Paul Rosche 1934 – 2016

Paul Rosche, the man who led the team which designed the most powerful F1 engines of all, while in charge of the technical team at BMW Motorsport  in the early 1980s, has died at the age of 82.

Rosche joined BMW in the late 1950s after graduating from the Politechnikum in Munich. He joined BMW as a development engineer and was soon a member of the team of engineers, put together by the company’s newly-appointed head of engine development Baron Alexander von Falkenhausen, to develop competition engines, beginning with the BMW 700. This would be followed by the M10 engine which was intended to be an engine to suit a broad variety of applications. The 1499cc block, which could be bored out to 1990cc, was used in the 1500, 1600, 2002, 3 series and 5 series BMWs from the 1960s through the the 1980s, with more than 3.5 million units being produced. This engine would also be the basis of all of the company’s racing engines for the next two decades and Rosche played an important role in developing the M10 and its successors. The engines were initially raced in Lola sportscars by Jo Siffert, Hubert Hahne and others. There then followed the Len Terry-designed BMW 269 and BMW 270 Formula Two cars in 1969–70 but then politics intervened in 1970 and BMW pulled out of racing, ostensibly after the death of Gerhard Mitter, but in reality because it needed to save money. Rosche became a member of the secret development group which Von Falkenhausen kept going until the BMW board could be convinced to return to the sport a couple of years later. In 1973 BMW joined forces with the March factory team in Formula 2 and in the years that followed Rosche developed the engines and the partnership led to a string of European F2 Championship titles. At the same time the engines were used in all of BMW’s successful touring car campaigns.

Von Falkenhausen retired in 1975 and Rosch became the technical head of BMW Motorsport GmbH in his place and, working with Jochen Neerpasch, he helped to try to convince the BMW board to enter Formula 1 with a turbo. It was not easy and a frustrated Neerpasch departed the company. He was replaced by Dieter Stappert and finally, in 1980, the board agreed to the proposal. Rosche already had a prototype designed and  the engine was first tested by the Brabham team at the end of 1980. It was first raced in 1982. The engine was prodigiously powerful but very unreliable although it allowed Nelson Piquet to win in Canada that year. The engines went on to power Piquet to the World Championship in 1983. In the years that followed BMW engines became the most powerful in the history of F1 with output reckoned to be more than 1500 horsepower when turned up in qualifying trim. One horsepower for each cubic centimetre – an amazing statistic.

At the end of 1986, however, the BMW board decided to withdrew from F1 and sold the rights to its engines to Megatron. Rosche turned to developing touring car engines and his E30 M3 engine powered the M3 to more touring car victories than any other car in the history of the sport.

In the 1990s he turned his attention to developing the M70 V12 engine for the McLaren road car, working with former Brabham designer Gordon Murray. The engine was then developed for racing and won the Le Mans 24 Hours in a McLaren in 1995 and later became the engine in the BMW factory sportscar team, built for the company by Williams. This won Le Mans in 1999.

By that time Rosche had begun working on the development of a new 3-litre V10 engine for Formula 1 and this was the unit which made its debut with Williams in 2000. At the end of 1999, however, Rosche retired from BMW, as per the company regulations at the time.