Heroes

Right on track: Bruno Spengler and the new M4

The 2012 DTM champion puts the new BMW M4 Coupe through its paces and discusses the best recipe for ultimate performance.

Interview
Jan Kirsten Biener
Photos
Simon Puschmann

Bruno Spengler, you moved over to Europe from Canada when you were 17 to become a racing driver. Where does this passion for motor sport come from?
Bruno Spengler: My father had to put up with constant badgering from the back seat whenever I was in the car as a kid. I was all “Drive faster, Dad!”, “Overtake, Dad!” My father had been on the lookout for a good car and in 1994 bought himself a BMW M3. Even as a five-year-old I wanted to know all the details. And I made him keep the engine’s revs high because I wanted to hear how it sounded. I had no problem listing the differences between BMWs from various model years. The passion was there early.

Do you come from a racing family?
Spengler: Not at all. My parents only started encouraging me when I was discovered by chance at a karting track. The moment I went out there I hit the right line.

Many of us had a dream car when we were kids which we’ll adore for as long as we live. Do you have one too?
Spengler: Yes, the 1994 M3 – the one my father had. The sound, the 286 horsepower... I still love that car. It was black, like my current race car.

Exactly 20 years later, you are lining up for the current season in the successor to the BMW M3 DTM – the BMW M4 DTM, the racing version of the BMW M4 Coupe. You were involved in the development of the car: what makes the road version stand out?
Spengler: Its uncompromised dynamics and the elegant proportions of its design. I did a few tests at the Nürburgring in the development phase for the road version, and that was really exciting. The development of racing cars is focused solely on performance. A road car has to be sporty and powerful, but also amenable and easy to drive. It has to have every tool in its locker. The road-spec M4 has a new six-cylinder engine which is unbelievably powerful. You can feel it as soon as you touch the accelerator. There’s none of the lag you would maybe expect from a turbocharged engine, the power is just there the moment you need it.


Bruno Spengler – a model racing driver
Bruno Spengler is a Canadian citizen. He was born in France and grew up near Montreal. His career as a racing driver began early. He moved to Europe as a 17-year-old in order to race, making his debut in the DTM aged 22. When BMW returned to the series in 2012, the fluent German speaker was recruited by BMW Team Schnitzer and won the drivers’ title in his first season with the team. Spengler is driving the new BMW M4 DTM in 2014.

“The road-spec M4 has a new six-cylinder engine which is unbelievably powerful. You can feel it as soon as you touch the accelerator.”

Bruno Spengler

431 hp makes light work of 1,497 kg. “Less weight makes for improved dynamics, agility and ultimately lower fuel consumption,” explains racing driver Bruno Spengler.

If you believe the blurb, every car is “sporty” nowadays. What are the signs of a car that is genuinely sporty?
Spengler: There are some clear criteria. The gearbox is important. Shifting up through the gears should feel like it does in a racing car. And when you’re shifting down, the throttle blipping has to be spot on. Then the suspension: how the car reacts to imperfections in the road surface – and it must never wallow through corners.

How do you get a feeling for a car?
Spengler: You have to consciously observe what the car is doing. The driver, car and road have to become a single entity. It all starts with your seating position. If I sit high up, it gives me the sense that I’m driving on the roof of the car. And that means I don’t have that feeling for the rear axle. I always adjust my seat very low so that I’m closer to the road. That allows me to react better to what’s going on in the race or on the road.

This may sound like a stupid question, but why are there racing and road-spec versions of a car?
Spengler: Fortunately a road version offers significantly greater comfort and safety. A racing version makes no compromises. A racing driver has in-depth knowledge of a track. For example, he knows exactly where the bumps and braking points are. And that means he can react more quickly.

What features will you have on the racing version that road car drivers won’t get?
Spengler: The aerodynamic add-ons, the rear wing, the carbon chassis as a whole. The exhaust pipes exit to the side – below the doors – rather than at the rear of the car. I have carbon brakes instead of ceramic ones. The underbody has an aerodynamic design. And inside there’s only one seat, of course, not four. The steering wheel is much smaller and completely different in design. It has a lot more functions: a racing driver controls almost everything from the steering wheel.

The road-spec BMW M4 is more powerful, larger and lighter than its predecessor…
Spengler: Less weight makes for improved dynamics, agility and ultimately lower fuel consumption. In racing, it often comes down to thousandths of seconds. So on some circuits ten kilograms can equate to as much as one-and-a-half tenths per lap. In qualifying that can mean a difference of five positions.


The Hungaroring
This race circuit in a valley on the outskirts of Budapest was built in 1986. Its layout features a large number of corners, making it a hugely demanding track. The 4.381-kilometre-long circuit has returned to the DTM race calendar in 2014 after several years away.

The passion was there early: as a five-year-old Bruno Spengler wanted to know everything about cars. From the back seat he would constantly be urging his father to “Drive faster, Dad!”

What impresses Spengler about the M4 are its uncompromising dynamics, elegant proportions of the design and the sound: “I often get goosebumps when I start the engine.”

As a racing driver, can you still enjoy everyday driving on the road?
Spengler: Absolutely. I often get goosebumps when I start the engine. Driving pleasure doesn’t actually have that much to do with speed. When you’re driving along a small road at 50 km/h or so, for instance, windows down and the sound of the engine in your ears – that’s also driving pleasure for me.

Can you imagine life without racing?
Spengler: Good question. During the winter break I miss that rush of adrenaline before qualifying, the emotions, the very positive stress when you take pole or win a race. The rules stipulate that we can only test on 15 days during the race season. That’s it. I’d have no objection whatsoever to spending more days in my BMW M4 DTM!


The new BMW M4 Coupe
The genes of the BMW M4 Coupe are rooted in motor sport and stretch back through almost 30 years and five generations. Like the BMW M3 before it, the M4 Coupe embodies uncompromising power, extra lightness and undiluted dynamics. At its heart lies a new six-cylinder engine, which endows the BMW M4 with an awesome 144 hp per litre of displacement, 550 Newton metres of torque and a top line of 7,600 rpm. Superior lightweight design has also been an ever-present trait of the breed. Tipping the scales at 1,497 kg (DIN kerb weight, with manual gearbox), the new M4 Coupe is around 80 kg lighter than its predecessor, despite its larger dimensions. Increased use of lightweight materials, such as carbon, aluminium and magnesium, makes the difference. This weight saving, together with the Active M Differential and optional M carbon ceramic brakes, results in faster lap times. The BMW M4 blends its enhanced dynamic performance in all areas with an average 26 percent drop in fuel consumption over its predecessor.

Bruno Spengler drove the new M4 for BMW Magazine. The Hungaroring was built outside Budapest in 1986 and ranks as a challenging circuit. In 2014 it returned to the DTM calendar.

Model facts

BMW M4 Coupé

Displacement cc

Cylinders

2979

6

Output

kW (hp)

317 (431)

Torque Nm

550

Top speed km/h

250* (280)

Acceleration

0–100 km/h in s

4,3 [4,1]

Fuel consumption (EU)

l/100 km

urban

inter-urban

combined



12,0 [11,1]

6,9 [6,7]

8,8 [8,3]

CO2 emissions

g/km


204 [194]

[...] with 7-speed M Double Clutch Transmission with Drivelogic
* electronically limited

07/11/2014