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  • Rock am Ring – Tourenwagen Classics
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    Rocking the Ring – Touring Car Classics.

    The Touring Car Classics series gives DTM legends the chance to come back to life.
 The 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II from Mercedes-Benz Classic created a stir at the Nürburgring. Behind the wheel for Mercedes-Benz were the company’s Head of Marketing Dr Jens Thiemer and the businessman and Motorsport Boss Toto Wolff.

    Text: Alexandros Stefanidis | Photos: Martin Steffen

The duo.

One of them raced as a hobby, while the other undertook a brief stint as a professional racing driver before becoming an entrepreneur. Dr Jens Thiemer and Toto Wolff really love fast cars. As part of the DTM race at the Nürburgring, the pair got back behind the wheel of a racing car after many years’ absence: the 190 E 2.5­-16 Evolution II touring car from 1990. Mercedes Classic maga­zine caught up with them for a chat after qualifying. In the subsequent race, the pair chalked up a respect­able eighth place.


Jens Thiemer & Toto Wolff
Rock am Ring – Tourenwagen Classics

With a beaming smile behind the wheel.

Dr Thiemer, as Head of Marketing and Mr Wolff, as a businessman and Motorsport Boss, your calendars are surely packed full. Do you often dream about days such as today?

Wolff: As I drove to the Nürburg­ring this morning, I thought: this is my first weekend off in six weeks. Why don’t I just stay at home and recharge my batteries a bit? But from the first lap, I could feel it: there’s nowhere I would rather be in that moment than on the Nürburgring.

Once a racing driver, always a racing driver?

Wolff: Already during the quali­fying rounds I had a beaming smile the whole time I was behind the wheel.


“Joy, respect and also a bit of pride.”

Thiemer: It’s pretty much the same for me too. As a youngster, I often stood at the Nürburgring watching the very car that Toto and I are driving today in utter amaze­ment. At the end of the 1990s I was driving a Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5­-16 long­-distance race as an amateur. So today, it’s a nice combination of joy, respect and also a bit of pride, being able to sit in the cockpit of a real Evo II racing car at the Touring Car Classics.

Mr Wolff, when you were 17, you made your first contact with motorsport, among other things driving in Formula Ford and the FIA GT Championship. Is such a race a bit like travelling back in time?

Wolff: As an active driver, I al­ways felt the pressure to perform; sometimes that detracted a little bit from the pleasure. Now I can really enjoy it. The only problem is that Jens and I have to listen to the flip­pant comments of our professional racing driver colleagues.


Toto Wolff
Jens Thiemer & Toto Wolff

“We were expecting worse than that.”

Thiemer: The first one I got during qualifying was: “We were expecting worse than that.”

Wolff: Ha ha! That’s all part of the fun – as an older driver, you really do get a few jibes from the younger ones.

Thiemer: Never mind. And to be honest, it was actually the right comment if you saw how I drove. I was a bit rusty after a few years of time out.

You just came ninth in the qualifying. That doesn’t sound too bad.

Thiemer: Let’s put it this way: our performance got better when Toto got behind the wheel.


“The initial impact had a force of 27 G.”

I guess you don’t have
 too fond of memories of the Nürburgring, Mr Wolff.
15 April 2009: fractured vertebrae, concussion, severed nerves.

Wolff: The Nürburgring and I have an intense love­-hate relation­ship. Back then, at one of the fastest points on the Nordschleife – the Fuchsröhre – one of my tyres burst at more than 280 km/h. The initial impact had a force of 27 G. Not a particularly nice moment. Thank goodness I didn’t plough into a tree. I don’t really remember much; it was like a mental blackout.


Rock am Ring – Tourenwagen Classics
Rock am Ring – Tourenwagen Classics

The Nordschleife legend.

The Nürburgring celebrates its 90th birthday this year.
 On 19 June 1927, Mercedes-Benz legend Rudolf Caracciola won the first race on the Nordschleife. Back then he said it was “immensely difficult”. Three-time Formula 1 World Champion Jackie Stewart dubbed it the “Green Hell”. Do you share this sentiment, Dr Thiemer?

Thiemer: Respect for the Nord­schleife is handed down from one driver generation to the next. No other track is this long – more than 22 kilometres. No other circuit has quite the same topography – placed right in the thick of a forest and with 300 metres difference in elevation! And then there’s its history: legendary races and racing drivers who become world­-renowned stars here. But it was unfortunately also the scene of a number of tragic events. Nevertheless, that’s all part of the Nordschleife legend.

Moments of loneliness behind the wheel.

Mr Wolff, is it true that on the day of your accident, you wanted to beat Niki Lauda’s track record?

Wolff: Yes, that’s true – I suppose it’s typical mid­life crisis material. Plus, it might really have happened. Looking back, the accident was ac­tually what led me to give up active racing. In the meantime, I’ve also lost a precise appreciation of just how far I can push things in a fast racing car.

What keeps your racing driver soul happy nowadays?

Thiemer: I really love the lonely moment behind the wheel – when you sense the flow and that feeling of being in a tunnel of complete concentration. It’s unbeatable. I still vividly remember how I used to get out of the car after six­-hour or 24­-hour races feeling completely depleted. Even back then I needed a week or so to get back to normal. But today, I smile and enthuse about it when I look back on those times.


Rock am Ring – Tourenwagen Classics
Toto Wolff

“A feeling of pure happiness. Words can’t describe it.”

Which muscles hurt the most back then?

Thiemer: Mainly my back, my upper arms and my shoulders.

Wolff: My back was already hurting after three laps. Jens and I had to fold ourselves tightly into the seats, as we’re both six foot four. But racing is one of the few activities in which you have to concentrate fully on the moment. You don’t think about anything else.

Thiemer: There’s no place for thinking about anything else. That’s the fascinating thing about this particular sport.

Wolff: That’s why I see it as be­ing somehow like meditation, it’s completely relaxing – a feeling of pure happiness. Words can’t describe it.


Combination of man and machine.

And what about the smell 
of petrol, the whining of the engine, the vibrating feeling in your stomach – doesn’t that affect you?

Thiemer: That’s all a bit of a cliché in my opinion. For me, it’s more about the combination of man and machine. I love speed and the abil­ity to push the vehicle initially to my own limits before eventually push­ing it to its limits – and if possible, keeping it all under control. That’s its particular appeal for me.


Jens Thiemer
Rock am Ring – Tourenwagen Classics

The most successful brand in DTM.

At Touring Car Classics,
 you drive the 190 Evo II on the Grand Prix circuit: how big is the temptation to overestimate your driving capabilities during the race?

Thiemer: The temptation is there. But I raced as a hobby, so I know the dangers. My worst accident was also here on the Nürburgring. In Klostertal, my car hit a patch of oil that one of my competitors had lost and I was in the lead for my class, too! Rather annoying, that! With our participation today, we essentially want to draw attention to our DTM history. Mercedes-Benz is the most successful brand in DTM. The Evo II won most of the races and shaped the face of the Mercedes­-Benz brand in the mod­ern motorsport era. The car is an icon and did a lot for the modern sporting image of our brand.

Five questions on the Evo II.

... to such a point that this limited-series version is now worth up to 300,000 euros
to collectors. Would you both be up for a brief Evo quiz?

Wolff: Yes!

Thiemer: Sure!

OK. Here are five questions on the Evo II from 1990. The person whose answer is the closest wins the point. First question: How many litres of fuel can the tank hold?

Wolff: Erm. 75?

Thiemer: 100!

110. One point for
 Dr. Thiemer. How much horse-power does the car have?

Thiemer: 375.

Wolff: 360.

373 hp at 9,500 rpm.

Wolff: Oh no! Two-­nil for you, Jens.


Rock am Ring – Tourenwagen Classics
Rock am Ring – Tourenwagen Classics

“... it’s certainly got some­thing under its bonnet!”

A simple question now: 
How many cylinders?

Wolff/Thiemer: Four.

Correct. It’s 3:1 to
 Dr. Thiemer. Now for one 
that’s not so easy: What’s
 the ignition sequence of the four cylinders?

Wolff: No idea.

Thiemer: Same here, no idea.

1-3-4-2. Final question
 then: How fast does the Evo II get from 0 to 100 km/h?

Wolff: 4.5 seconds?

Thiemer: 5.2?

Spot on, Mr Wolff – exactly 4.5 seconds.

Thiemer: With its horizontal car­burettor, it’s certainly got some­thing under its bonnet!

We always try to be innovative.

A close call: in the end, it was 3:2 for Dr. Thiemer. How important is motorsport today at Mercedes-Benz?

Thiemer: The legend which sur­rounds Mercedes-­Benz is based to a great extent on motorsport including the Evo II in DTM and endurance races, of course. But above and beyond all that, our engagement and our successes in Formula 1 are literally worth their weight in gold for the brand. And let’s not forget the design of the cars which, of course, fascinates many of our motorsport enthusiasts.

Wolff: I’m glad that our successes in motorsport help the brand to come across as more emotional desirable. We always try to be innovative.

Jens Thiemer
Rock am Ring – Tourenwagen Classics

A gamble for the future.

Mercedes-Benz is leaving DTM in 2018, and in 2019 it will be joining the new Formula E. Why is this necessary?

Thiemer: The entire industry is currently carrying out developments in the field of electromobility. And in this domain, there are also fascinating motorsport events in the form of Formula E. In this competition, we will be measuring our­selves against other manufacturers: Audi, BMW, Porsche – the entire line­up of German premium manufacturers, as well as importers and a few very interesting start­ups will also be at the starting line for Formula E or are already on board. But for now at least, neither Toto nor I are dyed in the wool Formula E enthusiasts.

Wolff: We can’t be, really, because we don’t know how the performance characters of this formula will develop. We first need to sound out this new field.

Thiemer: The decision not to continue with DTM wasn’t a decision against DTM; it was made in favour of Formula E. For us, it’s a gamble for the future and primarily a marketing platform.


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