The 2002 Tuner Grand Prix at Hockenheim was plagued with rain for the first time in the event's 10-year history, but this year the weather returned to its normal form for early June and gave us two blazing hot days for practice and the Grand Prix.
The good weather brought out the crowd, and the grandstands were packed with thousands of car enthusiasts who vocalized their approval whenever a competitor pulled off a fast lap, a good powerslide or even a great save from a near departure into the gravel trap. It also meant the track was very hot and grippy; a lot of rubber was burned in a good cause.
There was a big issue with scrutineering this year. The rules-bending in previous years had grown to the point where some entrants' cars were thinly disguised racers. Complaints from entrants who had complied with the spirit and letter of the competition by using only parts type-approved for the public to buy and use on the road meant that something had to be done if the event were to remain fair and relevant.
So when they signed up back in March, entrants to this year's Tuner Grand Prix were presented with three pages of rules governing permissible modifications. All modifications had to have TV approval for legal road use, with an exhaust no louder than 95dB, 5dB more than EU factory production standards. In addition, tricky track-day rubber, like the Michelin Sport Pilot Cup, Dunlop Super Sport Race, Pirelli P Zero Corsa and Yokohama A048, was banned from the road-legal classes. The scrutineers provided by Dekra enforced the new rules to the letter.
Of course, every tuner likes to show what it can do in the way of ultimate spec, especially as some customers want cars specifically for track days. Thus, a new Open Class was introduced for such cars, which could use super-sticky track-day tires. Also new was the SUV class for tuned off-roaders. The sole entrant and therefore winner of this class was Gemballa's Cayenne Turbo.
While there was the usual proliferation of Porsches in the Coupe & Cabrio, GT and Open Classes, the big surprise was the absence of BMWs, which normally dominate the Limousine and Coupe & Cabrio Classes. In fact, there were only two BMWs among the 65 competitors across the nine classes, and one of these was a diesel!
The 185-bhp MK Motorsport 320d Compact was driven by Michael Krankenberg himself and finished third in class with a 1:22.923 lap. Sitting on 8.5Jx18-in. alloys with 225/40R18 rubber, the heavier rear-driven BMW was at a disadvantage against the lighter front-driven 170-bhp 1.9-liter VW Polo TDI from Wendland Motorentechnik, which won the Class, and the 163-bhp MTM Seat Ibiza TDI that came second.
The more spectacular looking BMW at the event was the E30 M3 Evo of Swiss tuner Hanni Motorsport, which was entered in the Open Class with Oliver Wittner at the wheel. With 250 bhp on tap, it was no match for the turbocharged Porsches, Donkervoorts and Caterhams that dominated the class. But Oliver made up for lack of sheer power by entertaining the crowd with lovely, controlled drifts through Sachs Curve. Maybe he was warming up for the afternoon's Drift Challenge?