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Alex Wurz turns 50 – from BMX to F1: “You gotta kick, kick”

Alex Wurz turns 50 – from BMX to F1: “You gotta kick, kick”

Younger racing fans probably know him best as a Formula 1 commentator on ORF.

The end of his premier class driving career (three podium finishes with three different teams) was almost 17 years ago. The final stage of his long-distance journey as a works driver for Peugeot (2008-2011) and Toyota (2012-2015) took eight years and brought him a second overall win at Le Mans.

Busy businessman and racing father Alex Wurz turns 50 on February 15.

“Of course it's a bigger Christmas. But it doesn't bother me because I still have a lot of planning. I'm full of joy. I can live with that,” says the native of Lower Austria and Monaco by choice.

He learned a lot from his parents, father Franz (three-time European Rallycross Champion) and mother Bertha, especially: “Nothing comes from nothing. You have to put in the extra effort.”

Beginnings with Walter Lechner

Already in cycling, when he became a BMX world champion at the age of 12, Alex learned: “You have to be the first one to the start, kick, kick, kick, and be the first to start pedaling again after going down. Hill. Train hard, have visions, to compete against the best. I made it. Then it was time to make dreams and try to make them come true. I practically grew up in driving technology centers (which Father Franz ran, note), and earned pocket money by cleaning cars , I accompanied the coaches and “was able to use fuel a little in the evening. “I learned a lot about car dynamics, kinetic energy and tire management.”

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He began his stint as a young driver in Formula Ford with the busiest Austrian trainer, Walter Lechner.

It was a time without amenities, but it was still “amazing. We traveled all over Europe, slept in the van, took snacks with us, everything to save money. It was a wonderful time that I didn't want to miss.”

Take advantage of opportunities

The first fights in Formula 3 came with several opponents, whom he later met again in Formula 1. Then came the summer of 1996 (Alex was 22 years old at that time), which marked the beginning of his professional career.

It was a coincidence that he raced at Le Mans with Manuel Reuter and Davy Jones in a TWR Porsche, but he took advantage of the unique opportunity and got off to a great start with a surprise victory: “That was really cool, driving like a carefree young man, driving the race, “not making any mistakes.” . That's how Formula 1 testing came about.”

“Who is Wurtz?”

Photo: © JEBA

On the recently completed A1 circuit in the summer of 1996, Peter Sauber helped the young Wurz get his first Formula 1 feel, just weeks after Le Mans. In the fall, at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril, his then-principal Peter Kremer approached Benetton team boss Flavio Briatore about a testing opportunity for Alex. “Who is Wurtz?” It was the first exact replica of the famous Italian inaccuracy.

But the test came, and the rest is history: Benetton test driver and replacement for Gerhard Berger in three races in 1997, a sensational third place at Silverstone, regular driver from 1998 to 2000, then a “return” to (McLaren) Mercedes.

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At Imola 2005 as a substitute for Montoya and third after correcting the results, he then returned to racing with Williams. With a third place in Montreal 2007 – in the race in which Lewis Hamilton celebrated his first victory…

Formula 1 was a different kind of victory

“My Formula 1 career didn't go quite as I imagined, but looking back I think, OK. What I learned, what it enabled me to achieve, the relationships, understanding the processes, rolling up my sleeves again,” Wurz admits. “And again, motivating yourself, that was all that was important. I scored some points and podium positions, which was not enough for me, but among the best in the world it was not enough to get to the top. But I look back fondly.”

Photo: © Getty

And at the end of the long journey: “Le Mans in particular was a childhood dream. It was great times with teammates who built each other up.”

With the highlight of Peugeot's second victory at Le Mans, after the Frenchman's withdrawal in 2012, he moved to Toyota (where he remains a consultant to the WEC team today).

The checkered flag for racing driver Wurz came after four years in the World Endurance Championship (five wins) with a third place in the 2015 final in Bahrain.

The name remains

The transition to busy businessman has been smooth: head of the mountain bike team with Markus Reiner (“We have invested and taken back World Cup victories, overall victories and Olympic medals”), advisor at Williams and then at Toyota, president of the GP Drivers Association, confidant of several of the federation's top officials International Motors.

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Alex inherited his father's 'legacy' by taking over the Test and Training company which he transformed from concept drive technology to racetrack design: 'We have design orders worth over a billion dollars. We are currently working on three racetracks suitable for Formula 1 in a few projects Other small. I also have some investments and will continue to be fully involved.”

The family man says his biggest “prize” is Julia, whom he met at Benetton. “And of course our three laid-back boys. Felix also started motorsport, but is now focusing on his studies in England. He also works as a DJ and is always in demand at parties. Charlie is moving up to Formula 3 for the European Championship this year, Oscar is competing in Formula 4. They are the generation Fourth of the racing drivers among the Wurzens.

Because Alex's grandfather was also a racing driver. The Wurz name will remain well known in motorsport.