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BMW M MOTORSPORT LEGENDS.BMW M MOTORSPORT LEGENDS.

BMW M MOTORSPORT LEGENDS.

15 min reading time

The success story of BMW M racing cars.

Racing at its best: a look back at the most legendary BMW M racing cars from over 50 years of motorsport.

8 September 2023

“Aufmüpfig”, which translates roughly as bolshy, was the word of the year 1972 in Germany. “Rebellious” would have been a better match from the point of view of motorsports history. Because in the same year, an equipe was founded that developed legendary vehicles much more quickly than expected and won sensational races. It was the founding year of BMW Motorsport GmbH and the start of an unprecedented motor racing history.

1972: A RACE-PROVEN TEAM BECOMES BMW MOTORSPORT GMBH.

BMW M1 ProcarBMW M1 Procar

Jochen Neerpasch, former works driver for Porsche and Head of Racing at Ford in Cologne before they moved to Munich, was signed as boss of the 35-person team of specialists. With him went a group of racing drivers who would leave their mark on BMW Motorsport over decades: Chris Amon, Toine Hezemans, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Dieter Quester.

BMW 3.0 CSLBMW 3.0 CSL

The young company was soon able to move into its own quarters close to the main factory in Munich’s Preußenstraße. Here the sports cars for the year 1973 were created: A 950kg-lightweight-2002 with a two-litre four-valve four-cylinder for rallying. And a new touring car coupé about which Jochen Neerpasch said: “As we see 1973 as a development year, we don’t also see ourselves winning the European championship.” It turned out he was wrong, as the motorsport successes of the BMW 3.0 CSL impressively proved. Already in the first year, Toine Hezemans won the European Touring Car Championship and the 3.0 CSL became the legendary racing car of its time.

MOTORSPORT AS THE DNA FOR BMW M AUTOMOBILES.

MILESTONES – BMW M MOTORSPORT:

  • 1972: Founding
  • 1973: Winner European Touring Car Championship (BMW 3.0 CSL/T. Hezemans)
  • 1973: Winner 6h of the Nürburgring (BMW 3.0 CSL/H. Stuck, C. Amon)
  • 1976: Winner 24h Daytona (BMW 3.5 CSL/P. Gregg, B. Redman, J. Fitzpatrick)
  • 1983: Winner Formula 1 World Championship (Brabham BMW BT52/N. Piquet)
  • 1987: Winner World Touring Car Championship (BMW M3/R. Ravaglia)
  • 1987: Winner European Touring Car Championship (BMW M3/W. Vogt)
  • 1989: Winner DTM (BMW M3/R. Ravaglia)
  • 1999: Winner 24h of Le Mans (BMW V12 LMR/Y. Dalmas, P. Martini, J. Winkelhock)
  • 2001: Winner ALMS-GT/USA (BMW M3 GTR J. Müller, JJ Lehto among others)
  • 2012: Winner DTM (BMW M3 DTM/B. Spengler)
  • 2014: Winner DTM (BMW M4 DTM/M. Wittmann)
  • 2016: Winner DTM (BMW M4 DTM/M. Wittmann)
  • 2018: Winner FIA GT World Cup (BMW M6 GT3/A. Farfus)
  • 2022: Winner DTM (BMW M4 GT3/S. van der Linde)
  • 1965–2023: A total of 45 victories at the two major 24-hour races in Spa and at the Nürburgring
BMW M GmbHBMW M GmbH
"The most powerful letter in the world. BMW Motorsport GmbH: Trendsetter in the high-performance league." – the early logo of BMW Motorsport GmbH.
A company is like a human. If it does sports, it will be fit, enthusiastic and perform better.
Robert A. Lutz, former board member BMW M GmbH
Jochen Neerpasch and Hans-Joachim Stuck on the Norisring with an M1 Procar, 2019.Jochen Neerpasch and Hans-Joachim Stuck on the Norisring with an M1 Procar, 2019.

LEGENDS OF MOTORSPORT:

  • 1973: BMW 3.0 CSL
  • 1979: BMW M1 Procar
  • 1983: Brabham BMW BT 52
  • 1987: BMW M3 E30 DTM
  • 1999: BMW V12 LMR
  • 2000: BMW Williams FW22
  • 2001: BMW M3 GTR E46
  • 2010: BMW M3 GT E92
  • 2012: BMW M3 E92 DTM
  • 2014: BMW M4 F82 DTM
  • 2016: BMW M6 GT3 F13
  • 2019: BMW M8 GTE

BMW 3.0 CSL: THE FIRST „REAL M“.

BMW 3.0 CSLBMW 3.0 CSL
Advertising a new name: "BMW Motorsport GmbH".

The BMW 3.0 CSL really earned its reputation as one of the most iconic BMW motorsport vehicles. From 1973 to 1979, the coupé was the car to beat in almost every touring car championship – including the ETCC (European Touring Car Championship). The title of “first real M” can be traced back to its influence on the founding of BMW motorsport GmbH. Although the BMW 3.0 CSL was planned in the central motorsport department of BMW, development and production required new standards. The creation of BMW Motorsport GmbH was the perfect solution and the start of a great company history. A purebred racing car was created which had up to 440 hp, accelerated to 100 km/h in 4.0 seconds and whose top speed was 275 km/h. For the time, the stuff of dreams.

The stories and successes of the drivers of the 3.0 CSL are also legendary. Swede Ronnie Peterson could scarcely believe the rear wheelspin – at 250 km/h. Another motorsports legend was persuaded by the power of the first BMW M: together with Chris Amon, Hans-Joachim Stuck won the 6 Hours of the Nürburgring in the 3.0 CSL’s first outing at the event. And the coupé convinced Stuck not only on the Nordschleife, but away from the racetrack too he was often seen in his private 3.0 CSL.

The BMW E9, the base model of the 3.0 CSL, still emanates unmistakeable motorsport charm today and is a legend of sports car history.

More on the BMW 3.0 CSL

The first ArtCar: BMW 3.0 CSL (1975), created by Alexander Calder.

5 FACTS:

  • Base: BMW E9
  • Period of production: 1973–1975
  • 6-cylinder inline engine
  • Displacement: 3,498 cm³
  • Max. output: 324 kW (440 hp)

BMW M1 Procar Group 4, Revival Race in the DTM support programme on the Norisring (2019).

BMW M1 PROCAR: THE FORMULA 1 ATTRACTION.

BMW M1 Procar, Monte Carlo, 1979BMW M1 Procar, Monte Carlo, 1979
The BMW M1 Procar in Monte Carlo, 1979.

In particular, the Procar series, the spectacular support series of Formula 1, made the M1 not only the fans’ favourite, but also that of the drivers. The field, consisting of privateers, well-known pros, new talents and the five fastest Formula 1 drivers from the weekend’s qualifying heats ensured excitement and made the Procar series unique – right down to the first prize of the unofficial brand trophy: a street version of the BMW M1, which was highly desired by the world’s best drivers and thus fiercely contested.  

In the first year, it was Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda who won overall victory and thus earned himself one of the rare street cars. The following season, it was Brazilian Nelson Piquet who won the Procar series with three back-to-back victories and was allowed to take the M1 home. Three years later, Piquet was the first driver who won the premium competition with a BMW turbo engine.

More on the BMW M1 Procar

The start of the M1 Procar race at Zolder, Belgium (1979).

5 FACTS:

  • Base: BMW M1 E26
  • Period of production: 1978–1981
  • 6-cylinder inline engine (mid-engine)
  • Displacement: 3,500 cm³
  • Max. output: 346 kW (470 hp)

BRABHAM BMW TURBO BT52: WORLD CHAMPION AFTER JUST 630 DAYS.

Brabham BMW pit stop (1983).

5 FACTS:

  • Base: Brabham BT52 (BMW Turbo motor M12/13)
  • Period of production: 1983
  • 4-cylinder inline engine with turbocharger
  • Displacement: 1,500 cm³
  • Continuous output: 463-581 kW (630-790 hp)
M3 E30 on an M3 comparison run in 2016.M3 E30 on an M3 comparison run in 2016.

BMW M3 (E30) GROUP A: FROM ZERO TO HERO.

Roberto Ravaglia im BMW M3 DTMRoberto Ravaglia im BMW M3 DTM
Roberto Ravaglia driving the BMW M3 DTM, 1989.

In the same year, the newly created touring car world championship saw an unbeatable pairing with Roberto Ravaglia at the wheel of his M3. The result: the championship win.

The successors to the M3 E30, for example the M3 E36 GTR and the M3 E46 GTR, took up the baton without missing a stride. Thus the M3 models continued to ratchet up performance levels in motorsport and thus also the field of homologated street vehicles.

As one of the sportiest BMW M vehicles, the M3 is thus not only class founder and constant benchmark, but also an eternal icon.

More on the BMW M3 E30

5 FACTS:

  • Base: BMW M3 E30
  • Period of production: 1987–1992
  • 4-cylinder inline engine
  • Displacement: 2,332-2,493 cm³
  • Max. output: 220-257 kW (300-350 hp)
Revival: 10 years on, the BMW V12 LMR participating in the Le Mans Classic support race of the 24-hour event.Revival: 10 years on, the BMW V12 LMR participating in the Le Mans Classic support race of the 24-hour event.

BMW V12 LMR: ROBUST AND FAST.

BMW V12 LMR at Le Mans (1999)BMW V12 LMR at Le Mans (1999)
Pure technology: the BMW V12 LMR at Le Mans (1999).

With their victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours, the international driver team of Joachim Winkelhock, Yannick Dalmas and Pierluigi Martini realized a dream shared by many racing drivers. Crossing the finish line was the ideal end to a perfect race, in which the car, the drivers and the whole team had worked at the highest level of efficiency and with maximum precision, recalls Dalmas.

5 FACTS:

  • Base: newly developed
  • Period of production: 1999
  • 12-cylinder V-engine
  • Displacement: 5,990.5 cm³
  • Max. output: 427 kW (580 hp)

WILLIAMS BMW FW22: A SUCCESSFUL RETURN TO FORMULA 1.

Williams BMW FW22Williams BMW FW22
Jenson Button at the Brazilian Grand Prix, 2000.

The end result was respectable with a number of individual successes in the world's highest and most demanding motorsport class – four Grand Prix victories in the 2001 season, plus the Constructors' World Championship runner-up in 2002 and 2003. At this point, the engine, that was constantly being improved with its internal designation P82 was producing more than 900 hp at over 19,000 rpm. This increase in power when compared to the first engine version was due to the BMW M engineers' constant search for the tiniest improvements.

5 FACTS:

  • Base: Williams FW21 (BMW engine E41)
  • Period of production: 2000–2005 (FW22 to FW27)
  • Natural aspirated V10 with 2.998 cc displacement
  • Max. output: 559–604 kW (750–810 PS)
  • Top speed: approx. 355 km/h
The BMW M3 GTR at the Nürburgring.The BMW M3 GTR at the Nürburgring.

BMW M3 GTR E46: DESIGNED AS A WINNER.

BMW M3 E46 GTRBMW M3 E46 GTR
The BMW M3 GTR at the race in Laguna Seca.

Not only the drivers' title, but also the constructors' and team championships went to BMW Motorsport in the end. Title winner Jörg Müller was no stranger to the event. He had already won in the BMW V12 LMR together with JJ Lehto in Sebring/USA in 1999. In the ALMS, the Finn finished second in the drivers' standings behind Müller.

In order to be allowed to participate in the prestigious racing series at all, an entirely different kind of hurdle had to be cleared beforehand. The regulations stipulated that the respective engine had to be used in the production version. This resulted in ten BMW M3 GTRs being created as a street legal version with a slightly more civilian friendly design where 350 hp was still sufficient for almost 300 km/h.

BMW M3 E46 GTRBMW M3 E46 GTR
The BMW M3 GTR E46 lit up the GT class in the 2001 ALMS season.

The 100 homologated models required for the road the following year meant the end of racing for the M3 GTR. But the one year in the ALMS was enough to immortalise itself in the annals of motorsport.

Successful revivals in Europe, such as the two double victories at the Nordschleife classic, the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, in 2004 and 2005, have since revived the almost untamable power of this fireball of a car in the years after.

5 FACTS:

  • Base: BMW M3 E46
  • Period of production: 2001
  • Natural aspirated V8 engine
  • Displacement: 3,997 cc
  • Continuous output: 330 kW (460 hp)

BMW M3 DTM E92

BMW M3 DTM E92: A PERFECT COMEBACK.

BMW M3 DTM E92BMW M3 DTM E92
Victory: DTM winner Bruno Spengler after the season finale in Hockenheim, October 2012.

With Canadian Bruno Spengler at the wheel, the first victory of the demanding race series, renamed the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (German Touring Car Masters), came in the second race of the season at the Lausitzring. In the end, Spengler won the title as well as the manufacturers' and team championships, making it a triple success. The second driver for BMW Team Schnitzer was Dirk Werner. The team thus gave itself the greatest gift ever for the 40th anniversary of BMW M.

20 years after its last start, BMW Motorsport managed to take the highest place on the podium in the first attempt with the new M3 DTM E92.It was the perfect comeback, with which this M3 that was created for the racetrack also wrote itself into the history books of motorsport.

5 FACTS:

  • Base: Prototype; based on BMW M3 E92
  • Period of production: 2012–2013
  • Naturally aspirated V8 engine with air restrictor and 3,999 cc displacement
  • Continuous output: 353 kW (480 hp)
  • Top speed: approx. 300 km/h
BMW M4 DTM F82BMW M4 DTM F82

BMW M4 DTM F82: SEAMLESS TRANSITION.

BMW M4 DTM F82BMW M4 DTM F82
Marco Wittmann races to his second DTM title in the BMW M4 in 2016.

Marco Wittmann, who had switched to the RMG team, won the very first race. Victories followed in Hungary, Austria and at the Nürburgring - Wittmann and his M4 DTM literally left their competitors in their wake. The points difference was so large that a sixth place in the third-last race of the season was enough for overall victory. As a result, he became the youngest title winner of this competition at the time.

In 2015, BMW M secured another important trophy with the title for the most successful manufacturer. That was before Marco Wittmann ended up on top in 2016 for the second time in three years - and he has since joined the ranks of memorable winners in this highly regarded racing series together with the BMW M4 DTM.

5 FACTS:

  • Base: Prototype; based on BMW M4 F82
  • Period of production: 2014–2018
  • Naturally aspirated V8 engine with air restrictor and 3,999 cc displacement
  • Continuous output: 353 kW (480 hp)
  • Weight: 1,120 kg (including driver)

BMW M6 GT3 F13: THE GT-FLAGSHIP.

BMW M6 GT3 F13BMW M6 GT3 F13
International glory: the M6 GT3 won the FIA GT World Cup in 2018.

The first successes were not long in coming. A victory in the VLN Endurance Race Nürburgring was followed by first place in the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. In 2018, Walkenhorst Motorsport took its second overall victory at Spa-Francorchamps and Augusto Farfus won the FIA GT World Cup title for Schnitzer Motorsport in Macau. In 2020, ROWE Racing achieved the long-awaited overall victory at the Nürburgring 24 Hours with the BMW M6 GT3. Its victories on the international stage once again underlined the broad and varied expertise of the M - and this was therefore another important chapter in recent motorsport history.

Along with its sporting successes, the M6 GT3 also received the rare honour of twice becoming a work of art in the BMW Art Car Collection.

5 FACTS:

  • Base: BMW M6 F13
  • Period of production: 2016–2021
  • V8 biturbo with 4,395 cc displacement
  • Continuous output: 430 kW (585 hp)
  • Net price for customer sport: 379,000 euros (2016)

The BMW 3/15 DA 2 competing in the 2nd International Alp Run in 1929.

BMW UND MOTORSPORT: ALMOST A HUNDRED YEARS OF HISTORY.

BMW 3/15 PS Wartburg Roadster (1931)BMW 3/15 PS Wartburg Roadster (1931)
The sports version of the Alpine racer: the BMW 3/15 hp Wartburg Roadster (1931).

The BMW newcomers quickly became a sensation. And the basic strategy of using the experience gained in racing for the development of street vehicles was born. Already in 1930, this was realized in the form of the BMW 3/15 Wartburg Roadster. The model contained an engine with higher compression than the basic BMW 3/15 and had 3 hp more. This vehicle was also successful in many races.

Thus, the foundations for the success of the BMW marque were laid, a marque which has been closely connected to motorsport ever since.

5 FACTS:

  • Base: BMW 3/15
  • Period of production: 1929–1932
  • 4-cylinder inline engine with 750 cc displacement
  • Max. output: 11 kW (15 hp)
  • Top speed: 75 km/h

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