A couple of months ago I started a series of posts looking back at Germany’s national top series DRM for Group 5 cars. With a rather tumulteous F1 season finally behind us there is time for the closing to chapters on events 30 years ago. Staring today’s episode: Harald Ertl and the surprising appearance of a Schnitzer developed Toyota Celica.
German tuning company Schnitzer wasn’t to happy to see their long time partner BMW come fishing at their pond with the brand new aspirated 320s. In the Schnitzer brothers’ typical manner they first gave the works car a hard time with their supercharged old style BMW 2002 1.4.And around mid-season they schocked the establishment with their own development, a Group 5 Toyota Celica 2.1 Turbo to compete against the Porsche 935s in the Division 1 of the German national championship, also known as the DRM, based on the road-going Celica Hatchback 2000 GT model.
Applying Group 5 regulations, only the bonnet, roof, doors and rail panel were left unmodified. The rest of the body was re-styled and constructed from lightweight GRIP (glass fibre reinforced plastic). To power the Gr 5 racer, Schnitzer used the Toyota 18R type G engine, bored out to 2.090cc and equipped with their own specially developed 16 valve cylinder head and coupled with a Kugelfischer fuel injection system. Oompf came from a KKK Turbo charger, producing an impressive 560 bhp in race trim, nearer to 700bhp with qualifying boost.
The Schnitzer-Toyota debuted in a DRM-round held a preliminary race of the of the German F1 Grand Prix at Hockenheim on July 30th 1977. Developed entirely by Schnitzer with sponsoring coming from Toyota Germany and optical Rodenstock, the car was instantly quick in the hands of Harald Ertl but was forced to retire on lap 4.
Schnitzer entered the Celica in two more DRM rounds that year. At Zolder in August it retired early again but at the Nürburgring in October a first promissing result: Ertl misses out the podium narrowly and finishes 4th in overall behind three of the mighty Porsche 935 armada. Its first victory came on the 16th of October at the non-championship race ADAC Trophy in Zolder ending the season on a high note and with high expectations for 1978.