One of the most important engineers in the history of BMW has passed away. Paul Rosche, who worked for BMW in various roles between 1957 and 1999, died at the age of 82 in his home town of Munich on Tuesday. You might know him better if we reminded you that he was the mastermind that led the development of the legendary BMW S70/2 mill that powered the McLaren F1 car.
Camshaft calculations for sports engines was always Paul Rosche’s favourite area, which is why he was given the nickname ‘Nocken-Paule’. In 1957, directly after completing his degree, he joined BMW and, over the course of his 42 years as an employee, he guided the company into Formula One twice.
Before joining BMW Motorsport in 1975 as head of the design of the BMW M1 production and racing engines, Rosche was involved in the research and development department under the charge of Alexander von Falkenhausen. In 1969, he designed the 2-litre turbo engine with which BMW won the European Touring Car Championship.
In 1980, Rosche, as Technical Managing Director of BMW Motorsport GmbH, along with Dieter Stappert, laid the foundation for BMW’s first Formula One involvement, and, as head of the engine project, was also a key factor for the success of the BMW engines in the turbo era. Rosche and his team turned a four-cylinder production unit displacing just 1.5 litres into a potential world championship winner. Sixteen valves, a turbocharger and – in a first for Formula One – digital motor electronics all helped the engine to post an initial output of around 800 hp. The Brabham BMW made its grid debut at the start of the 1982 season; just 630 days later Nelson Piquet scooped the World Championship. By 1987 the turbo unit had nine grand prix wins under its belt and its potential seemed almost inexhaustible. When asked about the F1 engine’s maximum power output, Rosche once replied in his inimitable, irresistible manner: “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 triumph in Formula One was the most spectacular, but far from a solitary success spawned by the ideas of the thoroughbred engineer born in Munich in 1934. Other power units that came out of Rosche’s fold were the large 2.0-litre four-valve four-cylinder engine, which racked up more than 150 race wins and six titles in the Formula 2 European Championship, as well as the 6.0-litre V12 engine that won the Le Mans race in 1995 and 1999. Rosche’s term of office 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, as well as a new kind of driving pleasure on the road.
Following the retirement from Formula One of BMW in 1987, Rosche continued as Technical Managing Director of the BMW M GmbH until 1996. Subsequently, as Technical Director and Managing Director of BMW Motorsport Limited, he led BMW into Formula One as an engine manufacturer for a second time. In 1999, Rosche entered retirement and today we're saying goodbye to a brilliant mind and a good person altogether.