Bernd Schneider has announced that he is to retire from racing at the end of the current DTM season, bringing the curtain down on the most successful career the series has seen.
Mercedes stalwart Schneider, who will be 44 as he competes in his last DTM race at Hockenheim this coming Sunday, has won 43 times in 226 ITC and DTM starts for the Three-Pointed Star, and has taken 25 pole positions and 59 fastest laps, as well as winning five DTM titles - in 1995, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2006 - and the ITC crown in 1995. Even when diversifying with Mercedes into the FIA GT Championship, he still proved successful, clinching the 1997 title.
"Bernd Schneider and Mercedes-Benz Motorsports were partners on the racetrack for 17 years – one of the longest and most successful partnerships between a driver and a brand in the motor racing world," Norbert Haug noted, "In this period, Bernd won five DTM titles and one ITC title, as well as the FIA GT Championship in 1997, and Mercedes-Benz has much to thank him for.
"He has put his stamp on the DTM like no other driver, winning no less than four of the eight titles awarded since the series recommenced in 2000. Bernd is also an example to many young drivers [and], for me, he is also a friend. I will miss him behind the wheel when there are races to be won, but I will still have the pleasure of his company at race meetings and events. Mercedes-AMG has gained a first-class specialist with Bernd Schneider, one who combines performance with brand commitment."
A former World Junior Kart and German F3 champion, Schneider is the only driver in the current DTM line-up who has competed in both the earlier, 1984-96, and later versions of the series, which started in 2000, and the only driver to have successfully defended his championship title in the following year, winning in both 2000 and 2001. Although a brief foray into Formula One with Zakspeed failed to launch him into the wider consciousness, his record-breaking tally of DTM victories, pole positions and fastest laps is set to remain unequalled for a very long time if, indeed, it is ever equalled or bettered.
His 43 race wins compare favourably with the 47 amassed by his 18 current DTM rivals, while his 100 podium visits - one almost every other race – only lags slightly behind his rivals' cumulative 140. He has scored points 157 times, in more than two thirds of his races.
But this is not the only reason why 'Mr DTM' has left his personal stamp on the series, as Schneider is acknowledged to be an exemplary sportsman, who enjoys the recognition and respect of team-mates, rivals and fans in equal measure. He has also proven remarkably loyal, despite Mercedes not always having the best of fortunes in the DTM.
After two years of sportscar racing with Porsche, in 1990 and 1991, Schneider moved to Mercedes with Zakspeed's DTM team as successor to Michael Schumacher for the last two races of 1991. The following year, he made another move to AMG Mercedes, where he has remained to the present day.
"I have now been active as a racing driver for more than 30 years, and my aim has always been to continue racing for as long as I enjoy the sport and am still able to remain competitive," Schneider admitted, "The time to leave has now come, and it gives rise to conflicting emotions.