New generation, new training programme: The legendary BMW Junior Team makes its comeback in 2020.

Munich. The legendary BMW Junior Team celebrates its comeback
after more than 40 years. Eddie Cheever (USA), Manfred Winkelhock
(GER) and Marc Surer (SUI) caused a stir in the world of motorsport
in 1977, and 2020 will see a new generation of promising talents
contest races under the name BMW Junior Team. Dan Harper (GBR), Max
Hesse (GER) and Neil Verhagen (USA) will complete a holistic,
first-class, intensive training programme designed to cover two
seasons that will set new standards in the promotion of young
talented drivers. One of their mentors will be the man who founded
the first BMW Junior Team in 1977: Jochen Neerpasch.


The objective of the totally new training concept is to further
develop the Juniors jointly in many different areas, stimulate them
individually and holistically, and thereby make them better and above
all more mature racing drivers. The BMW Junior Team will start its
training program me on 9th January when they move into a shared flat
close to Formula Medicine in Viareggio (ITA), where a training camp
spanning several weeks awaits them. Here the focus will be on fitness
and mental training as fundamental elements of preparing for the race
season. Another pillar of the programme is the team concept. To
strengthen this, once the training camp comes to an end, the Juniors
will move into a shared flat near the Nürburgring (GER), which will
become the focal point of their racing driver training. At the wheel
of various BMW racing cars – from the new BMW M2 CS Racing through the
BMW M4 GT4 to the BMW M6 GT3 – the BMW Junior Team will complete the
entire season of the Nürburgring endurance series as well as the 24
Hours of Nürburgring. On top of the racing commitments come numerous
additional training elements. Sim racing will play a major role, as
will learning about operations away from pure racing, for example, at
BMW M GmbH and in various other areas within the BMW Group.


“I would like to extend a warm welcome to the BMW family to Dan
Harper, Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen as members of the new generation
of the BMW Junior Team,” said BMW Group Motorsport Director Jens
Marquardt. “The rebirth of the legendary BMW Junior Team after more
than 40 years is something very special to us here at BMW Motorsport,
all the more since we were able to secure the founder of the then BMW
Junior Team and of BMW Motorsport GmbH, Jochen Neerpasch, as one of
the mentors for the new generation. This sees tradition and future
meet in what is a perfect configuration from our perspective. The new
Juniors will be a real team and learn a great deal as part of our
holistic, first-class, intensive programme both on and off the track.
Our new concept is based on multiple pillars: racing at the
Nürburgring-Nordschleife, sim racing as a new, future-oriented area,
mental and fitness training at Formula Medicine, training content
within the BMW Group, and team building through living together in
shared accommodation. With this comprehensive concept, we are raising
our junior development to another new level.”


Jochen Neerpasch said: “When I founded the first BMW Junior Team in
1977, we at BMW Motorsport were pioneers in junior development. We
made training young racing drivers a professional undertaking for the
first time. Now, being involved in the advancement of a BMW Junior
Team again after more than 40 years is a real joy. I know from
experience that young drivers learn a lot more quickly when they act
as a team rather than just battling for themselves. It was on this
basis that, in collaboration with those in charge at BMW Motorsport,
the idea of reviving the BMW Junior Team came into being. I’m
fascinated by the thought that these three Juniors will learn together
on the most difficult racetrack in the world and will also receive
training in many other areas. I’m confident that the three of them
will make their way into professional racing. We will do our best to
give them the ideal basis for this.”


The trio making up the new BMW Junior Team has already gained
experience and their first successes in racing. 19-year-old Dan Harper
won the title in the British Carrera Cup in 2019 and his achievements
saw him nominated for the prestigious Autosport Awards. 18-year-old
Max Hesse celebrated winning the title in the rapidly growing touring
car series TCR Germany in 2019. He was also ADAC’s sponsored
candidate. Also 18 years old, Neil Verhagen finished in sixth place
overall in the star-studded British F3 Championship in 2019 and was
part of the Red Bull Junior programme.


During their training, the trio will receive support from other
mentors in addition to Neerpasch. Aside from BMW works driver Philipp
Eng (AUT) and Dr. Riccardo Ceccarelli (ITA) of Formula Medicine, BMW
works driver Dirk Adorf (GER), who has been acting as a mentor for the
BMW Motorsport Juniors since 2011, will have primary responsibility
for looking after the interests of the talented youngsters. “I’m
really looking forward to going through the two-year programme
alongside our Juniors,” said Adorf. “The lads are already very strong
and will be trained by us in all areas offered by the BMW Motorsport
and BMW Group environment. On top of this, they will be learning on
the best racetrack in the world. If they are quick there, they will no
doubt do well everywhere. I am very familiar with the Nürburgring and
am always available there for the Juniors as a primary advisor. With
my track knowledge, but also with my knowledge of the region. When
they are living in a flat there they will also need someone to answer
standard everyday questions. I think that I will be able to help them
get to know lots of people and to feel at home.”


An overview of the 2020 BMW Junior Team:


Dan Harper (GBR).

Date of birth: 8th December 2000

Place of birth: Belfast (GBR)



2019               1st place British Carrera Cup

                       BRDC John Surtees Rising Stars Award

2018               ‘Rookie of the Year’ British Carrera Cup


Dan Harper: “I feel honoured to be allowed to be part of this
exciting programme and am really looking forward to the next two
years. I hope to be able to build on the successful period that I have
enjoyed in recent years. The fact that Neil, Max and I will be working
together as a team is not standard for us as racing drivers, but we
have already got to know each other and get on really well. I think
that we will have a lot of fun and will hopefully be a very strong BMW
Junior Team.”


Max Hesse (GER).

Date of birth: 23rd July 2001

Place of birth: Wernau (GER)



2019               1st place TCR Germany

                       ADAC sponsored candidate

2018               ‘Rookie of the Year’ TCR Germany


Max Hesse: “I think we will have a really cool time together. Since
there are three of us, we can push each other and learn from each
other. I think that’s great, and to be able to represent the colours
of a major manufacturer like BMW in the process and drive all these
fantastic racing cars on the Nordschleife will be totally amazing. I’m
really looking forward to it.”


Neil Verhagen (USA).

Date of birth: 18th February 2001

Place of birth: Mt. Kisco (USA)



2019               6th place British Formula 3 Championship

2017               Red Bull Junior Team

2016               1st place F1600 Championship Series         


Neil Verhagen: “It will be the first time that I have driven GT and
touring cars. It’s going to be a really exciting challenge for me. I’m
sure that I will learn a great deal in the team with Dan and Max. I’m
looking forward to the Nordschleife in particular, because I’ve only
been in action there as a co-driver so far. The track has so much
prestige and history – I would really love to be able to say that I
have driven on it myself and maybe after my training even say that I
do well on that track. I’m also really looking forward to the sim
racing since I’m already active in that area.”