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Top 5: Coolest BMW endurance racecars

By Tom Fraser, 17 May 2018 Features

Top 5: Coolest BMW endurance racecars

Five of the best BMW racers to ever grace the Circuit de la Sarthe

WE’RE just under a month out from the 86th annual 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, where BMW plans to unveil its production-ready 8 Series alongside the M8 GTE racer.

BMW’s involvement in the legendary enduro can be traced back to the late 1930s where the BMW 328 placed first in its class and fifth overall – one of the first motorsport events it would ever enter.

Read next: Epic sounding Le Mans prototypes

Nearly 80 years later they’re ready and raring to get back into the action after a six-year absence. Factory-backed BMW Team MTEK has committed to the full 2018 World Endurance Championship and will join the GTE Pro class at Le Mans, battling it out against seasoned veterans like the Ford GT, Porsche 911 RSR and Aston Martin Vantage GTE.

To celebrate BMW’s return to Le Mans with the new 8 Series-based M8 GTE (as if we even needed an excuse), we’ve compiled a list of our favourite BMW racers to have graced the Circuit de la Sarthe.

BMW V12 LMR

This 1999 Le Mans prototype racer was the successor to the lesser known V12 LM that, in the year prior, produced poor lap times and ultimately failed to finish. Not willing to give up however, BMW Motorsport developed a much-improved racer, changing everything bar the basic structure of the V12 LM.

All their hard work resulted in an outright win at the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans, completing a gruelling 365 laps and only winning by a single lap ahead of the Toyota GT-One.

The LMR employed a version of the legendary BMW S70 V12, which was used in the McLaren F1. Output was said to be about 430kW with mandated air restrictors, which allowed the prototype to hit 342km/h on the Mulsanne straight.

BMW M3 E92 GT2

Eleven years after their win with the V12 LMR, BMW entered its M3 model into the GT2 category to battle against the likes of the Corvette C6.R, Ferrari F430 GT2 and Porsche’s GT3-RSR.

Of the two competing M3 GT2s, number 79 was chosen as a BMW Art Car and painted by American artist Jeff Koons. The first two BMW Art Cars at Le Mans were…

BMW E9 3.0 CSL

Possibly one of the most recognisable BMW racers of all time, the E9 3.0 CSL, or ‘Batmobile’ to enthusiasts, was introduced in May 1972 in order to homologate a European Tour Car Championship entry.

For the 1973 24 Hours of Le Mans, the engine was expanded to 3153cc and used an advanced aerodynamic package including a huge rear wing, fins running along the fenders and spoilers above the rear window. The car came away with a class win at Le Mans and went on to dominate in competition around the world, tallying up countless wins in different variations.

BMW M1 Procar

Initially created for a one-make championship, the M1 Procar was also entered into the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1979 until 1986. Despite utilising an impressive inline six-cylinder producing 350kW, competitors of the time were much craftier – using turbochargers and lighter materials. As such, the M1 didn’t enjoy huge success over its eight year tenure at Le Mans, though it did pick up two class wins.

Herve Poulain conceived the idea of creating another BMW Art car for 1979, this time painted on an M1 by Andy Warhol.

BMW M8 GTE

Now BMW’s hope for motorsport success rests upon its latest entry, the 2018 M8 GTE. In development since 2016, the endurance grand tourer uses a twin-turbocharged V8 producing over 370kW and weighs only 1250kg including its driver.

Read next: Le Mans 24 Hour new finale for WEC supercalender

Based off the production BMW M8 that’s soon to be released, the M8 GTE already has its sights on being competitive in the IMSA SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Hopefully it’ll be able to hold its own in next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans as well.