PORSCHE ROAD & RACE caught up with the amiable Jörg Bergmeister, to ask him how he has been dealing with the Coronavirus lock-down. With all major motorsport activities on hold or cancelled, and with no end to the Coronavirus outbreak in sight, there is no way of knowing when things will return to a sense of normality.
Those who have been following the sport for some time will know that Jörg Bergmeister has been around Porsche GT cars for quite a long time. In fact, Jörg’s time behind the wheel of a Porsche started back in 1996, when he finished seventh in the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland, scoring one pole and two podiums in his first year. However, Bergmeister’s time in a Porsche began in earnest in ’98, winning the Carrera Cup Deutschland in 2000 and the Porsche Supercup title in 2001, which earned him a full-time seat as Porsche works driver as from 2002.
Bergmeister won the American Le Mans Series a record-breaking five times, and in 2006 he managed this back-to-back with the Grand-Am Series, a feat that no other driver has managed to date. Of all the successes that Jörg Bergmeister has celebrated with Porsche, he is particularly proud of his victories at the famous long distance races: Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring, Nürburgring, Petit Le Mans and Spa. Such a record has made him one of the most successful sports car drivers in the world whilst also making him one of the longest serving Porsche factory pilots.
At the 2019 Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hour race I interviewed Jörg in the team trailer amongst the tyres and spare parts for the Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR. I asked him how he got started with racing, “We got a go-kart for Christmas when my brother was three years old and I was still two years old. We started go-karting mostly in Kerpen at the Michael Schumacher track, we learnt a lot from Michael.” It is of course good to start your career early, so I pressed him further on the source of his family’s inspiration, “It is definitely a big family tradition, my nephew is now the fourth generation in racing! My grandfather started motorcycle racing after the war but my father was not allowed to race motorcycles because his mother would not allow it, so he switched to touring cars. He did some hill climbing first and then competed in the European Touring Car Championship for Audi. With this history, there was no choice at all for my brother and I,” Jörg added with a broad smile.
The affable driver from Langenfeld in Germany is one of the most experienced drivers in the paddock, be that at Le Mans, the Nürburgring (his home track), America or anywhere else for that matter. He is also one the most respected and best liked of the drivers of his era, and he is always ready for a chat and quick with a smile. But all good things must come to an end, and this year Jörg Bergmeister has moved, effortlessly and quite naturally into a new role within Porsche, that of Brand Ambassador. (You can view his comprehensive CV here).
Although his full-time racing career may have come to an end, Bergmeister will still compete from time to time. With his racing, and now his new role as Brand Ambassador, PORSCHE ROAD & RACE asked him how he was dealing with the global shutdown in the sport:
PRR – How have you been affected by the virus?
Jörg – In my new role as Brand Ambassador at Porsche, a lot of appointments have been cancelled, starting with the Geneva Auto Show. But actually, a week later I spent a week with Porsche test driving the cars in Northern Finland in the snow and ice, which was really cool. But since then it has been really quiet.
PRR – If you cannot attend any events, what are you doing with yourself at the moment?
Jörg – Well, mostly entertaining my little one at the moment, he is 2 1/2 years and not yet going to kindergarten, so trying to keep him busy keeps me busy. It is a challenge but it is fun. We spend time outside as much is possible, and luckily, we have a garden and we are still allowed to move around outside so we are pretty fortunate I guess. Normally, in my free time I spend quite a bit of time with my brother helping him with his son’s karting career, but that is also on hold at the moment.
PRR – So are you not doing any driving this year?
Jörg – Well, we will see. My main job now is obviously being a Brand Ambassador and also the development of street cars. I might do a race here and there but this has not been decided as yet. But now we will have to see if any racing is happening to be honest. But the new job, when it starts up again, it is definitely going to keep me more than busy enough.
PRR – As Brand Ambassador, I suppose Porsche might say to you ‘right here is a ticket, we want you here or there on a certain day to meet that person’.
Jörg – Exactly right, but in April for example, it was planned that I would spend about two weeks at the Nordschleife testing the cars which would have been very interesting. So far, they have given me things to do in my new role that was a lot of fun and really exciting.
PRR – What does the team do now, because they can’t really do anything that brings them together so they must work from home?
Jörg – That’s right, I mean obviously, the engineers can do as much paper analysis as they want. You could do simulation work, not simulating driving but different simulations like you would do for set up work, where you don’t really need a driver but just a computer. But for the team, it is definitely a very hard time. If it is only a little delay I think that would be fine, but we are talking about I don’t know, maybe a year of not racing. I think we are definitely in times that nobody has experienced so far and therefore I think you just have to be flexible and deal with the problems as they come up and make the best of it. I mean in the end the drivers and teams will participate in whatever race there is in the championship and go with what the organisers say, so I guess we will just have to wait and see what the ACO and the FIA will do.
PRR – With the Coronavirus outbreak, what are you doing differently?
Jörg – Although my mom is healthy, she is obviously at a higher risk because she is a little older, so I’m trying to keep her in the house and do the shopping for her. Unfortunately, I must keep at least 2 metres distance from her as well, but other than that, as my son and my daughter also not going to school at the moment, the main focus is to try and keep them busy. So for me it is basically just family stuff which I’ve had very little of when I am working, I am obviously away a lot so it is quite a nice break from my normal routine. But hopefully things will return to normal sooner rather than later, I think that will be the best for everyone.
PRR – You drivers like to maintain your training regime and stay fit, what are you doing in that respect?
Jörg – I go running mostly, it is still a little chilly for cycling at the moment. I have a gym in the basement, so on that side nothing has changed for me. I can still go running outside, but I also have a treadmill in the basement for that. I am also thinking of getting a simulator at home too.
PRR – In your new role as Brand Ambassador, do you see yourself driving any classic Porsches in the future?
Jörg – Yes, I mean it obviously depends on timing, but we have already had some talks with the Museum and there might be something coming up in the future. I really like the old cars so I am very open to it and if there is a chance I will definitely take it because, the cars and the history is just amazing.
PRR – All right Jörg, what is your favourite classic racing Porsche?
Jörg – Wow, that is a tough one! A really impressive race car is definitely the 917, so I would probably go with that. I have only driven one slowly, but I would like to drive it a bit quicker. The Moby Dick is cool for sure, it is really one of the classic historic cars and the RS Spyder, if I could sit in it I would like to drive it. That is pretty much the same with the GT1, I cannot fit in it. But definitely if I had the choice, it would be the 917.
Jörg, we wish you all the best in your new role at Porsche, and we hope that you will be able to keep yourself fit and focussed during this challenging time!
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale