| Kurt Grossmann. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, June 5: Kurt Grossmann is an ex-cop, a car expert and the winner of about 500 national and international racing championships. He drove in the same Italian kart team as Ayrton Senna and, while at the wheel, he also taught Michael Schumacher how to drive.
In town for two days for a workshop with dealers of Blaupunkt, the maker of car communications equipment like stereos and navigational gadgets, the former trainer of Schumacher is teaching technicians here the ins and outs of MP3 players and GSM devices “because Indians, too, like good technology in their cars”.
Grossmann’s fascination for racing began early, but financial constraints proved an obstacle to the expensive sport. So, instead, he pursued research in thermodynamics at the Police University in Germany. It was during his stint with the police that he became an active racer, winning the German Championship in 1969.
The 56-year-old’s point of pride, of course, is teaching the reigning king of Formula 1, Michael Schumacher, the ropes of racing. “We come from the same part of Germany, near Cologne. When I was already racing, Michael was a child. His father would rent karts on the nearby track and he would be there all the time. I used to guide him. He was very dedicated even then. Michael is the only driver I know who sits with the technical team after every race to figure out how he can be better. He’s at his peak now. But Michael is a family man at heart, and loves being home with his wife, son and daughter,” Grossmann smiles.
While his son learnt to race on the same tracks as Ralph, it’s obvious which Schumacher brother Grossman shouts for: “Ralph is good, but not that good.” His “favourite driver” rates even above his former colleague in an Italian kart racing team and a Formula 1 champion before his tragic demise, Ayrton Senna.
“He was a perfect driver, too. He was a lightweight, and I, at 80 kg, was a heavyweight. It was very sad how he died, because it was a technical fault. Ayrton was at the wrong place at the wrong time. A lot in racing depends on luck. My worst accident was while driving on an autobahn in Germany.”
In the early 90s, the father of three switched tracks, by chance, to his other profession, when a friend asked Grossmann to help him out on a project. Conducting workshops and seminars on car technology has taken him around the world with companies like Daimler-Chrysler, Siemens, Renault and Bosch. But more important, “I have money to race now”, he grins. Currently, he’s a member of the Porsche team, his favourite car, and has won three European Porsche races in the GT 3MR.
Grossmann has given up Taekwondo after 15 years, (“my bones are creaking”), but is still a mountain-biking enthusiast, to remain fit, and is determined to keep driving as long as he keeps winning. “Not in India though. In Mumbai, the drivers go wherever there is space. In Calcutta, I saw them drive where there is no space. I thought Bangkok and Moscow traffic was crazy. All I can say is, thank god the German police are not here!”