It’s been a long journey – the Norbert Singer interview
Norbert Singer must rank as one of the most successful race engineers in Porsche’s long and glittering motorsport history. Porsche Road & Race spoke to him about his four-decade career with Porsche, the race cars he helped develop and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. “It’s been a long journey,” Norbert Singer said with a smile, and how right he was.
Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s was truly exciting. It was the age of possibilities, big thinking and innovation. We saw the start of the space race, jet air travel literally took off shortening travel time and distance, and anything transport related was usually described in terms of power and speed. On the race track it was no different, as race car technology embraced the science of aerodynamics, while engine power seemed to increase endlessly. For a young boy growing up in this world, well, this was when daydreaming became an officially recognised pastime.
Norbert Singer was born in 1939 in Eger, a town in the former Czechoslovakia on the eastern border with Germany. The young Singer showed an early interest in the world of space science at a time when the Americans were planning to put a satellite into orbit, and he wanted to know how this would work and what would keep the satellite in orbit. It was when he began his studies at the Technical University of Munich that he considered a career in this field. But one of Singer’s tutors suggested that he should consider motor racing as an outlet for his engineering skills, and fortunately for the world of motorsport, an opportunity would later open up in this field.
Can you outline what you studied at university?
I studied Mechanical Engineering at the Technical University of Munich, in Germany they called it Diplom-Ingenieur (Graduate Engineer). At the start of my degree, I studied under a lecturer who worked in the Institut für Fahrzeugtechnik (Institute for Vehicle Technology) which was part of the university. There was a guy there who said, “Well your space ideas are very good but in Germany, we are a car country.” For me all technical things were interesting, and while I was at university, I attended the Monaco Grand Prix and went to the Nürburgring where I saw drivers such as Jim Clark, and so I could say that racing was a second interest. But at that point, although I was interested in motorsport, I did not really see any realistic chance of working in racing.