ZF 8-Speed Automatic in Motorsport

Fun to drive at full throttle, but also efficient and safe, ZF’s modified 8-speed automatic transmission is also a contender in motorsport. A BMW M235i racing car recently competed at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring all automatic.


The scream of racing engines is so loud, you can’t hear yourself speak; there’s a reek of rubber and gasoline. Meanwhile, a relaxed Dirk Adorf stands in the Nürburgring pit lane, nodding approvingly. His four “young guys” are making a masterful impression at the wheel of the BMW M235i Racing – a car as reliable as it is red-hot. For the BMW works driver, and especially for the four members of his Junior team, driving round the Nordschleife in the 333-horsepower racing machine is an absolute blast, but also a special challenge. They’re completing each lap of the enormously demanding Nordschleife – that’s more than 12.5 miles – in just over nine minutes. So what’s “special” about that? The BMW, one of 17 cars of this type delivered to German customers to date, is fitted with an 8-speed torque-converter automatic transmission, modified by ZF especially for the racetrack. And it’s performing exceptionally well.


Raising a transmission to racing standard, the 8-speed automatic transmission went into volume production in 2009. It reduces fuel consumption, makes gearshifts smooth and comfortable, responds quickly -and has become a long-term bestseller. “Toward the end of last year, BMW asked if we could trim our 8HP for racing,” reveals Robert Schmelzer, a ZF Application Engineer. “Basically, we thought that should be perfectly possible,” he continues – Schmelzer himself has many years of experience as a racing driver and race engineer. “But first we had to find a common denominator for establishing what the transmission should be capable of in racing conditions. Of course we couldn’t just transform an 8HP production unit into a DTM racing transmission!”


Dirk Adorf is the team’s mentor. “I’m a child of the Nordschleife,” admits the pro driver. “I know it like the back of my hand. My father ran a car dealership right next door, so I never went to kindergarten; I spent all my time in the workshop. I always wanted to be a racing driver. Just like the four young guys I’m looking after