Weekend Warrior: Biotech entrepreneur Andre Marziali likes his cars built for speed

Behind the wheel with Boreal Genomics' Andre Marziali

Credit: Pooya Nabei

Andre Marziali putters with his modified ’99 BMW M3

The Boreal Genomics co-founder and UBC engineering prof races BMWs in B.C. and Ferraris in Italy

I’ve always enjoyed cars. I follow Formula One, so I’m not surprised I like racing: the adrenaline side of it, and it’s such a surprisingly physical but also very, very mental sport. The level of focus required is incredible. It’s super satisfying when you get it right. And maybe not super surprising, given that I’m an engineer, developing the car side of it has turned out to be incredibly satisfying. It’s OK working on cars to keep them running, but it’s much more fun to work on a car to make it faster and then get to see the rewards of that when you’re at the track, trying to win events.

I have one [car] I drive to work, and I have a race car. It’s a BMW M3 from ’99. It’s been pretty heavily modified.

I’ve been racing for about 12 years now. I bought a ’97 BMW M3, the same model as the race car, as my daily driver to work. Shortly after buying that, I ran across the UBC Sports Car Club holding a promotional event. They hold these events where you spend $30 or $40 to come out for a race. This is autocross, so you’re not racing against other cars; you’re racing against the clock.

The group of people that ran these events was so welcoming, it turned out to be a really nice social thing as well. I started coming out to their events and little by little got better and better. It went from that to doing some bigger events. My favourite is the Knox Mountain Hillclimb [in Kelowna].

I’ve also recently been to Italy to race Ferraris. Someone wrote about me racing in the UBC engineering newsletter, and one of our alumni in Switzerland—he owns seven or eight Ferraris, most of them actual race cars, not street cars—saw that I raced. He said, “We race on Formula One tracks in Europe. If you’re ever in Europe, let me know, and I’ll invite you to an event.” I went out last fall and raced three different cars in Tuscany, [at] the Mugello race track. The events I run, we hit maybe 180, 190 kilometres an hour. There we were hitting 270, 280 kilometres an hour.

This interview has been edited and condensed

 Warrior Spotlight

Andre Marziali is director of engineering physics at UBC and co-founder of Boreal Genomics Inc., a biotech company launched in 2007 that detects mutations in tumour cells by analyzing DNA.