What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
My first job in the automotive industry was with Toyota Motorsport, where I started as a development engineer. I’ve been interested in motorsports since I was a teenager. All boys are probably fascinated by fast cars, but even at an early age, I was mainly interested in the technical aspects of the car. That is why I decided to study mechanical engineering. I was lucky enough to get a job in top-level motorsports straightaway.
Probably developing the Cosworth Formula One engine, which was the first ever to run at 20,000 rpm. This set a new standard for F1 engines – and we did it under very difficult circumstances, with a small budget and a small staff. At the end of the day, it was not only about developing this engine, but also about deriving a very successful long-term strategy and forming an extremely strong team. My work at Porsche is building on this experience.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
I once entered into a contract in which important conditions were not fully confirmed, and it did not turn out the way it was supposed to. This taught me to never sign a contract until everything has been completely confirmed and settled.
What is your current challenge at work?
I am responsible for the Porsche LMP1 project. We are basically building a team and infrastructure from scratch, defining processes, and developing what is probably the most complex racecar ever – all in a very short period of time. Of course, internal and external expectations are high for Porsche’s return to top-level motorsports..
What about the auto industry surprises you?
I am surprised by the hype about electric cars. My expectation is that fully electric cars will remain a niche market for the foreseeable future. For the mass market, I expect a new trend to emerge around hybrid cars with engines powered by natural gas.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
My father, may he rest in peace, said many times to me: “Learn as much as possible.”
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Think about what you enjoy doing. You will be good at something you really enjoy.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
I would first take some time to understand the business, the team and the company culture so I could make meaningful improvements rather than just making changes for the sake of change. This would also help me to develop a long-term strategy. What I enjoy most about business is working with a highly motivated group of intelligent people who are enthusiastic about achieving a very challenging goal. That is what drives me: the combination of a huge challenge, some form of competition, and working with a good team.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I am very happy with what I am doing right now. This is what I always wanted: to have a challenging leadership role in a very demanding project in top-level motorsports. But I could also imagine changing directions at some point in the future, to broaden my horizons. I am entrepreneurial in everything I do, always seeking a challenge.
What do you do to relax?
The little free time I have I spend with my family. The children are getting bigger now, and I enjoy doing sports and other activities with them.
A 1975 BMW 2002, which I restored myself at the age of 17. I still have it.
A Porsche 911. It is the best car I have ever driven.
2011-present: Technical director (LMP1 project), Porsche, Stuttgart, Germany
2006-2011: Head of advanced technologies, Red Bull Technology, Milton Keynes, England
2003-2006: Head of Formula One development, Cosworth, Northampton, England
January-September 2003: Head of WRC department, Cosworth, Northampton
2000-2002: Head of WRC development, Cosworth, Northampton
1997-2000: Development engineer, Toyota Motorsport, Cologne, Germany