14 March 2001 12-hour event to serve as first test outing for the new GT sports car Munich. It's Wednesday and BMW is about to begin a new chapter in its motor racing history. At Sebring in the US state of Florida, the new BMW M3 GTR will be ...
14 March 2001
12-hour event to serve as first test outing for the new GT sports car
Munich. It's Wednesday and BMW is about to begin a new chapter in its motor racing history. At Sebring in the US state of Florida, the new BMW M3 GTR will be making its debut in the GT class of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). JJ Lehto (FIN)/Jorg Muller (D) will be putting it through its paces under race conditions for the first time in this Saturday's Sebring 12 Hours. The car is powered by a V8 engine producing over 400 bhp and is the first of four BMW M3 GTRs developed in Munich for the 2001 season.
The other BMW M3 GTRs will in due course be driven by the second brace of drivers of Team BMW Motorsport, Fredrik Ekblom (S) and Dirk Muller (D), as well as by the BMW North America-backed BMW Team PTG with its regular drivers Hans-Joachim Stuck (D)/Boris Said (USA) and Bill Auberlen (USA)/Niclas Jonsson (S). At Sebring the BMW pilots, with the exception of Lehto/Muller, will be driving last season's BMW M3 GT.
"In the BMW M3 GTR, the philosophy behind BMW's high-performance M models has, in tandem with BMW Motorsport, been consistently developed into a race car primed for action in the ALMS," says BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen.
The USA and Canada are BMW's most important export market. The year 2000 saw another increase in vehicle sales there -- amounting to 22 per cent this time. Models from the M range are particularly popular in North America, which remains unmatched by any other market when it comes to M car sales. Following two successful years of racing in the ALMS prototype category, BMW is now gearing up for its GT class entry.
The deployment of the new BMW M3 GTR in this, America's most traditional long-distance race, will be an endurance test par excellence. Theissen's colleague, BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger, has this to say: "The decision in favour of the project wasn't made until the end of September. We developed the car in record time and put the first example through its first functional test just a few days ago. We'll be jumping in at the deep end in Sebring, but there's no test that can replace an actual race. Naturally, kicking off with a 12-hour endurance event is rather extreme, not just on account of the distance but also because of the very uneven track."
At their next race in Donington, BMW Motorsport will be fielding two M3 GTRs for the first time. The American Team PTG will be debuting with its two BMW M3 GTRs in the fifth race of the season at Sears Point, California.
Beneath the beefy silhouette of the new BMW M3 GTR beats a powerful heart: a four-litre V8 engine delivering more than 400 bhp. This short-stroke, high-speed unit epitomizes the tradition of M power and is compact enough to fit into the M3.
In accordance with the regulations of the Automobil Club de l'Ouest (ACO), which also organizes the Le Mans 24 Hours, BMW Motorsport will be building a limited production run of M3 GTRs in addition to the race version. This vehicle is primarily intended for customer racing. Depending on national homologation regulations, however, it can be distributed with road licencing. Detailed technical specifications and prices are to be released at a later date.
Key technical specifications of the BMW M3 GTR (race version):
Unitary steel body with safety cell of high-strength precision tubular steel; front and rear aprons, engine hood, doors, front wings, flared rear wheel arches, rear wing, rear lid and roof outer skin made of CFK; safety tank under the boot made of CFK sandwich; vehicle weight 1120 kg (minimum stipulated weight), fuel tank capacity 100 litres (maximum stipulated capacity) Engine:
Eight-cylinder, naturally aspirated, 90-degree V-engine, 3997 cc displacement capacity, over 400 bhp at c. 7500 rpm, maximum torque c. 480 Nm at c. 5500 rpm, aluminium engine block and cylinder head
Triple-disc carbon-fibre clutch; straight-toothed six-speed manual gearbox; step-up differential with visco-lock
The race will be held on Saturday, 18 March, from 10.40 am to 10.40 pm local time, 4.40 pm - 4.40 am (Sunday) Central European Time.
Live updates are available on the internet at www.americanlemans.com.