BTCC, and the series also boasts legendary drivers like three-time champion Klaus Ludwig, who despite being a Le Mans champion and more, still enjoys competing in his period Mercedes. Sadly, there were no Alfas present at Zandvoort, but my childhood memories were still kindled by a bumper grid of some 25 cars to make up for it. The fabulous sight of 190E and C-Class Mercs going at it with 6-Series BMWs and the mighty M3s was something to behold, the larger E24s in particular were a delight to watch as they seemed almost cumbersome and ungainly through some of the tighter sections of Zandvoort.
The circuit itself is no stranger to DTM action though, with the modern series visiting here in 2017, a fact that is evidenced by the high catch fencing that surrounds the circuit. It also has a historical connection, as the German STW series visited the circuit back in 1994, with Frank Biela taking the honors that day in his Audi 80, closely followed by Emanuele Pirro and Johnny Cecotto. The racing this weekend was close as well, with the top two drivers Klaus Ludwig and Thorsten Stadler glued together throughout the race in a two-car train of sound and color. Both drivers were running stunning C-Class Mercs, the instantly recognizable profile silhouetted against the Dutch September sunshine. The liveries too bought back vivid memories, particularly the silver D2 racing colors worn by Stadler’s car, equally as nostalgic for me as the missing bright red Alfa 155.
At the end of proceedings, the top two were separated by just over a second, but sadly all who were watching were robbed of a fierce racing finale as the race finished under the cloud of a red flag. Despite this, the action over the weekend was tremendously entertaining, and while the Tourenwagen Classics feature much further down the bill than the headlining Formula One machines that would grace the circuit later in the day, through my conjured six-year-old eyes, the mixture of engines, sounds, and classic liveries were just about the best thing here during the weekend that spoiled me for choice.