I am happy where I am, but I would not mind being a chief designer of racecars at some point in my career.
Q: What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
A: In 1989, I was employed by a company called ComputerVision whose clients included Audi, Mercedes, McLaren and Rover as well as aerospace companies such as Rolls-Royce and EADS. My focus has always been on high-tech industries. I did not start working full time in the automotive field until I joined Toyota Motorsport in Cologne in 1997 to work on their LMP (Le Mans prototype) project.
Q: GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
A: Sweeping every racing competition and series that Audi entered in 2008. That included winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) series.
Q: BIGGEST FAILURE AND WHAT IT TAUGHT YOU?
A: There were two. Both came at Le Mans while I was at Toyota. In 1998, we led until our gearbox broke down in the 23rd hour of the race. A year later we were leading the race when one of our cars suffered a tire puncture and the other driver had a bad accident. I learned that no matter how tough the loss is you have to clear your head of the disappointment and focus on the next challenge.
Q: WHAT ABOUT THE AUTO INDUSTRY SURPRISED YOU?
A: That even after more than 100 years the internal combustion engine still powers most of the cars on the road today.
Q: WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT CHALLENGE AT WORK?
A: We are breaking in two new cars, the R18 and R17, for next year's DTM series. In addition, we're starting work on next year's Le Mans racecar with a talented but young team.
Q: WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
A: Never give up and don't play follow the leader.
Q: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A PERSON CONSIDERING A CAREER IN THE AUTO INDUSTRY?
A: Get a solid engineering education with a strong emphasis on the basics and develop a broad knowledge about manufacturing methods as well as the different materials that are used today. With that kind of knowledge and those skills, you can do anything you want.
Q: IF YOU WERE CEO OF A COMPANY WHAT WOULD YOU DO FIRST?
A: One of the first things I would do is make sure that more emphasis was put on developing people who can design a new car from a blank sheet of paper. There are many people who can optimize components, but if they have to start with a blank sheet they have a real problem.
Q: WHAT JOB DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HAVE IN THE FUTURE?
A: I am happy where I am, but I would not mind being a chief designer of racecars at some point in my career.
Q: WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?
A: Listen to music, ski and occasionally compete in private kart races.
Q: FIRST CAR?
A: A 1981 Ford Escort.
Q: CURRENT CAR?
A: Audi A4 with a 3.0-liter diesel engine.