BMW presented the racing version of the new BMW M3 at the Chicago Auto Show. Powered by a 485hp eight cylinder engine, this racecar has been designed to compete in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) beginning in 2009. BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen said: "With the sporting genes of the production M3 being clearly evident, developing a racing version was the next logical step. The V8 engine in the road-going vehicle provided us with an ideal base. However, the BMW M3 is more than a racecar, it has achieved legendary status amongst race fans across the globe. I am convinced that this unique story of the BMW M3 racing cars will now be expanded upon by the addition of further chapters."
BMW's 2009 entry into the American Le Mans Series will be driven by a partnership between BMW of North America, LLC and Rahal Letterman Racing, co-owned by US motorsport legend Bobby Rahal.
"We are very pleased to be returning to the American Le Mans Series with our latest generation BMW M3," stated Tom Purves, Chairman and CEO, BMW of North America. "Sports car racing has been part of BMW of North America's history practically from day one. Just two weeks after the company was incorporated in March 1975, a BMW CSL won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. We are confident that the fourth generation M3 will continue the legacy of its two predecessors, which combined to win six manufacturer's championships over nine seasons in US sports car racing. We believe the ALMS remains the ideal venue to showcase the potential of the newest BMW M3."
Echoing that sentiment Bobby Rahal added, "BMW has an illustrious racing heritage. Rahal Letterman Racing is eagerly anticipating, not only becoming part of that heritage, but helping to enhance it. Our dedication to this project will be without equal and we look forward to racing at the front of the grid with BMW in the years to come."
The BMW M3 Race Version
In the course of developing the race version of the M3, BMW's engineers were faced with an ambitious task: to improve upon the sportiness of an already sporting car. In standard form the vehicle delivers powerful dynamics and sporting aesthetics. Thanks to an eight cylinder engine producing 414hp, BMW's customers are provided with a unique driving experience.
The engine blocks (cast in BMW's light alloy foundry in Landshut - the source of BMW's Formula One castings) that are selected for race duty will need to withstand even more power: the BMW P65 race engine delivers 485hp.
To enable the M3 to make full use of this performance on the circuit, the experts in Munich have not concentrated solely on the engine, but have race-tuned the chassis as well. The race version of the BMW M3 is wider and significantly lighter than its production equivalent, enabling it to perfectly transmit the power of its V8 to the track. Widespread use of carbon-reinforced plastic (CRP) provides proof of substantial weight reduction. As with the production version, the racecar's roof is manufactured from this high-tech material.
The race version of the M3 is clearly aimed at the top echelon of motorsport. As such, it is no surprise to discover that in the course of its development, begun in mid-2007, numerous Formula One techniques were applied. These include computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and wind tunnel analyses, both of which have ensured the best aerodynamic package for the BMW M3.
Intelligent control systems have been incorporated throughout the M3. The POWER400 control unit actuates all the accessories fitted to the car, such as lights, wipers, etc, via two bus systems. Traditional relays and fuses are thus eliminated, ensuring considerable weight saving, improved reliability and ease of application. The functions of the BMW P65 engine are managed by an ECU that was developed in-house by BMW Motorsport. The software and applications, too, have been developed by the experts in Munich.
An intensive test program is about to start, during which the performance of the racecar will be honed by BMW Motorsport. Development drivers will be BMW works drivers Andy Priaulx (GBR), Jrg Mller (GER) and Augusto Farfus (BRA), who are currently racing in the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC). The aim is, after all, for the BMW M3 to be an immediate front-runner upon its comeback to the American Le Mans Series.
Return to familiar territory.
BMW can look back on numerous successes and titles in the ALMS. The BMW V12 LMR prototype won the inaugural ALMS race in 1999 at the Twelve Hours of Sebring. In 1999 and 2000 the BMW V12 LMR went on to score six victories. For 2001 BMW switched to the GT Class, winning everything in sight with the BMW M3 GTR, which was developed specifically for the ALMS: BMW works driver Jrg Mller claimed the drivers' championship, Team BMW Motorsport took the team title and BMW won the manufacturers' championship in the company's most important market.
BMW in the American Le Mans Series.
The American Le Mans Series is far from virgin territory for BMW. During both 1999, the series' inaugural season, and the following year, the company celebrated major successes in North America. Under the management of the Schnitzer Team's Charly Lamm, five BMW drivers scored a total of six victories with the 580hp BMW V12 LMR. In 1999 the impressive BMW V12 LMR simultaneously won the event that served as inspiration for the ALMS: the Le Mans 24 Hour Race.
In 2001 BMW deployed a new car. For the third ALMS season a switch was made from the Prototype category to the GT class using the BMW M3 GTR, a totally new development powered by an eight cylinder engine delivering 450hp. Two operations, Team BMW Motorsport from Germany and the US-domiciled BMW Team PTG, entered two cars each. The Team BMW Motorsport entries were driven by Jrg Mller/JJ Lehto and Fredrik Ekblom/Dirk Mller respectively, with Hans-Joachim Stuck and Boris Said, and Niclas Jonsson and Bill Auberlen doing driver duties in the Team BMW PTG Team-entered cars.
The debut season of the BMW M3 GTR rapidly became a success story: BMW drivers mounted the top step of the podium seven times, with six pole positions falling their way. BMW works driver Jrg Mller captured the drivers' title, Team BMW Motorsport took team honors, and BMW the manufacturers' championship. After a development program totalling less than six months BMW was able to lay claim to no less than three championships with the BMW M3 GTR.
The 2001 season did not start according to plan, however. At the opening race on 4 March in Fort Worth, Texas, the BMW M3 from the previous season was deployed. Stuck and Said gave it their all, and placed third for BMW Team PTG. Approximately two weeks later things looked up: at the Sebring 12 Hour Race in Florida the BMW M3 GTR celebrated its track debut having undergone only cursory shakedown tests due to time pressures. However, Mller and Lehto immediately fired a shot across the bows of the opposition: they crossed the finish line of the classic race in third place, thereby ensuring BMW's first podium place with the BMW M3 GTR. "That was the car's first test drive under racing conditions," said team manager Charly Lamm.Team BMW Motorsport thereafter crossed the Atlantic in order to amass more experience by taking in two European Le Mans Series events of 2.45 hour duration each at Donington (Great Britain), and in Jarama (Spain). Although the team suffered a double retirement in England, the Jarama race ran totally to plan: Team BMW Motorsport celebrated its first one-two via Ekblom/Dirk Mller and Lehto/Jrg Mller.
After its European sojourn, Team BMW Motorsport returned to the USA. Together with Team BMW PTG, Charly Lamm's operation fought for points and placings at California's Sears Point Raceway. Lasting almost three hours, the race culminated in a quadruple success for BMW: Lehto/Jrg Mller won from Said/Stuck, with Ekblom/Dirk Mller and Auberlen/Jonsson following them across the line. The next race, at Portland, Oregon, saw Said/Stuck win, with Team BMW Motorsport taking third and fourth places.
The extent of the domination of the BMW teams became clear during the final four rounds of the series: in Mosport (Canada), Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca Lehto/Jrg Mller won from Ekblom/D Mller; the season finale, the `Petit Le Mans' at Road Atlanta, saw Auberlen/Said/Stuck win. Dirk Mller and Jrg Mller placed second.
Thus the BMW teams ended the 2001 ALMS season with four consecutive one-two victories. BMW drivers mounted the top step of the podium seven times, with Jrg Mller celebrating the most: he amassed 185 points to take the drivers' title by five points from team-mate JJ Lehto. The teams' classification was won by Team BMW Motorsport (184 points), with BMW Team PTG placing third with 170. The Manufacturers' Championship went to BMW with 198 points.
In total the BMW teams had contested ten races each. For Team BMW Motorsport in particular, participation in the series proved a major logistical challenge: the team travelled nearly 7,000 miles within Europe and a further 28000 miles in North America as its crew travelled from race to race. A regular paddock and permanent workshop facilities were as sorely missed as were hometown comforts.
BMW M3 Race Version
Weight: 2535 lb/1150kg
Tank capacity: 29 gallons/110 Liters
Chassis/body: Unitary construction steel body with welded safety cell made of extremely rigid precision steel tubing; safety fuel tank in CRP sandwich tray; pneumatic four-stamp jack system
Aerodynamics: Front fenders, rear apron, hood, roof, trunk lid, rear wing, front wings, and flared rear wheel arches in CRP
Transmission: Carbon fiber clutch with hydraulic central slave cylinder; 6-speed sequential racing transmission with straight-cut, unsynchronized gears; additional oil/air cooler; quick shift system with ignition cut-out controlled by shifting force; mechanical limited slip differential with additional oil/air cooler
Front axle: Based on production version, with increased wheel caster angle, enlarged track width and enhanced wheel camber; five-way adjustable shock absorbers; tubular stabilizer bar
Rear axle: Based on production version, with enlarged track width and enhanced wheel camber; five-way adjustable shock absorbers, tubular stabilizer bar
Front brake system: Six-piston aluminum brake calipers, inner-vented grey-cast iron brake disks 15.0"/380mm in diameter
Rear brake system: Four-piston aluminum brake calipers, grey-cast iron brake disk, 13.1"/332mm in diameter
Steering: Rack and pinion steering with electro-hydraulic power
Wheels: Aluminum wheels, 18 inches
BMW P65 Engine.
Type: Eight cylinder, V-configuration
Bore x stroke: 92x75.2mm/3.62x2.96"
Max. output: approx. 485hp
Max. torque: approx. 368 lb-ft/500Nm
Cylinder block: Aluminum cylinder block construction with bed plate lower section
Crankshaft: Steel crankshaft
Pistons: Forged skirt pistons
Conrods: High-performance steel
Cylinder head: Aluminum DOHC (Double Over HeadCamshaft); four valves per cylinder
Valve train: Four overhead chain-driven camshafts, valve actuation via rocker arms
Intake system: Eight throttle valves, made of CRP with load-charge optimized ram tubes
Exhaust system: Headers, mufflers
Fuel system: Single cylinder multi-point injection
Lubrication: Dry sump lubrication
Cooling: Water/air cooler and oil/water heat exchanger
Engine management: BMW Motorsport ECU 408 with two high-performance micro-processors; Individual cylinder injection and ignition;BMW Motorsport Lambda ControllerPit speed limiter, Quick Shift function;Engine data memory system
Energy management: Electric energy management and monitoring with BMW Motorsport POWER400 control unit, networking of all sensors and actuators through bus system
Wiring harness: Weight optimized
Ignition coil: Eight high-performance pencil coils with integrated ignition drivers
Spark plugs: High-performance spark plugs
Cockpit: Free programmable LCD Display with integrated shift indicators
Steering wheel: Quick release multi-function steering wheel w/ integrated display unit