Bernd Schneider is a famous professional racing driver from Germany, best known as the most successful driver in the history of DTM Series.
Named after famous racing driver
He was born on 20th of July 1964 in Sankt Ingbert, a small town in Saarland state, near the city of Saarbrucken. Interestingly, he was named after famous German pre-war racer Bernd Rosemayer as his father was a great racing enthusiast. That’s why Bernd was involved in racing since his childhood when he has competed in karting.
He was the Junior karting champion of Germany at the age of 15. In 1980, Schneider defended his title but also won the World Junior Karting championship title. Over the years, he also became European and African Karting Championships what allowed him to easily move through the ranks.
Dreams of glorious Formula 1 racing career collapsed
In 1984 Schneider became the German Formula Ford vice-champion, in 1986 entered German Formula 3 championship which he has won in the following year. Those results persuaded Erich Zakowski, the owner of Zakspeed Racing team, to offer Bernd a ride in Formula 1 championship. Schneider debuted in Formula 1 in 1988 but driving for small and uncompetitive team proved to be very hard.
Over two years, Schneider was able only to qualify only for 8 out of 32 Grand Prix races and managed to complete only two, both in 1988. In 1990, he had a short spell with Arrows team, appearing in two races, but again without success.
Schneider became Mercedes factory driver
Hugely disappointed with a failure in an attempt to become a Formula 1 star, Schneider turned hiss attention to the sports cars racing what proved to be a perfect decision. He was again in the seat of Zakspeed cars, but before that, he took the title in the Porsche Cup in 1990 and competed in the WSSC, driving alongside Joest and Kremer. At the end of 1991, Bernd became factory driver of Mercedes-Benz and was ready for the new challenge.
DTM series debut
Right from the start Schneider in DTM was like fish in the water. In 1992, his first season in the series, the Mercedes driver managed to win four races (AVUS, Nurburgring and twice at Alemannenring) and finished 3rd overall. In the following year, Schneider again was 3rd with three wins on his account (Hockenheim twice and Alemannenring), but in 1993 he had his worst season in DTM. Bernd was only the 10th at the end of the year, even after he has won two races, at Diepholz Circuit and Hockenheim. Probably, the reason of downfall was the change of the car. After two good seasons in Mercedes 190E Evo2, his team switched to the new Mercedes C Class V6 and Bernd needed more time to settle.
However, when all parts of the jigsaw lied down on their place, Schneider took the reigns and became the DTM master. He won three consecutive titles and earned a place in the history of the competition. In 1995, he triumphed in 5 out of 14 races, two at Hockenheim and Nurburgring and one at Norisring. Unfortunately, DTM ceased operations at the end of the season but was renewed in 2000.
ITCC and FIA GT champion
In a meantime, he has competed in the International Touring Car Championship and won the title in 1995 after he has scored six wins out of 10 races. In the following year, he finished as a runner-up, both years driving for Mercedes.
The FIA GT Championship was the next challenge for the German racer and again Schneider did a great job. In 1997, his first year in the championship, he claimed the title in a dominant style after he has won 5 out of 11 races. Bernd couldn’t defend his crown in 1998 but again was one of the best, taking 3rd place overall and scoring five race wins.
He also appeared with a Mercedes' team in 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998 in GT1 class and in 1999 in GTLME class, but both times failed to finish the race, retiring in the early phase.
Bernd Schneider - DTM record holder
Finally, DTM returned in 2000 and he could return to the competition he likes most. His winning journey continued where it stopped five years ago. Driving the HWA Team’s AMG-Mercedes CLK, he won the title in 2000, again scoring five race wins. In 2001, Schneider won his third crown with six race wins in his books but couldn’t score three in a row as he finished as a vice-champion in 2002, losing to Laurent Aiello by six points. That year he won only two races but finished at the second place in seven races.
In 2003, Schneider claimed back his DTM crown. He had another excellent season during which he scored two wins, at Lausitzring and Hockenheim, and had other five podium finishes. After he has earned his fourth title, Bernd had two seasons during which he couldn’t repeat so good performances. In 2004, he was 6th over while in 2005 he finished at the 4th position. In both seasons, he won season closing race at Hockenheim.
Fifth DTM title
After two years during which he couldn’t reach high standards set by himself, Schneider for the fifth time clinched the DTM championship title. He won two opening races at Hockenheim and Lausitzring, later in the season scored four consecutive 2nd places before taking the championship crown, eight points ahead of Bruno Spengler.
Schneider stayed in DTM for another two years. In 2007 he scored his first win at Brands Hatch but at the end of the season, he was 6th in the standings. The season of 2008 was his final in the German racing series. At Nurburgring, he has scored his final career victory before finishing at the 6th again. Practically, that was the end of Schneider’s full-time racing career, even after he later appeared in the various competitions.
Video - Schneider's DTM career
Post DTM years
Schneider still competes with a lot of success, mainly in the selected endurance races and appeared as a guest in Blancpain GT Sprint Series but, what is most interesting, he is still enjoying karting races. Bernd, who lives in Monte Carlo, also worked in AMG’s racing school and conveyed a wealth of experience to future generations. He is also one of the Mercedes brand ambassadors.