Bernd Schneider is a famous professional racing driver from Germany, best known as the most successful driver in the history of the DTM. He was the champion five times, the first time in the last season of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft in 1995 and then four more times in a new DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) between 2000 and 2006. Parallel to his first DTM title in 1995, he also took International Touring Car Championship title that year.
One more championship title he has is from the FIA GT Championship in 1997. Schneider was also successful in the famous endurance races. He won two times at Spa 24 Hours, the first time in touring car era in 1989 and second time in GT era in 2013. At 24 Hours of Nürburgring, he won two times in 2013 and 2016. At Le Mans 24h, he participated three times, recording three DNFs.
Early in a career, from 1988 to 1990, Bernd Schneider recorded 34 entries and nine starts in Formula One World Championship with two teams (Zakspeed and Arrows).
Named after famous racing driver
Bernd Schneider was born on in 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.
Victory at Spa 24h in 1989, first full season in DTM in 1992
During the late 1980s, Schneider occasionaly competed in DTM with different Ford Sierra models, recording 13 starts from 1986 to 1990. In that period, he scored an overall victory at 1989 Spa 24 Hours, sharing a Ford Sierra RS500 with Gianfranco Brancatelli and Win Percy.
In 1991, he spent half of the DTM season with Zakspeed and then had his first full season in the DTM in 1992. Right from the start Schneider was like fish in the water. He managed to win four races (AVUS, Nurburgring and twice at Alemannenring) and finished 3rd overall. In the following year, Schneider again was third with three wins on his account (Hockenheim twice and Alemannenring).
Champion in the last season of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
In 1994, Schneider had his worst season in DTM. He was only tenth in the points 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 five races to take the title in the last season of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft. DTM ceased operations at the end of the season but was renewed in 2000.
ITCC champion in 1995, FIA GT champion in 1997
In his DTM title-winning season, Schneider also took the title in the International Touring Car Championship which was ran parallel to DTM with the same cars. He scored six wins out of 10 races. While DTM ceased its operations in 1996, ITCC had one more season. Schneider finished second in the points, behind Manuel Reuter.
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 (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) has been revived in 2000. Schneider's victorious journey continued where it stopped five years earlier. 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 in 2006, last DTM season in 2008
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
Many great wins in the post-DTM era
After leaving DTM, he was out of racing for a couple of years, then returning to race tracks mostly in GT endurance races. He scored one more overall victory at Spa 24 Hours, together with Maxi Gotz and Maxi Buhk in 2013. That year, he also won Bathurst 12 Hour in Australia and 24 Hours of Nurburgring for the first time. He scored all three wins in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3.
Three years later, in 2016, he triumphed again at Nurburgring in a new Mercedes-AMG GT3, sharing a car with Maro Engel, Adam Christodoulou and Manuel Metzger. Most recently, he won in SP8T class at 2018 Nurburgring 24 Hours in a Mercedes-AMG GT.
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.