RACER #296: M Energy for IMSA
Throughout his quick, however illustrious tenure as a BMW AG board member, Bob Lutz (LEFT) arrange BMW Motorsport, then led the institution of BMW North America Inc. in March 1975.
Inside days, the No. 25 BMW 3.zero CSL (MAIN) piloted by Brian Redman, Allan Moffat (substituting for Ronnie Peterson), Hans-Joachim Caught and Sam Posey received the 12 Hours of Sebring. It was a seminal second for each BMW and IMSA, as BMW’s inaugural advertising program in North America was additionally the corporate’s first motorsport program within the States.
For BMW, it started an virtually steady relationship with IMSA that may yield 190 victories by way of the top of the 2018 season, inserting it fifth on the producer’s win record – a exceptional achievement when contemplating that BMW has by no means fielded the quantity of vehicles that these forward of them on the record have.
For IMSA, the arrival of the BMW Motorsport workforce, led by Jochen Neerspach and grasp engine designer Paul Rosche, together with drivers like Redman, Caught, Peterson and Posey – generally known as “The Cowboys” for being the primary Bavarians to compete within the “Wild West” – helped to actually put the “Worldwide” in IMSA by paving the way in which for extra drivers and groups from overseas to race within the collection.
The BMW “Batmobiles” received 5 occasions throughout their debut IMSA season. A yr later, Peter Gregg left Porsche to associate Redman within the No. 59 BMW 3.zero CSL. The pair took general victory on the 1976 24 Hours of Daytona and Gregg scored a second win, at Talladega.
“These first two seasons established a quick friendship between IMSA and BMW, and made it clear to North American customers that BMW stands for Bavarian Motor Works,” says BMW NA Motorsport Supervisor Victor Leleu. “Another lasting present from Lutz was our tag line, ‘The Final Driving Machine’ – one thing we’ve endeavored to bolster ever since.”
In 1977, BMW partnered with McLaren North America Inc. to create the “Flying Brick,” a flame-spitting BMW 320i Turbo that produced an unreal quantity of energy from a turbocharged, 2-liter, 4 cylinder engine. David Hobbs tallied eight wins over three seasons towards a battalion of Porsche 934s and 935s.
“The 320i Turbo was North America’s introduction to the then all-new BMW Three Sequence – maybe the one most necessary mannequin to BMW over time,” says Leleu. “Moreover, the turbo expertise pioneered for the 320i Turbo IMSA program laid the muse for BMW’s 1983 Components 1 World Championship-winning engine within the Brabham BT52.”
By the early 1980s, GT-based vehicles had reached their zenith, no less than as the highest class in sports activities automotive racing. BMW noticed the writing on the wall early on, and teamed up with March to provide what some name the primary GTP automotive within the M1/C of 1981. It relied much less on brute energy and extra on groundbreaking aerodynamics, as a lot alchemy because it was engineering in these days. Hobbs and Marc Surer have been charged with the driving duties, managing a finest end of fourth place in Portland.
5 years later, BMW returned with the GTP. The chassis started life as a March 86G, which BMW closely revised. Fitted with a Components 1-derived, 2.1-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, the BMW GTP was able to an official 700hp in race trim and as much as 900 in qualifying guise. It made the automotive blazingly quick, but achingly unreliable. Nonetheless, a younger Davy Jones and John Andretti piloted the BMW GTP to its sole win at Watkins Glen in 1986.
“Andretti and Jones represented BMW’s lengthy established Junior program, one thing we continued throughout our Components BMW program from 2004 by way of 2009,” says Leleu. “Drivers like Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe, Tommy Milner and Robert Wickens all began their careers as Components BMW Junior drivers.”
Having dominated European touring automotive racing with the first-gen M3, BMW determined it was time to tackle America with the second and, ultimately, the third generations of the M3. In what was a prolific period for the marque from 1995 by way of 2006, a BMW M3 crossed the end line in first place a tremendous 53 occasions from 118 races entered by BMW Staff PTG.
That was additionally when an upstart driver from Southern California started a profession that, by the top of 2017, would internet him 400 race begins for BMW – greater than some other driver in historical past. Invoice Auberlen is the one driver to win no less than one race in the entire eras and manifestations of IMSA’s historical past throughout a number of classes, driving nearly each BMW competitors automotive.
The flip of the century gave rise to 2 vehicles indelible within the mythology of racing BMWs. First was the V12 LMR prototype. As on the daybreak of the GTP period, BMW was once more prescient, paving the way in which for a brand new period of prototype racing in IMSA that also continues. The V12 LMR, run by Schnitzer Motorsport, received on its debut on the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1999 with drivers JJ Lehto, Tom Kristensen and Jörg Muller. After successful at Le Mans, the V12 LMRs returned stateside, and completed runners-up within the ALMS Staff Championship regardless of lacking two rounds.
Second was the M3 GTR, a automotive so revered, it’s enshrined not solely in motor racing historical past, but additionally as a star of the video-gaming world as properly. Outfitted with extra-wide wheel arches and a 4-liter V8 in its snout, the M3 GTR received seven races throughout the 2001 ALMS season, crushing the opposition so handily, it was successfully outlawed by the 2002 rulebook.
Following one other transient hiatus, BMW Motorsport returned with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as its workforce associate. From 2009 to current day, BMW Staff RLL has campaigned the M3 GT, Z4 GTE, M6 GTLM and M8 GTE, netting quite a few wins plus the workforce championship in 2010 and the motive force, workforce and producer titles in 2011.
For IMSA’s 50th anniversary season, BMW Staff RLL returns for a second season with the M8 GTE, scorching off of two GTLM class wins on the finish of 2018. Driver John Edwards, as soon as the younger gun of the workforce, returns as one of many senior members of the squad alongside season regulars Connor De Phillipi, Jesse Krohn and Tom Blomqvist.
The 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona may also characteristic a really particular driver – Alex Zanardi (LEFT), who joins Colton Herta, Philipp Eng and Chaz Mostert for the twice-around-the-clock traditional. Zanardi will pilot the M8 GTE utilizing a uniquely-designed steering wheel and hand-operated brake lever engineered by BMW Motorsport over a 15-year relationship with Zanardi.
“Alex’s participation within the Rolex 24 is a celebration of 1 man’s spirit, and represents how robust the synergy is between our racing and street automotive packages,” says Leleu. “BMW has been among the many first producers to introduce anti-lock braking and digital motor electronics confirmed in our racecars to our street vehicles. I’ve little doubt that in future years we’ll see the type of mechanical and digital programs we’re pioneering with Alex on the race observe assist many extra drivers’ lives to be higher and safer on the street.”
In what could be essentially the most aggressive class, BMW Staff RLL is poised so as to add one more successful chapter in its IMSA story.