Armin Schwarz is a former German rally driver who competed in the World Rally Championship between 1988 and 2005 with five manufacturer teams (Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Škoda and Hyundai). Schwarz participated in 119 WRC events, winning only one - the 1991 Rally Catalunya.
Besides his WRC achievements, he won the German Rally Championship two times (1987 and 1988), the European Rally Championship (1996) and became the Rally Master at the Race of Champions in 2000.
Armin Schwarz started rallying with Fiat 131
Schwarz was born in July 1963 in Neustadt an der Aisch, Bavaria. He started rallying in 1983, driving Fiat 131 at regional events. He earned his first championship title in 1986, winning in the Mitropa Cup. He was driving the Audi 80 Quattro in eight rallies, alongside co-driver Hans-Joachim Hösch. On the last event of the season, the duo competed with MG Metro 6R4 Group B car.
Two German rally titles in a row
In 1987, Schwarz and Hösch won the German Rally Championship, driving the Audi Coupe Quattro. In 1988, Schwarz took the German title for the second year in a row, partnered by Klaus Wicha in the Schmidt Motorsport's Audi 200 Quattro.
WRC debut at 1988 RAC Rally with Audi 200 quattro
At the end of the season, in November 1988, Schwarz debuted in the World Rally Championship, driving the Audi 200 Quattro at Lombard RAC Rally. His debut was impressive, as he finished fifth overall.
In 1989, Schwarz competed in four events of the World championship, again with Schmidt Motorsport's Audi 200 Quattro. He finished eighth at Acropolis Rally and seventh at 1000 Lakes Rally. At Lombard RAC Rally and Rallye Sanremo, Schwarz had accidents and he didn't finish those two rallies.
Armin joined Toyota in 1990 WRC season
In 1990, Armin Schwarz and Klaus Wicha joined Toyota Team Europe to compete in the selected events of the World Rally Championship. Schwarz's teammates were Carlos Sainz (who eventually won the title) and Mikael Ericsson. Schwarz debuted in the Toyota Celica GT-4 ST165 at Rallye Monte-Carlo, finishing fifth overall. It was his best result of the season, as later he retired at Rallye de Portugal, Tour de Corse and Rallye Sanremo. In the last event, Lombard RAC Rally, Schwarz was in the seventh place and placed himself to 19th place in the championship standings.
First WRC podium in Australia
The schedule of races was expanded in 1991, so Schwarz participated in eight WRC events. The car was the same, but he gets a new co-driver, Arne Hetz. Schwarz was close to the podium at Rallye Monte-Carlo, finishing fourth. He earned the first WRC podium in September, at Rally Australia, finishing third behind Lancia's Juha Kankkunen and Mitsubishi's Kenneth Eriksson.
Maiden world rally victory at Catalunya
At 1991 Rallye Espana – Catalunya Costa Brava, in November, Schwarz took his first and only WRC victory in a career, with a minute and a half advantage over Kankkunen. After that victory, Schwarz jumped to sixth place in the championship, which remained his best ever result in a WRC career.
Schwarz spent one more season with Toyota, driving the Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD ST185 in the 1992 championship. He crashed three times (Monte-Carlo, Portugal and Greece) and finished in the fifth place at Corsica and Catalunya. In the championship classification, he was 19th.
Three podiums with Mitsubishi
Schwarz joined Mitsubishi Ralliart in 1993, driving the first generation of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. His co-driver was Nicky Grist and they reached the podium at Acropolis Rally, finishing third. After five races, Schwarz was 12th in the championship order. In 1994 WRC season, he was driving Mitsubishi Lancer Evo II, alongside his old navigator Klaus Wicha. Schwarz was again successful at Acropolis Rally, finishing second, behind Carlos Sainz. In the next race, at Rally New Zealand, Schwarz took third place and more valuable points, to finish seventh in the classification.
Schwarz and Toyota lost all points in 1995
Schwarz and Wicha returned to Toyota factory team in 1995, to drive Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205, together with Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol. In seven races, Schwarz finished fourth in two events, at Rallye de Portugal and Rally New Zealand. At Rally Catalunya, Toyota was caught using illegal turbo restrictors. The punishment was brutal – all Toyota drivers were stripped of all points and the team gets a one-year ban by the FIA.
While waiting to return in the WRC, Schwarz competed with Toyota in the 1996 European Rally Championship. His co-driver was Denis Giraudet. With four victories in eight races, Schwarz became the European champion.
Half of the season with Ford
The plans were changed in 1997 and Schwarz joined Ford's factory team to compete in the WRC with brand new Ford Escort WRC. Although Schwarz had relatively good results, finishing four times in the points, including third place at Rallye de Portugal, he was replaced by Juha Kankkunen from the seventh round of the championship.
In 1998, Schwarz had no permanent seat in any racing team, so he competed occasionally with three different cars during the season – Ford Escort WRC, Ford Escort RS Cosworth and Peugeot 306 Maxi. He had only one appearance in the WRC, driving Ford Escort WRC for RED World Rally Team at Network Q Rally of Great Britain, finishing in the seventh place.
Schwarz joined Škoda in the team's debut season
Schwarz returned to the World Rally Championship in 1999, joining the Škoda Motorsport in the team's debut WRC season. Schwarz's co-driver in the #11 Škoda Octavia WRC was Manfred Hiemer. The first season with Škoda was disappointing, as Schwarz ended only one of seven rallies. He was 12th at Acropolis Rally.
The season 2000 was opposite, so Schwarz had just one retirement in eight WRC participations. The highlights of the season were fifth place at the Acropolis Rally and victory at Semperit Rally in Austria, which was the part of the European Rally Championship.
Last career podium with Škoda in Kenya
In 2001, Schwarz recorded six retirement and six finishes in the Škoda Octavia WRC Evo2. In July, at Safari Rally Kenya, Schwarz scored his last WRC podium. He finished third, behind Mitsubishi's Tommi Makinen and Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera. In twelve races, Schwartz put 12 points in his pocket, to finish 12th in the final championship classification.
Full season and zero points with Hyundai
In 2002, Schwarz had the biggest WRC schedule ever, participating in all 14 races of the season. He was driving for the Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team. The #17 Hyundai Accent WRC wasn't competitive car and Schwarz didn't score any point. His teammate Freddy Loix grabbed one point, finishing sixth at Rally New Zealand. Schwarz was closest to points with 7th place finish at Cyprus Rally.
One more stint with Škoda
Hyundai left the World Rally Championship after ten races in 2003 season. In those ten events, Schwarz finished in the points at Monaco (8th) and Cyprus (7th). For 2004, Schwarz had to find a new job, so he returned to Škoda Motorsport. Since he left the team, the Czech manufacturer replaced Octavia with Fabia WRC car. The season for Škoda and Schwarz started at sixth round, at Acropolis Rally, where Schwarz retired. In the rest of the season, his best result was 8th place at Tour de Corse.
Last WRC point at last rally in Australia
Schwarz spent one more season driving the #11 Škoda Fabia WRC, participating in 15 of 16 events. He was replaced only at Swedish round, where Mattias Ekstrom was driving #11 Fabia. Schwarz reached one point, finishing eight at Rally Australia. It was the last round of the 2005 WRC season and also the very last WRC rally for Armin Schwarz.
At the age of 42, he pulled out from world rallying as a driver but stayed involved as a team official. Together with Raimund Baumschlager, he was managing the Red Bull Rally Team, which replaced Škoda's factory team in the WRC from 2006.
Off-road racing as a new career for Armin
In 2006, Schwarz started his new career, entering off-road races in the SCORE International championship. He debuted at Baja 1000 in November 2006, driving the 750-hp buggy for All German Motorsports team. He retired while leading, so he promised that he would be back. And since then, he was a regular competitor at Baja 1000 and other races of the off-road championship in the Northern and Central America.
In August 2007, Schwarz participated in the completely different challenge. He drove a production-based Porsche Cayenne S Transsyberia at the Transsyberia Rally, across the 8,000-km route from Moscow to Ulan Bator in Mongolia.
In recent years, he participated in some historic rally events, but his occupation is still off-road racing. As he says, he enjoys in that and has no intention to stop.