Before GT3, DTM cars were the stars of the Nürburgring. The 90s saw a number of teams running machinery from the German touring car championship, with Manthey Racing entering the Mercedes-Benz 190 Evo II, Kissling Motorsport bringing an Opel Omega 3000 24V Evo, and even the occasional BMW E30 M3 making the rounds alongside the large field of Porsche 911 Cup-based Nordschleife specials.
One team looking to join the upper ranks with a DTM car was Schall Racing. Team-owner Andreas Schall had been racing a Ford Escort RS2000 together with his son Ralf for many years, but felt they had reached the limits of the car. In search of something faster, the Mercedes-Benz 190 Evo II was looking like a mighty good choice to bring the family-run Mercedes-Benz dealership and motorsport together. The plan was to buy a Mercedes-Benz 190 Evo II from Stuttgart and race it in the VLN championship. Easy enough, right?
As Ralf Schall explains decades later, Mercedes wasn’t ready yet to play ball with the modest privateer team.
“It was 1994 and this car back then was the absolute best in VLN and with it, it was possible to take outright wins,” Ralf Schall says. “We have a Mercedes-Benz dealership, so it would be a great fit.
“We made a phone call to [head of Mercedes motorsport] Norbert Haugh but he initially refused: ‘No way, that’s impossible,’ he told us. But we kept on trying until we finally got this car and first raced it in 1994.”
The Schalls eventually got their hands on Snobeck’s 1991-built Mercedes-Benz 190 Evo II raced that year by Jacques Laffite. Before the FIA Group A-based race car could make its VLN debut, the crew had to put in a fair amount of work to prepare it for Nordschleife endurance races. Help came from AMG. The then still independent engineering firm from Affalterbach made use of the knowledge gained when it prepared Olaf Manthey’s Mercedes DTM racer for VLN use.
“We rebuilt it to 1992-spec with servo brakes and power steering. It was a lot of work, but the year before in VLN there was also the car of Olaf Manthey and Ulli Richter who raced the Dekra ex-works race car. We went to AMG and together with them we built this car up and gained a lot of knowhow about this car. We prepared the car in 1993 and came here [to the Nürburgring] in 1994. Most of the research to prepare the car had already been done with the Dekra car of Olaf Manthey.”
Success came quickly: VLN opened the season that year in cold and dreary late March. When the snow set in halfway into the race, it was Ralf who was unknowingly scored the winner.
“It was an amazing day! I had never driven anything like it before. We came here and had no experience racing the car. We built it but had never raced it. The weather was typical Eifer weather: rain, snow… That always did us well. We won the first race, it was unbelievable.
Two years ago, when Ralf Schall took his 100th VLN class win, we talked in more detail about that first victory in 1994. You can read the interview HERE.
“The first win was great, and after that we also twice won the 6-hour race and in total got five outright wins. That first win was an unbelievable experience, and then to win the 6-hours twice was also marvellous. We’ve had so many wonderful races with this car.”
The father-and-son duo continued to race the Mercedes into the 2010s with the car making only on and off appearances after Schall Racing managed to get hold of an Opel Astra V8 Coupé from the revived DTM championship in the early 2000s.
“We raced the Mercedes for many years, in about 150 races. All that time we’ve been developing the car. The works car wasn’t very reliable, but we’ve been developing and building many parts on our own to make it a real endurance machine capable of running races without any problems. It is now in a better condition than ever before.”
The final competitive VLN outing of the Mercedes-Benz 190 Evo II came only six years ago, when Ralf and Andreas raced the car one last time to celebrate Andreas’ retirement from racing, only for it to be brought back a few years later for the Youngtimer Trophy at the Nordschleife.
“We’ve been racing it for the last few years in the Youngtimer Trophy during the Nürburgring 24 Hours race weekend and took second place in the outright results. I drove the 3-hour race together with my father — I’m very proud that it all worked out the way it did. We hope to make another appearance in the Youngtimer Trophy with the Mercedes.”
Photos by Miguel Bosch and JP Wagner.