BMW's Paul Rosche must go down as one of
the most influential engine designers this
century. He's been with BMW around 40
years, and I think it's fitting that he should be
remembered on his retirement. He's up there with
Alfa's Vittono Jano and Ferrari's Gioacchini
Colombo; he just happened to work in a more
modern era. There's an important thing that's
dying alongside Paul retiring, too: the big
company guru. Paul was a guru, an example to
the young engineers. He could do virtually
anything he liked within BMW. He built Fl
engines on the OT, and he could experiment,
because BMW Motorsport didn't operate like a
large company. He was one of the old-school
engineers: hands-on, with fantastic ideas and
theoretical knowledge and, above all, real depth
I've known him for 25 years. We had an
incredibly successful time together with no
arguments, few misunderstandings and very few
mistakes through all the Formula One years, and
during the McLaren Fl engine programme, which
was fraught from a timescale point of view. By the
time Paul said we could do the Fl engine, it was a
year behind. But his guys had a runner 13 months
after the first discussion.
I remember back in 1983, when McLaren won
the Fl championship. During practice at the old
Kyalami circuit, we had this engine upside down in
the grass the night before the race, with the crank
out because ofa problem. Paul took the cylinder
head off and found that it was something to do
with the mixture control, and fixed it. And that
was the weekend we won the championship.
He had a fantastic relationship with Nelson
Piquet, too. He took the practical jokes Nelson
used to play on him tremendously well for a man
in his position. Paul usually took a nap after lunch;
he used to curl up in his 7-series for 15 minutes.
One day, Nelson tank-taped up all the doors so
Paul couldn't get out and left a window slightly
open. Then he found me in the pits and asked:
'What do I need to make smoke?' I told him an oily
rag that's not quite on fire. So he got a rag, dipped
it in oil and chucked it in the car, and of course Paul
woke up and couldn't get out.
That sort of thing used to happen alongside the
hard work. There was a camaraderie that you don't
find among senior people. A character like that is
'Rosche wouldn't always do things in a measured, scientific
way. It the engine blew up, it blew up' someone who can be
pleasant but powerful and knowledgeable and still enjoy a bit
of fun. And he would always do things in a measured,
scientific, Germanic way. He'd take the wastegate
off, or give the engine more advance, or spray
some water on it. If it blew up, it blew up.
The 318 block we used to use was absolutely
standard up to 1lOObhp. But if we took the
wastegate off, that was really hanging the engine
out. If it made a lap, it made 1300 horsepower.
But we often broke an engine in half lengthways.
Paul looked at the cross-section between the main
bearing ribs (this web stops the head pulling off
the block), and there wasn't enough strength
there. We could make a new pattern for a block
mid-season, so he did a quick mod when the block
was cast, using a bit of wood to scratch away the
sandcast to make a thicker web.
For me, he is the father of modern BMW
engines. He did the classic six-cylinder engine and
the four-valve versions of the bigger six. He
developed reliable, high specific output engines,
and nobody had done that in the early days of
BMW. He could build long-stroke engines that
revved without flying to pieces and still deliver
great chunks of torque. He started telemetry with
Bosch, too. Back in 1981-82, it was a biscuit tin you
could put your grandmother in (and which just
relayed engine revs and temperatures), but he
became very influential in engine mapping.
When we were specifying the Fl road car
engine, for instance, I wanted the pick-up to be as
instantaneous as possible, which was why I used a
carbon clutch - three kilos instead of 10. Then we
thought about having no flywheel, and one of his
chief engineers said: 'We can't build an engine
without one.' Paul turned to him and said: 'Have
you ever designed an engine without a flywheel
before?' The guy said no, and Paul replied: 'Well,
donít say that until you have.'
Nobody's going to build an engine like the Fl's
6.0-litre V12 again - an engine that revs like that
and drives like that, with instantaneous response,
meets Californian emissions and wins Le Mans first
time out. For me, it's the ultimate road car engine.
I'm sure Paul is going to go on and design more,
but this is the end of his BMW business. That's how
I'd like to remember his career with BMW.