BMW M3 PROGRAM CAPITALIZES ON ITS U.S. PRO SPORTS CAR RACING SUCCESS WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. - Since bringing the world's most successful touring car of all time to the United States in 1995, BMW has watched its popular lineup of M3 sedans...
BMW M3 PROGRAM CAPITALIZES ON ITS U.S. PRO SPORTS CAR RACING SUCCESS
WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. - Since bringing the world's most successful touring car of all time to the United States in 1995, BMW has watched its popular lineup of M3 sedans and coupes make another methodical yet eye-catching climb to the top of the ladder of success.
In only their third year competing in Professional Sports Car Racing's Exxon Supreme GT Series, the BMW M3s enjoyed the season of a lifetime in 1997, winning nine of 11 events, claiming BMW's second consecutive manufacturer's championship. The M3s prepared by road-racing veteran Tom Milner and his Prototype Technology Group of Winchester, Va., completed a clean sweep of Sports Car's GTS-3 class by also capturing the drivers' and team championships. That includes victories in the prestigious Daytona 24-hour and Sebring 12-hour endurance races.
And the PTG M3s picked up where they left off by rolling to a second straight victory in this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona, now sanctioned by the revived United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC). They once again are focusing their primary 1998 efforts on the hotly competitive Professional Sports Car GT Championship.
"We couldn't have scripted it better," said Richard Brekus, manager of product planning at BMW of North America, on the decision to bring the M3 ("M" for motorsports) to the U.S. and its eventual title run. "Our goal was to re-establish M as a brand within the BMW brand, taking the performance credentials of the car and putting them against world-class competition, in keeping with the BMW philosophy.
"The demographics and historical venues of the Sports Car series were a natural fit. And as we've grown to be successful in this arena, we are now selling more M cars here in the U.S. than in any of our other markets. We'd like to think the racing has something to do with that." The purpose-built BMW M3s racing on the Sports Car circuit use a production-based 3.2-liter twin-cam, in-line six-cylinder engine, which has been modified to produce some 380 horsepower. The removal of normal street equipment and accessories reduces the weight of the car to approximately 2,585 pounds, giving the car a very favorable horsepower-to-weight ratio in its class.
But despite the racing modifications, they are very much like the BMWs available in showrooms to the millions of consumers who attend Sports Car events, watch them on television, or follow them in the many enthusiast and news publications that cover Sports Car events today.
"Racing what we sell is a very natural philosophy for BMW to adhere to," Brekus said. "When you get down to it, the consumer has to relate to what you're showing them out on the racetrack."
Key to the motorsports effort at BMW is comprehensive marketing, advertising and public relations support of its results on the racetrack.
A video package of its racing highlights after each event is beamed via satellite to BMW dealerships across the country, for instance. And when BMW scores a victory at a particular event, it is often followed by a full-page "win" ad in the Wall Street Journal.
Moreover, the company features its motorsports heritage in its "M Cafe" exhibit at major auto shows during the year, as well as in its dealings with the BMW Car Club of America, the largest manufacturer-specific enthusiast organization in the United States with 45,000 members.
And, fans can keep up with BMW's racing results on the BMW of North America site on the World Wide Web (www.bmwusa.com).
"Since the inception of our M series product line, BMW has optimized high-performance cars for the discerning enthusiast for every-day driving," Brekus said. "We think this is a particularly relevant product message for consumers in the '90s."