BMW V12 LMR and BT52 Formula 1 race car


The success story of BMW M racing cars.

BMW M Motorsport Legends.The success story of BMW M racing cars.

“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.

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A race-proven team becomes BMW Motorsport GmbH.

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.

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.

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BMW M1 Procar


Motor racing has been anchored in the DNA of BMW M ever since. Regardless of which series or period you look at, a BMW M has always meant pure dynamics, power and victories. In the meantime, many icons of motorsport have been created. The Formula 1 performance king is the BMW BT52 racing car, in which Nelson Piquet became world champion in 1983. But the Brabham with BMW Power is just one of many examples of the most successful racing car in all classes.


Thus, icons like the V12 LMR, the 3.0 CSL, the M3 E30 and many others set new standards at the Le Mans 24 Hours and the internationally contested touring car championships.

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  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 1999 Winner 24h of Le Mans (BMW V12 LMR/Y. Dalmas, P. Martini, J. Winkelhock)

The philosophy of M GmbH plays a large part in the company’s motorsport success. Former board member Robert A. Lutz described it most appositely in the year the BMW subsidiary was founded:

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“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
Early logo of BMW Motorsport GmbH

"The most powerful letter in the world. BMW Motorsport GmbH: Trendsetter in the high-performance league." – the early logo of BMW Motorsport GmbH.

Five decades later, nothing has changed. The company, now known as BMW M GmbH, is more than ever a byword for its ideals – and can look back on an impressive history full of enthusiasm, passion and success.

To achieve the status of motorsports legend, titles, prizes and successes alone are not enough. What you need to remain in people’s memories for ever is above all the passion and the enthusiasm of the developers, drivers and last but not least the spectators. A short journey back in time shows the moments when these BMW M models became legends of motor racing history.


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Marc Surer and Hans-Joachim Stuck on the Norisring with an M1 Procar, 2019

Marc Surer and Hans-Joachim Stuck on the Norisring with an M1 Procar, 2019.


  • 1973 BMW 3.0 CSL
  • 1979 BMW M1 Procar
  • 1983 Brabham BMW BT 52
  • 1987 BMW M3 E30 DTM
  • 1999 BMW V12 LMR
An old BMW 3.0 CSL ad

Advertising a new name: "BMW Motorsport GmbH".

BMW 3.0 CSL.

The first “real M”.

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.


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An old BMW 3.0 CSL ad

Advertising a new name: "BMW Motorsport GmbH".

BMW ArtCar 3.0 CSL (1975), created by Alexander Calder

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


  • 01 Base: BMW E9
  • 02 Period of production: 1973–1975
  • 03 6-cylinder inline engine
  • 04 Displacement: 3,498 cm³
  • 05 Max. output: 324 kW (440 hp)
BMW M1 Procar Group 4

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


The Formula 1 attraction.

Scarcely a BMW caused more of a stir when it first rolled out of the assembly hall than the BMW M1. With the M1, BMW had one of the most exclusive sports cars on and off the racetrack. And the M1 convinced most of all with its power. With its top speed of 264.7 km/h, the M1 was holder of the record for fastest production sports car in Germany for eight long years – nowadays, such a long period would be unthinkable.

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BMW 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.


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BMW M1 Procar Series in Zolder, Belgium, 1979

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


  • 01 Base: BMW M1 E26
  • 02 Period of production: 1978–1981
  • 03 6-cylinder inline engine (mid-engine)
  • 04 Displacement: 3,500 cm³
  • 05 Max. output: 346 kW (470 hp)
BMW M1 Procar Series in Zolder, Belgium, 1979

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

Brabham BMW Turbo BT52

Nelson Piquet in the Brabham BMW Turbo BT52, equipped with the most powerful F1 engine of all time.


World champion after just 630 days.

On the 24th April 1980, BMW announced they were entering formula sport. Paul Rosche constructed the first F1 engine for the Bavarians, a four-cylinder inline engine block with 1.5 litres capacity. With special fuel and an exhaust-driven turbo-charger, the engine first had an output of 630 hp and in later years up to 1,400 hp. On 23rd January 1982, Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese opened the season in Kyalami in the Brabham BMW’s first outing. The first Formula 1 points were captured by the BMW-engined Brabham shortly afterwards: On 9th May 1982, Nelson Piquet finished fifth in the GP of Belgium. The Brazilian clinched the first victory on 13th June in Montreal.
For the world championship 1983, the BMW turbo engine was further optimized. With success: Nelson Piquet won the opening race in São Paulo. The quality of the engine had got about and thus for the first time a third BMW Turbo customer was on the grid: Manfred Winkelhock in the ATS BMW.
From BMW’s point of view, the fight for the first world championship couldn’t have been more exciting. From the first victory, it took twelve races for Piquet to win again. From then on, he drove consistently and collected points. And in Monza and Brands Hatch, Nelson Piquet and his Brabham BMW crossed the line first.
At the season finale in Kyalami, third place was enough for the championship. After only 630 days in Formula 1 for BMW Motorsport GmbH, Nelson Piquet was world champion – and the BMW turbo engine was the engine to beat in future.


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Brabham BMW pit stop (1983)

Brabham BMW pit stop (1983).


  • 01 Base: Brabham BT52 (BMW Turbo motor M12/13)
  • 02 Period of production: 1983
  • 03 4-cylinder inline engine with turbocharger
  • 04 Displacement: 1,500 cm³
  • 05 Continuous output: 463-581 kW (630-790 hp)
BMW M3 E30 Group A

M3 E30 on an M3 comparison run in 2016.


From zero to hero.

The first BMW M3 (E30) is an absolute collector’s item and not only from an historical point of view a real milestone for BMW M. With a total of more than 1,400 race wins and numerous championship titles in almost every conceivable series right up to the world championship, the BMW M3 E30 is still the most successful touring car in the world today.

The M3 was a born winner. As in the motto “From zero to hero”, the E30 managed several championship wins in its first year, with Eric van de Poele, driver of the serial winner M3, taking the DTM title at his first attempt.

In 1987, Wilfried Vogt achieved a similar feat in the European championship in an M3, taking the championship title in the first year of the BMW M model.

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.


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Roberto Ravaglia driving the BMW M3 DTM

Roberto Ravaglia driving the BMW M3 DTM, 1989.


  • 01 Base: BMW M3 E30
  • 02 Period of production: 1987–1992
  • 03 4-cylinder inline engine
  • 04 Displacement: 2,332-2,493 cm³
  • 05 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.


Robust and fast.

The Le Mans 24 Hours is one of the hardest tests for both driver and material. To win this competition was for BMW M not only a challenge, but also a vision, one that became reality in 1999. The completely newly developed BMW V12 LMR (Le Mans Roadster) prototype with its powerful V12 engine and an curb weight of just 915 kg was a futuristic vehicle of the highest class.

The six-litre engine was more durable and robust than the competition. The engine’s enormous durability was thanks to the benchmark set during development. The standard expected of the developers was to survive a race twice as long as Le Mans.

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.

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BMW V12 LMR in Le Mans 1999

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


  • 01 Base: newly developed
  • 02 Period of production: 1999
  • 03 12-cylinder V-engine
  • 04 Displacement: 5,990.5 cm³
  • 05 Max. output: 427 kW (580 hp)
BMW 3/15 DA 2, 1929

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


Almost a hundred years of history.

BMW means motorsport – from the very start. Way back in 1929, the first 3/15 DA 2 left the factory in Eisenach and turned out to be the ideal basis for a sports car. In the same year, the BMW 3/15 DA 2 made history by taking part in its first official competition.

The endurance race in which BMW came to the world’s attention for the first time would still be an enormous challenge by today’s standards. The famous Austrian Alpine Rally lasted five days and covered 2,650 km over countless mountain passes. The first BMW in the Austrian Alpine Rally in 1929 was piloted by Max Buchner, Albert Kandt and Wilhelm Wagner.

At the time, both team and vehicle were completely unknown, yet they managed to achieve a sensation: A maiden start became a maiden victory. With an average speed of 42 km/h, fastest times in all stages and being the only team to avoid penalty points, BMW shocked the entire automotive world. The car publication Deutsche Automobilzeitung reported: “At one stroke, the new BMW presented itself to the whole world.”

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.

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BMW 3/15 PS Wartburg Roadster (1931)

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


  • 01 Base: BMW 3/15
  • 02 Period of production: 1929–1932
  • 03 4-cylinder inline engine
  • 04 Displacement: 750 cm³
  • 05 Max. output: 11 kW (15 hp)
  • 06 Top speed: 75 km/h