Here’s The Story Behind The Best Touring Car Film We’ve Seen
Photography supplied by stereoscreen.de
Have you not yet seen Adrenalin: The BMW Touring Car Story? Well, even if you’re opposed to the occasional subtitle, this story of BMW’s early years in touring car racing is astounding. There were people changing teams, whole categories of vehicles being invented (where do you think BMW M came from?), and drivers battling in some of the most intense contests in racing.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Tim and Nick Hahne, the petrolheads behind the film—and here’s what they’ve got to say about that part of automotive history.
Christian Baumann: Why are you making a documentary about the history of BMW Touring Car racing?
Tim Hahne (Director): It was about time! As Steve Soper says in the film, “If you’re a Formula 1 driver you want to drive for Ferrari. And if you’re a touring car driver, you want to drive for BMW”. No other brand has continuously and so successfully operated over such a long period of touring car racing, plus with such iconic cars like the M3 and charismatic drivers like Hans-Joachim Stuck, Marc Surer, Joachim Winkelhock—the list is endless—actually, a miracle that this film didn’t already exist!
Nick Hahne (producer): We have been working closely with BMW since our first motion picture 24 Hours: ONE TEAM. ONE TARGET. And when you are talking with a very enthusiastic BMW press man, then there arises at some point the question of, “Why isn’t there a movie about BMW touring car history?” Now there it is!
CB: Do you both have a personal connection to motorssport?
TH: Yes, for sure, it’s quite funny—because our uncle Hubert (Hahne) opens the film. He was in the ’60s the most successful touring car driver for BMW. Armin [Hahne], another uncle, drove also for BMW in the good old DTM times. So, for family reasons, we knew the ropes even before starting the film project about the successful history of BMW…
NH: At family gatherings, there are often more racers present than in the paddock [laughs]. Also, our cousin Jörg van Ommen was successful in the DTM and ITC, and our father has driven a lot of races on the Nordschleife. So, a lot of petrolheads together…
CB: What similarities and differences did you learn about the drivers? What unites them all; what makes them different?
TH: The old warhorses had fun talking about the old days with BMW, and had a hoard of anecdotes. Even Hans-Joachim Stuck, today a brand ambassador for Volkswagen, was immediately on fire for the project. Or [Joachim] “Jockel” Winkelhock: Our interview took place during the lunch break of Opel driver training! He came with the Opel-shirt, changed quickly, and then told us that his years with BMW were the most beautiful in his career. But the current BMW drivers were very enthusiastically the same. It is not true that they are all marketing robots. The passion is still there—only the circumstances make it more difficult for them…
NH: Race driving has changed dramatically in recent years. The sport has become much more technical and highly professional. But if racers talk about their wheel-to-wheel duels, then you see their shining eyes, that fascination continues unabated—now and then.
CB: What are your favorite BMW Touring Cars and why?
TH: For me, it is the M3; of course, I mean the E30, like all the DTM drivers. When I hear their sound from afar…I was 17 or 18, when the M3 fought the big duels with the Mercedes-Benz 190s and Ford Cossies in the DTM. Forty cars and crowded stands, for me this was the golden age of touring car racing. Lots of nostalgia.
NH: Clearly, the M3 E30. That intake noise has almost burned into my mind.
CB: Do you both have a dream car…or already have one?
TH: [laughs] Because there are so many. The BMW M1 is definitely one. But also the Lamborghini Miura and the Ford GT40. These kind of cars are no longer built today.
NH: My first car was a Mini. It was love at first sight. And for a few years, I’ve had a Mini Cooper British Open Edition, one of the last “real” Minis. Unfortunately, the car spends too much time in the garage. Film making doesn’t allow a lot of time.
CB: What has drawn an audience and fans at the beginning of touring car racing, compared with today?
TH: For sure, it was the time of racing car adventurers. It now looks to me as if there was a kind of gold-rush mood and recklessness. On and off the track. The original cool guys, the tough fights, the paddock parties, a kind of cool anarchy. That was fascinating. Racing allowed space for oddities, simply because not everything was perfect. Steve Soper helped the mechanics for his bad conscience when he again crashed an M3 and the car had to be repaired overnight. A Jockel Winkelhock partied all night long out of frustration over a bad training result, and the next day he won the race —by the way, a story that we tell in Adrenaline. It was just a great time, just much more human. And you could watch the cars and drivers in the paddock. Could watch them shifting and steering. Each driver had his own style.
I think today fascinates because of the perfection and the logistical effort. But there are still some very interesting races today!
CB: What makes BMW Motorsport history so unique compared to other brands? Is there a reciprocal relationship between BMW and their fans and customers?
TH: BMW has a very strong fan culture. Simply because BMW has always been there, and you could see cars like the M3 on the road around your neighbourhood, and at the same time it was built for racing. BMW built cars one can identify with. BMW touring car racing has a special meaning for the company, as their slogan Freude am Fahren (Loosely “driving pleasure” or, “the joy of driving” in English–Ed.) shows. And the drivers always lived and breathed this philosophy.
NH: Touring car racing and BMW are inseparable. This is the DNA of BMW. Just the rumor of the re-entry of BMW in the DTM series has revived the whole industry. That is the proof that without BMW, there is no touring car racing.
CB: The archive material is one of the highlights of the film—how difficult is it to find the old archive material?
NH: Finding the material is one thing, but that’s not all. First, you have to determine if you are allowed to use the material for your project, and if so, on what terms—talking about royalties. The older the material, the more difficult it is to get it. This topic has given me some sleepless nights, believe me. And once you found everything you have to sort out, it’s 120 minutes for nearly 50 years of BMW Touring car history: meaning just 2.5 minutes per year.
CB: How important was the decision for BMW to bring touring car motorsport into the USA?
TH: Motorsport in the USA was very important for BMW. That is also a chapter in our movie. From “British Motor Works” to Bavarian Motor Works. Hard to believe that the brand BMW didn’t hardly mean anything to the Americans back in the mid ’70s, until the yodelling Stucki (Hans Joachim Stuck) and his colleagues Ronnie Peterson, David Hobbs and Co. partied the tracks of Daytona, Laguna Seca, and Sebring. That was groundbreaking for BMW. We noticed that also with Adrenaline—Americans are crazy for the film, the fan culture there is really active.
CB: Jochen Neerpasch; what is his part in BMW and for motorsports? Can you describe him?
TH: Jochen Neerpasch, in my eyes, is the most important personality in the BMW racing history, and perhaps even beyond that. He was a visionary at all levels. And an analyst who has ever wondered what you can do better, or what needed to be reinvented.
He was open-minded about any new idea, such as for the BMW Art Cars. He knew that the appearance, the show has to be perfect. Under his direction, BMW created the M-Colors, that re-branded BMW until today. The list is endless. He knew what it takes to win races and fans. And very important for us: he also knew that you have to document BMW’s commitment to motorsports. That was an upside of marketing, the fantastic films that were shot during that time. Neerpasch always was one step ahead. At the premiere of our film, he was very excited. That was the accolade for our work.
CB: Do you have both a not-yet-realized dream project?
TH: There are some dream projects. Racing documentaries are very trendy at the moment. But a dream project must not necessarily deal with cars. The America’s Cup, for example, excites me, as a motion picture for cinema. But better not to talk about immature projects…
CB: What kind of feedback did you get for this movie?
TH: Crappy, of course—and we were all hugely disappointed [laughs] No, we were completely surprised about the amount of positive, and often euphoric feedback. We really had the finger on the pulse worldwide. For example, at a recent cinema performance in Prague—where, by the way also some Petrolicious clips were shown—we had standing ovations!
NH: Our critics are usually nuts on motorsport, and so they cannot get enough of historical film material. They maybe ask us: why didn’t you show this race, or that fight? But it is not that easy, because not all races have been filmed…then you have to find the archive material, and are you allowed to use it? We had “only” 120 minutes…maybe let’s think about a 4-hour “Directors Cut”!
CB: What was your last film project? What are you working on?
TH: We have recently completed No Limits, a new feature documentary about Alex Zanardi’s adventure at the 24 Hours of Spa. That was one of our dream projects! Currently, we are travelling from one film festival to another, something we really enjoy to the fullest. Of course, we are thinking about new projects but nothing is really definite yet.
Special thanks to Tim and Nick Hahne for their time spent talking about Adrenalin; the film has been released digitally to watch on demand, like, right now—and you’re also able to buy a digital download. Their next film, No Limits, is out now.