Before taking over as Motorsport Director for BMW from Dr. Mario Thiessen in July of last year, Jens Marquardt had been involved in various motorsport disciplines in some capacity, having originally gained a degree in aerospace technology. He joined Ilmor Engineering in 1996, refining his skills on power plants with racing pedigree, which were destined to be used in Formula One and CART, before joining Toyota Engineering in 2000, and becoming F1 and Team Operations manager in 2008, before he ended up as Business Development Manager in 2009, when the Japanese firm pulled out of Formula 1 at the end of that season.
Along with the current program BMW have from a racing standpoint, the challenge and allure of the DTM was calling the Munich giant back to a former stomping ground, and with the new M3 DTM making a big impact so early on, it was inevitable that results were soon to follow. Speaking exclusively to theCheckeredFlag.co.uk, we asked Herr Marquardt some questions about the season so far for BMW, and his thoughts about how truly special this weekend will be.
We asked him about his emotions as part of a momentous occasion, with nostalgic moments galore, as well as his thoughts of how BMW’s past can help inspire the future of the M3 DTM in the category: “Definitely, BMW has a very special relationship with the Nürburgring, thanks in no small part to the BMW Ring-Taxi, the BMW M Test Center at the foot of the imposing Nürburg Castle, and the BMW Driving Experience. This year, BMW M is celebrating its 40th anniversary. We too will celebrate this birthday in a fitting manner at the Nürburgring. We can look back on a long history of success in the ‘Green Hell’, which includes eight DTM wins between 1984 and 1992, 19 triumphs at the 24-hour race, and many other victories. We are determined to put on another good show there in our DTM comeback season.”
With Andy Priaulx getting the first points of the season for BMW and Bruno Spengler winning at Lausitzring, it shows that the car is a clearly credible and very dangerous opponent to both Audi and Mercedes-Benz. The constantly-evolving speed of the new car is improving each race, with Marquardt also saying about the fact that there are difficult times, even during a comeback year, which has shown some strong results along the way: ” Obviously we were disappointed on some occasions, when we didn’t manage to walk away from a race with the maximum points. However, overall we are really happy with the course of our comeback year.”
But there is no real stand out driver in his eyes, as it is a team effort, Marquardt says, with having such a balanced line-up of youth and experience, with that being a real driving force for the future of the brand’s presence in the DTM: “Only if the drivers work together as a strong team, will we be able to make further steps to improve the car. I think everyone in our line-up has had his special moment in the past races. So we are impressed with all of them.
“It’s not just Bruno and Martin (Tomczyk) being competitive, but also the four DTM rookies. Our drivers are getting better with every race, as experience is a very important factor in DTM.”
It also surprised a lot of people just how quick the new car has been, ever since it was unveiled last year, and one of the main topics for discussions was to find out just how BMW got on the pace since the start of the season, which Marquardt explained in further detail: “It’s all about making full use of the vast experience and technological resources of BMW Motorsport and the BMW Group. We put a big effort into setting up the perfect structures and worked through our development programme with determination, passion and confidence. Obviously being away from the DTM for 20 years we had to start with a white sheet of paper. But with all the expertise and know-how of the people working at BMW we managed to succeed – and were competitive from the word go.”
With all three manufacturers trying to gain the upper hand in the summer break, with hard work being the mantra behind the scenes, as all wanted to make a distinct impression on the return to racing at the Nürburgring this weekend. I asked what steps had BMW taken to try to maximize the M3 DTM’s potential for the second half of the season: “We went testing at Magny-Cours and completed an extensive programme. It’s about all those small things which can make the difference in the ultra-competitive DTM. So we have been looking at every single aspect of the car in order to improve it. That’s what the other manufacturers have done, too. So it will be exciting to see if the balance of power has changed since the last race at the Norisring.”
It is also clear to see that the DTM is a proving ground, and potential stepping stone for aspiring F1 drivers, which has been proven by former 2010 DTM Champion and current Sahara Force India driver Paul Di Resta. Marquardt explains the benefits of competing in this highly challenging race series: “Working in such a professional environment, with such an intense competition and high-level of engineering, the DTM surely is a very good school for every young racing driver.”
Even though BMW have been competitive from the word go, it still didn’t deter Gary Paffett leading the title race coming in to Round 6, but the approach from BMW is simple, clear-cut and very functional, but will have its high and low points along the way: ” Our approach hasn’t changed: We take it race by race. Every circuit is a new challenge for us. Over the course of the season we have proven we are capable of finding the right set-up for the BMW M3 DTM, even at circuits that are new to us. But still it can happen that we will experience disappointing race weekends where it’s much harder for us. We are determined to make the most of our opportunities every weekend. Let’s wait and see where we will end up with this approach after the season finale.”
And even though it’s not yet over in 2012, development will also be a given for the following season, so Jens Marquardt said that there is still a long way until next year, but knows that it won’t be such an easy task after what has been a great return to the DTM for BMW: ” Of course we hope to further raise our game next year, with the experience of a full DTM season under our belts. But our competitors have been in this series for many, many years now and know exactly what they are doing. So we will keep focused on ourselves and work hard. Then I’m sure we will be well-prepared for next year, too.”
With Bruno Spengler now sitting on Pole Position for tomorrow’s race, it could be a weekend for BMW to remember, as well as a historic occasion for the highly-respected and well-renowned Motorsport division that provides excitement, both on and off the track, with the “Ultimate Driving Machine” looking to make its mark in DTM history once again.