BMW News

Paul Rosche, one of BMW's most important engineers for more than four decades—and the man most responsible for the engines that propelled BMW to racing success from the 1960s to the 1990s, from DTM to Formula 1 to Le Mans—passed away on November 15 in his home town of Munich. He had worked at BMW for 42 years.

“We are all very saddened by this news,” said BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt. “Paul Rosche not only represented and characterized the company and the BMW brand with his passion, his vision, and his immense technical expertise over many decades in action on the racetrack. The results of his work—no matter in which car or in which series—were frequently milestones of engineering skill. The loss of Paul Rosche is a loss of an outstanding personality for BMW Motorsport and BMW M. He constantly redefined the limits of what was technically possible. We will preserve this spirit at BMW Motorsport. Our deepest sympathies go to his family and friends.”

After obtaining his engineering degree in 1957, Paul Rosche joined BMW’s engine development division as a designer. One of his first assignments was calculating camshafts for racing engines. He was so good at it that it became his specialty and led to his nickname, “Nocken-Paul” (Camshaft Paul). Even after his retirement, the nickname was used within the company with affection, admiration, and respect.

It’s hard to pick which of Rosche’s successes were the most significant. His camshaft designs were so impressive that he was assigned to help develop all of BMW’s production engines as well as the derivative sport versions. The two-liter turbocharged engine in the BMW 2002 that won the 1969 European Touring Car Championship was a Rosche product. This engine would later be developed into the powerplant for BMW’s first production turbocharged model, the BMW 2002 Turbo.

Rosche put together the two-liter, sixteen-valve, four-cylinder engines that won more than 150 races and six championships, dominating the Formula 2 European series in the 1970s.

Perhaps Paul’s pinnacle came in 1983. As Technical Managing Director of BMW Motorsport GmbH since 1980, he led the effort that took a normal four-cylinder production engine, added turbocharging, sixteen valves, and Formula One’s first digital motor electronics system, and turned it into the engine that eventually propelled Nelson Piquet’s Brabham BT52 to the 1983 Formula One championship. When Paul was asked how much power the engine produced, he answered, “It must have been around 1,400 horsepower; we don’t know for sure because the dyno didn’t go beyond 1,280 horsepower.”

While Rosche was at BMW Motorsports, his department was responsible for the S14 engine that made the first BMW M3—the E30—a benchmark for production sports coupes and a dominant touring car racer.

He was involved in the development of the S70 six-liter V12 engine that made the McLaren F1 the fastest production car in the world at the time, and took 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th in the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans. Four years later, a derivative of that engine powered the BMW V12 LMR to BMW’s first overall win in the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Rosche officially retired at age 65 in 1999 after developing the engine that would power the Williams-BMW FW22 in BMW’s return to Formula 1. He wasn’t totally finished with BMW, however. Among other things, he helped restore the 1983 championship FW22 for its presentation at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Paul Rosche was among those most responsible for BMW’s post-war racing resurgence and success. Besides building great racing engines, he built great production engines that many BMW enthusiasts enjoy to this day.—Scott Blazey

[Photos courtesy of BMW AG.]