A broad smile breaks out across Bernd Schneider’s face as he is reminded of his 2013 campaign on a sunny afternoon at Brands Hatch. By anyone’s estimation, the 51-year-old German is a legend of the sport, with a record five DTM titles and countless other honours including the 1995 International Touring Car Championship and 1997 FIA GT titles, but ask the man himself and he reserves special sentiment for the year in which he won 24 Hour races at the Nürburgring, Spa and Dubai – not to mention the Bathurst and Gulf 12 Hours – all in a Mercedes SLS AMG GT3.
His spate of success in the space of 12 months is without parallel in the modern GT3 era, particularly one where the manufacturers are so evenly matched. Here, Schneider recalls that incredible period, coming two years after he had grown tired of tending to his garden and came out of retirement.
2013 was definitely one of the most successful years I’ve ever had and I never expected to win three 24-hour races and two 12-hour races in one year. There was so much luck and also a lot of team effort, because it was so many different teams I was driving with – Erebus, Black Falcon, HTP – and so many different drivers as well. It was really great and I still sometimes can’t believe that I could achieve that.
It’s difficult to say which one I enjoyed more, but the one we did not think we had any chance to win was the 24 Hour of Nürburgring. The performance in dry conditions was not that strong, but then the big rain came during the night, the organisers stopped the race and the next day was only the last two hours dry and the rest rain. Our car was really good in the wet and we had a really good driver line-up, especially to win with Sean Edwards there was something special because Jeroen Bleekemolen had to leave in the morning when the restart came and Sean and myself shared the car for the rest of the day. That’s a good memory, I will keep that in my mind definitely.
Spa was also something special. The competition was really hard, it was like a 24 hour qualifying session and to win it again after 24 years was very special.
It was amazing to see how strong the car was. When we did the development on the SLS we were really focusing on building a car that was easy to drive and had strong reliability. Of course there can always be some technical issues even if you are nearly 100% sure the car can do it, but the reliability was really good and we had no crashes, no damage. I think Maxi Götz had a little touch on the start but after that it was fine.
For me GT racing is just unbelievable sport because there are so many different brands on the grid and so many different philosophies of driving dynamics. You have front-drive front-engine, front-drive mid-engine, rear-drive mid-engine, rear-drive rear-engine, it makes a big difference to how you drive, but in the end they’re all doing the same laptimes, so it’s a lot of fun.
The organisers have done a very good job, they have understood what the customers like to have and this is the secret, not to take so much care of what the manufacturers want to have. Of course the manufacturer wants to win always, but here most of the teams are customers and they are winning when everybody goes home satisfied, that doesn’t mean they have to win every race.
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