BMW Motorsport officially bade farewell to its outgoing Director Mario Theissen at an event at BMW Classic in Munich yesterday (Wednesday 29th June).
Theissen's successor in the role Jens Marquardt assumes responsibility for the German marque's motorsdport activities on 1st July.
More than 100 friends and associates from all phases of Theissen's career were present at the event. They included reigning Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who was supported by BMW in his earlier career and made his F1 debut with BMW Sauber at Indianapolis in 2007. Also in attendance were the likes of Nick Heidfeld, Alex Zanardi and the current factory BMW drivers.
Some of his former adversaries and colleagues in the F1 paddock were also there including Stefano Domenicali, Norbert Haug, Franz Tost and Peter Sauber.
“I have really enjoyed my 34 years with BMW,” said Theissen. “I was fortunate enough to spend my entire working life with a fascinating company which constantly provided me with challenging projects.
“For me the motorsport project was the culmination of everything that had gone before. Extremely tight deadlines, forward and backward steps in two-weekly cycles, triumph and disappointment – and all this in the public eye. It was a fantastic time.
“During this period I met many interesting people, some of whom have become very good friends. I owe my colleagues a particular vote of thanks. Their untiring efforts ensured that BMW is a regular visitor to the podium, and that the motorsport history of BMW has a few more chapters now.
“Naturally I must also thank my family. During the past few years a few things obviously strayed, literally, off-track, and thus I am looking forward to a considerably more peaceful period in my life.”
At BMW for 34 years, Theissen started out in the engine analysis department. He devoted the first half of his career at the company to the development of production cars. The second half of his career comprised of five years in an innovative projects role, before his 12 year tenure as motorsport director.
His first major event in the role was the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans, which resulted in triumph for BMW V12 LMR. His time in Formula 1 began with the partnership with Williams in 2000 and ended in 2009 after four years at the helm of the BMW Sauber team. The undoubted highlight of his time in F1 was the 1-2 scored by BMW Sauber at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix. Theissen and BMW Motorsport have also enjoyed success in touring cars and endurance racing, including three straight World Touring Car Championship drivers' and manufacturers' titles from 2005 to 2007.
“With the retirement of Mario Theissen an era in BMW Motorsport has ended,” said Dr Klaus Draeger, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG with responsibility for development.
“During his 12-year service he kept the BMW flag flying remarkably high. Whether in Formula 1, in endurance racing, touring cars or in young driver development programmes: Under Mario Theissen's leadership BMW Motorsport celebrated success in all relevant disciplines.
“We are bidding farewell not only to an outstanding engineer and team principal, but also to an arch motorsport enthusiast. I would like to thank Mario Theissen heartily for his contributions, and am convinced he will continue to follow all motorsport disciplines which feature BMW participation with the same level of enthusiasm.”