Paul Rosche at 80 – Tribute to the Legendary BMW Engine Maker

Paul Rosche will like it.” Fifteen years after his retirement, someone who has that said to them within the engine department of the BMW Group means that what they have created is good.  No, not good, great.  Paul Rosche is a thought of with reverence, and the legendary engine maker has turned 80 years of age.

I will be honest – before today I had not known anything about Paul Rosche – I had not got into Formula 1 until 1988, and BMW had left the sport by then.  But today has opened my eyes, and I have to admit Rosche was something special.

Rosche is thought of as the ‘father’ of the BMW turbo engine that powered the Brabham driver Nelson Piquet to the 1983 Formula One World Championship.  It was Rosche’s determination that made BMW make the decision to enter F1 in the early 1980’s, and it would change the way F1 engines were made.

The result of Rosche’s vision was a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, 16-valve turbocharged engine, complete with Digital Motor Electronics, which was a new innovation for Formula 1.  The initial output of the engine was 800 horsepower, and the engine debuted at the beginning of the 1982 season.  The next year the engine took Piquet to the championship, and overall until BMW pulled the turbo engine from the sport at the end of 1987, it had won nine races.

Asked about the F1 engine’s maximum power output, Rosche once said: “It must have been around 1,400 hp; we don’t know for sure because the dyno didn’t go beyond 1,280 hp.

The 1983 World Championship car was last seen at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed at the hands of Piquet; the Brabham BMW BT52 having undergone a lot of restoration work, and amongst the thirty-plus of the original mechanics that assisted the restoration was none other than Paul Rosche himself.

Born in 1934 in Munich, Germany, Rosche was also responsible for other engines in his almost forty years of service.  This included the 2.0-litre, 16-valve four cylinder engine that won over 150 races and six championships in the Formula 2 European Championship, plus the 6.0-litre V12 engine that won the 1995 and 1999 24 hours of Le Mans.

The 2.0-litre turbo engine under the bonnet of the BMW 2002 that won the 1969 European Touring Car Championship was also of Rosche’s making, as was the six-cylinder engines of the BMW 320i and BMW 323i models from 1975 and 1978 respectively.

In 1975 he started out at BMW Motorsport GmbH as head of development of production and racing engines for the BMW M1, and from 1979 to 1996 was the companies Technical Director.  Rosche’s term of office not only saw the BMW Group enter Formula One as an engine supplier, but also witnessed the development of the engine for the first-generation BMW M3, which was to be the basis of the most successful touring car in the world.

So happy 80th Birthday Paul Rosche.  Your place in Formula 1 history is secure.  Continue to enjoy your retirement, you have earned it.