Private Eradications - 1994 Linder BMW E36 325i Coupe DTM Class 1

Money for nothing, DNFs for free.

After the abolishment of the popular, but ultimately unworkable Group A rules, the future of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft was on loose screws. A change to the more liberal Class 1 regulations had come too soon for the vast majority of teams, as even the factory squads of Mercedes-Benz were forced to use an updated version of last year's 190E.

Apart from newcomers Alfa Romeo and a late returning Opel, nobody really seemed to have a handle on the new era of DTM just yet. One of those teams caught in the crossfire was Linder Rennsport, a former BMW works team. However, BMW left in the early stages of Class 1 development over their stubborn refusal to give up the straight six engine.

BMW's withdrawal had forced Linder's hand, moving them to venture out on their own with a unique Class 1 machine based around an E36 bodyshell. With no new parts being developed by the Bavarians, the team instead filled the new car to the brim with the latest parts from their older E30 M3 Sport Evolution, including the 2.5L S14B25 four cylinder engine.

With German touring car royalty Armin Hahne behind the wheel, proven components in a new package and Mercedes being on the back foot, Ludwig "Luggi" Linder hoped to mix it up with the boys from Stuttgart.

The Linder BMW was quite literally left behind in 1993.

The Linder BMW was quite literally left behind in 1993.

However, it was not to be, as the lone BMW was crowded out by a better-funded armada of Mercedes machinery, coupled to the demoralizing speed of the four wheel drive, sequential shift, 420 horsepower Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI.

Though it showed flashes of speed in the highly skilled hands of Hahne, the 325i Coupe was too unreliable, inconsistent, and underdeveloped. With Alfa Romeo and Opel investing millions into highly advanced all wheel drive designs, and Mercedes 190E Evo II cars enjoying factory support, the small Linder team simply couldn't keep up.

Schubel Engineering "stole" Jagermeister from Linder for 1994.

Schubel Engineering "stole" Jagermeister from Linder for 1994.

Due to the lack of results during 1993, the team lost star driver Armin Hahne, which prompted Jägermeister to take its iconic livery to Alfa Romeo satellite team Schubel Engineering. The German outfit was poised to run a '93-spec 155 alongside the Alfa Corse works squad and featured starpower in the shape of former F1-driver Christian Danner.

As a result, the Linder BMW reverted to a very naked-looking white color scheme, revealing the lack of sponsorship behind the chronically underfunded outfit. Along with the change of colors, the team was also forced to hire a new pair of hands to steer the damn thing around.

As Armin Hahne had left DTM entirely in favor of ADAC GT-racing, DTM-veteran Frank Schmickler was hired to take his place. Schmickler was no stranger to the team, having won the 1990 24 Hours of Nurburgring with Altfrid Heger and Joachim Winkelhock in a Linder BMW E30 M3.

Moreover, Schmickler had been all around the paddock in his three season in the series, driving for Zakspeed BMW (1988), MM Diebels Team BMW (1990), Mass Schons Racing Mercedes-Benz (1991) and Irmscher Team Opel (1991). This varied expertise made him a prime candidate to develop the Linder E36.

Frank Schmickler as Mercedes stablemate to Michael Schumacher, DTM Norisring 1991.

Frank Schmickler as Mercedes stablemate to Michael Schumacher, DTM Norisring 1991.

Sadly, with funds running dangerously low, little if all actual development work was done to the 325i in the off-season. As such, the car continued to field the same 385 horsepower version of the E30's 2.5L S14 four cylinder. Aerodynamically, the car was identical to its 1993-spec as well.

Since the car hadn't exactly been on the pace before, things were looking grim for the small squad. Their only hope was to make the car reliable enough to pick up the pieces when others failed.

It was an uphill battle for Linder in 1994.

It was an uphill battle for Linder in 1994.

For 1994, the competition had become far stronger. The well-funded factory teams had made massive leaps in performance over the winter. Alfa Romeo introduced an evolution of the 155, Opel finalized the innovative Calibra, and Mercedes released their first full Class 1-design with the advent of the C180. All of these cars managed to produce around 430 hp from their compact V6-engines.

Whereas the Opel and Alfa relied on their four wheel drive systems, the Mercedes kept a rear-wheel drive layout. However, it more than compensated for this with highly advanced electronic wizardry.

Aside from ABS, the car was able to automatically adjust its anti-roll bars and aerodynamics during a lap. Mercedes' engineers would 'teach' the car the layout of a given circuit on an installation lap, after which the car would know precisely when to make which adjustment.

Ducting would close on the front end to increase the effectiveness of the splitter, which would increase braking performance and reduce understeer. When it came time to accelerate out of the corner, the ducting would open to stall the splitter out, reducing drag and shifting weight to the rear to aid traction. This was tech Linder could only dream of.

WS-DHL came to spoil Linder's party in 1994.

WS-DHL came to spoil Linder's party in 1994.

Aside from the space-age factory teams, Linder saw a new challenger arrive for 1994. Rival BMW-campaigner Udo Wagenhäuser had moved up into Class 1 DTM at the behest of his title sponsor: German shipping company DHL.

Contrary to Ludwig Linder, Wagenhäuser had incredibly tight bonds with BMW's Motorsport department. Thanks to his friends at BMW M, Udo was able to gleam certain parts and detailed design specs from the aborted works M3 Class 1-project.

This meant the WS-DHL E36 was immediately more advanced than the year-old Linder. However, Wagenhäuser still had to make do with the same S14 four cylinder. The mythical 400 horsepower, 10.000 rpm M50B25 six remained elusive.

The Linder 325i looked hopelessly outdated compared to the WS-DHL cars.

The Linder 325i looked hopelessly outdated compared to the WS-DHL cars.

Predictably, the opening round of the season at Zolder wasn't very encouraging. Howeverm despite the inherent disadvantages, Frank Schmickler still managed to out-qualify the new WS-DHL BMWs.

Apparently, the newcomers weren't as well prepared as their cars looked. Schmickler picked up 21st place on the grid. WS-DHL's Rudiger Schmitt couldn't manage better than 27th, while teammate Harald Becker failed to complete the session entirely.

However, the qualifying victory didn't translate to decent race results. Schmickler dropped out in Race 1, and failed to start Race 2.

Linder was in for a shocker of a season.

Linder was in for a shocker of a season.

The drama in Belgium was followed by another dismal weekend at Hockenheim. On the sprint layout, the Linder BMW was once again hopelessly outgunned. Reliability was once again an issue as well, as neither heat ended in Frank Schmickler actually taking the checkered flag.

At the Nürburgring, Linder's fortunes turned somewhat. Once again Schmickler outqualified the WS-DHL cars for Race 1 with a time good enough for 23rd. On race day, he would finally able to see the race through tot the end, albeit a lap down and in 19th place. From that P19, Frank was able to complete just six laps in Race 2 before the BMW expired once again.

At Mugello, the Linder BMW would finish both heats for the first time, but the results were nothing to write home about. P22 in Race 1, P14 in Race 2. On the sprint layout of the Nürburgring the story played out much the same: sixteenth in Race 1, retirement in Race 2. On the streets of the Norisring, Frank Schmickler never made it to the end at all.

It would take until the second race at Donington for Linder to see their car cross the finish line again. Frank Schmickler managed to drag the aging car to the checkered flag in 12th place.

Frank was a lap down, but he wasn't dead last. From 23rd on the grid he'd passed Armin Bernhard's Mercedes 190E, Neil Cunningham's WS-DHL BMW and Jurgen Ruch's eccentric Fox-body Mustang.

Frank Schmickler hunting down Jurgen Ruch, Donington 1994.

Frank Schmickler hunting down Jurgen Ruch, Donington 1994.

Twelfth at Donington proved to be the highpoint of the season for Linder Rennsport. Besides a 17th place in the first heat of the airfield race at Diepholz and 16th in Race 2 on the autobahn section of AVUS the 325i wouldn't see the finish in the next eight races.

In four of those events, the car didn't even make the start. The damage sustained in Race 1 at the third Nurburgring round proved too difficult to fix to make the second, while a similar situation prevented a start in the second heat of the season closer at the Hockenheim GP-layout. At the unusual industrial estate-based track of the Alemannenring, Linder wasn't even present at all.

The Linder BMW being lapped by battle-hardened factory Mercedes.

The Linder BMW being lapped by battle-hardened factory Mercedes.

It had become abundantly clear Linder Rennsport had given up hope on trying to keep pace with the new, highly advanced, immensely expensive, cutthroat world of the DTM. After an absolutely disastrous 1994, Ludwig Linder correctly deduced the series no longer had any space for privateer teams.

In the space of just two years, the DTM had become an arena for science-fiction solutions funded by enormous manufacturer budgets. Even buying a car from one of these outfits was unthinkable. Even if the team could afford it, it probably wouldn't even be able to understand, let alone develop their car.

Instead of toiling away for another year at great expense, Linder cut their losses and opened an escape hatch into the popular German Super Tourenwagen championship for 2L Class 2 cars. Their weapon of choice? A BMW 318si, surely? Not quite.

With the re-signing of Armin Hahne, Linder gained a new association with Honda. Hahne had won the production-based ADAC GT championship in an NSX, and saw fit to move into Class 2 touring cars for 1995. Linder ended up campaigning a Honda Accord in the STW until 1997. After that, the doors closed for good.

Armin Hahne's 1995 Linder Honda Accord Super Touring car.

Armin Hahne's 1995 Linder Honda Accord Super Touring car.

But what happened to that one of a kind Class 1 E36? Simple: since Linder no longer had any use for the car, it was offered for sale to fund the STW-project. However, the 325i wasn't a very attractive proposition to other European privateers.

After all, the only place where the BMW was even allowed to race was the DTM, the very championship it had fled from in a blind panic. Luckily, Linder Rennsport found a buyer who was free from these concerns.

Across the globe in the land of the rising sun, the All-Japan Grand Touring Championship was only just starting to formalize its class structure. There was plenty of room for an exotic BMW racing special out there. As such, the Linder BMW found a home with Japanese team Makiguchi Engineering to race in the GT2-class of the JGTC for 1995.

Would the Linder BMW become big in Japan?

Would the Linder BMW become big in Japan?

Stay tuned for part 3

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Comments (2)

  • Great read fella 👍👍

    I do love a story about the little guy mixing it with the big guns!

      29 days ago
  • Spectacular article as always!

    The story of the old Class 1 BMW is so fascinating! It made me know more about the car and its career.

    Keep up the awesome work and I'm looking forward to part 3 of this saga.^^

      1 month ago
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