I'm obsessed with the Group 5 era of racing, I know… but since we are well into our month of celebrating all things BMW, I thought it would be cool for us to have a quick look at the German DRM series. This championship ran to Group 5 specs from 1977 into the early 1980s and was one of the most popular race series in Germany in its time.
The DRM or Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft (to use its full name) had two separate races per race weekend, one for cars under 2L and one for those over. The lower "Division II" was initially dominated by the BMW 320i, especially the now infamous factory BMW Junior team cars. This particular photo is from the BMW archive and shows Manfred Winklehock getting some air at the Nurburgring in '77.
From '78, BMW let the privateers fight amongst themselves for overall honours in Division II. One of the main teams to come to the foreground in this class was Schnitzer with their own turbocharged version of the 320i. Driven by Harald Ertl, they took the overall DRM championship…
The DRM had a curious system whereby the Division II cars didn't directly compete on the track against the faster and more powerful Porsche 935s, but a champion would be crowned based on which Div I or II team amassed the most points. So, in this case, Schnitzer had the most points at the end of the 1978 season.
Here's another BMW archive photo of the key 1978 teams: the Würth HAT Team BMW 320i Turbo. The car was piloted by Manfred Winkelhock to two victories in 1978.
It's here that the BMW archive starts to go cold on Group 5 photos, though, as their attention turned to the racing debut of the BMW M1 Procar….
So in order to continue the story of Group 5 cars in the DRM, I've had to source vintage photos from two amateur photographers who've uploaded some photos to the Racingsportscars website.
Paul Kooyman saw some amazing DRM racing, up close and personal, as he was there when the series visited Spa in 1980. Most of his photos feature him walking around the pit area rather action racing shots… but he did some great Speedhunting back then!
By 1980, there was a new powerhouse in Division II… the Zakspeed Capri. This car reset the goalposts and pretty well rendered the 320 obsolete… it was very low, long, light and nimble…. all the necessary ingredients for a perfect GT race car.
There were two of these D&W sponsored cars running at Spa that day for drivers Klaus Niedzwiedz and Hans Soldeck… They qualified well and Klaus managed to take 2nd…
But overall victory was reserved for Harald Ertl who had switched over to his own Zakspeed Capri by now.
Meanwhile an ex-Zakspeed driver, Hans Heyer was also enjoying a lot of success in the 1980 DRM Championship with this Lancia Beta Monte Carlo Turbo…
…he went on to take the 1980 Championship with this car.
Not to be outdone by the threat of the Zakspeed Capri, Schnitzer prepared their own special low line, long tail BMW 320 Turbo for Hans Stuck. It proved to be a bit of a disappointment, though, as the performance wasn't that much greater than the older 320i… doesn't look too good either!
Meanwhile, at the back of the Class II field, older spec 320i were still pounding the pavement for local teams.
I'm going to need to write a full history of the Zakspeed Capri one of these days.. but in the meantime we can look at a few facts and figures… this is the 1980 Div I car. It was Zakspeed's first attempt to directly take on the might of the Porsche 935.. and you know what? This car was actually able to take a direct fight to the Porsches and managed to win at Hockhenheim (twice), Nurburgring, Diepholz and at this race… Spa-Francorchamps.
You gotta love the Jagermeister livery…
I just bought a book today about these cars at BMW Welt in Munich today!
Here's the Joest team 935J.
This chassis did duty for Joest through 1982 when it was destroyed while practicing for the Le Mans 24 Hours.
… And a shot of the George Loos 935… he had previously run as many as three 935s in the DRM, but by 1980 was down to a 1 car team.
The next round of the DRM was held at the Norisring on June 22nd 1980…. another amateur photographer named Philippe Moriniere was there to Speedhunt in the paddock area.
He managed to capture some more shots of the low-line Hans Stuck, Schnitzer car which went on to record a 2nd place that day.
It had a sister car too.
The special Schnitzer built 320i Turbo was driven by Walter Brun and finished third… There isn't much of the original left is there….
A few of the old Zakspeed Escorts were continuing to be used too… The Group 5 spec Escorts are largely overlooked compared to the more illustrious Zakspeed Capris.
This side view gives you a good idea as to just how suited the shape of the Capri was to building a Group 5 racer… the hood is long and allows for extreme engine set back, the silhouette is low, making for a smaller hole to punch through the air…. the rear of the car is a slopping fastback which helps to direct air to the rear wing…. All of this made for an unbeatable package.
In 1980, only the Class I Capri had the full ground effects venturi tunnels running under the entire length of the car.. this Class II version is without this aerodynamic aide…
Here are some more shots of the privateer BMWs running that day on the Norisring.
Some of these would have been reworked ex-factory built cars…
…. while others have a more home-brewed feeling to them.
Philippe also shot the Class1 cars as they drove through the pit area…
Here's a snap of the Class I Klaus Ludwig machine…. this is one of my fave race cars of all time!
This is the K3/80… an evolution of the K3 which had won Le Mans in 1979. This particular chassis was sold to John Fitzpatrick Racing and did the full IMSA season in 1981.
John Fitzpatrick himself in 1980 was a driver for the American team Barbour Racing who were campaigning this K3 at select events in Europe. They ended up winning the race! Beginner's luck perhaps.
I'll leave you with this shot from the start of the Class1 race at the Norisring from the Porsche Archive… The Group C era was just round the corner, and the Group 5 formula only had a couple years left in them by this stage.
And of Schnitzer? Well for the 1981 they introduced this bad boy… a full wide body turbocharged Group 5 spec BMW M1 which was reported at the time to develop 1000 bhp.
Pictures of this car are hard to come by, unfortunately but it did power Hans Stuck to victories at the Norisring and Salzburgring that year.
Well, the Group 5 era was great while it lasted, and we'll never see such overpowered, extreme racers again… Sad to say, but at least we have these photos to enjoy together! Perhaps we'll be building tribute Group 5 cars for the street one day soon :>