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OCTOBER 18, 2008

Dieter Stappert 1942-2008

Dieter Stappert has died at the age of 66. The former head of BMW Motorsport was a great fan of motorsport and did much to build up the sport in the course of his life. Born in Villach in Austria in 1942, Stappert's interest in the sport was fired by the exploits of Jochen Rindt. He saw his first Grand Prix at Silverstone, having ridden from all the way on a Vespa motor scooter. He joined the Swiss motorsport magazine Powerslide and rose to be editor until 1977 when he joined Jochen Neerpasch's team at BMW Motorsport. One of his first programme was the BMW Junior Team which promoted Eddie Cheever, Manfred Winkelhock and Marc Surer through the ranks. Eventually all three became Formula 1 drivers. At the time BMW was heavily involved in touring cars and in Formula 2 but it also became involved in the successful Procar series. Neerpasch tried to convince the BMW board to enter F1 with a turbo engine but was refused and quit the company to work with Talbot. Stappert took over and in 1980 the BMW board was persuaded to change its mind. The first Paul Rosche-designed engine was tested at the end of 1980 and began racing in 1982, winning its first race with Nelson Piquet in Canada in June that year. The engines went on to score eight more wins in F1 and powered Piquet to the World Championship in 1983. In the same period he pushed the careers of young rivers through touring cars, notably Christian Danner and Gerhard Berger, who both enjoyed considerable support from the Munich company. At the end of 1986 BMW announced that it was withdrawing from F1 and sold the rights to the engines were sold to Megatron. Stappert departed and 1986 to 1996 became the Motorsports Manager for Austrian tobacco company HB, acting as the team manager of the HB 250cc team. He then became the team boss and the team went through a series of different sponsors and different names. Stappert suffered a heart attack in the summer and had been in hospital ever since.