Munich, 8th September 2003. BMW's Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger bids a fond farewell. The coming race weekend, 12th to 14th September, marks his final Formula One involvement for BMW at the Italian Grand Prix. It was announced at the start of the season that the 44-year-old Austrian will not be extending his contract for this post when it runs out at the end of the month.
"It was a tough decision," says Berger. "It has been great doing the job and working together with BMW, but after almost 25 years of leading the life of a vagabond, I just want to take things a bit easier."
After 14 years and 210 Grands Prix as a Formula One driver, the motor sportsman from Austrian Tyrol took up his post as BMW Motorsport Director in October 1998. His new job at the top in tandem with Mario Theissen turned into a similar success story. In 1999 BMW won both the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Sebring 12 Hour race with the BMW V12 LMR against the toughest of competition.
In the debut race marking BMW's Formula One comeback in March 2000 in Melbourne, BMW went straight into third place. By the end of the season the BMW WilliamsF1 Team had taken third place in the FIA Formula One Constructors' World Championship, as it would do in 2001 as well. In 2002, the BMW and WilliamsF1 partnership forged ahead into second place in the Constructors' Championship. Now, in 2003, the team is already competing for the title.
Alongside its Formula One involvement, BMW also triumphed in the 2001 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) with the M3 GTR, winning the manufacturers', team and drivers' championships. Between 1999 and 2002 BMW collected a total of 38 touring car titles.
In the field of junior talent promotion, 2002 saw the debut of the Formula BMW, an ultra-modern single-seater employed as the standard vehicle in the German Formula BMW ADAC Championship. An Asian counterpart series was also launched in 2003.
"This string of successes is down to the fact that we have managed to create a truly first-rate team that has shown tremendous enthusiasm and commitment. I will be staying in touch with the BMW brand and the entire team at BMW Motorsport beyond 2003 as well," says Berger.