ⓘ Blog | BMW in motorsport - bmw in formula one. Throughout its history, BMW cars and motorcycles have been successful in a range of motorsport activities. Apart from ..

BMW in motorsport

BMW in motorsport

Throughout its history, BMW cars and motorcycles have been successful in a range of motorsport activities. Apart from the factory efforts, many privateer teams enter BMW road cars in Touring car racing. BMW also entered cars or provided engines in Formula One, Formula Two and sportscar racing. BMW is currently active in ALMS, the World Touring Car Championship, the Isle of Man TT, the North West 200, the Superbike World Championship and the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters.

An outstanding role has been played by the 1.500 cc BMW M10 engine block. The four-cylinder started with modest 75 hp 56 kW in 1961, became successful in touring cars, developed over 300 hp 224 kW in 1970s Formula Two, and at the ripe age of a quarter century, produced almost twentyfold its original power in the 1986 turbocharged BMW M12/13/1, producing an outstanding 1400 hp. This engine became wideley regarded as one of the most powerful, if not the most, powerful engine in the history of Formula 1 as well as being the most powerful engine ever built by BMW. As the base of the BMW S14 engine of the original BMW M3, it collected many more wins.

Other impressive displays of engineering involve the production of the BMW S70/2 engine, implemented in the McLaren F1, which set the world record for "worlds fastest production car" on March 31, 1998. As well as achieving a Guinness Book of World Records record for longest continuous Drift See Below "Guinness Book of World Records"


1. Motorcycling

Dakar Rally

BMW motorcycles have won the Dakar Rally six times. In 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1999, and 2000.


In 2009, BMW returned to the Superbike World Championship with their all new superbike, the BMW S1000RR.


1.1. Motorcycling Dakar Rally

BMW motorcycles have won the Dakar Rally six times. In 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1999, and 2000.


1.2. Motorcycling Superbikes

In 2009, BMW returned to the Superbike World Championship with their all new superbike, the BMW S1000RR.


2. Touring cars

In the 1930s, BMW drivers were successful with the BMW 328 two-litre sports car, winning many races including the prestigious Mille Miglia – a class win in 1938 and an outright win with a streamlined body on a shortened course in 1940 with Huschke von Hanstein. A Frazer Nash BMW 328 driven by A.F.P. Fane and came in fifth overall first in its class in the 1939 24 Hours of Le Mans. In fact, the BMW 328 proved unbeatable in international sports car races in the two-liter class.

Since the pre-war BMW 328 model, BMW had a reputation for sporty production cars. The expensive V8-powered BMW 503 and BMW 507 of the 1950s could not add much to this reputation, unlike the small motorcycle-engine powered BMW 700 which e.g. was driven by Hans Stuck to German championships in hillclimbing.

Since the 1962 introduction of the BMW New Class in 1961, BMW has become one of the most successful marques in touring car racing. The original 1500 cc 4-cylinder BMW M10 engine block was modified to a four-valve design which won championships in Formula 2. Equipped with a turbocharger, the version BMW M12/13 even won the 1983 Formula One championship.

In the 1970s, BMW M GmbH was formed to support the racing efforts. This led to the development of the BMW M1 and in the 1980s to the BMW M3. Having won more road races than any other BMW model in history, the E30 M3 is the worlds most successful BMW road race car. Its success was emulated during the Supertouring era in the 1990s, when the 318i and 320i won several touring car national championships, including the BTCC, French Supertouring Championship, Super Tourenwagen Cup, Italian Superturismo and Australian Super Touring Championship.

British Touring Car Championship BTCC: BMW won the drivers championship in 1988, 1991, 1992 and 1993 and manufacturers championship in 1991 and 1993.

The DRM Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft was won by Harald Ertl in a BMW 320i Turbo in 1978.

In the DTM Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft, the following BMW drivers have won the DTM drivers championship:

  • 1989: Roberto Ravaglia, BMW M3
  • 1987: Eric van der Poele, BMW M3
  • 2012: Bruno Spengler, BMW M3 DTM
  • 2014 and 2016 Marco Wittmann, BMW M4 DTM

European Touring Car Championship ETCC: Since 1968, BMW won 24 drivers championships along with several manufacturers and teams titles.

Japanese Touring Car Championship JTCC: BMW Schnitzer flew from Europe to Japan to compete in the JTCC and won the championship in 1995.

SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge Touring Car SeriesWC: BMW won the manufacturers championship in 2001 and Bill Auberlen, driving a Turner Motorsport BMW 325i, won the 2003 and 2004 Drivers Championships.

BMW announced on 15 October 2010 that it will return to touring car racing during the 2012 season. Dr. Klaus Draeger, director of research and development of the BMW Group, who was in charge of the return to DTM racing Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, commented that "The return of BMW to the DTM is a fundamental part of the restructuring of our motorsport activities. With its increased commitment to production car racing, BMW is returning to its roots. The race track is the perfect place to demonstrate the impressive sporting characteristics of our vehicles against our core competitors in a high-powered environment. The DTM is the ideal stage on which to do this."


2.1. Touring cars 1987, 2005–2010: World Touring Car Championship

In 1987 Roberto Ravaglia drove a Schnitzer E30 M3 to victory in the World Touring Car Championship, winning the title by a single point.

2005 saw Andy Priaulx take the drivers title, and BMW take the manufacturers title, this time not with an M3, but the E46 320i. Priaulxs car raced under the banner of BMW Team UK and was run by RBM. Schnitzer Motorsport ran the BMW Team Germany entries, also E46 320is, driven by Dirk Muller and Jorg Muller. Previous WTCC winner Roberto Ravaglia also ran two cars for the BMW Team Italy/Spain, with Alessandro Zanardi and Antonio Garcia as the drivers. BMW also took the top four places in the independent category.

2006 saw the new E90 320si, again it saw BMW take the manufacturers trophy, and again BMW Team UK/RBM driver Andy Priaulx won the drivers championship. BMW Team Germany returned with both Dirk and Jorg Muller. BMW Team Italy/Spain retained Alessandro Zanardi, but now had Marcel Costa driving the second car, later to be substituted for Duncan Huisman. Priaulx again won the title in 2007, but BMW were beaten by SEAT in the following two seasons, despite adding Augusto Farfus to their roster.

In 2010 BMW reduced their presence in the WTCC, entering only two cars under the BMW Team RBM banner, with works drivers Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus. With Chevrolet dominating most of the races, BMW struggled and finished only third in the manufacturers standings. In the drivers standings Priaulx finished the season 4th, with Farfus in 7th. Better luck was had in the Independents Trophy category though, with Sergio Hernandez taking the championship behind the wheel of a BMW 320Si.

BMW withdrew from the WTCC at the end of the 2010 season leaving only independents to represent BMW in the championship.


3.1. Formula Two 1950–1984

BMW pilots used the sporty pre-war BMW 328 model as the basis for early post-war efforts in the Formula Two series, a stepping stone to Formula One; the 328 occasionally participated in F1 races. BMW ran its own team, but other smaller teams such as Veritas, AFM, Jicey and even East Germany-based EMW also used cars derived from the 328 or its two-litre six-cylinder engine. However, after the death of the initial F2 series in 1955 and its resurrection the following year, BMWs management decided not to participate in expensive open wheel racing.

In 1967, the Formula 2 regulations were changed to allow 1600 cc motors, and BMWs new management was more open to the idea of open wheel racing. The BMW M10 block with a radial four-valve cylinder head designed by Ludwig Apfelbeck was used for some time. In the 1968 season, the company joined with Lola, using their 100 chassis. BMW sponsored drivers Jo Siffert and Hubert Hahne. For 1969, the team switched to Lola 102s, and used a new development of BMWs 1600 cc engine, dubbed the M12. Siffert and Hahne remained; Gerhard Mitter and Dieter Quester shared a third car. Halfway through the season, BMW debuted their own chassis, the 269, at the Hockenheimring. However, Mitter was killed in the 269 during practise for the 1969 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring where F2 could race along F1 due to the length of that track. As technical failure was suspected, all BMW entries were retired.

For the 1970 F2 season, BMW debuted the 270 chassis, and campaigned with Jo Siffert, Hubert Hahne, Dieter Quester, and Jacky Ickx. However, in 1971, BMWs involvement was pulled back, with the team only supplying engines for Dieter Questers Eifelland. With a change in the F2 engine regulations to 2000 cc production-based engines, BMW went on hiatus for the 1972 season.

When BMWs returned to F2 in 1973, the company again supplied only engines. Although officially backing the March teams effort for drivers Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Jean-Pierre Jarier, they also supplied engines for teams such as Beta Racing with German Hans-Joachim Stuck and Brian Lewis Racing. From 1973 to the end of Formula 2 in 1984, BMW supplied engines to the championship-winning drivers in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, and 1982.


4. Formula One

BMW has a history of success in Formula One. BMW powered cars have won 20 races. In 2006 BMW took over the Sauber team and became Formula One constructors. In 2007 and 2008 the team enjoyed some success. The most recent win is a lone constructor teams victory by BMW Sauber F1 Team, on 8 June 2008, at the Canadian Grand Prix with Robert Kubica driving. Achievements include:

  • Pole positions: 33
  • Fastest laps: 33
  • Constructor championship: 0 Runner-up 2002, 2003, 2007
  • Driver championship: 1 1983
  • Grand Prix wins: 20
  • Podium finishes: 76

BMW was an engine supplier to Williams, Benetton, Brabham, and Arrows. Notable drivers who have started their Formula One careers with BMW include Jenson Button, Juan Pablo Montoya, Robert Kubica, and Sebastian Vettel.


4.1. Formula One 1980s–1987

In 1980, BMW announced their development of a turbocharged motor for the Brabham F1 team. The BMW M12 engine first raced in the 1982 season. The M12/13 engine won at the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix at the hands of Nelson Piquet; Riccardo Patrese was the teams other driver. The following season, BMW supplied engines to the ATS team; the factory-backed Brabham took four victories on its way to Piquets championship win. Two more victories came in 1984, and BMW added Arrows to its list of teams who received its engines. In 1985, Piquets Brabham, who was now teamed with Marc Surer, managed only one win.

In 1986, BMW started to supply engines for the new Benetton team, who earned the only win for a BMW engine at the hands of Gerhard Berger. However, the factory-backed effort at Brabham met with little success with the return of Patrese and Derek Warwick. At the end of the 1986 season, BMW announced it would drop out of Formula 1 at the end of the 1987 season.

BMWs M12/13 engine, however, continued to be used, because Megatron bought the rights to the engines for the Arrows team. The Ligier team was also supplied with the engine for the 1987 season. Following the 1988 season, turbocharged motors were banned, and Arrows ended its use of the former BMW engine.

The BMW M12/13 turbocharged straight-4 engine was famous during its life for being the first Formula 1 engine capable of 1.000 hp 746 kW in racing trim, although it was capable of nearly 1.400 hp 1.044 kW for qualifying with modification of its boost. This engine had a bore and stroke of 89.2 mm 3.5 in x 60.0 mm 2.4 in, giving a displacement of 1.499.79 cc. Maximum crankshaft speed was 11.200 rpm. Peak power b.m.e.p. was in the region of 1.000 lbs/


4.2. Formula One 1997–2005: Return to Formula One via Le Mans

In 1997, BMW announced that it had formed a partnership with Williams Grand Prix Engineering in order to provide V10 engines in 2000. The initial development of this partnership was BMWs sports car effort. Chassis built by Williams powered by a BMW M70 V12 engines were entered by long-time partner team Schnitzer Motorsport. The rather unsuccessful 1998 model was improved, and the efforts culminated in BMWs victory at the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans with the BMW V12 LMR. Additional success came in the 2000 ALMS series before the cars were retired from racing.

Following the win, the second stage of BMWs partnership with Williams began, with BMW developing the powerful E41 V10 for Formula 1. The new Williams-BMW debuted in the 2000 season, driven by Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button. In 2001, Schumacher took 3 wins and newcomer Juan Pablo Montoya took his first win. A lone win for Schumacher followed in 2002, but Williams-BMW returned to success in 2003, with two wins each for Schumacher and Montoya. Montoya was the lone winner in 2004.

In 2005, disputes led to a rapid decline in the partnership of BMW and Williams. Constant disagreements over the cause of technical failures in the car led BMW to discontinue development of the P84/5 V10 as the season progressed, leading to no victories for the teams new driver line-up of Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld. Consequently, the car finished a distant 5th in the constructors championship.


4.3. Formula One 2006–2009: BMW Sauber F1

Wanting a split from their failing relationship with Williams, BMWs executives decided that adding an F1 team to the companys motorsport division, thus removing the necessity for a partner, was the only viable solution. Enticed by Saubers new multimillion-dollar research and development facility, which included an advanced wind tunnel setup, BMW choose to offer a buyout to Peter Sauber rather than scramble to build the facilities themselves. Sauber took the offer, and the buyout went through; the team began racing under the BMW-Sauber F1 name in 2006. The team being split between the Sauber facility at Hinwil, Switzerland and BMW in Munich.

The BMW Sauber F1.06 was relatively successful, earning the team fifth place in the constructors championship. BMW opted to retain BMW Williams driver Nick Heidfeld for 2006 alongside contracted Sauber driver Jacques Villeneuve. Villeneuve was later replaced by Polish driver Robert Kubica after disagreements between Villeneuve and the team.

BMWs 2007 season improved on results from the previous year. While the car was still inferior to both the Ferrari and McLaren, it outclassed the rest of the field. BMW scored points in every race, ending the season second in the constructors championship after McLarens disqualification with over 100 points. In 2008 BMW won their first race at the Canadian Grand Prix. The team also achieved several podium finishes like Heidfelds at the first race of the season in Australia and a second place for Kubica in Monte Carlo.

In July 2009, BMW announced that it would withdraw from Formula One at the end of the 2009 season. The team was sold back to the previous owner, Peter Sauber, who kept the BMW part of the name for the 2010 season due to issues with the Concorde Agreement. The team has since dropped BMW from their name starting in 2011.


5. Formula E

BMW will join Formula E as an official manufacturer for season 5. The German performance car giant has confirmed that it will build a brand new powertrain to be used by the Andretti team in the 2018/19 season. The teams drivers for the season will be Antonio Felix da Costa and Alexander Sims.


6.1. DTM Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters 2012–

BMW returned to the DTM for the 2012 season with the M3 DTM, which is based visually at least on the contemporary BMW E92 M3 Coupe. Three teams lined up on the grid for BMW as follows:

Canadian driver Bruno Spengler recorded the first DTM win for BMW in 20 years at the second race of the 2012 season, held at the Lausitzring circuit in Germany. Spengler then went on to claim the 2012 drivers championship. BMW claimed the 2012 manufacturers championship with 346 points, 11 points ahead of Audi and 17 points ahead of Mercedes-Benz. BMW Team Schnitzer earned the 2012 teams championship title. All three of these titled were clinched by BMW at the last race of the season at Hockenheim.


6.2. DTM Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters 2013–

BMW clinched its second consecutive manufacturers championship in 2013 at the season finale at the Hockenheimring, after a close fight with Audi all season. Drivers honors went to Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller; teams to Audi Sport Team Phoenix. BMW claimed a spectacular 1-2-3 podium sweep at the Red Bull Ring in Salzburg, Austria with Bruno Spengler leading home Marco Wittmann and Timo Glock. BMW also locked out the first two rows in qualifying for the finale at Hockenheim. BMW secured 51 total DTM victories with the BMW M3, and will be switching to the all new M4 DTM for the 2014 season onwards.


7. Formula BMW

In the 1990s, the Formula BMW was introduced as feeder series, with small cars powered by BMW K motorcycle engines. Former drivers were e.g. Ralf Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. Formula BMW has since expanded to encompass four championships across three continents. The German series was followed by a south-east Asian championship in 2003, and series in the United Kingdom and the United States were launched the following year. The UK and German championships will be merged into a new pan-European series in 2008.


8. Le Mans

1939 saw the BMW 328 finish first in its class fifth overall in the 1939 24 Hours of Le Mans completing 236 laps.

After 33 years in 1972, a BMW entered the competition for the first time by Schnitzer Motorsport with the BMW 2800CS. In the following years, BMW became a common contender in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, represented by private teams racing BMW race cars in the competition from 1972 till 1989, and from 1993 till 2000 and by teams using BMW engines, most successful the McLaren F1 GTR who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995 with a BMW S70 6.1L V12 engine.

Also BMW Motorsport started with the BMW 3.0 CSL 1973, BMW 3.5 CSL 1976, BMW M1 1980, 1981, McLaren F1 GTR 1996, 1997, BMW V12 LM 1998, BMW V12 LMR. The latter car, designed by Williams Grand Prix Engineering and entered by Schnitzer Motorsport, won the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans overall against factory competition from Audi, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and others.

American Le Mans Series – BMW has won three 2001, 2010, 2011 GT Team Championships and GT Automobile Manufacturer titles. Twice 2010, 2011 with Team RLL in the Crowne Plaza V8 powered M3 GT coupe and once 2001 with the BMW Motorsport team in the V8 powered M3 GTR.


9. Endurance racing

  • Spa 24 Hours – BMW won 21 times
  • Nurburgring – BMW won the 24 Hours Nurburgring 19 times and the 1000km Nurburgring twice 1976 and 1981.
  • 24 Hours of Daytona – BMW has won four times 1976, 2011, 2013, 2019
  • McLaren F1 GTR – Successful mid-1990s GT racing car with a BMW designed engine. It won the BPR Global GT Series in 1995 and 1996 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995.
  • A BMW works team E36 320d was the first diesel-powered overall winner ever at the 24 Hours Nurburgring.

10. Guinness Book of World Records

On May 11, 2013, BMW placed itself in the Guinness Book of World Records for longest drift after deciding that they wanted the record "back in the US". Johan Shwartz achieved a 51.3 mile continuous drift on a skidpad in the BMW F10 M5, ultimately breaking Abdo Feghalis world record of 11.180 metres approximately 6.95 miles that was achieved in a Chevrolet Camaro, in Abu Dhabi.


11. Other events

BMW had various touring and sportscar successes throughout the rest of the 1980s and 1990s following its exit from Formula One. In 1986, BMW North America also ran the BMW GTP in the IMSA GT Championship, with little success.

Since 1987, The Kumho BMW Championship has also existed, which is a BMW-exclusive motorsport championship. It is operated and run in the UK, with some races occasionally taking part in the Europe mainland. 2005 saw the BMW Challenge join as a class within the Kumho BMW Championship only to leave a year later to become a standalone UK Championship called The BMW Production Championship. In 2008, a split between the committee and the organising club CTCRC saw it lose its championship status and a breakaway PBMW Cup was formed.

Automatic Racing had entered a BMW M6 into the 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series season, driven by an all American team consisting of Jep Thorton, Tom Long, Joe Varde and David Russell. Turner Motorsport entered a BMW M6 for the 2010 season, followed by two BMW M3s from 2011-2013. They have racked up six Rolex GT wins and 24 top ten finishes in the GT class, including rare double class wins for the GT M3 and GS M3 at the Circuit of the Americas round in 2013.