Portrait of Dirk Häcker.




The M Test Center at the Nürburgring is the beating heart of motorsport at BMW M GmbH. Since the 1960s, BMW cars have been put to the ultimate test under extreme conditions in the centre of the small town of Nürburg, next to the legendary Nordschleife. The BMW Group and M GmbH building has officially served as a test centre since 1991. Responsible for the test centre is Dirk Häcker, Head of Development M Automobiles and BMW Individual, who can look back on decades of Nordschleife experience and is the perfect person to offer an insight into the M Test Center – currently the headquarters of the BMW Junior Team.

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BMW test drivers have been regular guests on the Nordschleife since as far back as the 1960s. For a long time, their first port of call was the BMW dealership run by Willi Martini, a BMW dealer from Nürburg. That business was taken over by BMW in 1991, since when it has been an official test centre. That is not all; BMW Motorsport teams also used the premises for storage in the early years. Furthermore, the test centre, at which every newly-developed BMW Group car still undergoes its test cycle to this day, was the base for the BMW Ring Taxi. That was a BMW M5, in which professional BMW test drivers would take ‘Joe Public’ for taxi rides on the 20-kilometre plus Nordschleife. One of those drivers was Dirk Häcker, who is responsible for the M Test Center since 2015 and still regularly takes his place behind the wheel. “I started to work in the development department at BMW in 1988 and know the Nordschleife like the back of my hand,” said Häcker. “Among other things, I have driven three generations of the BMW M5 Ring Taxi. Even today, I still cannot resist regularly taking to the track for test drives.”

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BMW M Test Center
BMW Motorsport Simulators.
  • 16 test and trial weeks are used on the Nordschleife each year, in order to tune BMW M, BMW, MINI and Rolls Royce models
  • These are followed by endurance runs – for M cars, this means 8,000 km on the Nordschleife
  • Supervision of approx. 40 cars per test week – that is roughly 640 cars in the 16-week test season
  • Duration of set-up work on a new car: approx. 2.5 to 3 years from first prototype to launch
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  • Building area: approx. 1,200 m²
  • Basically the same equipment as at headquarters in Munich:
    • 11 lifting platforms, wheel alignment platform, damper test bench, tyre fitting machines, balancing machines, mechanical workshop
    • Technology is always kept up to date
  • Two permanent employees
  • Up to 46 computer workstations for test engineers
  • Digitised test monitoring: test driver and headquarters are in permanent radio contact




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BMW M Test Center Nürburgring.


Mr. Häcker, you have a very special relationship with the Nordschleife, don’t you?

Dirk Häcker: “I have known the Nordschleife since 1981, when I first rode it on a motorcycle. I then came to BMW as a development engineer in 1988, after which I spent a lot of time on the Nordschleife, including with three generations of the BMW M5 Ring Taxi. As such, I obviously also know the M Test Center well – both as a customer and as the person responsible for the past five years.”

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Are your test drivers specialised on the Nordschleife?

Häcker: “No, and that is very important to us. They obviously know the circuit very well, but they are also employed at our other test centres in Miramas and Arjeplog in the Arctic Circle. After all, they need to understand the car as a whole and not just on the Nordschleife.”


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BMW’s relationship with the Nordschleife dates back even further though, doesn’t it?

Häcker: “That’s true. BMW has been a Nordschleife partner from the word go. It is worth saying that the track was opened in 1927 – more than 90 years ago – not as a racetrack, but as a test circuit for the automobile industry. Since then, it has developed into a test track that is used intensively by international manufacturers and suppliers. However, thanks to its long history, BMW is the only manufacturer with a base located directly in the town of Nürburg, in the form of the M Test Center. All those who came later have their headquarters on a nearby industrial estate. I am very proud of how deeply rooted we are in the region and of the great partnerships that have developed. There is great mutual appreciation, and maintaining this respect is very important to me.”

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Medium close-up of Dirk Häcker.
I am very proud of how deeply rooted we are in the region and of the great partnerships that have developed.
Dirk Häcker, Head of Development BMW M GmbH, on the relationship between test center and Nordschleife.

What makes the Nordschleife the perfect test circuit?

Häcker: “It is very long, selective, and poses many different challenges. High speeds, fast corners, big changes in elevation. It has everything we need to comprehensively test a car. If a car is not only fast but also safe on this track, then it will pass the test at any other circuit. Incidentally, we don’t just test our cars on the racetrack. We also use the public roads around here, as all BMW M cars must obviously also be perfectly suited to everyday use.”

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Can you describe the test cycle for an M car at the Nürburgring?

Häcker: “As a rule, we start with initial test vehicles about two and a half to three years before it is ready to go into production. We then continue with set-up drives for specific areas, such as tyres, steering, springs and dampers. That is followed by the 8,000-kilometre endurance run, on which the car must prove that it is up to the rigours of the Nordschleife. We are talking about more than 400 laps, split between at least two test drivers. These endurance runs are only interrupted for safety checks, to replace worn parts, to read measured data – and, of course, to refuel and change drivers. It is a huge challenge for man and machine.” 

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Do you still get behind the wheel for tests?


Häcker: “Absolutely! I can’t resist it. I think that part of being the boss is to understand your craft. I cannot do everything better than my staff, but I want to understand what their day-to-day business looks like. I am only too happy to chat to my teams about our impressions behind the steering wheel. I enjoy it, and it is also important to me. For example, I place great importance on ensuring that it should not only be possible for experts to drive a BMW M car at the limit, but also for normal customers to drive it fast and safely without any problems. Plus, I have also worked as an instructor at the BMW and MINI Driving Experience on the Nordschleife since 1999. One big benefit of that is that I have direct contact with customers, which allows me to understand their desires and requirements.”

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How important to you is the opinion of BMW works drivers, who predominantly drive BMW M cars?

Häcker: “Their opinion interests us greatly. It is fascinating to see what a professional makes of how a car handles. It is obviously also nice for me to hear and see, time and again, how much fun they have in our cars.”

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Foyer at the BMW M Testcenters.


In 2020, BMW Motorsport resurrected the BMW Junior Team that enjoyed legendary status in the 1970s. Dan Harper, Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen are contesting races on the Nordschleife in various different BMW M Motorsport cars, and also live together in a house near the circuit. Their ‘base camp’ for mental and simulator training is the M Test Center. The foyer has been revamped to meet the requirements of the young drivers and is symbolically adorned in the colours of the BMW Junior Team. The new design makes the M Test Center even more eye-catching in the centre of Nürburg. “I was thrilled by the idea and supported it from the outset. Training talented young drivers and the M Test Center – in my opinion, that is a perfect combination,” said Häcker.

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