Five promising, talented youngsters are part of the 2017 BMW Motorsport Junior Programme. They are all just setting out on their careers, but already have a fascinating journey behind them. In a series of interviews, we present each of the BMW Motorsport Juniors. This time: Mikkel Jensen (DEN).
At the shootout for potential new Juniors, Mikkel Jensen convinced those in charge of BMW Motorsport so effectively that they were confident enough to allow him to compete in the BMW M6 GT3 in his first year as a BMW Motorsport Junior. In the Blancpain Endurance Series, the 22-year-old Danish driver co-drove with Nico Menzel (GER) and the third driver, Christian Krognes (NOR), for Walkenhorst Motorsport. He also gained his first experience on the Nürburgring Nordschleife (GER). Jensen won the ADAC Formel Masters title in 2014 and has competed in the Formula 3 European Championship for the last two years. Last weekend, he was at the DTM finale in Hockenheim (GER).
Mikkel, your career has focussed on formula racing for some years. Why are you moving to GT now?
Mikkel Jensen: “It was always clear to me that I would make the switch one day, as I don’t have the major financial backing needed to make it to the top in formula racing. It was always a struggle to get the money together for each new season. At some point, it seemed that there was no chance to progress as I was up against six or seven junior drivers from a Formula 1 team who naturally had much more support and a whole other range of opportunities. Nonetheless, I have many happy memories of my time in formula racing and it taught me a lot that will be helpful in GT racing.“
How important is motorsport in your home country Denmark?
Jensen: “Of course, it is not as important as in Germany. However, the number of good racing drivers that Denmark produces is pretty impressive when you consider the size of the country. No noteworthy races take place in Denmark but domestic motorsport stars such as Tom Kristensen, Chris Nissen or Jan Magnussen support the young drivers and help us to plan our careers.”
Do you have any motorsport role models?
Jensen: “I don’t really have any role models, as I think that the perfect driver does not exist. Everyone has their strengths and as a young driver, I try to take those on board. I think that Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are two examples of very good drivers.”
How did this contact with BMW come about?
Jensen: “BMW Motorsport contacted me for the first time after I won the ADAC Formula Masters title in 2014. However, I had already agreed to switch to Formula 3. Last winter, I had some problems getting my budget sorted for this season and I was delighted when BMW Motorsport approached me again and invited me along to the shootout in Miramas. I had to choose between two tests that were scheduled to take place on the same day. Luckily, I chose the BMW Motorsport test.”
As part of the BMW Motorsport Junior programme, you were able to race in the BMW M6 GT3 right away. A big challenge…
Jensen: “That’s right. The Blancpain GT Series was uncharted territory for Nico Menzel and me, the drivers, and for our Walkenhorst Motorsport team. It was tough, but on the other hand it was also great fun. I have learned a lot and I am really looking forward to getting the chance for some more races in the BMW M6 GT3 next year.“
Which is more fun: racing the BMW M6 GT3 or driving on the Nürburgring Nordschleife?
Jensen: “I really like the Nordschleife and it is great fun to take the BMW M235i Racing to the limit there. But for me, as a racing driver, the BMW M6 GT3 is a more exciting car. I really like the detailed work with the engineers and my team-mates, the set-up work on the car – everything that goes on behind the scenes in GT racing.“
We noticed that in your Facebook post about the presentation of the new BMW M8 GTE. Would you like to get the chance to test that car?
Jensen: “That is certainly one of my goals. I think that the future looks bright for GT racing. It has many manufacturers competing at a very high technical and sporting levels. Starting in the BMW M8 GTE at Le Mans sometime would be a dream for me.”
How do you get on with the other Juniors?
Jensen: “I already knew some of them from other racing series but our paths hadn’t crossed for a few years. I competed against Beitske Visser in my first year in the ADAC Formula Masters. The year after that, I was up against Nico Menzel and Dennis Marschall. And now we have met up again as BMW Motorsport Juniors. It’s really interesting as this is the first time that we have worked together instead of competing against one another on the racetrack. We are getting to know one another in a new way – and we get on really well.”
How would you describe your character in three words – on and off the racetrack?
Jensen: “I am a perfectionist. That defines everything I do. Devotion to the task at hand is another of my character traits. I think that both of those are connected. I am also a positive person.”
Apart from racing, what do you do best?
Jensen: “I was a pretty good footballer before I started karting at age 15. My interests focused on motorsport after that.”
What position did you play?
Jensen: “I was a striker. I was fast and I had a good eye for goal.”
What have been the best and worst moments of your career?
Jensen: “The best moment is easy: winning the title in the 2014 ADAC Formula Masters. Motorsport decision-makers started to notice me then and made me some offers – including that first call from BMW Motorsport. The worst was 2016, my last year in Formula 3. I didn’t record good results, I had financial problems – it just didn’t work out. But I did learn a lot from that difficult year. And I was lucky that BMW Motorsport remembered my good performances from previous years.”